There’s a new style of teaching in town
Newsweek has reported that Reggio Emilia schools are among the best in the world and the method is gradually being adopted by some of the most innovative pre-school and primary schools around the world.
Keren explains why her award-winning nursery chain Keren’s Nursery, has firmly embedded the innovative child-focused Reggio Emilia approach to education.
“This style of teaching has been around since the 1940’s and it’s had incredible success. Children at Reggio Emilia schools are more robust, resilient, and curious, full of wonder at the world around them, brimming with confidence at their place within it.
Reggio Emilia children have such an incredible sense of mental wellbeing and self-assurance. Now, of all times, these attributes have rarely been so important for children.
Started in Reggio Emilia, Italy after World War II, parents believed there was a better way of teaching their children. They developed a program emphasising respect, responsibility, and community involvement. Children are encouraged to explore and discover in a supportive and stimulating environment. The curriculum is created around children’s instinctive interests.
At Keren’s this fits really well with the core principles of the EYFS. Rather than being a strict curriculum, Reggio Emilia is a philosophy guiding teachers’ approach to education with three core principles: the child, the environment, and the teacher.
Broadly speaking, it’s a student-centred curriculum that uses self-directed, experiential learning in relationship-driven environments. So what does this mean in reality?
Much of the teaching at Reggio Emilia schools and pre-schools takes place in the form of projects. Children have opportunities to explore, observe, theorise, question, and discuss to clarify their understanding.
At Keren’s Nurseries, Forest School is already core to the curriculum. Children are encouraged to plan, explore, and learn by discovery, whether it’s out on Hampstead Heath or in the private garden squares of Holland Park. They embark on Tikun Olam projects like litter picking to care for their neighbourhoods, they grow herbs, fruit, and vegetables, and are given the autonomy to share ideas and learn for themselves.
At the heart of the philosophy is the belief that children form their own personality during the early years of development, and that’s why Keren has so much respect for the system. The aim of the approach is to teach children how to use creative skills in everyday life; think painting, sculpting and drama and role play, as well as gardening and cooking – anything creative, in fact.
Next academic year, the chain will integrate “ateliers” in every classroom. These creative hubs will encourage arts, and support creativity and imagination. Every member of staff will be given training accordingly.
In the Reggio style, the teacher is a co-learner and collaborator rather than a passive instructor. They are encouraged to enable learning by planning activities and lessons based on the child’s interests, asking questions to advance understanding, and actively engaging in the activities alongside the child “as partner to the child, the teacher is inside the learning situation” It’s a very interactive way of teaching, and educators love it.
Often overlooked in nurseries and preschool is the physical space, referred to in Reggio Emilia as the “third teacher.” At Keren’s Nurseries, there’s already a well-planned focus on outdoor and indoor space in equal measure. Gardens have an inviting quality and children are free to discover and learn through the world around them. Inside, rooms are regularly redecorated according to the time of year, keeping children stimulated and engaged in their learning and development.
“At a time when mental wellbeing is key, even for pre-schoolers, we’re really excited to be enhancing our Reggio Emilia program with the introduction of ateliers in every room.”
For more information or to book a virtual tour, visit www.kerensnursery.com/virtual-tours
This article first appeared in The Jewish Chronicle on August 21st, 2020.