Learning is a lifelong process of love that begins when we are born. Here’s how the Atelier intends to keep that love alive and well.
What do parents look for in a preschool? The usual list crops up – basic writing and math skills, school readiness at 6, the ability to adjust to a larger school setup.
Children eventually achieve these milestones but a sense of wonder and curiosity are hard to reclaim. Don’t we all lose this secret ingredient as we grow up? We punch the gears and get to the next meeting, forgetting about those masterful sand castles we constructed as kids or that guitar we tuned on our own back in the third grade. We lose our special abilities.
In Bangalore, the Reggio approach is gaining popularity and it is easy to see why. It gets children to think for themselves and remain curious.
This spike in Reggio’s popularity is evidenced by the Atelier coming to Bangalore. A popular Reggio Emilia inspired preschool in Guwahati, the Atelier will open its doors to children in Bangalore in August 2016 on Sarjapur Road. It is co-founded by Rythm and Ashutosh Agarwal and offers Reggio-inspired learning for pre-schoolers till age 6.
Rythm’s parents, Neena and Ashutosh Agarwal, have been working in education in Guwahati for the past three decades. They started their first studio there because of the city’s lack of quality preschool education. Says Rythm, “We would see children entering K1 years at our sister concerns, already laden with inhibitions. Deep inside there arose a passion for education which makes each child feel valued as they grow up.”
The Atelier has published a coffee table book on its work with Reggio. In its foreword, famous theatre artist Sanjana Kapoor marvels at the studio’s children, who are learning about camouflaging by actually making creatures and painting them in the colours of their surroundings.
Here are 4 ways in which the Reggio Emilia approach can rejig your child’s preschool explorations
1. It places the child at the centre
The Reggio philosophy pluralizes education. It respects every child as an individual.
At the Atelier, for instance, children embark on a project of their own interest. Each session sees children make graphic representations of the topic explored. If the entire class decides to do a project on a space station in Mars, then they research the need for sufficient fuel in tanks and oxygen masks before taking off from earth to Mars. There are innumerable group discussions and meaning is co-constructed. Each child is nurtured to develop his or her own vocabulary of the world. Each child is given a voice.
2. Its emergent curriculum equips children with solid skills for the future
Reggio’s emergent curriculum encourages skills like documentation and research, very high-level analytical skills and useful tools to record processes and to study the world. Reggio also encourages a multidisciplinary approach and abstract thinking very early in life, and in fun ways. These are skills that any job market will value.
My personal reason to love the emergent curriculum? It does not eliminate the imagination. So many famous approaches in education stress on method and order but what about embracing the chaos? Art, visualization, abstract thinking and imaginary play are Reggio’s treasures. At the Atelier, children discover practical life experiences – to learn about numbers, they measure objects. They are told that if they carry numbers in their pockets, they can put them to use everywhere they like.
Five-year-olds measure a table using both inches and centimetres – two sides of a measuring tape and are amazed to see that there are two different results for the same table! Their finding? “The blue numbers are going faster but the red has more gap between two numbers.”
3. It develops tremendous emotional awareness
Reggio originated as a community driven approach. Children are encouraged to foster relationships, invest in conversations, learn from nature and to perceive the world in both chaos and order, giving them strong emotional awareness. They are respected as individuals and this gives them self-confidence.
Says Rythm, “We partner with parents in their children’s education. We share detailed documentations of the children’s projects with them and invite them to participate as mentors. Parents find the documentations extremely helpful in having meaningful conversations with children. Children in return feel that their work is valued and acknowledged.”
4. It lays a strong foundation for math and literacy skills
In Reggio, art, math, creativity and science rub shoulders with ease. How does the Atelier run with this approach?
Says Rythm, “Children develop strong language and logical skills by being in the presence of print-rich environments and interactions that advance very rapidly, because they are enjoyable. A child begins replicating “writing” the first time they hold a pen/pencil/crayon and starts scribbling on paper (or even walls). To children their scribbles have meaning. Speaking with children about what their scrawls mean encourages them to use this language more often. This process eventually leads to an organic growth in their literacy and logical skills.
As they grow and gain familiarity with letters of the alphabet, they write and mail letters to friends and family, and sometimes even to the trees or to Saturn! They make lists, label their drawings (they learn this from the educators making notes when the children represent their learning through drawing), weave and write stories.”
At the end of the child’s education at the Atelier, the educators work with each family’s requirements for school readiness in grade 1. Depending on the curriculum and the school that the parents choose, the Atelier develops personalised learning plans for each child.
To see the gifts that Reggio unmasks in a child, check out the Atelier’s video below: