Bennett Day School News

Planes, Trains and Aerobuses: Bennett Day School Goes to the Reggio Emilia Winter Institute

By Kate Cicchelli, Principal & Chief Academic Officer
The start to any journey requires a little bit of traversal. Mine came when attempting to find the  Loris Malaguzzi International Center, the dedicated space for research and professional development for the people of  Reggio Emilia, Italy.

I am currently in Italy attending the International Winter Institute, which this year has drawn over 250 educators from nearly 50 countries including Lebanon, Singapore, Cote d’Ivoire, New Zealand, Dominican Republic, Bulgaria, and Peru just to name a few. Hailing from Chicago myself, it was only with the help of several kind strangers that I was able to find the Center in the first place.

In what felt like a very appropriate way to kick off a week of Reggio-based learning, a porter at the train station engaged patiently in the international language of pointing and pantomiming to help me on my way.  As we parted he smiled and flapped his arms, wordlessly indicating that getting there would be easier if I were a bird. This type of give-and-take exchange is a great example of why I came here in the first place: to explore the ways we don’t just deliver but truly communicate information, in ways that extend even beyond spoken language itself.

This year marks the 50th anniversary year of the opening of the first Reggio preschools, and this week we will be focusing on continuity.  Here, the idea is that learning is an ongoing, continuous process, from ages 0-99. Appropriately, this year’s conference is titled “Reggio Emilia Approach to Education: 0-99 Continuity in a Qualified System of Relationships.”

To start the conference, internationally renowned professor Carla Rinaldi spoke at length about research and the importance of changing the context of research in education.  She pointed out that, traditionally, teachers and students are the objects of research; teachers are not the conductors of the research nor are the students.

But, she continued, research is a way of thinking and a way of relating.  Research is also a way to better, to lead change. In this respect, as educators, we must change the relationship with research and assume the active, powerful role of researcher and co-creator of knowledge with our colleagues and our students. Research, then, becomes a style of teaching, learning, and living.

Rinaldi reminded us that children are natural researchers, evidenced in the way they look at life, ask questions, and search for answers. A child’s “Why? Why? Why?” is in fact the prompt for meaning. Children hunt for the meaning of life, of self, of self in relation to others, the meaning of their culture, styles, and societies.

All children are intelligent, Rinaldi emphasized, if we (the educators, adults, citizens) are intelligent enough to provide the space and opportunity for children to express their varied intelligences.

This brings us back to the Reggio notion of the 100 Languages of Children.  If we listen, provoke, observe, prompt, provide, and LISTEN, we educators will ensure that all children can access those 100 languages.

As I continue my travels this week, I will remain on the lookout for my own continued learning moments, like the one I had at the train station. It is important to recognize the opportunities we have to appeal to multiple intelligences and to create ways for learning to prevail--even where spoken language fails.

Stay tuned for more news and updates from Bennett Day School at the Reggio Emilia Winter Institute.