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Am I good enough to have a Reggio inspired classroom?

Published on March 29, 2009 under Reggio

>After getting home and unpacking from my trip to Riverfield Country Dayschool in Tulsa, I looked around my space. The space my kiddos have for learning is full of whimsy and wonder.  Can I let go of all this to have a Reggio inspired classroom?  Do I HAVE to let go of all of this to have a Reggio inspired classroom?  The only real way to describe my thoughts about this journey into a new way of teaching is by random thoughts. I know, for me, that isnt really too uncommon.

When we drove up, I knew I was in a different kind of world. There was a playground with peacocks manning the fence as though to welcome us.   There were little gardens outside the doors.  There were NO huge play structures or plastic climbers.   There was a barn with a pond and real animals, like goats.  Are we sure we are at a school?  Is this the right place?  
We were at the right place and this journey started with a lot of awe… and wows…. Riverfield made you want to be a kid again… or be a better teacher.  

                                                     Teachers
The teachers are merely facilitators in the room .  They are observers.  The teacher takes MUCH documentation  and that is how the conversation starts to lead to a big idea – what the kids want to learn.  The teachers  are not ring leaders and controllers.  They are in charge of provocations –  setting up conversations or adding elements to the room to ” provoke ” the children to think.   The teachers do not give the answer.  They  encourage the children to FIND the answer.  One teacher remarked  that she ” loved her children enough to let them find the answer.”  That really was profound to me.   I struggle with helping parents understand that preschool is a time to learn independence and to learn to put on their own coats and shoes.  Can they handle it if I take it a step further? The teacher helps the child learn all the key elements to be ready for kindergarten but it is a much more passive type of teaching.  It is not transmitional at all.   Pictures… videos…  In most classrooms the teacher is the main component. In Reggio classrooms, the children are.  One thing I heard the teachers say a lot is ” I wonder if….”
                                               The Children
The children seemed very focused… much more focused than I am used to.  They had respect for themselves, each other and the teacher.   They played. I even saw one little boy running around in tap shoes.  He wore them both days I was there. I think they were his favorite.  The children were problem solvers.   The children were responsible.   If they walked past something and accidently knocked it over, they stopped to clean it up.  The wonderful thing was, almost always, a friend stopped to help.  The children loved school – it was evident.
                                             The Environment
The room was much different. The walls were white. The thing that stood out the most was the documentation of the children’s work.  The rooms were mostly lit with lamp lighting and not overhead lighting.   There were beautiful chandeliers which I hope to make with my children.  They had the basic centers that we all have.
Construction – They had blocks.  In most classrooms there was a platform to build and save structures on.  The kids would make little STOP signs to let their friends know they were coming back.   They had “parts” instead of the normal lakeshore people and cars we have .They had pinecones and CD’s, spools and ribbons….all kinds of things that are   different.
Housekeeping –  Was where I saw a lot of the cultural elements.  It was cool.. and homey much like mine minus the DIVA sign and the blue wall.
Science-  I have already replicated one thing I saw in my favorite class that I love. It was  a group of branches that hung on the wall with bottles attached. Each child had a bottle to put treasures in from a walk outside.  I cant wait for the kids to come in and see ours on Monday.   
Message Center – for writing.
Art Center. This is a very important part of the classroom. They use a lot of clay and natural objects to create with.   The children are encouraged to sketch something they see or to make a plan.   There are many real and wonderful items in the center for the children to explore.  It is so much more than an easel and some tempera.
Other things I saw in the classroom that I loved are things of beauty.  Very little…. to none… plastic. I saw a few plastic animals and in one classroom I saw a set of alphabet, but that is it.  They prefer natural materials. 
There were babies playing in mud.  There were babies playing in blue water and doing sign language for more.. wanting more BLUE….
Circle time was nothing like we are used to.  I thought I had evolved a LOT but this would take even more.   Circle time isnt singing a cutesy little song and learning a fingerplay or talking about the weather outside or counting how many days there are left in the month.  It is a conversation between the teacher and the children.  The teachers reflects on the day before and the  things they did and listens to what they might like to do that day.  Then starts the ” I wonder if….” conversations.  I see you enjoyed the show that we had yesterday. I wonder if there is some way we can continue that fun today?  Oh, that is a great idea…  You are right, we dont have  super hero costumes… I wonder if  we can find things in our room to make them? ? It was amazing to listen to the teacher web her way through a days plan while putting the children and their wants and needs first.
My last thoughts:
I do believe in this concept – the child centered classroom.
I do believe that childrens ideas and questions should be respected .
I enjoyed the time I spent at Riverfield.
This experience has me hungry to learn more about the method.
I wonder if….. I can do it.
I wonder.

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