What is the Reggio Emilia approach?

By Megan Haynes

While Reggio Emilia is not as widely known as Montessori or Waldorf, it is starting to attract a devoted following in the United States. Several of you have asked for more historical information on Reggio and where this philosophy originated. Here’s five important things to know about Reggio Emilia, its history in Italy, and the future of this approach to early learning.

1. The Reggio approach is geared towards early childhood education. 

Similar to Montessori, Reggio is a child-centered, progressive approach to early learning. The guiding principle is that children are viewed as strong, capable, and resilient; rich with wonder and knowledge. While I have learned about elementary and high schools using Reggio-inspired ideas, the large majority of schools are geared towards toddlers and preschool children. 

2. Reggio grew out of the aftermath of World War II.

After World War II, the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy was destroyed. A young teacher by the name of Loris Malaguzzi saw the need to rebuild society, starting with children. He developed a constructivist approach which valued the ability of children to learn spontaneously through hands-on learning. 

3. Reggio is an International Movement.

The first Reggio school opened in the 1940s in Italy. Now Reggio Emilia-inspired schools have spread to 34 countries where it inspires over 75,000 children and families. In Fort Collins, the two Reggio-inspired schools are the Early Childhood Center at CSU and Roots & Wings. Also, there is a “Wonder of Learning” exhibit that travels all over the world explaining the Reggio approach. This summer the exhibit will be in Ann Arbor, MI and you can click here for a full list of future dates.

4. It is not a formal, doctrine approach.

Contrary to Waldorf and Montessori schools, there is no formal teacher training, credentialing, or authorization to become a Reggio-inspired school. The only “Reggio Emilia” schools are the ones based in the Reggio Emilia region in Italy. The schools in the United States use the same ideas and philosophies as Italy and refer to themselves as Reggio Emilia-inspired. 

5. Reggio Children is the organization that supports the Reggio approach.

Reggio Children is based in Reggio Emilia, Italy. This organization provides training materials, courses, and curriculum to support Reggio-inspired schools all over the world. 

For more information on how Reggio Emilia compares to Montessori and Waldorf, check out this article I wrote which explains the different styles and includes a list of specific preschools in Fort Collins.

Photo credits: Reggio Emilia, Italy, Wonder of Learning