Sunday, 11 August 2013

Inspiration not cloning... how are you Reggio?

This was the first summer conference that Boulder Journey School had allowed its participants to take photographs of the setting...

Which of course I am VERY grateful for - as it is through the photographs I can re-visit and see new threads of thought and inspiration.

BUT I also understand why they have not allowed photography previously (like the preschools in Reggio Emilia itself and some RE inspired preschools here in Stockholm, where my note book ended up filled with small sketches for ideas instead).
There is concern that visitors and participants will simply hop over the most important step - the UNDERSTANDING of the philosophy -
that the Reggio Emilia Approach is NOT about beautiful environments but about our attitude, respect, enthusiasm towards the children...

... the beautiful environments are a bi-product of the approach, not THE approach. So it is impossible to just recreate one of the set ups from a Reggio Emilia Approach preschool and then say you are a RE preschool - because all you have created is a shell - the substance is missing - the organic living and developing part is not there... just the empty shell.

turning a door into a table by adding perspex on top - instead of throwing away old doors they can be used - and they look great too. They also meet the need of the children... it can be created at their height and it also allows many to meet together. I like round tables - as it creates we all all equals (Arthur and the Round Table), but I find that when I am sitting at one I cannot reach all the children, unless its a very small table. If I sit in the middle of a long table I can reach all the children, if I need to. I NEVER position myself at the end, unless the activity requires that... BJS

I felt that since I am posting lots of Reggio inspired images that I also have a responsibility that they are used wisely...

...these photos are not here for for you to clone in your own setting... they are here to INSPIRE you to the variety of possiblities that can created to provide a playful, learning environment for children and those that work with the children...

...these photos are here to make you question why have you set up your preschool the way you have... is it supporting the children right now?... are you having to say NO alot? Can a change in the environment layout aid that... ? For instance, at one preschool I worked at we had a sofa positioned against a wall - it created a huge open play space for the children to construct in... but this group of children were more interested in running across the room and launching themselves onto the sofa (of course) and destroying the creations of those children actually using the area as we adults had intended. Instead of saying NO all the time we re-located the sofa so that it could still be used as a hidey place or something to be launched onto - but they simply did not get up the speed they had before, and they did not disturb the construction area - which of course got a smaller area, but it met the needs of the children RIGHT THEN. A month later the construction area was more enticing to the 2-3 year olds and we extended the area again and moved the sofa to another room to be used in the library area to read - which it did get used for reading and snuggling, and the construction area was busy and filled with creativity. We used the furniture as a teacher colleague... it helped us to show appropriate ways to play... as indoor free-play has to be controlled just so that the number of children can be accommadated in a positive atmosphere... it is MUCH easier with true free-play outdoors.

...these photos are to be the start, the foundation, the spark for your own ideas... each location, each culture, country, town, unique group of people will add their own spice, their own flavour and have their own needs to be met... so not everything is going to be appropriate to recreate - but ADAPTATIONS can be created that will be better suited for your needs... and then it would be wonderful for you to share these adaptations and show the process so that we can all learn from them... Its why I am documenting the transformation of the new atelier that we have created... from a BIG open space with areas of use - to it being partitioned off... it will be interesting to see how it works... will MY expectation meet with reality?

... these photos are to be used with respect - yes use them to inspire you, BUT PLEASE take the time to learn more about the approach, about how you set up your rooms and provocations is simply an extension/response to the whole approach... take the time to see the competent child and how your setting supports the child to be competent - and how you as a teacher support that. View the child with the RIGHT to play, learn and develop not a child who needs to...
if you want to know more about Reggio Emilia then why not read one of my assignments for my masters... I wrote about Malaguzzi and his contribution to early childhood education - it will outline about the third teacher, the competent child, the 100 languages, children's rights and the inspirations behind his thinking... Malaguzzi was a man inspired by many others - he did not create anything new, he just put it together in a new way...
so how does this inspire you? Do you have the space to be able to recreate this, if not can you think about how to adapt so that your children could be exposed to a multi-layered construction area that allows them to test gravity (if that is what you think would interest your children)... how can you extend this? What about boards of different quality - with sandpaper on, or carpet on - how will cars be able to roll down those, will it make a difference? How do the dividers in the room work? Why has carpeting been placed here? (I have my theories - what are yours?) Can you assume the age of the children in this room by looking at what is provided? Ask your self questions... then go to your own setting and ask yourself the same questions... are you satisfied with your answers? Or do you feel the need to change or adapt? BJS

Take the inspiration from my photos and my words - and from all the images and words by others - and create something new by making the combinations that is just right for you... its like making a meal... with the same ingredients you can create many different dishes.. go and take the ingredients of Reggio Emilia and create your own meal - however humble or gourmet!

And if you DO re-arrange your setting it would be great if you could take before and after photos and share them on Interaction Imagination Facebook page along with a brief outline of the process...
then we could all learn and be inspired by everyone's journey... be they small steps or giant strides...

19 comments:

  1. I love your words of wisdom. Too often folks tend to clone the ideas they see rather than simply allow the ideas to inspire their own. The photos are beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really did keep me awake with worry that I was feeding the cloners... I felt I needed to write something to give the respect to the images that I was allowed to take at BJS and The Acorn School for Early Childhood development... my respect for the amazing amount of work and dedication that goes into producing such marvelous environments that reflect the children's learning and play...

      Delete
  2. Wow! What a wonderful piece. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad that you enjoyed reading it...

