The Reggio Emilia approach to education is based on nine principles that inspire and guide teaching practices. Of the nine, the image of the child, I would argue, is the most important. Reggio educator Carlina Rinaldi defines it by stating that “the child is a producer of culture, values, and rights, competent in learning and competent in communicating with all the hundred languages.” Let’s unpack this.
Image of the child is a concept that powers all areas of the school community. It means that:
- We view children in a strength model, full of potential, not empty vessels for teachers to fill. (50)
- We create an environment that welcomes children with a sense of security and acceptance. (51)
- Children learn in relationship with the school environment and cultural context we create. (51)
- The hundred languages is another principle of the approach, which means that children are capable of expressing their learning when teachers provide the right materials. These languages or materials include, but are not limited to paint, wire, clay, writing, drawing, natural materials and found materials.
Each adult in our school has an image of children and evidence of it can be found throughout the building. As you look around the school, please note the following three practices are intentionally promoting our image of children.
1. Image of the Child and our belief of its power can be found in each Discovery’s identity panel. Identity panels are permanent displays constructed in different ways, but all include photographs of each child and their names. It may seem simple, but when you walk into a classroom and see pictures of yourself and your friends, it sends a message that who you are is important. Many teaching teams combine photographs of children with self-portraits. For early writers these identity boards also double as references for recording friends’ names and message writing. Check out Discovery C’s identity photos on their blog too!
2. Image of the child suggests we honor who children are and strive to build relationships with them to inform teaching practices. The summer provocation asked children to think about their personal connections to our school wide study topic: The Relationship between the Inside and the Outside. Children responded with work including photographs, paintings, poems, posters and songs. Each classroom is busy using these provocations to build communities and uncover possible yearlong projects. Teachers use these provocations to learn how your child learns, thinks and their interests. A big thank you to families for supporting the provocation!
3. Image of the Child values children’s thinking and makes it visible to others. This holding board from Discovery B highlights what children know about writing and communicating with peers. Last year teachers found that K-1 writers do their best writing when it is connected to a meaningful context. The holding board organizes photographs of children building and writing together in addition to children’s stories about their buildings. The holding board becomes a living way to elevate children’s work and plan individualized instruction. Teacher observations, titles, dates and objectives help teachers, parents and children read the board and make meaning. Families are always encouraged to visit the classroom holding boards.
Image of the child is a belief that children are capable and requires a continual dialogue to keep this principle in mind and in practice. I encourage you to look for these examples and other ways that a strong image of children can be found in our school community. If you would like to read more about this principle, the excerpts I have borrowed can be found in Bambini: The Italian Approach to Infant/Toddler Care, edited by Lella Gandini and Carolyn Pope Edwards. If you’d rather talk about it, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org