Finally Seeing A Classroom in Action!

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May 16, 2013

Today we went to Parma. Our group split up into a few different groups and visited different preschools. It was great to finally see the Reggio approach in action. Our teacher didn’t speak any English so we did a lot of nodding and ooing and ahhing. Some things I learned today:

  • Only about half of the teachers have University degrees because it only started being a requirement about seven years ago
  • It’s against the law for kids to bring their own food into the preschools, so the schools are responsible to meet the food needs of all the kids (even gluten allergies and stuff).
  • The classrooms and my preschool were mixed ages of 3, 4, and 5 and then they had separate rooms for the babies (the two year olds).
  • Again, educators here believe that the process is most important than the final product
  • From my observations it seems that the children are really well developed linguistically. Their language and social skills seemed more developed than American students of the same age. They were doing an art project with either clay or a rock and paper mâché and paint where they were supposed to recreate a statue. The students were able to choose their medium and then create their own representation of the statue. Of course, it was their own project and none of them really looked like the statue but it was really cool to see them create! When the students were finished, they would show the teacher and she would ask them things like, “How do the pieces go together” or  “Tell me a story about it” or “Why did you do this?” I was surprised that the students were able to tell her, but if you think about it, this points directly to what the lady was saying yesterday at the Malguzzi center. Children are much more competent than we give them credit for. Of course they child would be able to make up a story about their figure. Children are so imaginative and creative. I loved this example of higher level thinking.
  • Also, the sustainability in the classroom and center was great. They used real plates and dishes and stuff at meals and would obviously wash them for re-use. Also, lots of the art was made from recycled materials. They painted over cardboard and newspaper.  All of their art was really textured and simply magnificent. They really emphasize form instead of just drawing or coloring on a flat surface. That’s something that is really different from our U.S. preschools and art exploration in general. Also, of note… this preschool had toys, but it was just another way for children to play. For example, they had some dress up clothes and some fake food to pretend to grocery shop… stuff like that.
  • Dance. The did some really cute dances that (sounded like) they were scripts for the days of the week, rhyming verbs, and that kinda thing. The boys liked the dancing more than the girls because they got to move around! It would be great if we could take the “stigma” off of dance for boys because it is such a great way to learn to move and control one’s body in space.
  • Discipline. The teacher really tries to speak with the child to UNDERSTAND the child’s behavior. The teachers believe in controlling behavior by keeping an open dialogue with the students. This is neat! Their goal is to help the child to reflect on his or her behavior and become more mature. The teachers don’t believe in prizes or in punishment but instead focus on the root of the behavior issue and how they can help the child to solve the problem. The relationship between the teacher and the students creates a “group realization” of good behavior. I like the word “realization” that was translated instead of a saying something like “culture of a good behavior” because it emphasizes the growth and development of the child.
  • Again, lots of emphasis on Piaget’s research on children and the social cognitive theory.
  • One thing that the director of the schools in Parma said today was that they try to bring all children into the culture of the school, to envelop them in care, growth, and in love. This is one way that they help include children from different backgrounds and cultures. They include the child’s culture. I really like this when thinking about developing creative curriculum! Inviting the child or the child’s family into the school to share about their culture provides so many opportunities for curriculum development! The children could study a particular kind of food – like how corn is used across the world. Or they could study the food of that culture and the parents could come in and cook or bring things to taste. They could study differences in dress and play dress up or make costumes from that country. There are literally probably a million things to do with including various cultures in the curriculum.
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