By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. When I was asked to present a workshop that focused on the links between literacy, nature and the Reggio Emilia Approach at the Reading for the Love of It conference I was thrilled as I have a passion for all three. I knew I needed to start with the principles. In the over twenty years that I have been learning about the complexities of the Reggio Emilia Approach, I have seen different variations of the principles. The most recent online publication that I can find shows that there are twelve distinct but inter-related principles of the Reggio Emilia Educational Project. By Carlina Rinaldi, Re-Imagining Childhood is a wonderful document that relates the principles to a South Australian context. I feel a special affinity for this publication having spent a few weeks in Adelaide with colleagues who have become friends, experiencing that context.
As I consider connections, I stop to think about the word ‘principles’ which are defined as a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning. There is so much to reflect on in that definition. What is fundamental truth and is it different from universal truth? I like to think of the the chain of reasoning for beliefs and values. Beginning with the Reggio Emilia principles I see links in the chain with other principles that my ECE degree students are now considering in History and Philosophy of Early Childhood Education. The principles from the Early Learning and Early Childhood Education Accord and the principles of John Amos Comenius (1592–1670) align with the Reggio principles. They connect to the child as capable to learn in, with, and from nature. It is interesting that when I asked each of the approximately 100 students from two classes to pick the principle from the Accord that most resonated with them, the one most often picked indicated a view of the competent child – Children are capable and ready to learn and should be viewed as full of potential.
The Principles of the Reggio Emilia Education Project are summarized below beginning with the belief that children have extraordinary potential.
Comenius’ Principles of Instruction, puts forth the belief in the capacity of the child, the idea of developmental appropriative practice and the view of learning through the senses.
The underlying assumption that links all three principles is the image of the child as competent. This is my focus for the workshop and to make the connection to nature I looked for children’s books depicting nature in a way that spoke to the child as capable of looking closely and thinking deeply about natural wonders. I am so excited to share these books with the workshop participants as I see them as being embodiments of the image of the child as competent.
I wonder if my students will be able to see the competent child connections? I truly believe if educators can take this view it changes teaching forever. Of course I am inspired by Loris Malaguzzi and end with his quote.
There are hundreds of different images of the child. Each one of you has inside yourself an image of the child that directs you as you begin to relate to a child. This theory within you pushes you to behave in certain ways; it orients you as you talk to the child, listen to the child, observe the child.