The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy based on the image of a child with strong potentialities for development and a subject with rights, who learns through the hundred languages belonging to all human beings, and grows in relations with others. – Reggio Children
What grew to be one of the most influential educational philosophies throughout the world started with very humble beginnings in a little town called Villa Cella in the northern region of Italy known as Reggio Romana. The approach to education originated in Northern Italy right after the end of World War II. In the political and economic chaos that followed the fall of Fascism and the German retreat from Italy, women who had been involved in the resistance movement against fascist oppression during the war worked together to fight for pre-school education for their children. With the help of Loris Malaguzzi, villagers including parents and children decided to build a school together with the rubbles left. With proceeds from the sale of a tank, some horses and a few trucks, the first municipal preschool was founded.
The Reggio Emilia Approach
The Reggio Emilia in a Nutshell
Credits to: Sojo Animiation
Credits to: Reggio Children
Who is Loris Malaguzzi?
Loris Malaguzzi was born and raised in Correggio, a small town in the province of Reggio Emilia, Italy, in 1920. Malaguzzi began training as a teacher in 1939 and graduated from the University of Urbino in 1946 with a degree in pedagogy, and at the Italian National Research Centre in Rome with a degree in psychology.
During the war, he worked in elementary and middle schools in Reggio Emilia and some smaller outlying municipalities in the province of Reggio Emilia. He began writing as a journalist in the late 1930s and by the end of 1946, Malaguzzi became the first teacher and then director at the Convitto Scuola della Rinascita in Rivaltella, Reggio Emilia, a school that allowed ex-freedom fighters and prisoners aged 16-24, the chance to learn a trade.
In 1951, he worked as a psychologist and was one of the founders of Reggio Emilia’s municipal Centro Medico Psico-Pedagogico, a centre for medicine, pedagogy and psychology, where he went on working until the 1970s. Concurrently, he managed the Holiday Homes where he began trying out and testing his ideas.
In 1963, the first municipal preschool, the Robinson (Crusoe) Preschool is founded. Loris Malaguzzi, with his rich and varied experiences, was asked to collaborate and contribute to the new educational project. More school folded into this network, with the Anna Frank Preschool in 1964, the Diana Preschool in 1970 and then expanded again in 1971 where the first infant-toddler centres for 0-3 is founded.
Loris Malaguzzi wanted a school to be a place of research and expression, a school that could make the transition from teaching to learning, from transmission to research, that put the learner back into the center of things. He viewed the school as a place for investigating and exploring, where the child searches and researches constantly and is completely freed of boredom, which Malaguzzi defined as the most serious pathology of the early years of life. Soon, school became places of experimentation and innovation, and Malaguzzi began co-ordinating Reggio Emilia’s municipal early childhood services and the Pedagogical Co-ordination Group.
In 1980, working as a consultant for the Italian Ministry of Education, Malaguzzi founded the Gruppo Nazionale Nidi‐Infanzia (National Early Years Centre) in Reggio Emilia to promote child‐centred education, and went on to travel Europe and the United States promoting his approach to early years education. His travelling exhibition, The Hundred Languages of Children, originally entitled If the eye leaps over the wall, was instrumental in bringing his educational philosophy to a wider audience of teachers and parents worldwide. Opening with the words, ‘Il bambino è fatto di cento’ (in English, ‘The child is made of one hundred’), the innovative exhibit bears witness to the originality and the extraordinary nature of the years of research that have led the Reggio infant-toddler centres and preschools to become a primary point of reference for those who work in early childhood education worldwide. It tells the story of an educational adventure that for many years has interwoven the experiences, thoughts, discussions, theoretical research, ethical and social ideals of many generations of children, teachers, and parents internationally, with the centre of the experience being the image of the child who is a competent knowledge-builder and a constant seeker of meanings.
Loris Malaguzzi retired at the age of 65 in 1985 and continued to collaborate on projects in schools. He campaigned for better education and wrote guidelines for early learning centres. The final project he participated alongside children was ‘An amusement park for birds’ at La Villetta School in the City of Reggio Emilia Italy before his passing on 30 January 1994, leaving behind a heritage of education that is widely practice all over the world today.
We have to believe that the child is a bearer and constructor of his own intelligence. If we are ready to accept this, then we will modify many of our relations with him, many of our languages and the school will also in some way adapt to a child who is a constant provider of tests, requests and intelligent research. The anxiety and this passion for searching, in some way, clearly mobilizes everything, the whole person and the whole child who is a born researcher. The child’s searching and our searching together for things that we do not know, searching for things that can improve our relations, all these in some way not only produces a marvelous understanding between the adult and the child, but I believe it forms the directional axis where intelligence is fueled. It increases his expansive capacity to relate with things or between things and therefore, it also produces a capacity of interaction, dialogue, enquiry, searching for things, and relations between things and events, which to me seems to be an essence, a massive force of what we call intelligence. – Loris Malaguzzi in an interview on the days of childhood on April 1993.