NAREA Summer Conference 2005

July 7-9, 2005

Advocacy, Diversity, and Alliance for the Rights of Children:

Open Dialogues between North American Educators and the

Social, Cultural and Pedagogical Context of Reggio Emilia, Italy

Conference Program

Contributions by Reggio Educators Amelia Gambetti and Sandra Piccinini

“Not Just Anyplace” Video: Making connections to our work through consideration of history, sense of community, pedagogy, values and advocacy for children

“Political, Cultural and Social Aspects and Elements of the Reggio Emilia Community”

“Projecting Towards the Future: Presentation of the Architectural and Cultural Project of the International Center dedicated to Loris Malaguzzi that will be opened in Reggio Emilia, Italy”

Presentations by NAREA Colleagues

A Missouri Community Arts Collaboration with a special education emphasis working with students ranging in age from six to fourteen
Presenters: Shelly Goebl-Parker, Maggie Evans and Amy Dontrich

The University of Nebraska Laboratory School sharing experiences with dialogue and learning among children, teachers and families within an agricultural culture
Presenters: Julie Jones Branch and Michelle Rupiper

A Mexican program with two to four year old children communicating about encounters with music
Presenter: Sausan Burshan

A Wyoming Head Start Program sharing the immigrant experience
Presenters: Anita Sullivan and Robin Macleod

An Indiana Public School sharing their journey in making children’s learning visible within Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classrooms
Presenters: Diana Parker and Denise Cross

Poster Sessions by NAREA Colleagues

The Chicago Public Schools’ experiences with professional development activities, changes in the environment, and the image of the child: Hataya Tulythorn

Boulder Journey School in Colorado will share a unique exploration with family and community involvement: Jen Sieminki and Mary Kendig

Carnegie Mellon’s Cyert Center for Early Education shares experiences with advocacy and professional development: Mary Moore and Judy Abrams

An Ohio educator sharing the Reggio Study Group process: Julie Biddle

A Co-op Family Center in Eugene, Oregon will share its history and experiences with family involvement: Elisa Stull

Washington D.C.’s School wtihin a School at Peabody shares the Stained Glass Project: Marla McLean -Atelierista, John Burst -Teacher, Margaret Ricks -Teacher (with the help and support of Sarah Burke -Lead Teacher, and Susan Breipohl & Louise Chapman-Teachers)

Clayton Schools’ Family Center shares its diversity initiative: Katie Monteil and Lori Geismar Ryan
Excerpts from Comments and Reflections from Participants

Insights, Provocations, Curiosities…

I’ve been so inspired! Thank you so very much for all that you’ve done to make this so enriching for me and for all of us.

Parent involvement a must! Collaboration a must! Voice = Advocacy, Team = Alliance, Individual Identity = Diversity

The 2nd day really helped to put the first in perspective. I was at a loss and it finally clicked – the work, struggle, history and collaboration. Now for the work to make our own community in the United States.

This first NAREA conference had a distinctly different flavor for me than other experiences related to the Reggio approach, and it was very positive. It felt like a movement in our own space and own time. The contextual varieties were helpful and also stretched our thinking to see many other possibilities. Whether or not individuals have support in their own communities, being a part of NAREA helps us to be a part of a community of learners.

I have many new challenges for myself. I have come to realize that I will find my true purpose within this approach that is connected deeply, but hasn’t been able to come forward. This is my dream in process.

I am leaving filled with empowerment, inspiration and joy and I’m excited to begin the work that stands ahead of me.

This has been one of the first conferences I’ve attended that was worthwhile… in its entirety. The ability to express our 100 languages was creative and respectful of how we “speak.”

It was an honor and a privilege to spend 3 days with a group of such dedicated, gifted, and caring professionals. It will take time to process all that I got out of this experience. I think the fact that there are numerous questions stirring in my head and soul is a good thing. How to bring this back and bridge it to my world at home and school and work in my little school?

The conference re-inspired me to look NOT just at my teachings, but also at my values. How do I express myself with passion, honesty and clarity? Am I consistent? Everything is connected.

A beautiful dream coming true… I believe this is such a greater vision even beyond the huge vision I had a glimpse of before. Heartening, sustaining, supportive, energizing, exciting. Grazie!

Very insightful – I enjoyed listening to the many reflections about issues in early childhood and the questions brought up by Amelia. This has made me more aware to think about in our daily lives with children.

“To listen is go give voice to all children.” Adults also benefit from a listening environment – mutual respect; being comfortable with the state of asking questions as a way to further thinking capacities.

Insights were renewed. Reflections were ongoing. Provocations were plenty. Curiosities are never ending!

This is the first conference related to the Reggio approach that I have attended and I can truly say that it has been as uplifting experience. It has made me reflect on my way of teaching children. There are many changes that need to occur within myself in order to bring changes into my classroom.

Thank you for a varied program with many possible points of access.

Very promising to hear from elementary schools.

I feel so lucky to have met so many interested and wise people. There are so many new connections to follow, new paths and new possibilities.

