The Reggio Emilia approach comes from the Village of Reggio Emilia in Italy. The system was developed shortly after World War II, when the parents wanted to return their children to a love learning. The curriculum would not be a teacher-driven, set curriculum, but a dynamic one, focused on the children's interests. The Reggio Emilia approach has been in the United States since the 1960s, and it is currently one of the fastest growing approaches used for preschools. It is the basis for Google's on-site preschool for its Silicon Valley employees, and former Blue Man Group Members started a Reggio-inspired school in Manhattan called the Blue Man Creativity Center.
- There is no present curriculum- because we are Reggio-inspired, our curriculum comes from the inspiration and interest of the children. Their ideas are valued and explored. The teachers become "co-researchers" with the children as together they discover more about the project.
- We believe in creating an environment that is the "third teacher." Our classroom encourages hands-on interaction with materials, including natural materials, recycled materials, and manipulatives.
- Play and creativity abound- the children are encouraged to explore their environments through their senses. Artistic expression and creativity through art are vital to a child's growth and development. We have a studio dedicated to the art progress, filled with art materials, inspirational material and artists' work.
- We believe in instilling a sense of ownership and dignity in education. Because the children choose what direction the learning will take, they discover that their opinions have worth.
- The learning process far outweighs the actual outcome. Children learn best through exploration and hands-on environment.
- Compassion is at the heart of what we do. We install a sense of connectedness and responsibility for others through our actions as well as our words. Children are involved in "compassion projects" that encourage empathy and gratitude.
Art & Artistic Expression
We believe that the "...use of art makes the children's learning visible. The choice of materials and the use of recyclables allow the children to reveal their ideas in a variety of ways, encouraging creativity and the process of expression." This quotation from Kinderhaven's art director, Kelly Sindt, summarizes the importance of art in our curriculum. Drawing and sketching are part of the learning process, and the children love to make their work visible when they are too young to write full sentences about what they are seeing or what they are experiencing. At Kinderhaven, we have dedicated art studio filled with a variety of art supplies that encourage the children to express themselves through drawing, painting, coloring, working with clay, beading, and many, many more avenues. Because art is essential to their expression, dedicated time, planned activities and lessons, and free art are all integrated into the daily school day. Each year new materials and techniques are added, and by the Red Class, the children understand the properties of different art materials are drawn to various artists' work,
The children's art work is on display at Kinderhaven's Annual Art Show, and they all receive a portfolio of art work at the end of the year. As one parent stated, "We have matted and framed several of our child's pieces that were put up at the art show. They are fantastic, and so many people could not believe that our 4-year-old could create such incredible works of art."
Compassion & Kindness
Part of the Reggio inspiration is teaching children that with rights come responsibilities. Kinderhaven fosters compassion and kindness through intentional teaching opportunities and projects. Weekly lessons on kindness among friends, acceptance of differences, and helping others woven throughout the children's day. Compassion projects, usually tied to the children's larger classroom projects, are instituted by the children, teachers, and family. Over the years children have baked cookies for police officers, raised money to purchase shoes for children in need, made items and sold them in a pet store to raise money for homeless dog's surgery, collected over 1,500 pounds of food for local food banks, held a 40 Days of Compassion Campaign, created art for a nursing home, distributed scarves, hats, and mittens by placing them in location where homeless people often gather, and many, many more! As one former Kinderhaven Preschool Academy student stated, "I can tell Kinderhaven students from other students. He sees a problem and asks, 'What can we do?' That will continue to make a huge difference in the world."