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Exploring Art through the Reggio Emilia Pedagogy: National Children's Art Week 

July 4, 2024
4 minute read

As we celebrate National Children's Art Week, it’s the perfect time to explore how the Reggio Emilia pedagogy embraces art as a central element of early childhood education. The Reggio Emilia approach, originating from a small town in Italy, is renowned for its innovative and child-centred educational philosophy. Art, which is woven into the "one hundred languages of children," plays a pivotal role in this pedagogy, providing children with diverse means of expression and exploration. 

Understanding the Reggio Emilia Pedagogy 

The Reggio Emilia approach is rooted in the belief that children are competent, capable, and full of potential. It emphasises the importance of a child-led curriculum, where children's interests and curiosities drive the learning process. Key principles include the role of the environment as the "third teacher," the importance of community and collaboration, and the value of documentation and reflection. 

The Role of Art in Reggio Emilia 

Art in the Reggio Emilia approach is not merely an activity but a fundamental mode of learning and expression. It provides children with multiple languages to communicate their thoughts, ideas, and emotions. Here’s how art is embraced within this pedagogy: 

  1. Art as a Language of Expression: In Reggio Emilia classrooms, art is viewed as a powerful form of communication. Children are encouraged to express their ideas and emotions through various artistic mediums such as drawing, painting, sculpting, and collage. This approach honours each child’s unique way of understanding and interpreting the world. 
  1. Environment as the Third Teacher: The learning environment in Reggio Emilia settings is carefully designed to inspire creativity and exploration. Art materials are readily accessible, inviting children to engage in artistic activities spontaneously. Beautifully organised spaces, filled with natural light and aesthetically pleasing displays, stimulate children's senses and imagination. 
  1. Collaboration and Community: Art projects in Reggio Emilia classrooms often involve collaborative efforts, promoting a sense of community and teamwork. Children work together on large murals, group sculptures, or collaborative paintings, learning to negotiate, share ideas, and appreciate different perspectives. 
  1. Documentation and Reflection: Documentation is a crucial aspect of the Reggio Emilia approach. Practitioners meticulously document children's artistic processes and creations through photographs, videos, and written observations. This documentation is used for reflection and discussion, helping children to revisit and deepen their understanding of their work. 

Celebrating National Children's Art Week with Reggio Emilia 

National Children's Art Week offers a wonderful opportunity to incorporate Reggio Emilia-inspired art activities in early years settings. Here are some ideas to celebrate this week: 

  1. Open-Ended Art Stations: Set up various art stations with different materials like watercolours, clay, recycled materials, and natural objects. Encourage children to explore and create freely, without specific instructions or outcomes. 
  1. Collaborative Art Projects: Initiate a group art project where children can contribute to a large mural or a communal sculpture. This promotes teamwork and allows children to see their individual contributions as part of a larger collective work. 
  1. Nature-Inspired Art: Take children on a nature walk to collect leaves, flowers, and other natural items. Use these materials to create nature collages or eco-prints, connecting art with the natural environment. 
  1. Reflective Art Journals: Provide children with individual art journals where they can draw, paint, or collage their thoughts and experiences. Encourage them to share their journals with peers, fostering a culture of reflection and dialogue. 
  1. Art Exhibitions: Host an art exhibition in your setting, displaying children's artworks and inviting parents and community members to celebrate their creativity. This not only showcases children's achievements but also reinforces the value of their artistic expressions. 

The Reggio Emilia pedagogical embrace of art aligns beautifully with the celebration of National Children's Art Week. By integrating art as a fundamental mode of learning and expression, we respect children's capabilities and encourage their creative potential. As we celebrate this week, its our role to create spaces and opportunities for children to explore, express, and shine through their artistic endeavours, following the inspiring principles of Reggio Emilia. 

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