Enhancing learning for our youngest students – a focus on what they can do, not what they can’t
By Libby Orr, Communications Manager, UWCSEA Foundation
UWCSEA has long prided itself on providing a unique educational experience. Part of what makes the school such a thriving place to learn and grow is the emphasis it places on a student’s learning journey.
Reggio Emilia is a global teaching philosophy that stems from a small town in Italy. Established just after World War II by visionary teacher Loris Malaguzzi, Reggio takes the approach that a child is capable of many things and, rather than being empty vessels to fill, they have a wealth of knowledge inside of them from a very young age. Unlocking a child’s potential is the essence behind Reggio. Its parallels with the Kurt Hahn ideal of ‘there is more in you than you think’ has led to UWCSEA exploring how the Infant curriculum could be further enhanced by incorporating Reggio practices.
Earlier this year, the UWCSEA Annual Fund supported a series of Infant teacher workshops at East with Fiona Zinn, an international early childhood consultant specialising in The Reggio Emilia Approach. These in-house sessions provided tailored support on how we might incorporate a number of elements stemming from Reggio Emilia to enhance and improve learning in the early years, such as 'The Image of the Child, 'The Environment as a Third Teacher', and 'The Hundred Languages of Children,' all of which are core values of Reggio.
“The Infant School staff strongly believe that the practices of Reggio Emilia could well be the most effective way for us to articulate the UWCSEA Learning Principles and Profile for our youngest learners. Exploring the ideas and concepts behind the Reggio Emilia educational experience has allowed us to consider learning in the Infants through a different lens and it is proving to be very exciting.
For example, we have spent a huge amount of time working with Fiona and thinking collectively about our learning spaces. The Reggio inspired notion of "The Environment as the Third Teacher" is a powerful concept, when you understand how to incorporate it and why. For instance, a more "traditional" classroom set up, with formal arrangements of tables and chairs, conveys a certain message about what you value about young children, your "Image of the Child," and how they learn. A classroom that has a variety of spaces and provocations to explore, where dialogue and collaboration is encouraged and everything is organised with great intentionality, communicates a totally different set of values.
"The Hundred Languages of Children" refers to the many ways that children express themselves and it genuinely speaks to the diversity of our students here at UWCSEA, celebrating their different personalities, interests and abilities. As teachers, it has been invaluable to work with Fiona as we explore ways to observe and listen to the children as they learn and how to document the process. Rather than "teaching to worksheets," we strive to co-construct learning in partnership with our students and strive to make their thinking visible.” Ben Morley, Head of Grade 1
The workshops with Fiona enabled Infant teachers to gain a clearer understanding of how to blend elements of The Reggio Approach with the UWCSEA curriculum. In particular to document the learning achieved through student interactions and adapt teaching style to match the needs, abilities and interests of students. In doing so, they enhance student confidence by focusing on what they can do, not what they can’t.
Implementation of The Reggio Approach at East is still in the early stages, but these workshops have played a key role in developing and enriching our teaching practices and environments moving forward.
Giving to the College, through the Annual Fund and UWCSEA Foundation, enriches the unique UWC learning experience and brings the College closer to achieving its mission.