Packing My Bags for Reggio Emilia, Italy
As the November 2017 Temple Emanuel Bulletin goes to print, I am packing for a trip to Reggio Emilia in Italy. I am traveling with a group of 63 Educators from Jewish early childhood centers in Pittsburgh, DC, Chicago, Boston and Israel. The group includes one of our wonderful teachers, Julie Silverman, and two of our wonderful Pittsburgh JECEI Consultants, Judy Abrams and Barbara Moser.* During the 10-day trip, we will have the opportunity to visit several of the schools in Reggio Emilia and will attend many seminars and discussion groups. It is my privilege and obligation to share this journey with the Temple community.
For those of you who have not heard of Reggio Emilia, I’d like to start with a bit of history. When the Fascists were defeated and World War II ended, a group of parents in Reggio Emilia, a region of northern Italy, built a school out of the rubble of the war. They wanted a better life for their children. Their efforts and dreams laid a unique foundation for a new approach to education. Rather than building a school based on a preconceived model, this school was built on a set of hopes and values. Over the next decades, over 20 early childhood centers were built in Reggio Emilia. The set of values was increasingly tested and articulated. Many thousands of Educators have visited Reggio Emilia over the past three decades. In more recent years the Reggio Emilia approach to early education has taken a stronghold in Jewish programs across the country. This helps to explain why I have the great fortune to participate in 2017 Reggio Seminar: Exploring the Reggio Emilia Approach through a Jewish Perspective,
The schools of Reggio Emilia do not follow a method or specific curriculum. Rather, the approach is built on a set of values centered on the belief that children, teachers and parents are competent and that each has a right to participate in a collaborative learning experience. Though vicariously, the Educators of Temple Emanuel are likewise participating in this journey. Here are some of their questions that we are “bringing” to Italy:
- How did Reggio Emilia evolve into a philosophical approach with a world-wide impact?
- What is the daily classroom schedule?
- How much time do the children spend indoors/outdoors?
- How do the children express themselves musically? With instruments? With singing?
- What toys or materials do they use in the classrooms?
- What are the playgrounds like?
- What types of documentation are used?
- Are parents actively present in the classroom?
- How do the parents make time for school participation?
- How does project work get started and how is it sustained?
- How do the teachers ensure that children are ready for first grade?
I would like to acknowledge immense gratitude to The Dr. Solomon and Sarah Goldberg Memorial Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, for making possible participation in the 2017 Reggio Seminar: Exploring the Reggio Emilia Approach through a Jewish Perspective.
*The Pittsburgh Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI) is a program supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. The Martha Klein Lottman Family Fund also supports the Pittsburgh JECEI program at Temple Emanuel.