by Professor Michael Patte, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Adjunct Professor of The University of the West Indies-Family Development Centre
A colleague and I recently visited the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy, with 20 undergraduate students to explore the city’s world renowned philosophy of preschool education. This constructivist pedagogical approach that endorses experiential learning was developed following World War II by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi and parents from the surrounding communities. At its core is the belief that children are endowed with a hundred symbolic languages (drama, painting, sculpting, etc.) for expressing themselves in everyday life. The study abroad summer practicum immersed the university students in the Italian culture and provided multiple opportunities through professional development workshops and preschool visits to experience the Reggio Emilia approach first hand. During evening reflection sessions, my colleague and I facilitated rich discussions that compared and contrasted the American educational philosophies with those of Reggio Emilia. One of the major differences identified between the American and Italian educational contexts was the vital role of the classroom environment.