Reggio programming making a difference in early childhood learning

It’s the little things that you notice. The questions they ask, the eagerness to explore a bit further, and the desire to do more. Then there are the big things like more confidence, and getting to know themselves better. Cheyanne Jones observed all this in her daughter, Brooklyn, when she joined the Reggio program at Walter and Gladys Hill Public School.

Brooklyn was four last year when she started the Early Childhood Development Program (ECDP) at the school. She found out about the program during registration, and was impressed by the initiative’s focus on “learning through the kid’s interest and problem solving.” Then she noticed the difference in Brooklyn immediately.

“She was more interested in going to school, and shared all about what happened daily, many details matched the emails I was getting from the teacher,” recalled Jones, who has been in Fort McMurray for two years.

Reggio is inquiry-based learning. Teachers ask students about their interests, and give them the freedom to explore based on those interests. It is a method developed after World War II in Reggio Emilia, a town in Italy. The program is focused on the “principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum,” as defined by Wikipedia.

Shannon Noble, Director, Student Services, Fort McMurray Public School District, credits Annalee Nutter, Principal, Walter and Gladys Hill Public School with introducing the program.

“Annalee wanted a project-based learning school when we opened Walter and Gladys Hill last year, and Reggio stood out for us,” explained Noble.

“A few teachers attended the Opal School in the USA for Reggio training, and learned so much. The first thing you notice about a Reggio classroom is the environment. Students are provided with materials, and given a question to explore. So, for example if they had a few blocks, the teacher could ask, ‘which block is the heaviest?’ and the students work in a group, but find out the answer on their own,” she added.

The environment, in fact, is dubbed the third teacher in Reggio, according to Noble.

“We set the environment up with materials, which engage their curiosity. Engagement is key, that’s how children learn the best.”

Nutter agrees, and says the daily creativity from children is beyond impressive.

"I've seen some amazing ideas come from very young children. They are so creative and given the opportunity, they use that creativity to improve their problem solving abilities.  My only wish is that my own children could have had the opportunity to be in a Reggio Inspired classroom, with the focus on playful inquiry through arts and science. I feel it would have captured their current interests sooner, allowing them to dig more deeply and advance further," Nutter shared.

There’s a waiting list for this year’s program. To learn more about Reggio - visit the About Us section of Walter and Gladys Public School: http://waltergladyshill.fmpsdschools.ca/

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