Introducing Reggio Emilia: Image of the Child (The Whole Child Series)

Marwa Nsouli (Early Years Coordinator)

Whether you have some familiarity with Reggio-inspired programs, or this terminology is completely new to you, my bulletin entries will highlight what it means to be Reggio-inspired and what makes our Early Years unique.

Welcome back to school! We hope you have had a fun-filled summer with your family. My name is Marwa Nsouli and I am the Early Years Coordinator at ISL Qatar. I am also part of the Primary Leadership Team.

Those of you who have met me already probably know that I am a Reggio-inspired educator and I am very passionate about learning through play. Whether at home with my children or in the classroom, I am always paying attention to how young children learn best to navigate and understand new concepts in their world. Hands down, play always wins!

If you are interested in learning more about early childhood education and child development, I invite you to read the series of entries I will be publishing in this section of the bulletin every other week.

My first entry (and a few after this) aim to answer a question I often get asked by parents; this being: What does it mean to be Reggio inspired?

If you have explored Early Years programs, you have probably encountered the term Reggio-inspired. For instance, here at ISL, we run a Reggio-inspired Primary Years Programme (PYP) in the Early Years. Evidence of this educational philosophy can be seen in the classrooms.

Whether you have some familiarity with Reggio-inspired programs, or this terminology is completely new to you, my bulletin entries will highlight what it means to be Reggio-inspired and what makes our Early Years unique.

Before I go into the details of what it means to be Reggio inspired, I would like to start this series with a little background information. Many people, when they first hear “Reggio-inspired,” assume Reggio is the name of a person. However, Reggio Emilia is the capital city of the Province of Reggio Emilia in Italy. The Reggio-inspired approach to education originated in this region.

The beginnings of Reggio-inspired education occurred post World War II. The destruction of the war brought the residents of Reggio Emilia together to rebuild a school from the rubble.

Psychologist Loris Malaguzzi was the key individual behind this new movement of education in Reggio Emilia. His view of the child and a vision for a child-centered education blended beautifully with a connected and involved post-war community.

Malaguzzi’s ideas, as well as an entire community’s involvement in children’s education, set the stage for a unique education the world had not yet experienced.

Now that you have a little background, we can get into the first pillar of a Reggio-inspired approach to education, which highlights how a child, as a human being, is perceived.

Respect for the Individual

Children are often viewed through several lenses:

·       There’s a personal view which might be formed out of our own childhood and parental experiences.

·       There’s the objective view which may come from observations, readings, and analytical knowledge of the child and their development.

·       Lastly, there’s the cultural view. This view is formed out of the time and place in which we live and often has the strongest influence on how we perceive a child.

The Reggio-inspired approach to early childhood education and its view of the child embraces the importance and connectivity of all these views of a child.

In a Reggio-inspired program, each child is viewed as an individual. They are capable, competent human beings with great capacity and creativity. The child is not someone to be shaped and formed but rather an individual who already has their own unique personality and abilities, who is on a journey toward making their place in the world.

Carlina Rinaldi worked with Loris Malaguzzi in the municipal infant toddler and preschool system of Reggio Emilia. She so eloquently describes the Reggio-inspired view of the child as such:

“The cornerstone of our experience, based on practice, theory, and research, is the image of the children as rich, strong, and powerful. The emphasis is placed on seeing the children as unique subjects with rights rather than simply needs. They have potential, plasticity, the desire to grow, curiosity, the ability to be amazed, and the desire to relate to other people and to communicate.”

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Next bulletin entry will be about relationships. The focus will be on the relationship between the school and the child, as well as their family.