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May 12, 2017
|Dr. Tim Wall, the dean of Northwest's School of Education (center), and Northwest student Kylee Marie Lewman (right) participate in a discussion as part of a recent visit by faculty and staff of the school to observe the Reggio Emilia Approach to preschool and primary education.|
Northwest Missouri State University students, faculty and staff returned this spring to Italy to study the Reggio Emilia Approach to preschool and primary education.
The team of 10 students and faculty and staff members representing Northwest’s School of Education and its Horace Mann Laboratory School traveled March 26-29 to Reggio Emilia, Italy, converging with a larger group of 170 representatives of 13 colleges and universities from throughout the United States, to observe and learn the approach to educating children.
The study abroad experience is life-changing one and offers new perspectives, especially for Northwest students who participate and will soon embark on their own teaching careers.
Lauren Russell, a senior elementary education major from Hillsboro, Missouri, said she sought the experience to see for herself how a Reggio-based school operates. She wanted to study teaching styles, strategies, environments and skills she could incorporate into her own philosophy as an educator.
“I wanted to see evidence of why this way of learning is so unique and works so well,” she said. “I also wanted to learn how to teach this approach myself and integrate it into what I already know about teaching young children. I wanted to see the research in action so I can prove why it is so effective.”
The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy developed for preschool and primary education that encourages play and exploration as a vehicle for learning. The study abroad experience provides participants with practical international experience to support their corresponding academic coursework.
While classrooms at Northwest’s Horace Mann and the Phyllis and Richard Leet Center for Children and Families employ the Reggio Emilia Approach, the experience also provides Northwest students, faculty and staff with opportunities to examine new ways of thinking, reflecting and discerning about educational practice.
The group visits world renowned municipal infant toddler centers and preschools as well as an international school that continues to be a subject of interest, research and exchange on the part of students, educators, researchers, administrators, and political and cultural figures throughout the world.
The experience prompts educators to think in new ways and provide teachers in training with a broader examination of learning for families and children than they may experience on the traditional university campus, Dr. Merlene Gilb, assistant professor of public education, said.
In addition to daily tours of Reggio schools, presentations by Reggio educators informed the study group about the approach’s history as well as the special rights and resources provided to the children. Each night, the Northwest team reconvened to discuss their observations and share insights from the day.
During one activity at the Loris Malaguzzi International Center, participants experienced learning from the perspective of children. Atelieristas inspired participants to create and design with materials that were unfamiliar to them.
“We agreed it was a gift to experience,” Gilb said. “It isn’t often that we get to go back and really not know what to do with material, be open and free to explore, much like a child walking into a learning environment.”
Northwest students participating in the experience enroll in a special topics course, “Constructionist Pedagogy: The Reggio Emilia Approach,” and receive one academic credit.
Russel says the experience helped her become a stronger advocate for what she has learned about educating young children.
“Children are capable of so much more than we give them credit for,” she said. “Educators are to be supporters of them to grow and learn in their learning environment. We need to listen to them and make their ideas possible, not pound information and skills into them. I have an entire new viewpoint on what educating children is supposed to look like.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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