Reggio Emilia – The environment is the ‘third’ teacher

Reggio Emilia educational approach and philosophy insists that children learn readily from their environment, and there for the environment is the ‘third’ teacher. I’m assuming that the teachers/parents and the child themselves are the first and second teachers.

So much has been written about this educational approach that I posted links to information below. You might wonder what an instructional designer is doing by focusing on pedagogy rather than adult learning theory. Perhaps it’s a result of my own efforts to deconstruct myself as a learner to better understand the subject of how to teach not just children but everyone regardless of their age. Next, I need to understand learning from the perspectives of others.

Also, I have this hunch that really building people who are ‘creative-workers’ takes more than just giving them internet access and the opportunities to collaborate. We need to think about how to raise these workers from the ground up. True businesses do fund a lot of educational events, but does it ever occur to them that helping people grow in understanding alternative ways of thinking starts from lessons you learn at a very young age?

I don’t believe that Reggio Emilia is the one and only approach to education. It’s an example of a model that is ideal. However, I believe that one of the cornerstones of a good education must be to provide learners with examples of learning that promote them to ask questions of their learning? To ask questions about what they observe and to learn from their environment. Yes, yes, yes… they still have to memorize times tables and Latin and Greek roots. Because naturally these are tools for learning. The focus should be on making connections with the rote learning and tools and application in the real world. Not just with storybook math problems about people taking trains and making connections. Children should be provided with opportunities to create their own story problems from their own experiences. True, the teacher still has to be an active guide helping these children achieve their questions and their answers (when possible). Teachers should take the role of post-modern mini-Socrates.

Not that this is the only example of this, but building a website offers children the opportunity to learn and apply knowledge and skills. Can you see where the language-arts, math, art, teambuilding skills are applied through these questions? The list below is just a start.

  • Who is going to do the work?
  • How will we divide the work?
  • How will we work together and follow needed schedules to accomplish our work?
  • What is our subject matter? Why is it important to us?
  • How will we produce the written content?
  • What standards will we hold for the written content?
  • What sizes (in inches/pixels) do we want for our webpages?
  • How do we reduce images that we find so they fit here proportionally?
  • What colors should we use?

What is Reggio Emilia?

Read More…

Side note and commentary – One of the things that frustrates me about education in general in our country is we (unintentionally) beat the desire to learn and explore out of students with the fundamental structuralist nature of or education approaches/systems. There’s so much emphasis on promoting creativity and the free flow of learning with younger children, but then how do we keep this going as children get older. Or do we hope that children have life-shaping experiences that cement the love of learning for them?

Links and Resources (some to start):

Reggio Emilia overview and links to books on the subject

Unpacking Observation and Documentation: Experiences from Italy, Sweden, and Australia *(Collected Works) – a collection of articles which includes observations by Gunila Danberg on an attempt to adopt Reggio Emilia practices in Swedish Schools. Some of the observations on being adaptive and making sure that a school/culture approaches R.E. to fit and involve “the whole organization” is important. Also, this paper treats some key questions in applying Reggio Emilia (and any other approach) in shaping a child’s learning and success at learning, do we refer to the ‘ideal’ pedagogical model of the child? How does this restrict us in educating the child?

Aesthetic Codes in Early Childhood Classrooms: What Art Educators Can Learn from Reggio Emilia* (Article)

Discovering Regio Emilia, Building Connections Between Learning and Art *(Paper)

*Available thru ERIC

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2 Responses to “Reggio Emilia – The environment is the ‘third’ teacher”


  1. 1 Jan Zeiger August 24, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Yeah, it’s actually getting worse. Even many kindergarten classes this day focus on comforming and academics rather than social skills and creative thinking.

  2. 2 nkilkenny August 26, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Conforming huh… sounds like a politicians ideal society. Though I think that some of the I’m special messages are good for children, I think that they sometimes are overplayed. How about I’m fundamentally special, but to be something really extraordinary I’ve got to work at it.


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