Would have been helpful to have the fundamental elements presented on 1st day, especially for those who are new to the Reggio approach. As the 1st NAREA conference, there seemed to be an assumption that everyone was on the same page which is far from reality.

What have our Reggio colleagues learned from their explorations – what are they learning here? We needed time to strategize about our own political situation: diversity, mobility, backlash, etc. I think there is importance to the idea of a longitudinal study to make visible the effects of the approach.

More networking among public school administrators regarding this process needed. Continue workshops and conferences – putting them in the various areas where there are classrooms inspired by the Reggio approach.

Is there a way to structure learning at this kind of conference so that it is more like the way we are working to teach in our classrooms? I loved the tour of the MacDonald Montessori because I was able to explore, make connections and discuss my reflections with other teachers. I was able to learn so much!

I appreciate the willingness and ability of the planners to reach both new and continuing learners, to engage all in dialogue. I appreciated the tight schedule with lots of room for conversation and networking. A good example, I think, of what Sandra referred to as “structure that allows us to be more flexible” and valuing organization to allow a group to be more flexible.

The materials, as always, were generously shared and it is always nice to be able to see the Reggio publications and have them in hand instantaneously! The presentations were such a rich variety of schools and educators. Someone in our discussion group suggested that more of them in smaller groups would give us all a chance to learn to ask better questions; I would agree. It would also give more people practice in preparing and giving presentations.

The generosity of the staff at the MacDonald Montessori School to let us infiltrate their school, on a school night, was a true gift. We can all learn from such open-minded and open-hearted efforts.

Presentations, Poster Sessions and Dialogue Groups

The presentations on Friday were a very good way to see what other schools are doing within Reggio

Loved the variety of presenters. Would have liked the presentations to be more interactive though.

Excellent range of presenters. I believe there should always be a local on the panels.

Sandra was so very inspirational! Concept of establishing your own culture was very good and thought provoking. Presentation on the International Center dedicated to Loris Malaguzzi was both interesting and inspiring.

The presenters were excellent – articulate, compassionate and committed to this approach and philosophy.

The presentations were great; it was good to hear from such an array of ideas with diverse backgrounds, contexts and voices that reflected the value of this approach individually.

I loved the humor of Amelia and Sandra.

Poster sessions were very informative and a provocation to take home. It was wonderful and beneficial also to have conversations with the people who put such effort into them.

The presentations on Friday were excellent. I enjoyed seeing the varying perspectives and insights, accomplishments and directions each of the presenter’s sites are doing with the children and families they serve.

Informative, clear, provided food for thought – the journey was well developed. Many of the posters could have been presentations.

Very interesting, a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and insight. Some of the educator presentations, although interesting did not focus on early childhood.

I would like to hear and see more diverse areas presented.

Enjoyed Italians’ presentations, but often not until final comments could I understand the connections to North America. Need connection before listening to presentation.

I liked the presentations by programs, but need to stick to 0 – 6 yrs. More on infants, documentation ideas, projects.

Wonderful – followed the theme of the conference. Great interaction in small groups.

Thank you Amelia & Sandra for their thoughts and challenges

I think these were all valuable contributions to a terrific conversation.

Amelia charms and challenges. A very special skill she models well. Others’ thoughtful work reflected their commitment to the Reggio Emilia approach

I especially enjoyed smaller group discussions – nice chance to dialogue and make connections/gather ideas and provocations.

The format was very beneficial – first listen to the presenters, then gather in small groups and reflect on the presentations. The posters were also very enlightening and informative.

I think some of the blocks of time were too long. I would have liked if the lectures were divided up by having small break out groups for discussion. All the information I have heard is so interesting, but I wish I could process it in a more intimate environment rather than the auditorium. I loved the “Many Voices of NAREA” presentations. I wished we could have heard these in smaller groups instead of the auditorium. The stories were very personal and would have been able to get more out of them if I could have had a small group discussion after the presentation. Perhaps each presenter could present their stories three times and the conference participants could choose three out of the full set of presentations, which would give time for discussion right after the presentation?

Topics you would like to explore at future workshops

I would like to learn more about the different age groups, especially toddlers.

How to incorporate Reggio Emilia principles with older children, youths (not just preschoolers) and how exactly documentation works – what type of professional development and resources, etc. you need.

Different theoretical perspectives to analyze documentation. American and non-Italian adaptations of Reggio approach.

I was unable to attend the entire conference due to a prior family commitment, but really appreciated the open invitation to attend Sandra’s presentation. What was rewarding to me was to hear about the desire to open dialogue with other programs (High Scope, Creative Curriculum, etc.). Last year, comments were made that indicated a polarization of RE vs. Project Approach, etc. I appreciate this new and positive statement.

Understanding the studio. Exploring in greater depth children’s interests. Listening.

A hands-on materials workshop would be a good addition. It would be interesting to hear about how different schools manage the traditional influences, such as education systems and policies, as well as even how they manage funding.

Developing networks of support throughout North America – how to create and sustain such networks.

We were challenged to move forward. I would like small group sessions on how to do that. Ways to organize small groups here – so we do not only connect two times a year at NAEYC and NAREA.

