When the chance to visit Reggio Emilia Italy through a Canadian study tour was offered to the staff of Compass ELC, I knew it was the right time for me to jump in with both feet. This was my time to think deeper, take chances and fully commit myself to this organization and the children and families I work with at Compass ELC Peterborough. I was excited to apply for this opportunity and absolutely thrilled to have been chosen. I am not a world traveler but with the support of my family, fellow educators and Pedagogical Leaders, I made it to Italy.
From the very beginning I knew this would be a life changing experience. I came ready to learn and I was looking for certain things:
1. I wanted to see how documentation was presented, how do all these amazing stories come to be?
2. I hoped to observe the environments and watch the children in these spaces that I had seen in books about Reggio.
3. I was looking for connections to family and self-identity.
I found everything I was looking for and more. My first experience at the Loris Malaguzzi International Center was observing documentation by the children. I saw extensive project work with rocks, clay, paper, monsters and more. I felt such validation as I made connections to my own work with children. I had just completed a long-term project that involved ROCKS as the common thread in my own work (and previously a MONSTER Investigation) and I could see that the steps I took and the learning that I noticed were similar in so many ways. I realized how far our organization has come and that we, the educators, are also doing this authentic work. It’s not that Reggio Emilia can be copied, but it can inspire and encourage us to inspire others in our own way.
Seeing the incredibly detailed clay people made by young children on display at the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre reaffirmed the importance of introducing such materials to young children. They learn to master them.
I began to feel my shift in thinking from feeling that we have so far to go, instead realizing how close we are because it is about valuing children and showing their learning and experiences as important. This new insight was overwhelming and brought tears to my eyes… my ah ha moment!
The many lectures and explanations of project work also made me think deeper about the importance and value found in materials and the abundance of them throughout each learning centre. The connection to environments, materials and learning was very evident. Having Corinna, the Pedagogical Leader that supports our program, as my roommate gave way to some amazing collaborative thinking. Many evenings were spent discussing how to move forward with our understanding of materials being ‘intelligent’ and how conversations among educators need to happen to open the doors for deeper thinking. Reflective practice is key. My mind was so full of possibilities and ideas for the future.
Materials for light and shadow construction were unique, abundant and added very intentionally.(Click to enlarge photos)
As far as the family identity that I was looking for, it was more about involvement than just seeing family pictures inside the centre. While that is important, the families had gone beyond being just photos to being true partners in their children’s future and learning. Parents were involved in the whole process and made themselves available to discuss projects to further children’s thinking. Families were part of welcoming us by making food, sharing stories about the centres, and inviting us in. They were excited to share their experiences and involvement; they were proud that we came to learn about their culture, learning and families.
The “Atelier of Food” session I attended further reiterated the people of Reggio’s high regard for children. Everything is presented with great pride and attention to detail – even the food is prepared and presented in a very thoughtful manner for the children to experience.
My hope is that all educators will someday get to experience Reggio Emilia and be able to emerge themselves in their thinking, their environments and their community. My hope is that somewhere on your journey as an educator, you too will have your ah ha moment because the children deserve our learning and growth so we can be partners in theirs.
Amy Plumbe RECE, Preschool Educator, Compass ELC Peterborough
To read previously posted Compass ELC Blogs, please click HERE.