One morning the children were exploring with play dough and various sized sticks. One student created a lollipop out of the play dough and stick, and the other children saw this and began creating the same thing. To encourage the study and for them to express their knowledge in a different way, the teachers arranged photos of lollipops, included with a sheet of paper with numbers listed on it, and markers. The children excitedly embraced the new materials and began drawing lollipops with the markers and tracing the outline of the numbers. The class also began discussing the characteristics of a lollipop (sweet, red, green, sugary, hard, round) and counting the numbers out loud.
This simple activity highlights two important things about the Reggio Emilia approach: children are communicators and children are capable of constructing their own learning. Children develop an understanding of themselves and of the world through play. Children communicate through play by asking questions, using language as play, or using art to communicate if they aren’t vocal yet. We also place high value on social collaboration and working in groups so children cam reflect on their thinking in collaboration with each other. While this activity could have easily ended with the children making lollipops out of sticks and play dough, we wanted them to communicate and express their understanding even more. By describing aspects of the lollipop using their senses, , we tried to incorporate concepts of shape, color, and re-telling during the new activity to deepen their understanding of a round lollipop, a skinny stick, a sweet taste, a hard surface, and more! We’re so thankful that we have skilled observers as teachers in order to take advantage of learning opportunities like this.
“By valuing children in this way educators put much more emphasis on really listening to children. Indeed, the pedagogical basis of the whole Reggio approach has been called the pedagogy of listening – listening being a metaphor for the educators’ attempt to gain as real an understanding as possible of children and their learning processes. When our youngest children are literally listened to and given the time and space to express themselves we are faced with children capable of doing so in a much more complex and abstract way than children are generally given credit for. This is something that is revealed in the Reggio schools through the transcriptions of children’s in-depth conversations at a daily level.” – www.ccsu.edu
Moreover, a hard concept for some to understand is that we don’t have a set curriculum. Our curriculum is open to all possibilities with topics for exploration based on the interests of the child and of the class overall. The reason we follow this type of curriculum is a result of our philosophy of who a child is. We believe children are capable human beings with rights and people who naturally want to learn. Children don’t need to be taught when they naturally want to learn and explore the world. This type of philosophy and curriculum is essential when building critical thinking skills and for helping child learn how to learn. The best way to describe our child-led curriculum is that it’s student-led and teacher framed!