Inspired by Reggio Emilia: A New Beginning
4.4 (20 ratings)
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Inspired by Reggio Emilia: A New Beginning

Best Practices in Early Childhood Education - Progressive Education in Practice
4.4 (20 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
45 students enrolled
Last updated 7/2020
Price: $19.99
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This course includes
  • 2.5 hours on-demand video
  • 23 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Over 2 hours of classroom video content and several articles written by the educators of Reggio Emilia schools
  • Observe children's learning and teacher competence with a fresh, new perspective
  • Become an educator that creates engaging and provocative learning spaces!
  • Obtain a clear understanding of open-ended materials and how they lend themselves to creativity - if we want creative, inventive people then we need to foster creativity in our students
  • Use materials in your classroom that extend the learning and build relationships with others
  • Engage parents in providing open ended, recycled materials for your classroom
  • Learm more about Project Work and Emergent Curriculum
  • A New Beginning: Reggio Emilia is Progressive Education in Practice
  • Basic understanding of Early Childhood learning and development

Heralded by Harvard University's Project Zero, the Reggio Emilia Approach is blend of theory and practice that is based upon decades of research in early childhood development. Founder Loris Malaguzzi designed a teaching approach which is alive, creative and emergent.

Central to this progressive approach is the image of the child as a strong and powerful player in their own education. The teacher is seen as a researcher and protagonist, creating a learning environment that is engaging and highly social. Children learn through play and are assessed through documentation. The documentation makes the learning visible and informs the practice – ultimately leading to innovations in curriculum.

Designed as an introduction to this approach, this first course will introduce two key principals: The strong image of the child as a collaborator in their own education; the environment as the third teacher – designing classrooms that support investigations and creativity and social-emotional development.

July $9.99 coupon expires 07/20/2020

Mary Ann Biermeier M.Ed. is the Director of Professional Development at NAEYC accredited preschool in Scottsdale, Arizona. Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), this learning community provides teachers and families the very best instructional support.

All learning starts with joy – we hope you will enjoy this class!

Who this course is for:
  • This course is an introduction to the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Childhood education. It is designed for PreK- Grade 3 educators with a minimum Associates Degree in ECE
  • Preservice teachers to veteran educators and professors in the field will find this course an excellent starting place for examining the teaching practices of Reggio inspired schools.
  • Copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 River Bend Studios, LLC
  • River Bend Studios grants to you an individual worldwide non-exclusive royalty-free revocable license to: View this website and the material on this website on a computer or mobile device via a web browser; Copy and store this website and the text material on this website in your web browser cache memory; and Print text pages from this website for your own personal and non-commercial use. River Bend Studios DOES NOT GRANT you any other rights in relation to this website or the material on this website. In other words, ALL OTHER RIGHTS ARE RESERVED. For the avoidance of doubt, you must not adapt, edit, change, transform, publish, republish, distribute, redistribute, broadcast, rebroadcast or show or play in public this website or the material on this website (in any form or media) without River Bend Studio’s prior written permission.
Course content
Expand all 22 lectures 02:27:23
+ Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins
9 lectures 58:32

There is much about Reggio Emilia approach that distinguishes it from other efforts to define best practices in early childhood education. Much of the worldwide attention has been on the programs emphasis on children’s symbolic languages lovingly referred to as The Hundred Languages of Children . Symbolic languages are the many ways children express their own knowledge and desires through art work, conversation, early writing, dramatic play, music, dance and more. Recognizing that at the very core of creativity is our desire to express ourselves, Reggio Emilia schools create environments that inspire and support creative thinking and invention. If building and sustaining relationships are to be the foundation of a learning community, then creativity must always be present. Creativity is the conduit, the instrument that allows us to communicate with and understand others.

Preview 06:35

Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of Reggio Emilia schools, began his exploration in to early childhood education by exploring learning as play with a purpose.  Reflecting the research of Vygotsky and Dewey, Reggio Emilia schools create highly social learning environments which provide many different creative materials of expression.  From the visual arts to dance, children are expected to share what they know, what they dream about and what they imagine through creative endeavors.

If we want creative and inventive people in our society, then we need to teach in environments where children are allowed to be creative and inventive.  The schools of Reggio Emilia Italy inspire us to rethink our school community, to examine our values.

In this, Reggio Emilia schools has cast aside thematic and worksheet driven curriculum.  The top-down, replication type teaching and learning that is characteristic of the American form of education stands in contrast to the Reggio Emilia approach that emphasizes the construction of knowledge over time through group work.

