What a day! I left my home base in Bologna, Italy before sunrise to catch a train to Reggio Emilia. For those of you unfamiliar with the small Italian City of Reggio Emilia, it is a very special place – the epicenter of the slow food movement and widely recognized as the home of the world’s best schools. Their sixty years of progressive educational practice has come to be known internationally as “the Reggio Emilia approach.” I have studied the Reggio Emilia approach for twenty five years. The subtlety, beauty, complexity, morality of their work that is unrivaled. One could read and reread books like, The Hundred Languages of Children or In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia, for a lifetime and still have questions to research and ponder. I’ve helped preschool – 12th grade schools around the world bring the profound ideas of the Reggio Approach to their unique settings. One of the greatest honors of my life is having been invited twice in recent years to speak in Reggio Emilia.
The educators of the municipal preschools and infant/toddler centers of Reggio Emilia would be quite content with anonymity and quiet community service, but they appreciate their responsibility to share their wisdom and expertise. Visitors are restricted to carefully organized study tours to avoid disrupting the work of educating children. Although I have been traveling to Reggio regularly over the past dozen years, I have never been in a school while children were present.
Today that all changed. I spent an hour in conversation with children from a local primary school in-residence at Scintillae, the modern science and technology atelier at the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre. The conversation was delightful and at times hilarious. Next, I visited the school adjacent to the Malaguzzi Centre and taught computer programming and mathematics to a class of (I think) fourth graders for two hours. Visiting the school confirmed everything I know, heard, and read about the Reggio Emilia approach. It’s just that good. The kids were kind, generous, creative, joyful, curious and engaged. The school’s atelierista and pedagogista observed. At the end of the class session, the kids gave me a beautiful handmade bag containing books they wrote, a collection of photos of their school, and asked if I would participate in a group hug that was a bit like a rugby scrum.
Yes, I taught in Reggio Emilia! I am enormously grateful for the honor. Every second was a rare privilege.
Walking on clouds from my morning of doing what I love most, I spent nearly three hours enjoying lunch with my friend, the President of Fondazione Reggio Children, Carla Rinaldi. Carla is delightful, but there are no casual conversations with a person of her experience, insight, and profound intellect. Every second with her makes me better. Following the terrific lunch in the new restaurant operated by the chefs responsible for the cafe at the Malaguzzi Centre and the schools, I delivered a new lecture, “Computation – The 101st Language of Children,” followed by a long conversation with doctoral students enrolled in the Reggio Childhood Studies Ph.D. program. A walk around the beautiful city with a colleague, a quick stop for pastry, and train ride back to Bologna capped off a remarkable day I will not soon forget.
I could not be more grateful to Carla Rinaldi, Barbara Donnici, Camilla Cadice, the teachers, and children who helped me realize one of my dreams.
(PS: This post is subject to editing. I’m exhausted, but wanted to share my excitement.)
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is the author of Twenty Things to Do with a Computer – Forward 50, co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.