ACM 2012: Reggio Emilia and children’s museums

Posted by on May 14, 2012 in TechMuse Blog, The Museum Learning Experience, Uncategorized | 0 comments

ACM 2012: Reggio Emilia and children’s museums

So now, after a visit to a leading museum based on Reggio, a keynote by the leading researcher of Reggio in the U.S., and a few trips over to Wikipedia, I think I’m coming to grips with what the Reggio Emilia approach is, and how it might effect museums.  (And even have a few thoughts about appropriate technology with Reggio).

What is the Reggio Emilia approach?  Here’s what I know: it’s drawn from a city in Italy (Reggio Emilia) in response to community needs after World War II.  It is in line with progressive approaches to education including those of Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner, Gardner and others. It has a strong focus on the child — listening to what he/she is doing, and responding with activity suggestions that amplify that interest. It is based in a classroom environment filled with natural materials with which the child can interact and create. And it draws on close connections with parents and the surrounding community.

A couple quotes from presentations at Interactivity 2012:

  • “Every child is a gifted child for whom there has to be a gifted teacher” (teachers listen/observe/conference on a child’s positive interactions and direct him/her toward activities that further grow those gifts)
  • “The environment is the third teacher” (natural materials that encourage play and exploration are laid out in an environment structured for that exploration)

We had the pleasure of an evening reception (aka, “party”, with amazing food, unusual doughnuts, and some libations) at Portland Children’s Museum, also home of Opal School, a charter elementary  school and preschool based on Reggio principles.  Walking through exhibits, which are really more open-ended program spaces for exploration, you see why this is an extraordinary leading edge museum/school. Materials in the spaces are beautiful: smooth stones that lend themselves to stacking, tall sculptures of twigs, moss and other materials created collaboratively by kids, and a range of other intrinsically engaging materials.  Here’s an inspiring video shown at the conference demonstrating some of this.

Does media fit in at all here?  (One of the perennial questions about children’s museums and technology). And, interestingly, media plays an important role, in the form of documenting a child’s interactions through photos, video, and other media.  (I will definitely be writing more about this in the future, and shaping my storykiosk work to support these types of environments and interactions.)

Now I think I’m beginning to understand…


playing with natural materials kids' sculpture











unusual doughnuts

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