ASIJ’s Early Learning Center (ELC) primary educational philosophy uses the fundamentals of the Reggio Emilia approach to preschool learning. ASIJ focuses on developing the principles of respect, responsibility, and community in all students through an educational environment that stresses exploration, discovery, and enrichment based on the interests of children. The ASIJ ELC program teaches young learners to begin to take control of the direction of learning, to learn through the experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing, and to learn in a group with other children.
The classroom environment is another major piece of the Reggio approach, with the physical environment of the classroom often labelled the “third teacher.” At the ELC, natural light, indoor plants, kitchens, and displays of children’s work are combined with the ample classroom materials that are essential to the Reggio philosophy. ELC parents also play a vital role in the education of their preschool children. Parents are partners with the school and are expected to volunteer within their child’s classroom.
Recently, Dr. Lella Gandini from the Reggio Emilia region of Italy spoke to ASIJ parents and a small group of teachers at an ELC PTA-sponsored Parent Education Session. Dr. Gandini is the Reggio Children’s United States liaison for the Dissemination of the Reggio Emilia Approach, and serves as Associate Editor of Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Exchange. She is also co-author and co-editor of The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation. Dr. Gandini’s presentation was inspirational and uplifting, as the ASIJ community continues to look to the Reggio Approach for inspiration in the understanding of children, with the school’s project approach, and in how children and their work is documented. She spoke about the roles of children, teachers, and parents, all learning together.
The school is fortunate that four of the ELC teachers have the opportunity to work with Dr. Gandini for two days at the Japan ASCD Spring Conference. — MATT WILCE