Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange (REAIE) conference 2023

Tamariki working with clay

Teachers at Bear Park see ourselves as reflective researchers and continue to develop our practice by inquiring into and sharing in pedagogical thinking that generates deepened or new understandings of teaching and learning. Professional development is therefore an essential part of our practice here at Bear Park, and in July this year a group of 6 teachers including myself felt incredibly fortunate to be supported to engage in such an opportunity when we travelled to Melbourne to attend the Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange (REAIE) conference.

REAIE Conference Opportunity Melbourne ECE teachers
REAIE Conference in Melbourne

Our philosophy and pedagogy is strongly influenced by the Reggio Emilia Approach, so this conference was a wonderful opportunity to hear from inspirational keynote speakers from Reggio Emilia, Tiziana Filippini and Filippo Chieli, along with a number of presentations from the Australian research community.

The theme of this year’s conference “Landscapes of Curiosity and Creativity: In Dialogue with the 100 languages” affirmed the importance of imagination, curiosity and creativity in the construction of knowledge, and for children’s right to develop their creativity through their own unique thinking and journey of discovery of the world.

It is difficult to sum up the inspiring and thought provoking dialogue and experiences that were shared at the conference but there were some key concepts that resonated strongly for me. The first being the very notion of how we define and understand creativity, which provoked us to see creativity not as an extraordinary quality of an artist or poet, but instead as a mental characteristic that exists in each person’s way of thinking, a possibility and potential that exists in everyday life.

“Teaching is a process involving continual inquiry and renewal, and a teacher, among other things, is first and foremost a questioner (Ayers 1993; Hansen 1997).”

Children explore creative potentials of the natural environment.
Connecting with clay atelier workshop.

The second point then followed which challenged us as teachers to think deeply about how we intentionally create contexts that nurture the endless curiosities of young children and empower them to express their innate creativity. The role of the teacher as a co researcher, working alongside children in their learning became even clearer in my mind as we considered how materials, spaces, mediums and conversations provoke multiple possibilities for critical thinking, playfulness, expression, questioning, innovation and collaboration.

The final point that remained with me was that as teachers we must embrace uncertainty and be open to what children are showing us. There is an understanding that teachers do not have all the answers, nor do they need to. Instead we research together with children and facilitate them in the discovery of their own understandings. Each child’s response and interactions will be unique and individual, their curiosity has no limits, except those that we place on it.

Our teaching team returned from the conference feeling inspired, challenged and affirmed, eager to share our experiences and learnings with the wider Bear Park group. What an absolute privilege it is to be a part of community who have a genuine commitment to keep transforming, to continue thinking, learning and growing in the important work that we do with our youngest citizens.

– Linda Mikaere

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