Bennett Day School News

BDS Visits the Maramotti Infant-Toddler Center and Preschool

By Kate Cicchelli, Principal & Chief Academic Officer.

I spent the afternoon at the  Maramotti Infant-Toddler Center and Preschool, pictured below:
The design for this beautiful space was created by Francesca Fava and Carlo Margini. The city of Reggio Emelia held a competition for local architects under the age of 35 and their design, “Children, spaces, relationships - a meta project of an environment for childhood” won.

It is easy to understand why their design was chosen; the space is a magical intertwining of glass, light, air, and reflection.  Magini was there during our tour, and he talked about the dialogue between the building and the outdoors.  As the seasons change, the building changes and adapts to the new season.  From inside the piazza with windows all around, you have the sensation of being both within the warmth of the building but also engaged with the outdoors.

Each of the four classrooms focuses on a developmentally appropriate theme: sound, light, color, and the garden.  The classrooms also have enclosed glass patios that students can access throughout the school year - again, there is the dialogue between the indoors and the outdoors.

This design is a wonderful answer to the outdoor learning spaces I saw in Mountainview, California at the Google Children’s Centers.

While we don’t have that opportunity in Chicago because of the weather conditions, these enclosed glass patios are a possibility for us.

At Maramotti, the idea of mobility (and here I think of mobility as a link to the concept of continuity per the conference) is important in the building. There are these wonderful metal “pagoda” type structures that sit on tracks outside of the classroom.  They can be pulled up to the enclosed patio or be shuttled out one hundred feet into the outdoor play space.  These are extensions of the classroom that quite literally extend out.

The teachers were passionate and spoke with a great deal of love and affection for the school and their students.  Images of the children are everywhere; carefully selected documentation of their inquiries are visible in the shared space and individual classrooms.  And much of it is low, placed for the children to reflect on.  There’s a wonderful piece near the entrance which is a series of chubby little feet in various stages of motion: on the stairs, jumping on a map, on a log, in the grass.

I’ve focused a lot here on the space, but everywhere, in every aspect of the space, is an awareness of, a sensitivity to, the children and their experience. Leaving the Maramotti Infant Toddler Center really brought home Loris Malaguzzi’s poem:

The Hundred Languages
The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred.
Always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.
The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.
They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi