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#5 Food For Thought

I would like to start today’s post by saying that I did not get to enjoy that much-desired Italian pizza last night. The search was extensive. Something that I am learning, after walking over many cobbled stone walkways, is that shops do not stay open very late here in Reggio Emilia. I was disappointed, but I still have time to find that delicious slice before heading home this weekend.


I ended up eating at a burger bar in the downtown area – Bottega Burger Bar. Those of you who know me, know that I am not much of a burger girl. When my girls want to eat at a pub for dinner, I never order a burger. Last night’s dinner may alter my future decisions though. When I asked for help with the menu translation, the staff helped and was very kind in trying to make my experience a memorable one. After deliberating over the menu options for some time, I finally settled on a ‘Texano Burger’. The burger was served with salsa, jalapeño jam, and homemade potatoes (basically fried potato chips – yummy!). Dinner was delicious!! I would highly recommend stopping by for a burger if you are ever in the area.




I feel like I have become a creature of habit over the last few days. Once again, I am sitting on the corner of the couch in my hotel room, with my pjs on and a nice hot cup of peppermint tea by my side.


So much to write … thinking of where to start. Today was another busy day for our Canadian Study Group. The day started a bit earlier, as we were visiting various preschools today. The difference with today’s visit was that the children were present.

I was a researcher today – observing the relationships unfolding in front of my eyes, and hearing the questions the children and educators had while listening to their conversations.

Today’s center was not originally built for children. This has been a challenge for staff over the years, yet the impact on the student's ability to learn has been minimal. I would never have guessed that the building’s structure was a stressor for the staff, but I was told that the staff has learned to not look upon the design of the building as a negative, instead, they have learned to overcome that barrier and focus on creating a warm and welcoming environment to learn in. The environment of each area of the school is unique and reflects the interests of the students in a particular class.



Taking the time to discuss the challenges, as well as taking the time to get to know their learners helped the staff of this center to overcome their building’s physical design. In other words, the educators took the time and encouraged their students to make the building their own. The projects which are taken on and the thoughts and actions which occur daily are all diverse. As such, these children are showing that they can express themselves in many ways; hence, the idea of one hundred languages does exist, no matter what environmental challenges may occur.



Working with young children requires educators to be fluid and flexible. Time needs to be given for conversations to occur and develop. These encounters help to provide a lens for educators, helping them see and understand their students a little more. A powerful tool of reflection to remember when discussing encounters is that ‘revisiting’ a project and/or topic can enhance the learning which has already taken place. Revisiting can also reignite the passion in students to take their learning further and to a deeper level. It is then our job, as educators, to ensure that we have embedded this reflection and revisiting into our planning.




Something else to consider when planning is your environment. The environment and materials presented to children guide the projects that take place. One of the questions that I am frequently asked is “How long is an inquiry to last?” No project has a clear-cut end and one will often flow into another. This takes guidance and listening, on the part of the educator. Each group of students develops their own ‘habits’. Habits are related to their self-regulation, the choices they make, and how they cooperate. It is up to the educators in the room to be aware of and understand these habits. As educators use this information to support their planning and guide their questioning, the time spent in the classroom continues to support the well-being of each child.



After spending the morning out and about, we returned to the International Center for lunch and before heading to the Creative Recycling Center Remida, I did ‘pop’ back into the center’s bookshop. I gave in, and of course, purchased two more resources.



The afternoon was then spent at Remida. Remida is a recycling center where materials are donated from local businesses, collected, and stored for future projects created by children who attend one of the Reggio Emilia centers. It is not normally open to the public but they did place some packages of ‘treasures and trinkets’ near the register, specifically for us to buy. Many of us begged and pleaded to purchase other items in the back, with little success. The recycling center is home to materials, such as paper, paint, fabric, plastic, wood, etc. It is run by volunteers. Many of the amazing materials that can be found in the schools that I have visited this week are from Remida. Remida was an exciting place to visit today. The idea behind it is truly inspirational and I will be taking back some new ideas that I hope to implement when I return to work.




My trip is almost halfway done and I think the one idea that I have consistently thought of each day is that learning occurs in the moment. Educators need to remember this, but more importantly, they must be ready for it. I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your current practice … Are you ready? Some food for thought.


Tomorrow my quest for that perfect slice of pizza will continue…


Buona Fortuna (Wish Me Luck),


Vassi






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