Our Curriculum

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Our Curriculum

The complementary approaches of our New Zealand early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki and that of Reggio Emilia form the foundation of our curriculum.  At all times, the child's wellbeing and learning are central.

The Reggio Emilia Approach

In 1991, Newsweek Magazine proclaimed the Diana School of Reggio Emilia, Italy as the best and most innovative preschool in the world, representing the pedagogical approach to the municipal infant-toddler centres and preschools of Reggio Emilia (http://www.reggiochildren.it/).

The Reggio Emilia approach is about empowering children to learn rather than filling their minds with knowledge that may or may not be useful in the future. It began after the Second World War, when a small group of parents got together to seek a different way of educating their children. During the war, Italy had been under the dictatorship of a fascist government and the destruction that occurred during this time instigated a need for change; the people of Reggio Emilia wanted their children to grow up with the confidence to seek justice and fairness for all. A fundamental principle of this approach is children’s rights, which is reflected in their ‘image of the child’, and a belief in ‘nothing without joy’. Educators in Reggio Emilia believe that children are strong, powerful, confident and competent. Relationships are the cornerstone of this approach and collaboration between children, teachers and parents is of paramount importance.

The aesthetics of the classroom are valued and the environment is often referred to as the “third teacher”. It is believed that the environment influences children’s development by either helping or hindering the learning process. Environments in Reggio Emilia classrooms are constructed to encourage interaction and communication, creative expression, safe risk-taking, and social responsibility, which support a collaborative, problem-solving approach to learning. Within this stimulating environment, children are offered endless ways and opportunities to express themselves and represent their ideas, so that they become directors and instigators of their own learning.

The role of the teacher and the role of the learner are interchangeable, whereby children might be teachers and teachers may be learners. In this collaborative approach, small groups of children are invited to participate in projects, which may be instigated by children’s ideas and/or interests or be provoked by adults. Mardell (2001) states that ‘when children work within a learning community they are able to modify, clarify, extend and enrich their own ideas and those of others.’ They encounter new perspectives, strategies and ways of thinking that enable them to learn from each other’. The educators of Reggio Emilia believe that children have multiple ways of learning and they refer to this as ‘The hundred languages of children’.

The role of the adult is to recognise and document these learning languages in order to make children’s learning visible for others. U.S early childhood expert and writer Margie Carter believes that to uncover children’s thinking and challenge them further, teachers must look closely at children’s actions and seek the underlying concepts they are exploring. As teachers work alongside children and study their observations, they will discover children’s interests, which can spark further investigation. Children’s actions and words help teachers see what children already know and this information can be used to support children in new challenges.

This poem, by the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach Loris Malaguzzi, beautifully conveys the importance imagination and discovery play in early childhood learning.

The hundred languages of children

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred.

Always a hundred
ways of listening
of marvelling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred, hundred, hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.