The Diana School is undoubtedly the most famous school in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Most international visitors studying the philosophy for a week in the small town, are always hopeful that they will have the opportunity to go inside its mysterious walls. Upon arrival to the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, where daily lectures were held, I too found myself yearning to visit the school in the middle of a park completely hidden away from the world by its glorious green trees. To my disappointment, my name tag did not read “Diana School” as part of the tour, and I assumed that, once again this special place was off limits to me. When I discovered that in fact it was open to some of the participants, I quickly traded my name tag to finally have my chance! It was a pinch me kind of moment, similar to the feeling that one gets when they arrive in the Reggio Emilia train station.
The Diana School certainly did not disappoint any of its visitors that day. To start off our tour, we were provided with a short introduction to the school by the educators and parents. As I sat listening to them and looking around the lobby, I couldn’t help but notice the famous giraffe creation from one of the projects that I head read about. After they shared the context of what we might see throughout the school, we were given the green light to wander around the classrooms. I often paused in complete awe of the spaces, the materials, the children, and the project work. Physically, the school had an aesthetic beauty like non-other that I had ever witnessed in North America. However, more than just the external appearance, it was evident that the learning and history ran quite deep. My natural reaction to everything that I saw was this intense desire to bottle it up and transport it straight into my own reality.
I could not help but wonder… How can we begin to create more of these places within our school boards that allow children in the public system to have similar experiences to the fortunate children in Reggio Emilia, Italy? Why is this approach so easily embraced within the private systems and can it be achieved on a smaller budget? Of course, on my own accord I have slowly tried to transform my practice to be Reggio-inspired in a mainstream classroom, and hopefully have started to prove that it is indeed possible. That being said, I have been faced with my share of challenges and obstacles throughout the years. Though I am trying to plant seeds of inspiration with my blog and social media accounts, I cannot help but fear that the Reggio Emilia approach, the "environment as third teacher," emergent curriculum, pedagogical documentation, etc., are a band wagon or trend that some educators are currently on. I on the other hand, am convinced otherwise…
The Diane School taught me some important lessons. Firstly, I recognized the importance of having evidence of daily learning and educator beliefs throughout the school. It is not enough to have beautiful artist studios and expensive resources for children to experience. One must be intentional with their selections and be able to articulate their goal, while making the learning visible. Secondly, if we ever hope to make a difference in students’ lives then collaboration should be at the heart of our process. Collaborating with other colleagues, parents, and visitors will give us multiple perspectives. None of what they have achieved in Reggio Emilia has been accomplished in solitude. Finally, slowing down our day to day demands can allow us to enjoy spending time with students, building relationships, and going deeper with learning experiences. These insights or lessons do not require an extensive budget, but rather, a shift in mindset and priorities. I am thankful for my time in the famous Reggio Emilia school and see the potential of extending this into our own context. My personal mission will continue to be the sharing of such messages, and the defence of the Reggio Emilia approach as a way of “being” that can be the foundation of our teaching. Once this is internalized, the notion of “reggio-inspired” as a trend can fade into the distance…
We value space, to create a handsome environment
and its potential to inspire social,
affective and cognitive learning.
The space is an aquarium that mirrors the ideas and values
of the people who live in it.