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#3 Transforming Education "Rethink, Repeat, Remove, Replace"

My Learning from the 2018 Canadian Study Group Tour

What a day! Jetlag, getting soaked in the rain, a roomie who snores, no chocolate left in my bag … the next thing you know, I am heading off to our first study group meeting.

Every moment of the day is an opportunity to learn and grow, every day!

For me, today was that kind of day…Our meeting was held at the Centro Internazionale Loris Malaguzzi. This center was one of creativity and inspiration. It was designed to meet the needs of Reggio children and their families.

I signed in and registered at the reception desk and was given a ‘goody bag’ by staff. From there, I found my seat in one of the center’s auditoriums. Here, the day began with welcoming remarks and an introduction to the study group program. The rest of the morning was spent listening to a lecture on ‘The Values of the Reggio Emilia Approach.’

There were two main ideas discussed: 1) environment, which includes spaces and relations, as well as 2) making learning together. With the Reggio Emilia Approach, shared space of actions is what provides social relations. Material choices nurture the quality and depth of the research and learning processes in children’s daily lives. The idea which resonated with me the most was that educators and children can recreate everything indoors and outdoors. Both spaces have the same importance and children need experiences with both.

When thinking about making learning together, traditionally, teachers usually create a routine. Often, routines can conflict with making important memories with children. Sometimes, teachers need to ‘let go’ of the practice and encourage the children to be a protagonist in their growth and development. After all, learning activities need to be in context, to be relevant and meaningful.

For children, learning is an interactive process of exchange and building relations. It should not be an accumulation of knowledge by teachers. Children create images of meaning and this construction of meaning allows them to interpret the world.

In the Reggio Emilia Approach, teachers are researchers. They are there to support and document the different ways children learn. To do this, learning means researching, and to research, teachers need to learn.

Teaching is a profession that can’t afford to think small.” Loris Malaguzzi

To help commemorate the day, the study group took a group photo outside. A wonderful memento of my time here.

After a delicious lunch and friendly conversation, I stopped in the center’s bookshop and started perusing books. I decided on a few and then went back to the auditorium. I kept thinking of some of the other titles and quickly made my way back and bought a few more. I do love a good book! I rushed back and the group was regrouping for an introduction to the center visits, which will be occurring all week. Everyone then walked to the bus terminal nearby. We were divided into groups and each group took a bus to visit an infant-toddler center.

The staff at the center I attended was amicable and helpful. They even prepared some freshly made yummy treats … my favorite was the gluten-free almond cookies. They were delicious … Yes, I said they were DELICIOUS! I had more than just one! :0)

To respect privacy, we were asked not to share photos or names of the centers that we visit. So, since I cannot show you, I will do my best to describe the centers that I visit. The one that I visited today was in the center of the city. After opening the front gate, families are welcomed by an aesthetically pleasing array of wooden furniture, along with inviting materials that are chosen by both staff and students as an invitation to play. Inside, the center was designed specifically for young children between the ages of 6-36 months. It was open concept, with glass walls separating the rooms. There were low windows that fully open into a beautiful yard filled with trees, plants, and grass. There were awnings on the sides of the building with small tables and chairs under them, extending the indoors outside and allowing children to explore, even on rainy days.

Learning was made visible throughout the center. Parent communication was easily accessible. Student thinking and representations of their learning were found in every room and multiple spaces. The materials used in the classrooms were a combination of recycled and found items; most of them were black, white, or neutral color. Clay, wire, and markers were materials that caught my eye, as they were part of a project underway on one of the tables.

After exploring the center, our group met in the center atelier to share our questions and wonderings. The staff was wonderful in addressing questions from the group.

Day One, done! I am truly exhausted! The first day was wonderful and I hope the next few days are just as interesting and informative.




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