Preview 03:18

The Hundred Languages of Children

The Hundred Languages of Children is about making children’s thinking and desires visible. This stands in contrast to thematic and canned curriculum that prescribes and predetermines outcomes. Children are not crafting in replication. Children are not given step by step instructions. Instead, children are provided a wide variety of tools and artistic materials for which they can experiment and create. Teachers provide guidance in the use of artistic materials and tools, often through the assistance of a studio art teacher we lovingly call, the “Atelierista”.

Unique to the Reggio Emilia approach, is the integration of a studio art teacher/Atelierista to support the teaching teams. The Atelierista works with teachers to bring into the classroom materials that support children's investigations.  His/Her role is to provide education support first to the teachers and secondary to the students in artistic expressions - such as visual arts and musical arts.  For example, if the students are interested in African animals, the Atelierista might suggest having the students trace that shadows of toy giraffes and elephants (see image below).  What might a child learn about these creature by focusing on their body shapes?  Lella Gandini (2010) writes,

     “What is done with the materials and media is not regarded as art per se,

      because in the view of Reggio Educators the children’s use of many media

      is not a separate part of the curriculum but an inseparable, integral part of the whole

      cognitive/symbolic expression involved in the process of learning.”

In this way, children are learning about the processes of creating, rather than focusing on a tangible, predetermined outcome. Children are not replicating art, or copying adult made creations. The intent is to understand how to create something that is uniquely their own, how to modify, to tear it down and start over, to make it new once again. To apply this found knowledge to a new application. This is the very essence of knowledge.  For if the children are not becoming knowledgeable, then we cannot call it an education.

Gandini, L. (2010, September 13). Learning Materials Work. Retrieved from Values and Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach:

Preview 02:16

Your Image of the Child: Is where Teaching Begins

When we have a strong image of the child it changes the way we interact with children. Our own perspectives is really where teaching begins. As teachers, we create the learning environment in our classrooms. That environment reflects our image of the child as an active learner. Environments that acknowledge the child as curious and inventive. Environments that recognized that we all learn along side others - as social learners. It is a school environment that is inclusive, challenging in content and joyful. For deep learning is always connected to joy.

Recommended Reading: The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Translation by Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini & George Foreman (2012). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Preview 04:34

Article reviews are a powerful way to engage staff in professional development.  Here we are using the article by Loris Malaguzzi, Your Image of the Child Where Teaching Begins.

Ask each educator to think about how they engage with boys and girls.  How does their image of the child impact these engagements, impact their documentation, and the way student interests are developed?  Ask teachers to track the number of photos and the conversations they have documented over the last two weeks... how many are boys?  How many are girls?

In the next week, ask each educator to share their insights with a colleague.  What we understand about learning is what we pay attention to, we get more of.    How has paying attention to bias changed the way teachers are documenting?  How has paying attention to bias changed the kinds of activities and engagements created by the teacher?  How has this assignment helped teachers see children differently?

Staff Development - Your Image of the Child Part I

In this second lecture we examine Loris Malaguzzi's suggestion that teachers should behave like researchers.  One of the tenants of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education is the development of curriculum based upon the interests of the children.  Curriculum, emergent in form, is developed within the context of a relationship driven classroom.

In this lecture you will be introduced to concepts of emergent curriculum, documentation practices and social cognitive theory.

Staff Development - Redefining Roles Part 2

The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education places great emphasis on building positive, reciprocal relationships with families.  We cannot, and will not separate the child from the family. 

In this lecture we provide examples of how to design into your program ways to positively connect to families, way to keep families informed and engaged, and way to build a community of families that connect to each other.

Staff Development - Forging Alliances with Families Part 3

Never been a fan of multiple choice tests.  We learn when we revisit and think about our experiences.

In this review, we revisit the Image of the Child.  For you to learn deeply, you will want to talk about, write about and read about the Reggio Emilia approach.  Thinking about the approach is not enough.

Attached here is a "must read" book list.  I have to admit I am a book junkie and have many, many books on this approach and social cognitive theory in practice.  I narrowed the list to 4 books as a must read, and reference as you transform your practice.

Remember, transformation is about action.  Pick one thing that you think you can implement in your classroom and give it go. Document what happens with photos and notes.  Revisit those notes and share them with others.  If we believe children are competent and capable, rich in potential, curious and inventive then noting is out of reach.

