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Art to Heart

The Third Teacher

Reggio Emilia, an approach to early childhood learning that began in Italy after World War II, puts great emphasis on the environment.

Each Reggio school includes a physical space called the atelier, or art studio, as well as a person with an arts background called the atelierista. “The choice to have the atelier and atelierista in all of these schools was a concrete act showing the importance of the arts,” explains Vea Vecchi, a consultant to the organization Reggio Children. “And this is because we believe that the imagination is what actually drives learning and knowledge building.”

In the Reggio approach, the environment is often referred to as the “third teacher” (the other two are parents and instructors). “We carried out a research project called ‘Children, Spaces, Relations.’ A book was published based on this research,” Vecchi says. “We believe that being in an environment that is beautiful and well cared for supports the development of quality relationships among the people in that environment.”

Find Out More

The Reggio Children web site has extensive information on the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Publications that can be ordered online include the “Children, Spaces, Relations” study, a joint research project conducted by Reggio Children and the Domus Academy Research Center of Milan. The study provides tools of analysis and practical indications for designing infant-toddler center and preschool spaces.

Aesthetic Codes in Early Childhood Classrooms, an article comparing the Reggio Emilia environment to the typical preschool environment, is posted at the DesignShare web site. DesignShare is an online community founded to share information on best practices and innovative ideas in learning environments from early childhood through adulthood.

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