WHAT IS REGGIO EMILIA?
Reggio Emilia is a city of northern Italy, where after World War II the community was hungry for democracy. In a splurge of creative energy, parents and educators collaborated to create preschools where children could develop multi-faceted potential. The schools reflected a commitment to education as an ongoing process of inquiry. The Reggio philosophy was not a departure from early childhood philosophers such as Jean Piaget and John Dewey. Instead the philosophy built on these founders of early education. Reggio Emilia is perhaps the only city in the world that specializes in early childhood education. Its efforts to create a school environment where love of learning could flourish continue in Italy and around the world.
Reggio has had a strong presence in Pittsburgh, including at the Cyert Center of Carnegie Mellon and the Jewish Community Center of Squirrel Hill. In recognition of the complexity and importance of collaborative early education, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh supports a multi-year change model called the Pittsburgh Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative which is helping to transform early childhood education at ECDC and in many other areas of the city. The Federation of Greater Pittsburgh not only funds this program through grants but also provides strategy, leadership, in-depth consulting and program evaluation. The Federation funds 50% of the direct costs for each year of the initiative. Matching funds are generously contributed by the Martha Klein Lottman Family Fund.
The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based on collaboration among children, teachers and families. Effort is made to include many thoughts and perspectives as we learn from one another. The curriculum continually evolves based on the questions, curiosities and ideas that arise. This process reflects respect for one another and makes learning rich and meaningful.
What does Reggio look like at ECDC?
“Reggio” is not a model to be copied, rather it is a philosophy to be studied. Each and every school that draws inspiration from Reggio is unique, based on the strengths, values and needs of the community. At ECDC we:
- Prepare the classroom/environment to inspire curiosity
- Introduce topics, themes, questions, conversations and materials
- Watch and listen carefully for children’s responses
- Allow time to support and extend those responses
- Document the learning process to ensure that important conversations and experiences can be revisited and extended
- Invite dialogue with parents to support and extend learning
- Invite parent feedback to support continual improvement
- Strive to embed our core values in daily life and decision-making
How do we teach basic skills and prepare children for Kindergarten?
Being part of a group—interacting with one another, sharing, expressing oneself through words and sitting at meeting time—is the most important aspect of kindergarten readiness. In addition, it is important for children to learn basic skills such as color and shape identification, counting, letter and sound recognition and printing.
Using the Pennsylvania Learning Standards to steer us, academic skills are woven into topics and projects. Experienced teachers recognize that daily school life offers countless opportunities to stretch literacy and numeracy skills. For example, the scribble of a two year old can lead to shared experiences in drawing curved and straight lines; in movement activities “to mimic” hand motions; and in conversation that includes new descriptive vocabulary. Likewise, for a somewhat older child, the discovery of a millipede on the playground can lead to researching various types of “myriapoda” (countless feet) and perhaps making clay models. Like the feet of the millipede, the examples are countless.
Such examples are in accordance with our “Guiding Principles” regarding literacy and numeracy skills: Pre-academic skill acquisition is an essential part of the ECDC program. Children will acquire and apply literacy and numeracy skills in meaningful ways and for real purposes.
Parents and Kindergarten Teachers alike provide testimony that ECDC children are well-prepared for kindergarten!