Reggio Emilia’s message for future generations

Reggio Emilia has always had a strong message for future generations: the future is in the hands and voices of our children.  At the end of World War II amidst the loss and confusion in a small Italian town called Reggio Emilia, Loris Malgaluzzi saw the need to create a positive, beautiful future. He launched the Reggio Emilia approach to building that future with small children at its heart, as the “carriers of over one hundred languages”, as active, creative beings capable of negotiating with everything that their environment provided (Aleph, 2015).

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The poem speaks of the ‘hundred’ ways each child has of interacting with the world and goes on to ask educators to revise outdated, narrow systems and to respond to every child’s capacity to explore, discover and create new ways of relating to the world.

The time was right to foster creative thinking and new ways of working together; to create new solutions to the world people found themselves part of; and to nurture the natural creativity of children.  Today, as we face a confusing world that is rapidly changing, the message of hope is just as relevant, and our children now will be the custodians of the future.

As our present world is becoming more complex and challenging, it is evident that traditional education systems are struggling to meet the demands of constant change and globalization. New and more creative approaches are required to prepare our children for the society and workforce of the future, and the Reggio Emilia approach is a model that for 21st century learning.

In Reggio Emilia, the central quality is the child’s participation in their learning through collaboration. The projects that children embark upon come from group participation. Children learn through actively collaborating with their peers, their teachers and their parents on developing ideas, responses and situations into new creations. With as much time as they need, there is freedom to brainstorm and explore with their peers and adults with similar interests. As they participate in making, performing, constructing, drawing & writing, children develop their ability to work with others and to communicate individual ideas and responses to others’ ideas. As exploration and sharing develops, all are involved in critical thinking, analyzing and understanding others’ points of view, and in working out solutions to the challenges that emerge. With teachers as fellow learners, children are free to follow their own interests and to use their creative imaginations as their learning emerges in diverse ways.

The whole process of developing and constructing new solutions and creations is highly creative.

The concept of the environment as the ‘third teacher’ embraces children’s responses to the world around them, the world of people, artifacts, buildings, built and most importantly the natural environment. In observing, exploring, recording, and expressing their responses children’s learning is not focused on and individual classroom subject, but is interdisciplinary and may involve maths, science, literacy, and social sciences. Their learning finds its most natural expression through play and art-making.

Reggio Emilia inspired schools are community-minded, with parents playing an enormous part in their children’s learning.  Children interact with people of all ages and learn important social-emotional skills through discussion and reflection on the choices they are making every day.

Lastly, the concept of autonomy in Reggio Emilia is linked to encouraging children’s individual talents and passions, to developing confidence in one’s ideas and ability to contribute and communicate with others

On examining the Reggio Emilia philosophy of educating young children, it is clear that the values and approaches first conceptualized by Loris Malaguzzi provide a blueprint for our important work in ensuring a livable sustainable life for future generations.


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