Mary Ann Biermeier

Revisiting the Image of the Child

A quick review of downloadable resources.

Downloading Resources
+ An Environment that Teaches
6 lectures 49:54

In this lecture we review the framework of the Reggio Emilia approach as presented in the article, Values and Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach  by Lella Gandini.

Emergent Curriculum:

An emergent curriculum is one that builds upon the interests of children. Topics for study are captured from the talk of children, through community or family events, as well as the known interests of children (puddles, shadow, dinosaurs, etc.). Team planning is an essential component of the emergent curriculum. Teachers work together to formulate hypotheses about the possible directions of a project, the materials needed, and possible parent and/or community support and involvement.

Representational Development and the Hundred Languages of Children:

The Reggio Emilia approach calls for the integration of the graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development. Presentation of concepts and hypotheses in multiple forms of representation — print, art, construction, drama, music, puppetry, and shadow play — are viewed as essential to children’s understanding of experience and creation of stories.


Collaborative group work, both large and small, is considered valuable and necessary to advance cognitive development. Within the Reggio Emilia approach multiple perspectives promote both a sense of group membership and the uniqueness of self. There high emphasis on the collaboration among home-school-community to support the learning of the child.

Teachers as Researchers:

Working as co-teachers, the role of the teacher is first and foremost to be that of a learner alongside the children. The teacher is a teacher-researcher, a resource and guide as she/he lends expertise to children. Within such a teacher-researcher role, educators carefully listen, observe, and document children’s work and the growth of community in their classroom and are to provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking, and children’s collaboration with peers. Teachers are committed to reflection about their own teaching and learning.


Similar to the portfolio approach, documentation of children’s work in progress is viewed as an important tool in the learning process for children, teachers, and parents. Pictures of children engaged in experiences, their words as they discuss what they are doing, feeling and thinking, and the children’s interpretation of experience through the visual media are displayed as a graphic presentation of the dynamics of learning. Documentation is used as assessment and advocacy.

Environment as a Teacher:

Building and sustaining relationships with others is at the core of the practice. Great attention is given to the look and emotional feel of the classrooms. Classrooms are uncluttered with large windows and muted color schemes. Teachers carefully organize space for small and large group projects and small intimate spaces for one, two or three children. The environment plays a critical role in helping children connect to others and the natural world.

A Framework for Reggio Emilia Inspired Schools

An Environment that Teaches

Educator and author Lella Gandini writes, "In order to act as an educator for the child, the environment has to be flexible: It must undergo frequent modification by the children and the teachers in order to remain up-to-date and responsive to their needs to be protagonists in constructing their knowledge." (1988)

An environment that teaches is flexible, responsive and reflective of the children's interests. In Reggio Emilia inspired schools, great care is given to providing open-ended materials. We do this because we are most happy when we are creating something. Children create every day with paints, clay, blocks, wood and so on. We learn deeply when we are creating something of value to us and to the group. We learn deeply when we are enjoying ourselves - when learning is joyful.

Creating an Environment that Teaches

Open-Ended Materials as a Provocation to Create

Cathy Weisman Topal, coauthor with Lella Gandini of Beautiful Stuff: Learning with Found Materials (1999), points out that children develop power when they build individual relationships with materials. When children have the chance to notice, collect, and sort materials, and when teachers respond to their ideas, the children become artists, designers, and engineers. When children are simply given materials to use without the chance to explore and understand them, the materials do not become part of their world.

Recommended reading: Beautiful Stuff: Learning with Found Materials by Cathy Weisman Topal & Lella Gandini (1999). Philadephia, PA: Davis Publishing.

Open-Ended Materials as a Provocation to Create in Your Classroom

Make finding beautiful stuff a part of the life of the classroom. In this assignment, teachers will ask families to donate found materials from their homes and the outdoor environment. Download the parent/caregiver letter and begin the process of collecting and sorting materials.

It is important to have the children a part of the collection process. If the parents simply collect the items for the child, it will have less meaning for the child. Give the child this responsibility.

Teachers should consider this a long term, on-going activity.

Beautiful Stuff! Found Materials Assignment

Project work in Reggio Emilia inspired schools begins with teachers observing children's conversations and interests. The documentation of the children's interests drives the curriculum. In this example, children are expressing interest in spider webs found on the playground. Their teachers ask them what they know about the webs and spiders that have created the webs. And the investigation is on!

