By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. I have had the good fortune of visiting Reggio Emilia, Italy and participating in two study tours. I have also travelled to Sweden and to Colorado to see how inspiration from Reggio Emilia has been interpreted in those contexts. I am eagerly anticipating a trip to Adelaide, South Australia to visit schools there and meet with other Reggio-inspired educators. I look forward to presenting a number of workshops with my fellow traveller and critical friend, Cindy Green. We are especially excited about the agate experience workshop as it is a metaphor of the need to seek multiple perspectives. When you look at an agate in your hand you can only see so much but by looking closely and illuminating with light, many other intricate layers of beauty appear. Each agate is unique. Each will illuminate differently. This is also true of each of us.
Recently, I was asked to do a workshop in a local community to a small group of kindergarten teachers. After sharing a brief history of the Reggio Emilia Approach, we discussed the principles. One teacher, seemed perplexed and when asked said, “I thought Reggio was all about having wood in your classroom”. Given the vast amount of images of classroom environments and provocations/invitations making the rounds on Facebook and Pinterest, it is understandable how this teacher would come to this conclusion having shared that she spent all summer trying to find wood bowls for her room so that it could be “Reggio”. I have just read posts from two other bloggers that sum up the dilemna of seeing “Reggio” from only the perspective of the classroom environment. Allie Pasquier in one asks “Why all the branches?” as a legitimate question in the current Reggio-in-America environment and follows up with a post entitled: Its Not about the Branch. Sandra Roskrat asks Do I Really Need to Create an Aesthetically Pleasing Environment That Could be on the Pages of a Home Magazine? My reply to the teacher in my workshop was it is not about the wooden bowl.
The Reggio Emilia Approach represents a worldview that is grounded in a postmodern perspective. “Postmodernists consider that there are many different kinds of voices, many kinds of styles, and take care not to value or privilege one set of values over another” (Penn, 2005, p. 28). Reggio may be postmodern, but Reggio educators resist the term because isms are too risky as they simplify and lock rather than inspire (Moss & Petrie, 2002). Inspiration is the image of the child as having rights rather than needs; a postmodern perspective evolves and is different from the modern romantic view of the child as espoused by Jean Jacques Rousseau (1762), the French philosopher who claimed that children are born weak and helpless and need strength, aid and reason. It all begins with the image of the child. Loris Malaguzzi reminds us that this is where teaching begins.
An environment that grows out of your relationship with the child is unique and fluid ~ Malaguzzi
I prefer environments that are engaging and inviting. I adore the wood bowls, and the careful attention to detail that creates an aesthetic that I find pleasing. It is a place that I would want to remain and play. Yet, it is not a place to from which to stop learning. As Reggio-inspired educators we need to keep seeking multiple perspectives. Seeking multiple perspectives is like dropping a stone into water with deliberation. The result can be many ripples of change and transformation. Working with others to seek multiple perspectives is the most valuable resource that we all have. It is through the perspectives of others that we can continue to grow our practice and understanding of what it means to be Reggio-inspired.
Another resource that I am looking forward to is the Wonders of Learning Exhibit from Reggio Emilia as it comes to my community this summer. In 2007, I was profoundly inspired by the Hundred Languages of Children Exhibit when it was in Toronto. I had the opportunity to visit it many times. That exhibit bore witness to the originality and the extraordinary nature of the years of research that have led the Reggio Emilia approach to become a primary point of reference, worldwide, for those who work in early childhood education. It now is retired but has been replaced by another. Having only once visited the Wonders of Learning Exhibit when it was in Colorado in 2008, I look forward to returning for another point of inspiration. It is going to be a summer of inspiration and a time for embracing the perspectives of others. I am so grateful for my work with the York Region Nature Collaborative for it made it possible for me to organize the Rhythm of Learning in Nature, a five day professional inquiry experience to take place at a place that inspires me almost daily, the beautiful Swan Lake. This year, we have the good fortune to have international facilitators, Suzanne Axelsson from Sweden and Debi Keyte-Hartland from the United Kingdom and participants from the UK and the US, and from multiple provinces in Canada. It did sell out rather quickly but we have an evening planned to share global perspectives at a larger, equally breath-taking venue, Kortright Centre and we invite you to join us so you too can seek multiple perspectives and see how Reggio-inspiration is interpreted in different contexts. I am confident that the Reggio-Inspired Practice in Context: Global Perspectives event will illuminate and inspire.