Purpose at the heart of a new Early Learning Centre

Principal Shauna Colnan shared “lessons from Reggio Emilia” with key IGS colleagues and BVN architects as they begin to work together to imagine a new IGS Early Learning Centre.

Early Learning Centre planning
Early Learning Centre planning

“The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education can inspire us to reflect on and strengthen our own work with children,” Shauna explained.

Wednesday’s workshop represented the start of the consultation process towards developing a concept design for the new Early Learning Centre which we envision will be constructed in 2021.

This, along with a new entrance to the School, playground and cafe, making better use of the ground floor of The Reg St Leon Building, is the third landmark project of the IGS Master Plan.

Now that we are using the Design Centre, The Global Leaning Centre and have designs in place for the Bibliothèque and a new Centre for the Dramatic Arts, it’s time to move on this exciting new project.

In her presentation, The Red Thread, Shauna discussed the importance of purpose, and invited IGS colleagues to examine their own gifts, energy and sense of purpose, as well as what they would consider to be the ideal characteristics of an ideal Early Learning Centre. They even put forward names for a new centre.

The crucible of educational philosophies created in the aftermath of war-torn Italy by women who wanted a more humane life for their children, Reggio Emilia “is a site of research, ideas-exchange, professional development, exploration, reflection and inspiration”.

“Loris Malaguzzi … heard about the women of Villa Cella, rode his bike out to help them, and devoted his entire life to developing the schools for the young children of Reggio Emilia,” Shauna said.

Malaguzzi believed that:

  • Children are active protagonists with rights.
  • Children possess 100 languages.
  • At the heart of the educational project are participation, listening, curiosity, research through documentation, ongoing professional development, collaboration and a lack of hierarchy and exhibitions of children’s learning experiences.
  • The physical environment is the third teacher.
  • The Atelier gives value to the expressive potential and creativity of each child.

“The Atelier refers to the workshops historically used by artists. Malaguzzi chose the term to refer to the school workshop, or studio, furnished with a variety of resource materials and used by all the children and adults in a school, she explained.

“The Atelierista is an educator with a background in the visual or expressive arts, in charge of the Atelier. Aelieristas support teachers in curriculum development and documentation; and support and develop children’s and adults’ expressive languages as part of the complex process of knowledge building.”

Shauna explained that “the red thread” is a symbol for connecting, binding, uniting and making meaning.

“The Red Thread can be seen as a metaphor for describing the beliefs, passions, values and goals that tie together and unite a teacher’s practice over time and across contexts.”

Considered together with “Ariadne’s thread”, it can symbolise “the story of the vast work done by teachers.”

Shauna referred to international Reggio Emilia specialist Professor Carla Rinaldo: “Teachers hold the threads, construct and constitute the weave and the connections, the warp and weft of relations, transforming them into meaningful interactions and communication.”

She also shared with colleagues Professor Howard Gardner’s view that: “Reggio gives hope. Hope that it is possible to think and act differently, to become an island of dissension and to create a local cultural project that has the courage to live with uncertainty and change. The early childhood centres in Reggio stand as a shining testament to human possibilities.”

It was a productive workshop that has unearthed inspiring new ideas from our wonderful Early Learning staff about what a new Early Learning Centre at IGS could be like.