The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education is a progressive, play-based, child-led approach to early learning. The educator follows each student’s interests when designing learning experiences. Rather than following a standard curriculum model with pre-determined units of study, the Reggio curriculum has an underlying structure based on guided learning and collaboration. Traditional academic-focused preschool programs lack the opportunity for free play and child-led collaborations, which robs the childres of the chance to develop social skills vital to their ability to learn and apply knowledge later in life. The Reggio approach engages interests and skills of each individual child, places high value on group projects and social collaborations that allow children to explore and investigate their ideas together. Children are given the tools to communicate or represent their ideas in a variety of ways, whether it be spoken language, art mediums, music, dance, or dramatic play. The more ways a child can express his or her ideas, the more he or she can define those ideas, and the deeper the learning that takes place. Reggio environments are carefully constructed to encourage learning and curiosity; there is an emphasis on natural light, authentic materials/tools, order, beauty and purpose. Educators use a variety of documentation and display methods (photos, drawings, text, etc.) to make the children’s thought process visible throughout a project.
The Project Approach
The project method is an educational enterprise in which children solve a practical problem over a period of several days or weeks. It often involves building or creating something, but could be an activity as well. The projects may be suggested by the teacher, but they are planned and executed as far as possible by the students themselves, individually or in groups. Project work focuses on applying, not imparting, specific knowledge or skills, and on improving student involvement and motivation in order to foster independent thinking, self-confidence, and social responsibility.