A NAREA conference that allowed for some individual roles in professional development would be a great way to go more intensely into the subject. I would still incorporate group work like this conference. This might be helpful for people in the very beginning process as well as for more advanced levels of understanding

More hands-on use of materials, exploration of ideas, putting theory into practice. Research or evidence that this theory works for scholastic success. Time could have been put to better use – i.e., using music with various age groups, art materials, large motor ideas, setting up the environment, displaying art work, I want more on the experiences of and for children. You really should have accepted all presentations and done them in small group sessions where all could rotate and ask questions in a less intimidating large auditorium. Small group discussions were good – could have done more and managed time better.

Creative classroom and school cultures. Valuing diversity (diversity not as being people from different ethnic backgrounds as our system defines it too often, but diversity as “differences”). Cultural diversity, meaning that we are all culturally diverse, it does not just relate to ethnicity.

Perhaps a little more depth in presentations to help us move forward in our journey

Have videos in evening. Liked variety of topics. We need more on advocacy and diversity. Have documentation on display throughout program near books.

Teacher education programs and the inclusion of pre-service teachers. Continue with elementary and public school, and private school explorations. Overall – BRAVO!

Issues around sharing the inspiration with staff. Leadership and sharing the “joy” of this approach. More stories, examples and journeys – including the struggles and challenges. I think the question that was asked of panel members yesterday re: “What was biggest challenge?” is very important to hear more about this. I am thinking a lot about Amelia’s words re: the importance of preserving our own culture – we cannot be Reggio. Yet, how does Amelia (and others from Reggio Emilia) handle that when consulting with U.S. schools? What would they say are the universal truths that hold true for all children, families, educators, community members? The Reggio approach that fits so well with my philosophy is all about children’s rights and everyone’s rights.

Strategies to bring the Reggio philosophy into our American educational system. Assessment – why? How? Especially with No Child Left Behind and standards. Connecting and strategizing the Reggio philosophy with the struggles and conflicts currently in the schools within which we work.

The role of the studio teacher and how it fits into other aspects of the Reggio approach.

Working for change; sharing our image of the competent child and teacher with those who make policy decisions. Grassroots politics!

Interactions with other disciplines.

How to assess teachers differently – for example, portfolios – possibly setting personal goals and reaching goals through documentation. More small group discussions and sharing of ideas from various classrooms. Ideas for working with infants and toddlers

More stories/documentation throughout conference – presentations and small groups. More small group discussions.

Continue with documentation on advocacy. Collecting stories and action to move them into the work and life of the community.

I like learning from other teachers and their experiences. My favorite part of the conference was hearing the “Voices of NAREA.”

The process of a project: long term and short term. Responding to a child’s interest. Respecting other class member’s interests. Teacher’s role in guiding the process and making this work in the USA, weaving in standards. Networking and building community awareness. Balancing research and teaching. Observing, documenting, atelierista’s role, parent role, community role.

The title of the conference was what attracted me to participate. So many conferences speak clearly to classroom teachers, but less clearly to those of us involved directly in the support, leadership, funding and outreach roles that keep institutions alive. With more time (not necessarily instead of), I would be interested in having schools share organizational documentation in the way we know how to share teaching/learning documentation. I think there was interest expressed in response to Sandra’s presentation on the International Center, but I don’t know that the speakers were prepared (because it wasn’t the purpose of the presentation) to actually talk about the mechanics of their advocacy and collaboration in the community. I would like to know how and to whom they reached out to bring together the players; how the funding came together; how they decided to renovate rather than build from scratch. Learning about the history of schools would be one way to explore how and through what process, they were established; what challenges they faced and how they worked through the challenges. Programs with affiliations or sponsors often survive adversity from within their own organizations – college lab schools, child care centers sponsored by corporations, church-housed or sponsored child care programs.

Advocacy – discussion on how you do it; learning the language of budgets, facilities (construction), legislation. In our discussions of the many forms that documentation takes, depending on the audience we didn’t actually explore how different it might be to create documentation of the same learning experience to inform children, parents, teachers, educators from outside the school or classroom or other professionals. It would be an interesting exercise to bring the materials for creating documentation to a workshop session and actually create it with an idea to reaching different constituencies.

Diversity and Children with special rights – a deeper discussion. Are the issues of diversity similar in Reggio-inspired schools to those of other schools? What evidence do we have that we are inclusive communities? Does our success with diverse children extend to experiences of inclusion for parents and teachers? I know that families with children with special rights are given priority enrollment in Reggio schools. I have never really heard an in-depth discussion of how these children are identified, what the experience of educators has been working inclusively with children with special rights, what other supports these children might receive inside or outside of school. I expect this topic would reveal some very distinct cultural attitudes from country to country and community to community. The teacher who presented the work at Edgewood made a reference to special education teachers (with humor, but earnestness); I would have loved to have explored that comment further. Are we, in America, at a point where early childhood teachers are or need to be what we have traditionally separated into mainstream and special education teachers?

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