Friday, April 4, 2014

Reggio-inspired Opportunities for Spring

Photo Credit: Andrea Fox Jensen
Spring always needs a little prodding here in the Upper Midwest, and especially this reluctant spring. While the new green shoots and forward observers are slow in making their presence known, some Reggio-inspired opportunities are, fortunately, appearing and delivering promise.  

The Reggio-inspired opportunities emerging this spring have been brought along by the November museums group study tour in Reggio Emilia (IT). Our group of 50 participants from 11 museums including partners from higher ed, libraries, community organizations, early childhood, and preschools enjoyed presentations by early childhood specialists, educators, and studio teachers. We visited infant-toddler centers and preschools, explored dynamic and beautiful exhibit spaces, discussed museum documentation projects, and investigated the Reggio-museum connection.

In following our curiosity and questions about adapting Reggio practices to museum settings, we encountered new possibilities, extended our imaginations about children’s potential, and sometimes took unexpected turns in our thinking. It is fair to say many of us returned to our museums, schools, and community centers wrapped in a powerful, invigorating confusion of possibilities. Eager to harness the sparks and insights of this intense and inspiring experience, many of us have since been building on existing projects, following new connections, and sharing work one another. Several opportunities are coming up and are worth exploring.

 Opal School of the Portland Children’s Museum, a Reggio-inspired tuition-based preschool and public charter elementary school, has a series of current offerings that extend their imagination regarding the capacity of children. A new e-book, Creating Possible Worlds: The Teacher’s Role in Nurturing a Community Where Imagination Thrives, documents a year of study in the preschool classroom that explored how the world of imagination and storytelling supports the world of science and reason. Five multimedia modules are also available at Opal School Online. Upcoming events in Portland include: Reading the World, May 1-2, that studies the role of quality in education and features the opportunity to observe class in session. The annual Summer Symposium is June 19-21 where Opal School teacher-researchers are joined by colleagues for reflection on a year of teaching and learning, exploring the role of materials in education, and connecting to the natural world.  
Two Reggio-inspired pre-conferences have been added to InterActivity 2014, the Association of Children’s Museum’s annual conference in Phoenix (AZ) this year. The Reggio approach and children’s museums are strongly aligned around some foundational areas: an important role for the environment and materials in learning, parent engagement, and strong community connections. Building on the museums study tour, responding to interest, and providing new starting points for Reggio-inspired practice in museums, the pre-conferences are an opportunity to explore Reggio ideas, insights and practices from a children’s museum perspective. Scheduled for May 13, these pre-conferences are for anyone interested in Reggio-inspired practice and working in or with museums. The morning pre-conference is Exploring Foundational Ideas in a Museum Context; the afternoon pre-conference is Making the Reggio-Children’s Museum Connection.

• Wheelock College in Boston is hosting an Inquiry Institute on June 19 that will explore ways to document informal learning in museum settings as well as open a conversation that explores ways of using documentation in public and visible ways. Bobbi Rosenquest and Stephanie Cox Suarez are planning this institute with other members of the DIG group (Democracy Inquiry Group) made up of teacher educators and faculty from several Boston area colleges. Jeri Robinson and staff from the Boston Children’s Museum; Julie Berenson, director of learning and engagement from the De Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park and the Lincoln Nursery School (Lincoln, MA); and two New Hampshire teachers working with artists will share new work-in progress. DIG recently published a special issue on documentation in The New Educator with articles targeting educators, families, mayors, stakeholders.

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  1. Thanks for this article. Inspires me to learn more about the Reggio Emilia approach.

  2. Kristin, I encourage you to follow your interest. Check out some of the links above and get inspired with a visit to: Interest in Reggio ideas from museums and museum colleagues is growing and so, I imagine, will opportunities for exploring more, more deeply, and with others.