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The Weinstein JCC’s Early Childhood Department is inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach. The Reggio Approach complements our beliefs in early childhood education. It allows us to explore curriculum methods which increase children’s creative and cognitive expression.
The basic premise of the Reggio Emilia Approach is a shared and deep belief in the strength of children’s potential for learning, exploring, and entering into relationships with their peers, teachers, and environment. Inherent in the premise is the expectation that children make hypotheses and discover connections and meanings among things and events of their daily lives.
Children have many languages for expressing and communicating. The Reggio Emilia Approach inspires us to provide the creative freedom for children to fully represent their ideas and to develop their thinking. An integral aspect in the Reggio Approach is the use of art. Art is inseparable from the rest of the curriculum, and in fact, is central to the educational process as a form of both exploration and expression.
Weinstein JCC preschool teachers inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy consider creativity and learning part of the same process. When children actively and intently explore an object – a flower, a bird – they create their own knowledge. Like detectives, children pose questions, and then investigate to find answers. They use the many “languages” of art, words, movement, etc., to communicate their knowledge to themselves and others. Teachers act as resources to and researchers of the learning process by asking thought provoking questions, offering materials, and documenting children’s work.
Teachers routinely take notes and photographs and make recordings of group discussions and children’s play. Teachers use what they learn to plan activities that are truly based on children’s interests. By reviewing the documentation, teachers gain insights into children’s individual personalities and child development as a whole. Most importantly, they let each child know he or she is understood and accepted for who he / she is. This philosophy permeates every aspect of the program, including the use of space, teachers’ interactions with children, and curriculum decisions.
An integral piece of the curriculum is projects. Project work offers children and teachers opportunities to come together within the environment and deeply investigate children’s interests. Projects also support children’s natural impulse to investigate the world around them. Small or large groups, or an individual, work on projects, and these can last anywhere from a few days, weeks, to several months. Almost any interest that intrigues children can inspire a project. Project work encourages children to take initiative, assume responsibility, and make decisions and choices.
The teachers welcome new possibilities, unexpected ideas, and actively learning with the children. Teachers support children in their learning by encouraging, observing, and organizing their ideas, as well as supplying materials. At the beginning of a project, teachers do not know what direction it will take, but it is sure to include lots of discussion, graphic representation, and real cooperation among everyone involved. A child-centered approach helps children to feel pride in their own accomplishments and explorations. This in turn helps children to flourish and grow in their self-concept, social and learning skills.
For more information about the Reggio Emilia Approach, please go to our 2016-2017 Parent Manual.