Four Program Elements of the Reggio Emilia – Inspired Environment: Teaching Discovery with Community

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Part 2 of the ELEMENTS SERIES.

The Reggio Emilia Pedagogical Approach defines the learning environment as the Third Teacher, after the classroom teacher and the parents.   The Reggio Emilia approach was created in the village of Reggio Emilio by Loris Malaguzzi and the parents of that community.  It is based on the principle that it takes a village to raise a child.

Teachers are encouraged to co-plan the learning environment with the students who will be using it as a way of allowing the student to invest themselves into their environment and feel comfortable in it.  The curriculum is self-guided and emphasizes curiosity, community, respect, and responsibility.   Students are encouraged to express themselves and engage with others and their environment in sensorial ways.  Parents are partners in this approach and often volunteer in the schools.  This partnership between parents and teachers extends the learning environment into the home.


Reggio Emilia - Inspired Environment1    Engaging Displays and Spaces

  • Provocations
  • Elaborate Variety of Materials
  • Self-Made Art  and Collections
  • Ample Wall Display Space and Options (Chalk,  Dry Erase, Peg, Cork, etc.)

Variation in rooms and available materials allow the environment to respond to the child’s changing interests.  Great care is taken to display a full range of options for a given subject or topic.  Displays invite curiosity and discovery.  Students participate in designing and making the artwork, which is integrated into most projects.

“The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences. We must widen the range of topics and goals, the types of situations we offer and their degree of structure, the kinds and combinations of resources and materials, and the possible interactions with things, peers, and adults.” Loris Malaguzzi


Reggio Emilia - Inspired Environment2    Community Connections

  • Piazza or Common Area
  • Window Walls
  • Passages
  • Open Kitchen
  • Class Phones
  • Meeting Spaces

A Reggio Emilia environment seeks connections between the classroom, the school, and to the community it lives in.  There are views between inside and outside spaces, between classrooms and the rest of the school, and egress to outside in most rooms.  The rooms can communicate with one another with phones, passages, and views.  Awareness of the school community is fostered by keeping spaces, like the kitchen and offices, open.  Parents are invited to participate at the school in just bout any way they can.


Reggio Emilia - Inspired Environment3    Natural Elements

  • Found Objects
  • Natural Lighting through Window Walls and Skylights
  • Dialog Opportunities Between All Groups

Nature finds it’s way into the Reggio Emilia-inspired school in many ways.  It seeps in through large open windows and doors.  It is carried in by scavenger student looking for materials for their next masterpiece.  It also comes in the form of organic conversations and mentoring that happens as a result of the student-centered curriculum and exploration.


4    Classroom Ateliers

  • Quiet AreaReggio Emilia - Inspired Environment
  • Active Area
  • Work Surfaces
  • Steps

Ateliers can be found throughout the school and classrooms in a Reggio Emilia-inspired environment.  They are large and small to accommodate different gathering sizes from two people, three people, five people, to whole classes.  Like the materials, it is important to provide a wide range of options work areas.  Quiet areas allow reading and reflection.  Active areas allow games and exercises.  Work areas are designed so that there is a place for every material to be discovered.


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Author: Autumn Rennie

I am the Author and Publisher of Four Little Thiiiings. Prior to this, I worked as an architectural designer for educational and mixed-use developments in the Atlanta area. You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, , and LinkedIn.

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