At Parkland Players we pride ourselves in taking a Reggio Emilia approach to childcare and early childhood learning, however, we recognize that understanding what this means for the activities we plan at our centre can be a little fuzzy.
What is most important to understand about Reggio Emilia is that the interests of the students direct it. So when teachers are setting up an activity, the central question they must ask is “What have the children been curious about?” Teachers then will look to interactions with students over the past little while where students outright asked questions about things (such as the insects they found on a log on the playground), or to statements they have made about their discoveries (such as simply showing the teacher insects they found), or even activities that they seem incredibly focused on (such as following the insects they found on the log to observe what they do).
From here, teachers can begin to plan an activity that builds on the interest children have already expressed. Teachers will find out the extent of understanding children already have about the subject (to go with our existing example: insects). Maybe they know that insects have six legs and some fly. Maybe they think anything smaller than their finger is an insect. Maybe they think that all insects live outside. Whatever the case may be, it is the teacher’s task to find the jumping off point.
Next, they can begin to plan an activity to build on (or correct) the knowledge that children already have about their current interest: insects. This activity could come in the form of a provocation table filled with items that are related to insects: a book on flies, an ant farm, pressed butterflies, places where insects live (like logs and branches), etc. Children would then be tasked with examining the table and making connections between the items they see there to further their understanding.
Activities could also come in a more natural form. Teachers may simply facilitate the inquiry that is already taking place when children are following the insects on the log they found outside. They can gather the group and ask questions to start a discussion and further understanding.
Lastly, activities could come in a sensory or artistic form, this medium is slightly more open to interpretation but for an example, children could make insects out of clay and then talk about the parts of their clay insect.
Of course there are many more types of activities that can be conducted but hopefully these few give a better understanding of what Reggio Emilia education can look like.