Foundations and Current Issues of Early Childhood Education/Chapter 7/7.3

Introduction into the Reggio Emilia Approach




The inspiration for the Reggio Emilia approach came from Reggio Emilia, Italy. In Italy, all the preschools are centered on this approach. It is a city run program for children from birth to the age of six (Cyert Center, 2004). The philosophy is that, “children’s interactions and relationships with other children and adults are a vital component of their learning” (Schiller, 1995). Reggio Emilia schools in the United States, Italy, and other countries around the world differ greatly from standard preschools here in the United States. Some of the key differences and components of the Reggio Emilia program is its role in the community, attention to the environment, and its emergent curriculum which functions as a part of the teachers and the children.

Role of the Community


The community is a big part of the Reggio Emilia schools. There are regularly scheduled meetings for parents to take part in. These meetings are scheduled in the evening so that working parents are able to attend. The parents and teachers discuss issues regarding school policies, child development concerns, and curriculum planning and evaluations (Wikipedia, 2007). The parents are involved in the whole process of the education of their children. Teachers send home journals of children’s thoughts and ideas expressed in class. This kind of cooperation among teachers and parents make learning on the children’s part much easier and complete.

Attention to the Environment


According to Lilian G. Katz, “The physical environment of a preschool center is considered a ‘teacher’ in and of itself!” (Katz, 1990). This holds true in a Reggio Emilia school. The environment is considered the “third” teacher to the students attending this kind of program. The building itself and classrooms are filled with indoor plants, vines, and lots of natural light. Natural light enters the classrooms through wall-sized windows letting the children connect with the outside world. All of the classrooms have a door to the outside and open to a center piazza. Each classroom flows well with each other and the surrounding community. The lunch rooms, courtyards and bathrooms are designed in a way to encourage community among all the students (Wikipedia, 2007). Incorporated into each school is a common space available to all children in the school that includes dramatic play and work tables (Cyert Center, 2004).

Each classroom is connected with a phone, passageway or a window. The classrooms are equipped with art centers called atelier (Gandini, 1993). In the atelier are easels, watercolors, crayons, markers, paper, and any art materials children need to be creative. Another part of the classroom has books about artists and a place where children can read comfortably (Schiller, 1995). Displayed around the classroom, among all the photographs of the children and carefully placed mirrors in the school, are works completed by the children with transcriptions of their discussions about the work.

“The physical environment of a preschool center is considered a ‘teacher’ in and of itself!” (Katz, 1990).

Emergent Curriculum


There is no time schedule where at some part of the day the students are learning about science, then language arts, and then math. The kind of schedule the students follow is that there is a group meeting when the students arrive in the morning. Then there is a work period, play period, lunch time, play time, nap time, and then another work period or play period (Hertzog, 2001). For their work period, there is no set curriculum that the teachers must follow. The curriculum is an emergent curriculum which is child centered. Emergent means that is builds upon the interests of the child. The teachers have broad goals but can follow the lead and interests of the children (Schiller, 1995). During the work periods, a teacher will work with one small group on their project while the other students are engaged in self selected activities.

The projects are teacher directed and child initiated and begins with the teacher observing the children and asking the children questions on a topic that interests the child. The students then do in depth studies of the content that interests the children of that group (Wikipedia, 2007). The project moves in unanticipated directions. To avoid confusion the teachers help children make decisions about direction of study, how to research the topic, and how to represent the topic (Cyert Center, 2004). The projects can range in length from one week to the whole school year. When the students are content to be complete with their project they depict their knowledge through drawing, sculpting, dramatic play, or writing.

At every school, there is a visual art specialist, an atelierista, who works closely with the other teachers and children (Gandini, 1993). The atelierista guides the children into appropriate media choices to complete their ideas and projects. Because art is such an integral part of all activities, the students’ old works, finished and unfinished, are available to them to finish or add on. While they work on their art projects, the teachers talk to the children and write down any thoughts or ideas the students have. They display the students’ discussions with their art work around the classroom and school (Schiller, 1995).

In order for this curriculum to work, the teachers must also learn with the students. The teachers take turns with the following roles: observing, note taking, and recording observations between children. After all observations are recorded, they are shared with other teachers and parents in the planning of the students’ projects. It is crucial that teachers become skillful observers of the children. Their observations guide the curriculum planning and implementation (Wikipedia, 2007).



The Reggio Emilia approach to learning is a constructivist approach where the students learn at their own pace and guide the curriculum. It is all about the children. The children’s interests lead them into a project that is researched in depth at a level that they can understand. The children’s thoughts and ideas are implemented into the curriculum and planning and are shared with the community. Reggio Emilia works because the children are learning what they want to learn with the help of their parents, teachers, and the community.



Cyert Center for Early Education. (2004). The Reggio Emilia Approach. Retrieved March 10, 2007, from

Gandini, Lella (1993, November). Fundamentals of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education. Young Children, 4-8.

Hertzog, Nancy B. (2001). Reflections and Impressions from Reggio Emilia: “Its Not About Art!” Early Childhood Research and Practice, 3 (1). Retrieved March 10, 2007, from

Katz, Lillian G (1990, September). Impressions of Reggio Emilia Preschools. Young Children, 11-12.

Schiller, Marjorie (1995). Reggio Emilia: A Focus on Emergent Curriculum and Art. Art Education, 48, 45-50. Retrieved March 10, 2007, from

Wkikipedia. (2007, January). Reggio Emilia Approach. Retrieved March 10, 2007, from

Multiple-Choice Questions


1) Who is involved in the child’s learning and curriculum planning?

a) The child

b) The teacher

c) The parents

d) All of the above

( Answer: (d) the child, teacher, and parents are involved in the children’s learning)

2) Where did the Reggio Emilia approach come from?

a) The United States

b) Italy

c) European countries

d) A man named Reggio Emilia.

(Answer: (b) the Reggio Emilia approach came from Italy)

3) What is an atelierista?

a) Space designed for art

b) The classroom

c) A visual arts teacher

d) The name of the schools

(Answer: (c) an atelierista is a visual arts teacher)

4) What is an atelier?

a) Space designed for art

b) The classroom

c) A visual arts teacher

d) The name of the schools

(Answer: (a) an atelier is a space designed for art)

5) Do the students have to follow a set curriculum?

a) Yes

b) No

(Answer: (b) the students do not have a set curriculum)

Essay Question


Describe fully the kind of curriculum used in Reggio Emilia schools.

The students follow an emergent curriculum. Emergent means that the curriculum is child centered and integrated and builds upon the interests of the child. The teacher has broad goals for the students, but the children are the ones that guide where their learning goes. The teachers first observe the children and their thoughts, ideas, and interests. They take turns with other teachers taking notes, observing, and recording observations between children. The teachers then take the observations and notes recorded and share them with the other teachers and parents. From there, the teachers take small groups and begin an in depth research into the interest of choice for the children. The teachers help the students with research, the direction of the study and how to represent the topic. The projects can go in any direction and can last from one week to the whole school year. When the students have finished their research, they then display the information obtained through sculptures, drawings, dramatic play, or writing. To help them with their display, visual art teachers help the students chose the right media that best fits their projects. The students’ works are displayed around the classroom and school. Along with their projects are descriptions of the students’ talk while working on the project.