Reggio Approach


“I took Micah to the Petaluma Wildlife Museum last Saturday,

and while we were looking at a fossilized ammonite shell there he told me

“we’ve been learning about spirals at school.”

He has gotten so much from Arts in The Garden on so many levels.

The spiral seems like a great metaphor for life’s journey,

either way you look at it.” 

Scott, parent 



At Arts in the Garden we are influenced by an eclectic approach to education with teachings from a wide array of theories and practices. Among these are the inspirations from the educators in Reggio Emilia. The Reggio Approach is not a predetermined structure for conducting a school or designing curriculum. It is a philosophy of working with children and the environments we are in. It is an approach that is always changing and expanding as people come together to engage in learning processes. We enter this approach with curious and open minds ready to observe, reflect and respect children exactly where they are and where they might want to go. We are here as a canvas for their unfolding of ideas as they explore new tools, stretch their imaginations and grapple with their emotions and social connections.




The Child as the Protagonist

Children are viewed as strong, rich, and capable; as having preparedness, potential, curiosity and interest in constructing their learning, negotiating with everything their environment brings to them.

The Child as Collaborator

Education has to focus on each child in relation to other children, the family, the teachers and the community rather than on each child in isolation. There is an emphasis on work in small groups. This practice is based on the social constructivist model that supports the idea that children thinking and understandings are increased through interaction with peers, adults, experiences and symbols.

The Child as Communicator

This approach fosters children’s intellectual development through a systematic focus on symbolic representation, including words, movement, drawing, painting, building, sculpture, shadow play, collage, dramatic play, and music leading children to surprising levels of communication, symbolic skills, and creativity. Children have the right to use many materials in order to discover and communicate what they know, understand, wonder about, question, feel, and imagine. In this way, they make their thinking visible through their many natural “languages”. A studio teacher (atelierista) trained in the visual arts, works closely with children to enable them to explore many materials and to use a great number of languages to make their thinking visible.

The Environment as Third Teacher

The design and use of space encourage encounters, communication, and relationships.There is an underlying order and beauty in the design and organization of all the space in a school and the equipment and materials within it. Every corner of every space has an identity and a purpose, is rich in potential to engage and to communicate, and is valued and cared for by children and adults.

The Teacher as Partner, Provocateur, Nurturer and Guide

Teachers facilitate and provoke children’s exploration of themes, work on short- and long-term projects and guide experiences of joint, open-ended discovery and problem solving. To know how to plan and proceed with their work, teachers listen and observe children closely. Teachers ask questions; discover children’s ideas, hypotheses, and theories and provide occasions for discovery and learning.

Teacher as Researcher

Teachers work together and maintain strong, collegial relationships with all staff; they engage in continuous discussion and interpretation of their work and the work of children. These exchanges provide ongoing training and theoretical enrichment. Teachers see themselves as researchers preparing documentation with children who they also view as researchers.

Documentation as Communication

Careful consideration is given to the presentation of the thinking of the children and the adults who work with them. Ideally (considering time and financial constraints facing educators), teachers’ write commentary on the purposes of the study and the children’s learning process, transcription of children’s verbal language, photographs of their activity, and representations of their thinking in different media are composed to present the process of learning. The documentation serves many purposes. It makes parents aware of their children’s experience. It allows teachers to better understand children, to evaluate their own work and to exchange ideas with other educators. Documentation also shows children that their work is valued and creates an archive tracing the history of the school and the pleasure in the process of learning experienced by all.

The Parent as Partner

Parent participation takes many forms in Reggio-inspired American schools. The foundation of this approach comes from the schools in Reggio Emilia whose system was built upon parents playing an active part in their children’s learning experience and helping ensure the welfare of all the children in the school. The Reggio philosophy supports a framework that encourages ideas and skills that the families bring to the school. It also supports the exchange of ideas between parents and teachersas an intrinsic element of collegiality and the integration of different wisdoms.