Reggio Emilia – How a small town in Italy inspired LCM
January 3, 2023
By Shannon Blady PhD, LCM Chief Learning Officer
Children have 100 languages. That’s 100 ways to express themselves and 100 ways to show us what they are thinking and learning. That’s one of the Reggio Emilia principles that we firmly believe here at the Louisiana Children’s Museum. These “languages” can be found all through our galleries as our exhibits encourage children to paint, sing, experiment, build, act, dance, and play. There are plenty of other Reggio principles that manifest throughout our Museum. In fact, we were designed with Reggio principles in mind. So, what is Reggio Emilia exactly?
The Reggio Emilia Approach to Childhood Education began in Northern Italy after World War II in the town of Reggio Emilia, about 50 miles from Bologna. A handful of mothers and educator Loris Malaguzzi are the founders of Reggio Emilia, which is now practiced in over 34 countries around the world. Reggio is a child-centered, hands-on approach that holds the image of the child as one who is capable, intelligent, curious, and creative. We see children as citizens of the world today with inalienable rights. That means, in our eyes, they are valued for who they are now and not just for who they will be in the future.
One way that we honor our youngest citizens is by practicing the pedagogy of listening. First, we provide engaging experiences and ask open-ended questions as we play together. Then, we listen intently so that we can hear their version of figuring things out, making connections, showing empathy, and exploring. In fact, these threads are posted on our In Dialogue panels on the first floor of our Play Building and can be found throughout the Museum for guests to learn more about ways to be in dialogue with their children during play. As a team, we also reflect on children’s responses and share them with each other to understand our work here and how our programming impacts our communities. We often make this learning visible through documentation that can be found throughout the Museum.
As a Reggio-inspired Museum set in New Orleans, Louisiana, we provide programming that highlights communities within this region and that reminds guests of our special and unique place in the world. You can play in a pirogue under a Cypress tree, have a pretend crawfish boil, or birdwatch over our lagoon. Our programming also honors children’s creative processes and offers opportunities for social collaboration with other children. You will certainly find these process-focused, collaborative art projects in our Studio in the Park. In fact, our studio itself is a very Reggio component.
All Reggio schools in Italy and most Reggio-inspired schools across the world include an atelier, or art studio, with an atelierista, or artist, who guides children’s artistic endeavors. Loris Malaguzzi firmly believed that artists and children see the world in similar, fresh ways and that through art, children make their ideas visible to the rest of us. This is one reason why we have launched our Artist in Residence program in the Studio.
On your next visit, count the many languages that we encourage throughout our Museum. If you’d like to learn more about Reggio Emilia, ask one of our play facilitators or schedule a Reggio-inspired tour and workshop.