Reflections on Reggio Emilia (2017)

In the spring of 2017, I had the opportunity to return to Reggio Emilia, Italy for a study tour of the municipal schools for young children. I was with a cohort of fellow graduate students from PSU and two early childhood professors from the Graduate School of Education. In my travels, readings, classroom observations, and discussions, I was thinking deeply about themes of fascism, conformity, and the danger of a single story, as well as multiplicity, creativity, divergent thinking, and the power of the counter narrative.  Here are just a few stories and reflections from my time in Reggio.

Bordercrossings

The Bordercrossings atelier at the Loris Malaguzzi Centre was a profound interactive and collaborative experience, where I witnessed the power of combining natural and digital elements for exploration. I wondered, what stories do natural materials have to tell us? How can we use natural materials to share our own stories? How can the use of digital media extend and push our thinking about the natural world?

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Remida

At ReMida, the creative reuse center in Reggio Emilia, I spent some time interacting with the materials. I wondered, what stories do reuse materials have to tell us? Perhaps they started out as raw materials… or were they developed for a particular use? Were they used as intended, or in other ways? Or maybe they were not used at all? Do materials have hopes of becoming something else? Do they hold the energy from their past life of joy, hope, disappointment? Can we transform reuse materials by giving them another life, and does the experience change us in return?

Encounters with Bruno Munari

I visited the little bookshop at the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre several times to choose books for myself and for my preschool classroom. It is a place of many treasures. But each time I returned I found myself drawn to one particular author whose name sounded vaguely familiar, Bruno Munari. His work is so whimsical and full of wonder, and the illustrations spoke to me. I picked up everything I could find…an amazing trilogy, Little Yellow, Little White, and Little Green Riding Hood, another children’s book called The Circus in the Mist, and a funny little surrealist picture book called Seeking Comfort in an Uncomfortable Chair. As I was leaving, I was surprised to see my favorite childhood book, Zoo, behind the checkout counter. I pointed to it with delight, and the young lady who runs the shop apologized to me…the book was not for sale.  It had been ordered for the children of Reggio Emilia. I explained to her that I have a copy from my own childhood. My grandmother kept it at her house for me when I was young and it is my favorite children’s book. It is so unusual, unlike any other children’s book I have seen. Ah, She exclaimed, that explains your love of Bruno Munari! I looked closer, and yes, Zoo was also written by Bruno Munari. The illustrations are in the same style, and it is written with incredible wit and humor; clearly with a deep regard for the intelligence of children. This “full circle” experience reminded me of all the many ways I feel deeply connected to the work of Reggio Emilia.
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