Since the Loris Malaguzzi Centre opened over a decade ago, it has been a dedicated meeting place for those in early childhood learning to combine professional development and research for people in Reggio Emilia, Italy, as well as those worldwide who seek to innovate education and culture.
One of Bear Park’s early childhood teachers, Melissa from Bear Park Mairangi Bay, recently had the opportunity to take an inspirational journey to the birthplace of Reggio Emilia to further understand how education and research improve the lives of people and communities in Reggio Emilia and worldwide. Her journey begins below...
This April, I had the great opportunity to embark on the long journey to Reggio Emilia, Italy—a trip I never imagined I would be taking. With years of teaching and feeling inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to education, being able to experience and discover the culture, people, environments, values and ideals of this educational approach—first hand—was a goal and a dream of mine.
What resonates so well with the Reggio approach is the significant emphasis placed on children as such valued members and contributors to our society. There is a huge focus on respect for children and the experiences, ideas, and knowledge they have to share as equal importance to any other member of society.
From a teacher's perspective, I see the importance and the value of other aspects within the approach as well, such as:
- Embracing relationships with everyone within the environment to establish a foundation for respect and comfort;
- Offering an inviting environment for children to lead their own explorations; and
- Creating a learning programme that provides the opportunity to revisit and reflect on past experiences to discover more about the world that surrounds us.
With the support of my Moa Room colleagues, I embarked on this journey with a particular lens to focus on—something that we were striving to enrich within our own learning environment. 'Technology' is a broad term that encompasses many 'tools' for application. These tools provide us with new opportunities and ways of discovering. As a team, we wanted to feel more inspired by digital technology and find new ways to incorporate this authentically into our learning environment to provide our children with new opportunities and possibilities.
Reggio Emilia incorporated digital technology beautifully and almost always in relation to nature. Within each of the classrooms at Bear Park Mairangi Bay, we are all following our own pathways to strengthen our relationship with Papatūānuku so it was thrilling to see how this was done in different contexts.
During a visit to one of the local Reggio schools, a small group of children was working in the atelier, creating bugs that they imagined to live in the cabbage out of clay. A computer screen and a microscope were placed in front of them for the children to navigate the investigation on their own—choosing to observe more closely at the healthier looking cabbage and then at the clay creations that had been painted and put through a kiln.
In another classroom, a tiny camera was attached alongside an upturned plant—with exposed roots—to project its image onto a huge screen on the back wall. The four-year-old group was hypothesising about the role that roots play in the growth of the plant. Some children manoeuvred the camera around different parts of the roots while other children used huge recycled materials—such as pipes and sticks—to interpret their ideas about the roots.
I asked the question to the teachers: "What is the purpose of these technologies?"
As I listened to the teachers speak beautifully in Italian, and then translated to English explanations, an epiphany-like moment occurred; they shared that it is all about perspective. Each of these forms of digital technology offers a new perspective to discover and it is not necessarily about the operation and understanding of the technology itself.
This is the most pertinent idea that I took from my astounding time in Reggio Emilia, that technology offers a new lens, and it is the process of exploring with this lens that is where the most powerful and inspiring discoveries will be made.
I am more than excited to begin sharing my ideas and experiences with the teachers, children and whanau of our Bear Park community, and further enriching our beautiful spaces and opportunities to explore and discover together.
“Digital has the potential to change learning-teaching contexts, offering new modes of representation to children's thoughts and theories, and a cultural dimension capable of fusing the abstract and the artisan.”