Lilian Katz calls this initial inquiry the "kicking it around" phase. Teachers bring in books (fiction and non-fiction) and create experiences related to the topic of interest.

Unlike thematic approaches, project work is emergent in form. The project moves with the interests of the children. The teachers are flexible and eager to model inquiry and investigation.

In your resource materials is the corresponding article to this video, Strategies to Make Your Environment the "Third Teacher" and the first chapter of Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years by Judy Harris Helms and Lilian Katz (2001).

What interests can you find in your room? How will you begin to "kicking it around"?

Recommended Reading: Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years by Judy Harris Helms and Lilian Katz (2001). NY: Teachers College Press.

Project Learning - Social Learners Learning Together

An article review and review of downloadable resources.

Downloading Resources An Environment that Teaches
+ Cultivating a School of Kindness
4 lectures 22:26

It Starts with Us!

7 Powers of Conscious Adults

1. Power of Perceptions

No one can make you mad without your permission

2. Power of Unity

We are all in this together

3. Power of Attention

What you focus on, you get more of

4. Power of Free Will

The only person you can make change, is yourself

5. Power of Love

See the best in others

6. Power of Acceptance

The moment is as it is

7. Power of Intention

Conflict is an opportunity to teach

Cultivating a School of Kindness

Start your day on the right foot by implementing four elements of connection:

1. Eye Contact

2. Be Present

3. Touch in a

4. Playful Way

The Morning Greet

The Safe Place

In the Safe Place children are encouraged to use research-based, developmentally appropriate tools and strategies to change their inner state from upset to composed. Only in this composed state can children access the higher brain functions needed to problem-solve and learn.

The Safe Place

The Kindness Tree

The Kindness Tree puts the power of positivity in your hands. The Kindness Tree helps celebrate and encourage kind and helpful acts in the classroom or at home. Children are asked to revisit and think about their day, those that offered help and assistance.

The Kindness Tree
+ Deep Learning is Where Curiosity Leads
3 lectures 14:31

Change Begins with Transforming our Thinking

There are many wonderful schools and great teachers. But here in North America, they are like a ship sailing into a headwinds. Curriculum ought to be about deep learning – for if there is not learning going on, there is not education going on. As simple as it sounds, deep learning occurs when we are enjoying ourselves. How we engage children, what we say to children - let’s make a commitment to do all things with joy.

We can decide to change – to transform our thinking one teacher at a time, one classroom at a time.

Deep Learning: Where Curiousity Leads
2 pages

Howard Gardner

As an American educator, I cannot help but be struck by certain paradoxes. In America we pride ourselves on being focused on children, and yet we do not pay sufficient attention to what they are actually expressing.

We call for cooperative learning among children, and yet we rarely have sustained cooperation at the level of teacher and administrator.

We call for artistic works, but we rarely fashion environments that can truly support and inspire them.

We call for parental involvement, but are loathe to share ownership, responsibility, and credit with parents.

We recognize the need for community, but we so often crystallize immediately into interest groups.

We hail the discovery method, but we do not have the confidence to allow children to follow their own noses and hunches.

We call for debate, but often spurn it; we call for listening, but we prefer to talk; we are affluent, but we do not safeguard those resources that can allow us to remain so and to foster the affluence of others.

Reggio is so instructive in these respects. Where we are often intent to invoke slogans, the educators in Reggio work tirelessly to solve many of these fundamental—and fundamentally difficult—issues.

The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach - Advanced Reflections

Second addition

1998 Ablex Publishing Corporation:Greenwich, CT

Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini, George Forman

Howard Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The author of twenty-nine books translated into thirty-two languages, Gardner is best known in educational circles for his theory of multiple intelligence.

During the past two decades, Gardner and colleagues at Harvard’s Project Zero have been involved in the design of performance-based assessments; education for understanding; the use of multiple intelligence to achieve more personalized curriculum, instruction, and pedagogy; and the quality of interdisciplinary efforts in education.

Reggio Emilia: Progressive Education in Practice

Transforming education begins in our own classrooms. Find something the children are interested in, an idea they are talking about, some chance event that has caught their imaginations. Ask the children what they know about the subject, bring in books from the library - fiction and non-fiction. Place the books within easy reach of young hands - offer to read the book with small groups of children. Let the curiosity lead you...

Be sure to write to us with your questions and remember,

All Things with Joy.

Reggio Emilia: Education Where Curiosity Leads