What is the meaning of the phrase the hundred languages of children?
Diversity of Experiences
Children have the right and the ability to express and evolve their thinking, theories, ideas, learning, and emotions in many ways. Therefore, when providing children with a wide range of materials and media and welcoming a diversity of experiences, children encounter many avenues for considering, revising, constructing, negotiating, developing, and symbolically expressing their thoughts and feelings. In this way, teachers, parents, and children can better understand each other.
These languages can include drawing, paint, mathematics, clay, wire, natural and recycled materials, light and shadow, dramatic play, logic, music, and dance. They can also include expression with words through metaphors, stories, or poems of the children’s interpretations and reflections about their experiences or through special designs, such as maps and three-dimensional constructions. There is not a separation or hierarchy among languages. All are considered part of the one hundred and more languages of learning and communicating.
Children are encouraged to represent their ideas on a particular topic in multiple languages. The process of moving between languages supports children in their understanding and learning. To learn more about the role of languages in children’s learning and relationships, see:
What can you tell me about the use of the atelier and the role of the atelierista?
Expanding the Concept of Teacher
The space of the atelier or studio in the infant-toddler centers and preschools challenges the concept of education. By purposefully adding the perspective and experiences of an adult educated in the visual arts, a new kind of dialogue becomes possible. Not only do adults from different fields find ways to work in concert, children and adults find new windows for expression and learning. The atelier is particularly appointed to support the use of materials and media as languages for expression and learning. Through time and with the inclusion of a mini-atelier in each classroom, the work with many languages is integrated into the entire school. The atelierista or studio teacher has formal education in the arts, typically in the visual arts, and works collaboratively with other educators in the infant-toddler centers and preschools to further the educational project and objectives of the school community. The atelier, like the classroom, also supports the process of documentation, of making the learning and relationships of children, teachers, and parents visible. This philosophical idea of exchange between fields, materials, experiences, and people is fundamental to this style of working. To learn more about the role of the atelier and the atelierista, see:
How are the classrooms arranged in Reggio Emilia?
Environment as the Third Teacher
The environment plays a very strong role in the infant-toddler centers and preschools in Reggio Emilia. It is viewed as a third teacher, with the power to provoke curiosity and learning and encourage interaction. The elements of light, transparency, and natural materials are strongly valued. Commercial posters and plastic furniture purchased from catalogs are not present. Instead, documentation of the learning experiences and interactions of the children, teachers, and families as well as evidence of the identity of the community where the center or school is located are primary elements. For more information on the role of the environment in the municipal infant-toddler centers and preschools of Reggio Emilia, see:
Landscapes (includes images of the infant-toddler centers and preschools)
I understand that the Reggio Emilia Approach is not teacher-directed. Is this true?
Children, teachers, and parents are viewed as partners in learning. Children have the right and the ability to construct their own learning with the active support and participation of teachers and parents. The term progettazione, or design thinking, is used to describe the evolution of learning that results from the processes of observation, interpretation, and documentation of the experiences of children, teachers, and parents together. At the basis of this process is the pedagogy of relationships and listening. For children and adults to construct learning together and find meaning in the world, reciprocal conversation and interaction must be established and maintained throughout the school community. To learn more about progettazione and the processes of observation, interpretation, and documentation, see:
I understand that parents are very involved in Reggio Emilia. Can you tell me more?
Families Participate in Every Possible Way
Participation in the education of children is considered to be a right and a responsibility of parents and families. Beginning with the first contacts between the infant-toddler centers or preschools and the families, the focus is on establishing and sustaining strong and respectful relationships. Parents and families are invited to participate in every possible way in the life of the center or school, including decisions on center/school policies and organization, collaborating with teachers in understanding and interpreting children’s learning and interests, planning children’s research, and working on projects for the environment.
Children, teachers, and families have the possibility to stay together in the same class for up to 3 years in the infant-toddler centers and in the preschools, which supports the development of relationships and meaningful participation. The participation of community members in the life of the center/school is also strongly encouraged and expected. Education is viewed as a public responsibility. To learn more about the role of the family and community in the municipal infant-toddler centers and preschools, see:
Not Just Anyplace (video)
Do children with special rights attend the Reggio infant-toddler centers and preschools?
Children with different abilities or “special rights,” as is the preferred language, are among the first to be accepted into the Reggio Emilia municipal infant-toddler centers and preschools, along with children from single parent homes and those with limited financial means, including the growing immigrant population in Reggio Emilia. In other words, these children are not placed on the waiting lists for attendance but are accepted immediately. In each classroom, there can be one child with special rights and every effort is made to support this child’s participation in all experiences and activities with other children. An additional supporting teacher joins the two co-teachers in classrooms that include a child with special rights. This supporting teacher works with all children in the class, not just the child with special rights. To learn more about inclusion of children with special rights in the municipal infant-toddler centers and preschools of Reggio Emilia, see:
Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Emilia Exchange, Volume 5, No. 3 and Volume 13, No. 1
Could you provide any information on long-term outcomes for children or comparative studies?
Viewing Schools as Places for Documenting Human Learning and Development
It is useful to understand more about the history, culture, and values of Reggio Emilia’s six decades-long education project. One significant point is the way “research” is viewed. Does research belong only to scientists? In the collaborative research project of Harvard Project Zero and the municipality of Reggio Emilia, described in the book Making Learning Visible: Children as Individual and Group Learners, the authors describe the point of view taken in presenting their findings:
Our book challenges traditional notions of research by viewing schools as places for documenting human learning and development. . . . Our research is based on the notions that theory can result from, as well as contribute to, classroom practice and that documentation of learning processes is critical to the research enterprise, as is the presence of multiple perspectives and languages. Rather than prescriptions, we have tried to provide a set of educational points of reference or orientation. (pp. 22-23)
The responsibility of documenting learning processes and giving ongoing visibility to human learning and development is paramount. Each and every citizen, including children, are given a democratic opportunity to analyze and interpret the work taking place inside the infant-toddler centers and preschools of the community. Research, then, is yet another form of participation, and ongoing interpretation is the high aim. As such, educational work in Reggio Emilia has been more about actualizing democracy—that is, locally determining the course of the education project—and less, or not at all, about comparing one school to the next.
If citizens in Reggio Emilia are fully welcome and fully participating, then the decisions about what to do in schools are more flexible and more inclusive of multiple points of view. Education stays more connected to present time and present actions in a constant state of observation, analysis, reflection, and projection of action.
Further exploration of this topic can be found in:
Together, we are empowering exceptional education.