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What is the Reggio Emilia Approach?

The Reggio Emilia Approach values the child as strong, capable and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge. Every child brings with them deep curiosity and potential and this innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it. Reggio Emilia schools are based on the highly successful preschools developed by the townspeople of Reggio Emilia, Italy during the 1940s. Classrooms can be comprised of same-age or multi-age children groups—a sense of community is the most important aspect of the classroom, as classmates will stay together for years.

Students take the lead in learning—the curriculum consists of projects that reflect the interests of the students. Teachers observe the spontaneous curiosity of their students, and then guide them to create projects that reflect their pursuits. Children are expected to learn through mistakes rather than correction, as parents, students, and adults are considered equal learners and able to choose their learning paths. Their play and projects are documented in photographs and records of their own words, which allows teachers and parents to follow each student’s progress and helps children see their actions as meaningful. Reggio Emilia schools emphasize creativity and artistic representation.


You will not find worksheets, workbooks, or textbooks in our classrooms; we learn through natural exploration and hands-on play. Reggio Emilia uses a project-based approach to expand on learning and reach the ten learning domains (reading, writing, language, speech, gross motor, fine motor, math, science, social and emotional, and art) each month. Teachers introduce materials, concepts, and mediums that allow children to express their ideas and interests.

For instance, if the monthly discovery topic is zoo animals and a student becomes interested in zebras, we will create a lesson involving zebras to help the child expand their knowledge and interest in the animal. For math, we could use blocks to create a zebra’s black and white pattern or count the stripes in a toy zebra. To tie in reading and language we would fill the reading area with books about zebras and learn new vocabulary such as savannah, adaptations, and camouflage. For science, we would talk about the environment that the zebra lives in, and research what zebras eat. During fine motor and art exploration we could use ink to draw on white paper, write in our journals about zebras, and paint a picture of a zebra. The student’s interest can tie into every learning area to help them retain the information and enjoy learning each day!

Children in a Reggio Emilia program are seen as naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. Reggio Emilia learning environments are aesthetically pleasing and meticulously arranged to help children embrace the joy of learning.

Teachers and the learning environment play similar, critical roles in a Reggio Emilia program. Teachers are the guides, scribes, and advocates that foster an inviting, interesting, community-based learning environment. The environment is viewed as the “third teacher,” in addition to the parent and the caregiver, and is thoughtfully arranged to foster creative exploration while encouraging interaction and communication. The classrooms display project work, both completed and in-progress, to tell the story of those that share the space.

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