Reggio Emilia Inspired Learning @ Rolleston School

Children have a great capacity to learn. They are curious, imaginative, capable and creative. Stimulating environments are vital to their learning.

The environment at Rolleston is a welcoming, stimulating and caring one. Learning is encouraged here through an approach, inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy of a programme built around the interests of the children.

The Reggio Emilia philosophy helps our teachers to understand the inner substance of learning and how to trigger children’s curiosity. Our Reggio inspired approach aims to utilise the natural curiosity and enthusiasm for the world which young children have; to nurture and sustain it throughout each student’s life at our school.

A Reggio approach challenges the teacher to meet each child’s mind, as it is founded on a strong image of the child as a capable, curious, creative, learner with extraordinary potential, who already has theories about life and their world.

This image has led us to believe that at any age children are able to tackle sophisticated ideas such as sustainability and the underlying nature of our diverse and exciting world.

Alongside strong literacy and numeracy programmes, and strong thinking programmes, we want our children to have abundant, daily opportunities to wonder, to explore and to think. We aim to guide them to develop and ask their own deep questions, and to explore answers.

Classroom environments play a critical part in this approach. An underlying principle of Reggio-inspired practice is the idea that the environment is the third teacher.

An environment which is full of invitations and provocations stimulates animated discussion and theorising among the children.

Attentive teachers listen to these discussions, and often project work will spring from these encounters and debates. Alongside these displays, elements of homeliness and warmth inspire feelings of welcome, security and belonging.

A key belief behind our programme is the notion that potential is stunted when the end point of learning is formulated in advance, with teachers planning to cover certain achievement objectives and designing a series of learning experiences to meet this end. Following the Reggio inspired approach, the projects undertaken usually spring from the obvious interests and needs of the children. This ensures that our children are active participants in their own learning through helping to decide the contexts.

We use the analogy of choosing to travel by the compass, not the road. We avoid the road (unit planning with pre-determined outcomes) which is well worn and predictable and where the passengers sleep while the driver drives, and the trip takes an hour. Instead we prefer to travel cross country, using the compass and navigating together, finding new pathways and exciting vistas around each corner; and the trip may take a day, or three days, or even weeks or months!

By allowing the gift of time to cover fewer topics in more depth, we enhance the learning of children. Topics are explored more widely and in more interesting ways. Additional opportunities are provided for children to approach studies in different ways, rather than all being expected to do the same work. Teachers, without time pressures, are able to work and engage more intensively with small groups of students.

Teachers document the learning process in a variety of ways. This may include written scripts of conversations, video, photos and a variety of children’s work, all displayed to honour the thinking and the process.

The aim of the documentation is to make learning visible for children, teachers, whanau and the wider community.

Each year we celebrate the wonderful outcomes of these projects with a Reggio-EXPO, usually held in term three. The hall is filled with documentation and displays, and children and their whanau browse and interact with many exhibits.

We want to help our EXPRESS Learners set foot in the wider world with confidence and an air of excitement and believe that a Reggio inspired approach is the perfect way forward.