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The Reggio Emilia approach is a form of alternative education which focuses on teaching children through a strong sense of community. It is usually applied to young students in pre-school and primary school grades. This philosophy proposes interactive methods of teaching, which often involve the parents, educators and environment in a variety of ways.
This approach originated in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia after World War II. At that time, some of the schools in the city rejected the traditional approach of teaching children through strict discipline and guidelines, and adopted a more flexible method. Gradually, this new way gained popularity around the world because it encourages child development through exploration of interests and building relationships with others.
One of the key elements of the Reggio Emilia approach is the school environment. Small and colorless classrooms are thought to be unproductive and limiting to a child’s imagination. This philosophy suggests lessons be held in much bigger rooms with plenty of light, space and real plants. The idea behind the principle is to stimulate a student’s sense of exploration from an early stage. Some schools following the Reggio Emilia approach try to limit the barriers between classrooms to encourage interaction between students.
Parents and friends are very important to this alternative form of education. The children’s development is often seen as the responsibility of the entire community. Parents are strongly encouraged to assist their children, not only with homework, but also by being involved in the child's school activities. The Reggio Emilia approach places a great value on parental input, and most school boards hold open meetings on issues like school curriculum and policy.
A major innovation brought about by this type of philosophy is the role of educators. Learning material is typically designed to enhance the teachers’ own education, to allow them to learn along with their students. Many of these teaching methods include learning from physical experience, such as touching, hearing or seeing. Examinations, such as achievement tests, are often limited and a greater focus is put on helping the children to comprehend the practical ways they can use what they are learning.
Another important aspect of the Reggio Emilia approach is that it gives children some control over the way they learn things. Parents and teachers are often instructed to find ways to incorporate individual student interests into a child's learning process. Children are also motivated to express themselves through various means, such as writing, drawing and play-acting. These works are often shared, and even revised, by their peers, to encourage collective participation.
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