By Kim Longworth
The Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy is best known for balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Guiseppe Verdi. But it is also known for having the best preschools and kindergartens in the world.
The Reggio Emilia approach to educating children is world-famous, and educators throughout the world visit the region to find out how to inspire creativity and a love of learning in their students. Several schools in Davis are Reggio-inspired, including Peregrine School and the UC Davis Center for Child and Family Studies.
Local parents and teachers can learn about the principles of the Reggio Emilia educational process by attending “One Hundred Languages of Children,” a free program sponsored by the Peregrine School and the Davis Art Center, at 7 p.m. Friday at the Art Center, 1919 F St.
The Reggio Emilia teaching method dates to the end of World War II, when many Italian citizens wanted to raise their children in a way that would ensure there would never be another Fascist dictatorship in their country.
“Despite everything, it is legitimate to think that creativity … can serve as the strong point of our work,” wrote Reggio Emilia founder Loris Maguzzi. “And it is our hope that it will become the regular travelling companion in the development of our children.”
Over the past 60-plus years, Reggio Emilia schools have combined core principles with current research in child development and education from around the world. Primary principles are that all children have curiosity, an interest in constructing their own learning, and an urge to negotiate with everyone and everything in their environment. This image of the child as an active agent in education is paired with an image of the teacher and child as partners in learning.
The “one hundred languages of children” celebrated by Maguzzi refer to the numerous modes of expression and tools for understanding that children use. As they investigate and explore, children are encouraged to depict their perceptions using drawing, sculpture, painting and collage as well as writing, dramatic play, dance and music.
Recently, in the play yard at Peregrine School, teacher Emily Dalmeyer discovered that some kids had prematurely eaten the miner’s lettuce out of the school’s kitchen garden. When Dalmeyer playfully confronted the children with their transgression, they denied their guilt — until she pointed out that their teeth were stained green by the leaves they munched on.
Where did this exchange lead? After a short chat about ethics and a discussion of evidence and proof, the episode generated a study of plant-based dyes that the children used to create paintings.
“The students use the art to make sense of what they learn in all disciplines,” says Lorie Hammond, academic director of Peregrine School. “Even in our elementary program, students use creative means to understand topics they are learning about.”
For example, building a model of a plant cell helps a child understand the components of the cell and their relationship to each other. Misconceptions become evident through how the model is constructed.
“Children’s artistic creations provide a window into their thoughts,” Hammond explains. “Hence, artistic creation enriches both critical and creative studies of any subject.”
For more information, contact Carrie Fisher Stone at 530-758-8845 or 530-753-5500, [email protected].