What I Learned: REAIE Conference, Sydney, Australia

In July last year, one of Bear Park Patey Street’s teachers, Bonnie, attended the REAIE Conference in Sydney Australia. Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange (REAIE) organises the four day event. Key note speakers from the town of Reggio Emilia in Italy (where all the magic happens) flew over to share their wealth of knowledge with fellow educators. Alongside the talks, there were educational tours of local early learning centres, cooking demonstrations, and small breakout sessions that tackle lots of different concepts and ideas. On top of all this, it’s was great to spend time with other early childhood professionals.

Bear Park centres are influenced by Reggio Emilia teaching philosophies, so the conference was the perfect opportunity for Bonnie to soak up the teachings and share her knowledge with our teachers in New Zealand.

REAIE’s theme for 2017 was ‘Landscapes of Identity’. Attendees were encouraged to think on the complex identities of children as citizens with rights from birth. The conference also considered a variety of roles: educators as researchers, families as participants, schools as places of learning, democracy and culture.

Elements of the REAIE conference were presented by two keynote speakers Maddalena Tedeschi and Maura Rovacchi. These women are leaders in the early child educational field and an inspiration for people all over the world.

After hearing both women speak, Bonnie could see that we at Bear Park are truly authentic in our Reggio-inspired teachings. Hurrah!

Below, Bonnie shares three key concepts that she personally resonated with.

1. Involve all cultures and value everyone.

Our entire world is made up of different cultures and identities. It’s our role as teachers to give children opportunities to experience these. It is also our role to value all ideas and contributions made by children and their families. This in turn supports the development of the Māori value Whakawhanaungatanga – a sense of belonging. This can be something as simple as shared construction between adults and children on a project. Both the adults and the children should be valued in what they bring to the table.

In Maddalena Tedecshi’s words: “Bringing intelligences to a common ground, giving value to everyone.”

2. Make time for another’s point of view.

We must consider different perspectives and give others the opportunity to alter their own. Highlighting this concept on the floor involves discussions around consideration and empathy. It’s also important during our teacher meeting times, and throughout investigative learning.

Point of view can also be interpreted literally, in the physical ways we look at things. We could move closer or further away from something, thus gaining a different perspective. We may notice different aspects that might not necessarily have been discovered if we stayed in one position.

In Maura Rovacchi’s words: “Changing your own perspective will allow you to change the world.”

3. By embracing routine, we create space for moments of inspiration.

Our days at Bear Park are informed by rhythm and routine. The children become extremely familiar with these, particularly in the younger classrooms. Making routines fun and viewing them as opportunities for learning will ensure these times are meaningful and respectful. “Routine is a bad word.. Every day is full of life. We should make our days beat to a rhythm, all ‘routines’ becoming the rhythm as we don’t want our days becoming dull.”- Maddalena Tedeschi

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