Little School

Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood learning
York House School was the first independent school in Greater Vancouver to introduce the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education.
The Reggio Emilia philosophy emerged from a town in Northern Italy called Reggio Emilia, shortly after World War II. Due to the destruction from the war, parents believed they needed a new approach to teaching their children. Today, the Reggio Emilia is recognized for having some of the best preschools in the world.

The approach is based on the following principles:

Self-Guided Curriculum
The curriculum is based on the interests of the children. Study topics are developed from the talk of children, family and community events, as well as known interests of children (such as puddles, shadows, dinosaurs etc.). Our teachers work together as a team to talk about the direction of a project, the materials needed, and possible parent or community involvement.

Projects allow for more in-depth studies of concepts and ideas that come from the class. Project work is treated like an adventure and could last anywhere from one week to the full school year. Teachers guide the students in making decisions about the direction of the project, and the ways in which the topic will be researched and presented. Long-term projects enrich the children’s learning and are meant to be thought-provoking as children explore, build and test theories, and record their results.

Multiple Symbolic Languages
The arts are used as a symbolic language in which children can express their understandings in their project work. The graphic arts are used as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development. Presenting concepts and hypotheses in multiple forms as such print, art, construction, drama, music, puppetry and shadow play, are essential to the children’s understanding of their experience.

Group work is essential in advancing cognitive development. Children are encouraged to dialogue, critique, compare, negotiate, hypothesize, and problem solve through group work. Collaboration among home, school, and the community to support the learning of the child is highly emphasized.

Teachers as Researchers
The role of the teacher is first and foremost to be a learner alongside the children. The teacher is a researcher, a resource, and a guide as she shares her expertise with the children. In this “teacher-researcher” role, educators carefully listen, observe, and document the children’s work, provoking and stimulating thinking. The teachers also reflect on their own teaching and learning, and work in pairs, sharing information, and mentoring each other.

Documenting and displaying children’s work is necessary so that children can express, revisit, and construct and reconstruct their feelings, ideas, and understandings. Documenting children’s work in progress is an important tool in the learning process for children, teachers, and parents. The teachers act as recorders for the children, helping them trace and revisit their words and actions and making the learning visible.

The Role of Three Teachers

Reggio Emilia schools believe that there are three teachers of our children: the parent, the teacher, and the environment.

The Parent
Parent participation in the life of the school is an essential component of the educational experience. Families are actively involved in meetings, school activities, and events, such as student-led conferences or education seminars that cover topics on early literacy, play, and social skills.

Partnering with parents is important in order to maintain a consistent and positive experience both at home and at school. The school engages parents by providing feedback about their child’s work and keeping them updated on what’s happening in the classroom. Open communication between the parents and teachers is strongly encouraged.

The Teacher
Teachers play a critical role in preparing your child for a lifetime of learning.

Little School teachers:
  • Help children see the connections in learning and experiences.
  • Co-explore the learning experience with the children.
  • Provoke ideas, problem solving, and conflict resolution.
  • Take ideas from children and turn them into areas for further exploration.
  • Help children express their knowledge through representational work (i.e. the graphic arts).
  • Document children’s progress through blogs, journals, photographs, videos, or portfolios.
  • Have a dialogue about classroom projects with parents and co-teachers.
  • Foster the connection between home, school, and community.

The Environment
The Little School is a friendly and inviting learning place. Classrooms reflect the natural environment. The walls are white or soft yellow to make the classroom a calm environment that allows the focus to be on the documentation of the children's learning processes. Both the indoors and the outdoors (playground, garden, and gym) are used as learning spaces.

Teachers have carefully arranged the room and materials so that the children can make thoughtful decisions when working and exploring. Children’s artwork and projects are displayed. Items found in nature are incorporated into classroom materials and are considered an important part of developing an appreciation for the world around us.

The Little School incorporates “centres” to offer a variety of learning experiences. For example, the girls can experiment with water at the science centre, play with blocks at the math centre, and work with teachers at the literacy centre.
The Little School is an enriched environment that nourishes each child’s development. This is why the environment is often referred to as “the third teacher.”

Adapted from The Reggio Emilia Approach,