      Delete
  3. Thank you for the care, thoughtfulness and respect you have shown to the philosophy and the process. Merely changing the learning space does not make for a Reggio inspired classroom. It is the selection,care, respect,and intentionality shown for each piece of furnishing, material, resource and 'beautiful stuff' along with its placement within the classroom, that inspires and provokes the learning, collaboration and the inquiry to come to life. It is all in the attitude. Thank you for another excellent blog posting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for taking the time to show your appreciation. I totally agree that it is all in the attitude.

      Delete
  4. This is a lovely post - thank you. Inspiration is one thing, replication is another!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree, and this was one of those posts that I felt I HAD to write as I was sharing so many images that so clearly represented Reggio Emilia that I felt I needed to explain that the beautiful layout alone does not create a Reggio Approach.
      Thank you for taking the time to respond.

      Delete
  5. I appreciate this post for the way it inspires looking at one's motivations and beliefs about children in how we set up our teaching environment. I do, however, believe that for anyone inspired by what they see from Reggio Emilia, there are multiple points of entry. For me, the messages (child as capable of designing and steering learning experiences, teachers as listeners and provocateurs) were appealing, but I couldn't have understood it any way but intellectually at the time. I did, however, immediately relate to the aesthetic, and stopped using my peers as my inspiration. Getting to a point of using the environment as partner in teaching... came slowly. It came first through little projects, provocations that owned only a table or nook in my room. Learning to document what happened there transformed my practice, and made me more solid in my understanding about emergent curriculum. I'm still not "there" yet, but without images of rooms full of wonder and delight I might not have gotten here, either.
    I suppose I'm trying to say I understand your reluctance to share but also saying trust that your words are as powerful a message as the images.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing your process - I also agree about how images support your understanding of how an environment can be used, it can make you rethink how you use furniture... its why I love to visit other preschools and why I am also so grateful for being allowed to take photographs... it is also why I share so many photographs on my blog...

      as I wrote in my masters - photo documentation is a bit like a travel brochure - it can give you ideas about where you want to go and what you would like to do when you get there... but that the actually holiday/vacation is never a replica of the brochure, you put your own twist on it to meet your own needs or to adapt to all those eventualities that pop up, like inclement weather or places that have closed down...

      maybe a little abstract, but it makes sense to me at least - lol

      Delete
  6. My understanding of the Reggio philosophy is that they tried to make the very best program to suit their children: mindful of their culture and the individuals they served. When WE do that, we are doing what's needed, but there are ways of seeing children and recording the work we do that we can learn from the Reggiani to help us as we try to fit our programs to our children. More in my book, FREE to read on my webpage: www.eceteacher.org

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is such an important post! Thank you for sharing the photos and the message.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was at a conference in London, Ontario, Canada, and people were taking photos non-stop, it seemed. As I, too, went to take a photo of a provocation, Margie Carter came up to me and asked, "Why are you taking that photo?", encouraging me to be mindful of the reasons I was clicking the shutter. I've been forever changed by that simple, direct question- not just when I view environments, but when I take photos of children engaged in their work. "What do I want this photo to 'say'?" Asking Why? helps us to pause and reflect for the deeper meaning. Thank you for your post, Suzanne.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you Suzanne. Everything you say id so true. I was deeply inspired by reggio schools almost 20,years ago when I came across it for the first time and visited the hundred languages exhibit.
    Everything I have read since explains that Reggio cannot be copied as it is intrinsic to the culture. I am reggio inspired but also inspired by many other examples of great practice I have been fortunate to observe in my career. I could never have a clean, white minimal environment because it doesn't fit with how I am and how I create.
    I dream of my own preschool in the near future inspired by Reggio, forest schools, my daughter's wonderful preschool, the nursery school in which I worked for many years, wonderful teachers i have worked with and observed and my own version of how an environment should be. Ever evolving and drawing on each influence my life has brought me. I could never pin my preschool down to one single influence and I am sure that any reflective teacher will feel the same. We are always learning, adapting and evolving. Great post as always. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. We each have many inspirations in our own experience, as well as we each have a unique context. With that in mind, "copying" would not enter the picture.

      Delete
  10. Thank you for sharing these great points and for provoking people to think about the meaning and philosophy behind these images. We all have different backgrounds and experiences that have inspired and shaped our practice. The greatest challenge to my practice in recent years has been the limitation of space and materials. However, these limitations gradually turned into opportunities and new possibilities. Learning opportunities and spaces can emerge or can be created anywhere. They are country and culturally specific and always centered around our children. Images have been always an inspiration, but seeing something without a deeper understanding can indeed undermine the value of the philosophy behind it. Thank you for sharing these great points.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the MOST important part of a setting is the teacher and the children... learning and interactions can happen outside as well as inside... and it is always the interaction with the learning environment that is crucial... and this takes observation of the children and reflection of your own way of working with the children to know how best to meet the needs and challenge learning... and of course inspiration from other places and blogs can really help to find out new ways to meet those needs...

      Delete
  11. This is the best sentence I have heard in a long time!!! -- "There is concern that visitors and participants will simply hop over the most important step - the UNDERSTANDING of the philosophy -
    that the Reggio Emilia Approach is NOT about beautiful environments but about our attitude, respect, enthusiasm towards the children..." I hope it is okay to quote you. I work as a consultant and professional development presenter. This is so important to say to people that are not understanding the concept of being Inspired by the Reggio approach. It is the approach that is at the core, not the environment and materials - although people frequently go there first. It's understandable because it seems easier to change things than it is to change attitudes. Anyway, thank you so much for all the inspiration you offer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. absolutely please do quote...

      and yes I aggree sometimes changing the environment can be a spark to changing a work ethic... I think it is marvellous if it is a first step in personal development... but if it does not spark the reflection of the teacher's practice and the children's learning and play then it is just copying and the whole approach is lost on them...

      Delete