Reggio Emilia at Riverside Magnet School

In a Reggio Emilia-style elementary school, you will find instructors who use a child-guided curriculum which allows children to communicate and learn through “one hundred languages” — not just speaking, but making art, singing, engaging with nature, and developing relationships with others. The elementary curriculum at Riverside Magnet School (RMS), Goodwin College’s Reggio Emilia inspired magnet school, challenges students to discover, invent, and dream through an educational philosophy that puts the child’s “self” and interests first. The guiding principles of Reggio Emilia at RMS include:

  • Considering children as collaborators, communicators, and protagonists
  • Considering the teacher in several roles: as the nurturer, partner, guide, researcher, in their relationship with each child
  • Respecting the foundation of cooperation
  • Using the environment as the “third teacher”
  • Addressing parents as partners
  • Considering documentation as a facet of communication

What is the Reggio Emilia philosophy?

In order to understand how a Reggio Emilia classroom works, we need to take a step back and define the Reggio Emilia learning approach. Reggio Emilia is an educational philosophy focused on early childhood education and experiential learning. Per the Reggio Emilia philosophy, children are in control of their own learning and exploration. Emphasis is placed on the child’s “voice,” actions, passions, and wonder as they self-direct their own learning to understand the world around them. In the Reggio Emilia classroom, educators are encouraged to observe, listen, and provide their students with the space, time, and materials needed to express themselves and actively engage in their education.

The Reggio Emilia philosophy emphasizes the use of the “hundred languages of children,” which can include writing, drawing, building, sculpting, and dramatic play. These languages are how children interact and create experiences, individually and with other students, allowing them to grow within their learning environment.

How is the Reggio Emilia philosophy enacted in the classroom environment?

In a traditional classroom setting, it is very teacher-centric, and teachers lead the class with a particular, predetermined curriculum. The Reggio Emilia philosophy, however, puts the child in control, so the classroom is child-centered where the teachers and children are working together in learning. Most traditional classroom environments follow repetitive schedules and routines, however, in a Reggio Emilia environment, each day can be different depending on the children’s interests and interactions.

The classroom itself is seen as the “third teacher” in the Reggio Emilia philosophy, and is extremely important in facilitating exploration, discovery, and research in the classroom. Reggio Emilia teachers tend to avoid purchasing plastic generic toys. Instead, they will use sensory and natural materials for children to interact with, such as buttons, shells, rocks, and wooden blocks. These sensory and natural materials engage senses and stimulate learning and the ability to revisit memories in the classroom and beyond.

How can the Reggio Emilia philosophy benefit young children?

The Reggio Emilia philosophy can have many positive benefits for young children. One benefit in particular, is that this approach allows children to build confidence. By putting children in charge of their own learning, they let their imaginations take them to new heights. In a Reggio Emilia environment, children are encouraged to speak with all of their languages, which in turn empowers their imaginations, builds their confidence in themselves and encourages them to take more interest in their own education.