What Reggio Emilia knows about kids that we don’t.

Alani and Iker hands on at the Atellier. Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Today we finally visited Reggio Emilia.

It is exciting for us because it feels like a culmination of our very own Education pilgrimage.

When we started this adventure; going around the world in search of ways to improve the way kids learn, we knew we were going to learn about educational methodologies, discover new philosophies about learning and visit schools with a different point of view about how to educate children. But we never expected to find a whole city - a community - as a reference of excellence in Education.

Reggio Emilia is a small town between Parma and Modena, in Italy.

With just under 200,000 people, Reggio Emilia is much more than a food obsessed Italian city, it’s also the meca of an educational methodology developed by Loris Malaguzzi after the Second World War.

The program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery, and the curriculum is created out of the observation, documentation and reflection of the kid’s daily interests, discoveries and challenges.

There is a wonderful book called “The 100 languages of children” that explains in depth the Malaguzzi’s vision.

We’ve been studying and applying some of Reggio’s learning principles during our kid’s worldschooling, and we have fallen in love with the way it impacted our family.

There is one that has changed our relationship profoundly: Respect!

Respect for their learning journey, their capabilities and their view of the world. This requires observing more and acting less. It means listening more and talking less, and it means investigating more and knowing-it-all less.

Our visit to the school was in itself a great example of this approach.

When we visit a school, for the most part involves interviewing someone, asking questions as we take notes and photos.

The kids are part of most of our visits, when logistics are favorable, and they love to learn about the different schools. They ask questions and sometimes play for a while with some of the kids at the school.

But this visit was different. At Reggio Emilia was all about the kids.

They ran to the Atellier the second they noticed it (Areas specially designed for kids discovery through play), and touched, play, investigated and experimented for 3 hours with colors, light, textures, cardboard, insects, sounds, cameras and even a microscope. (Reggio calls them provocations!)

What started as a tour of a school, turned quickly into the very experience of the methodology by the kids.

We were able to observed, reflect and adjust our visit to the kids’ needs, resulting in the best school visit we’ve done so far.

But what makes Reggio Emilia truly unique, is that the school is the city and the city is the school. The teachers are the community and the community are the teachers. Reggio Emilia is a methodology built on the democratic principle of participation. A civic understanding of democracy. Not a political one.

Democracy understood as respect for the value of the individual, integrated in the creation of a community.

This intellectual partnership created by Kids, Parents and the School, is what Reggio calls learning co-constructed, where the development of the kid involves everybody’s participation and everybody’s voice.

We had to force the kids away from the school to go back to Parma, convinced that we had experienced something very special; Learning as a fun expression of being curious.

As we were driving away in our FIAT 500, Amaia said: I think that school is one of good ones... Everybody was smiling!

And so did we.