We visit the Loris Malaguzzi International Center in Reggio Emilia (Italy) to interview Claudia Giudici, president of Reggio Children. Claudia explained us the main pillars of Reggio Emilia educational approach.
The interview is in Italian language. You can turn on the subtitles in the control panel for auto-translation or see the whole transcription next:
«Reggio’s educational approach is based on the idea that the child is a carrier of potential and skills, a child in relation to other children, with adults, with the world around them. This idea of the competent child has oriented the design in the schools of the context to favor that the child expresses these abilities. A child considered by Loris Malaguzzi, as a citizen of today with rights, and not as the citizen of tomorrow.
Another important aspect is given since this competent child, who has the potential to know the world, does so through multiple languages, different means of communication to make sense of the world, of his own research and explorations, which is what it is known as the hundred languages of children, one of the ways in which the Reggio Emilia approach is known in the world.
This plurality of ways of knowing that all children are carriers is another very important aspect because it is an intuition of Loris Malaguzzi. It underlines a great democracy of knowledge: everyone has the opportunity to learn and know if the possibility of doing it in different ways.
This brings with it an important part of «identity». An important pillar of the Reggio Emilia approach is the importance given to the aesthetic dimension, to beauty as part of the essential knowledge that led Professor Malaguzzi to foresee in schools the presence of the figure of the atelier and the presence of the atelierista.
The atelierista is a person who has a non-pedagogical artistic formation present daily in schools working with teachers. In this way an option to emphasize the importance of expressive languages is the imagination as an essential part of our humanity.
Another important aspect is to make visible, communicable, what children represent in their own way and their way of knowing through the hundred languages. From here the whole subject of documentation is derived. The pedagogical documentation planned to make visible the processes of the children but also those of the teachers as they happen.
Documentation is a strategy and a way of working of the teacher and of being in relation with the children. The documentation allows the teacher to be an investigator along with the children. This is another important aspect: consider children and teachers, researchers of your knowledge.
Documentation is a very important aspect that has shaped an idea of the evaluation of learning and contexts, therefore it’s not an evaluation as an element of judgment that excludes and separates but as a strategy of recognition of the value of subjectivity and group.
Another aspect that I think it’s very important also linked to the culture of the workshop that has the presence of the atelierista, is the great importance attributed to the work environment, to the physical space. Loris Malaguzzi used the metaphor of the third educator. In the kindergartens in each class there are two teachers, the third educator emphasizes the importance attributed to space and the environment in the learning process. That is, the design of spaces, tools, furniture, are essential for the possibility of building knowledge by children individually and in groups.
Finally but not less important, I believe that an element of identity that is the matrix of this educational experience is the dimension of participation. This is a participative educational project that sees as protagonists the children, teachers, parents and the whole city. It is an educational experience born of the will of citizens, of participation, of taking responsibility for a public event such as education. This shapes the relationships between children, between children and adults and also the relationship with parents who are protagonists of the educational project together with children and teachers.
The training of the teachers is a very important element for the quality of the educational project. It is a training that is implicit as part of the experience. For us it is essential to allow the teacher to reflect in group through the documentation, that is, to see the documentation and reflect on the children’s processes, the role of the teacher, and to do it together. Hence the dimension of reflection, of reflection in groups and through different points of view and also of different professionals: the pedagogue, the teacher, the atelierista and others.
Our training processes are for teachers, atelieristas, pedagogues, but also for all those who are interested in knowing the pedagogical approach of Reggio Emilia. It is a training that has a strong dimension of reflection in group based on experiences. It is the union between theory and practice. Malaguzzi repeatedly emphasizes: theory and practice are constantly redefined together and the experiences that teachers make with children generate knowledge and theories as important as academic theories. Therefore the formative process done with our teacher is the same formative process that the children follow, it is social constructive, the knowledge is built together from the experience.
We believe it is very important to design spaces and therefore also the presence of materials from the observation of children and it is also very important to offer children the possibility of finding and exploring different materials, materials that are often unstructured, not formal, because this allows children to express their mental representations, their emotions, their vision of the world and therefore offer a plurality of encounter with different materials and the possibility of entering into relation with these materials in a different way with different tools that allow different research modes. For us this is a way of shaping the experience of children and their mental representations.
The summary is that we use an active pedagogy in which you think with your hands, where your hands are constantly conversing with the material and this gives possibilities to build knowledge, also in its emotional dimension not only cognitive.
We can say that our teachers have an average of 36 hours a week, 31 of which are dedicated to work with children and five hours devoted to updates and meetings with other teachers or the atelier, the pedagogue, for training understood as a reflection on the documentation, for the design and planning, for the meeting with the parents even for the updating of cultural content.
Our nests and our schools always in a general way, open at seven thirty in the morning for families who need it, from eight to nine for all. There is a possibility to leave at 12:30 and another at 15:30 and for families who need it there is an extended schedule until 19 in some services. This is in general the organization.
This organization is designed so that all the teachers, the cookers, the assistants, the atelieristas are present in the morning, from 8:30 a.m. to 13 p.m. because it is at 9 o’clock when the assembly begins in the morning. There, we design and talk about what we are going to do with the children that day, which for us is very important for the construction of relationships in the group.
Another important aspect is that in all our schools there is a kitchen that is a kind of second atelier. After the meal the children can go home but most of them stay in school, it is time to sleep. They wake up around 3, take a snack and then there are those who continue. It is a rich day and for us it is very important that all moments have a meaning of knowledge for children. What I want to say with this is that even though we all meet again at 9:30, from 7:30 to 9:00 it is like a vital space of knowledge, it is not a school, it is a full time of experiences of encounter possibilities.
I believe that children should be offered opportunities to grow in a community place, together with other children and other adults, a place that is well cared, designed and planned for them and to allow important and meaningful experiences of life and to make them feel citizens. I think this is important also for parents because they give their children an important chance but also because they are recognized as parents but also as citizens and participants in a project not only for their children but also for the whole Community to which they contribute significantly.
So I think that also this dimension of being recognized as parents and at the same time as citizens is very important because parents can often feel that they are not suitable in raising their children. I believe that parents can contribute to the life of the school and this is now more than ever a very important aspect for the school, for the city and for all.»