If you ask us about the early learning philosophy that guides us here at the Kid Time Children's Museum expect to hear at least one of us utter the words "Reggio Emilia". While the phrase may be foreign to you chances are you're already familiar with Reggio's cousins, Waldorf and Montessori, two other doctrines under which many a preschool has been run.
We mention Reggio in this Kid Time blog because, even though the museum is a separate entity from The Learning Loft Preschool (which operates within the museum building), we let Reggio guide our practices in both; We operate under the idea that children are natural explorers, and that our role as teachers and parents is to help them explore.
But, we hear you saying, that sounds a lot like a Montessori school! We know; It can get confusing. So, here's a little about each philosophy to help you tell them apart, and to explain why our museum is the way it is.
"Reggio" is short for Reggio Emilia, a city in Italy in which schoolteacher Loris Malaguzzi collaborated with citizens after World War II to create a teaching method to help kids become better citizens.
Kid Time Children's Museum and The Learning Loft Preschool both operate under the basic Reggio principles that:
- Children are capable of constructing their own learning: In our museum this means we create exhibits in which children can follow their own interests and imagination. In our school this means that we do not write a curriculum for the entire school year with teachers, instead, following the interests of the children.
- Children form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through their interactions with others: Social and Emotional Growth is an incredibly important goal for our students. We spend a great deal of time and effort creating an individual approach for each child to practice and develop social and emotional skills.
- The environment is the third teacher. We work diligently to create museum and classroom spaces that are exciting, engaging, beautiful, and whenever possible constructed of all-natural materials. We believe presentation is of great importance so we design our spaces to reflect quality, the interests of the visitors/ students and the beauty of nature.
- Respect for "The Hundred Languages of Children". Reggio holds that all children learn differently. All children express their creativity differently. We - as adults, parents, teachers - must respect and foster these differences and appreciate them as unique gifts.
The Waldorf approach to learning is also play-based but includes more structure than the Reggio philosophy. Also called the "Steiner" approach after to its creator, Rudolph Steiner, the Waldorf school of thought holds that children should be taught to be morally responsible, socially capable, and creative as well as analytical. (The phrase "Waldorf school" came about after Mr. Steiner opened a school in 1919 at the request of the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company.) Waldorf institutions focus on creativity (art, singing, dancing, acting etc.) and cooperation. They place no emphasis on traditional academics or grading systems, and allow kids to learn at their own pace. Proponents of the Waldorf approach support teaching kids how, rather than what, to think.
The Montessori approach was developed by Maria Montessori in Rome in the late 1890's. In her work with developmentally challenged children Montessori focused on helping them build independence and learn by doing. The Montessori philosophy blends play with a touch of academics while allowing children to progress at their own speed. Classrooms are often comprised of children of several ages, and students frequently stay with the same teacher for years at a time. Special puzzle-like Montessori toys help children learn concepts by working towards a solution themselves rather than being taught.
The Montessori approach may be most identified with early learning but some institutions offer Montessori classrooms to children all the way through high school graduation.