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Comparing Reggio Emilia and Project-Based Preschools: Understanding the Differences

Children working on group project in a Reggio Emilia Preschool in Singapore

In the realm of early childhood education, various approaches exist, each with its unique philosophy and methodology. Reggio Emilia and project-based or inquiry-based preschools are two popular approaches that often garner attention. While they share some similarities in their focus on child-centered learning and exploration, they also have distinct differences that set them apart. Let's delve into these differences to gain a deeper understanding of each approach.


Reggio Emilia Preschools


The Reggio Emilia approach originated in the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy, after World War II. Central to this approach is the belief that children are capable, competent learners who construct their knowledge through interactions with their environment, peers, and educators. Key characteristics of Reggio Emilia-inspired preschools include:


1.      Child-Led Learning: In Reggio Emilia preschools, learning emerges from children's interests, questions, and discoveries. Teachers act as facilitators, guiding children's exploration and inquiry while allowing them to lead their hands-on learning journey and dive deeper into meaningful concepts. Empowering children with child-led learning transcends the boundaries of traditional education settings, fostering a lifelong passion for exploration and discovery. By placing the reins of learning in their hands, we inspire curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking that extend far beyond the confines of the classroom.

2.     The Hundred Languages of Children: Reggio Emilia preschools embrace the concept of "The Hundred Languages of Children," recognizing that children express themselves and make sense of the world in multiple ways, including through art, music, movement, and play.

3.     Documentation and Reflection: Documentation is integral to the Reggio Emilia approach, with teachers carefully documenting children's learning experiences through photographs, videos, and written observations. This documentation is a tool for reflection, assessment, and communication among educators, children, and parents.

4.     The Role of the Environment: The learning environment in Reggio Emilia preschools is considered the "third teacher," alongside educators and peers. Environments are thoughtfully designed to provoke curiosity, creativity, and collaboration, with natural materials and open-ended resources that invite exploration and discovery.

5.     The Atelier: A prominent feature of Reggio Emilia preschools is the Atelier, a dedicated space where children engage in artistic expression and creative exploration under the guidance of an Atelierista. This space catalyzes self-expression and imaginative discovery, further enhancing the Reggio Emilia experience.

Project-Based or Inquiry-Based Preschools:


Project-based or inquiry-based preschools share some common principles with the Reggio Emilia approach but may vary in their implementation and emphasis. These preschools prioritize hands-on, experiential learning and often incorporate elements of child-led investigation. Key characteristics of project-based or inquiry-based preschools include:


1.      Focus on Projects or Investigations: Project-based or inquiry-based preschools engage children in in-depth investigations or projects that emerge from their interests, questions, or curiosities. These projects provide opportunities for children to explore topics in depth, conduct research, and collaborate with peers.

2.     Hands-On Learning Experiences: Learning in project-based or inquiry-based preschools is experiential and hands-on, with children actively engaged in exploring materials, conducting experiments, and solving real-world problems.

3.     Teacher as Facilitator: Similar to Reggio Emilia preschools, teachers in project-based or inquiry-based settings serve as facilitators, guiding children's inquiries and supporting their exploration. Teachers scaffold learning experiences, provide resources, and ask open-ended questions to deepen children's understanding.


Distinguishing Factors:

While both approaches emphasize child-centered learning and hands-on exploration, there are several distinguishing factors between Reggio Emilia preschools and project-based or inquiry-based preschools:

1.      Documentation and Reflection: While both approaches value documentation and reflection, Reggio Emilia preschools have a more structured approach to documentation, with a focus on representing children's learning processes and experiences in multiple forms.

2.     The Role of the Environment: Reggio Emilia preschools place a strong emphasis on the environment as the "third teacher," with carefully curated spaces designed to provoke inquiry and collaboration. Project-based or inquiry-based preschools may also prioritize the learning environment but may not emphasize it to the same extent.

3.     The Hundred Languages of Children: The concept of "The Hundred Languages of Children" is central to the Reggio Emilia approach, highlighting the importance of creative expression and multiple ways of knowing. While project-based or inquiry-based preschools may incorporate creative expression, they may not explicitly embrace this concept.

4.     Community Collaboration: Reggio Emilia preschools often involve the broader community, including parents, artists, scientists, and local experts, in children's learning experiences. While project-based or inquiry-based preschools may also collaborate with the community, the extent of collaboration may vary.


In conclusion, while both Reggio Emilia preschools and project-based or inquiry-based preschools share common goals of fostering curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking, they have distinct features that set them apart. Understanding these differences can help parents make informed decisions when choosing the right preschool for their child, based on their values, beliefs, and educational priorities.

Visit a Reggio Emilia Approach School


Experience the excellence of the Reggio Emilia approach at Bucket House Preschool, recognized as a leading provider of childcare and kindergarten in the Woodlands and Admiralty areas. Our dedication to providing the best preschool education is evident in every aspect of our program. Step into our dynamic learning space, meticulously designed to blend the enriching Reggio Emilia approach with top-tier childcare practices. Schedule a tour today to discover why Bucket House Preschool stands out as a top choice for families in Woodlands and Admiralty.


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