Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Internationality Helps Us Construct Our Learning

A topic that has been discussed frequently during the conference and had an entire day of focus was the subject of internationality. This topic is valued by the Reggio organization because as we begin to learn how the Reggio approach plays out in different contexts, we can reflect on our own practices and perhaps construct new meanings for what we do in our school.

In Reggio Emilia, internationality is celebrated and honored for its examination of differences; it’s not an attempt to find commonalities or melt everyone together. If we choose to focus on differences, this offers the opportunity to broaden our view points.

Several participants from around the world were selected to present information from their contexts.

Clare from Australia shared a story about a community’s shift in its image of children when an organization wanted to make a public library more accessible for families. The prevailing sentiment among the library officials was that children were loud, destructive, and messy and did not have a place at the library. And, you want to let them do art there? Clare and her organization worked to bring change in the library: providing parents information to help them plan their visit, enlarging the entrance to allow strollers to pass through, providing spaces for families to gather, and developing themes with artistic possibilities to provide a thread. Through this work, the image of the child has shifted among the library officials and children are now welcome visitors in all parts of the library, even the “white glove” special collection section.

Krystin from Iceland shared a change in the way children in her school transitioned from home to the preschool classroom at the beginning of their preschool journey. The school had been allowing a graduated start for the children, which would result in a period of 7-14 days for children to attend a full school day. (In Iceland full day/week preschool is available at age 3 and almost everyone takes advantage of it). The teachers reflected on this practice of having a graduated start and realized that it was rooted in trying to help children practice being away from their parents. Instead, they decided that they wanted children to practice doing school comfortably. They also took into consideration that starting school was a huge change for the entire family. So, in the first weeks of school last year, teachers carried out a regular program and invited parents to be in the classrooms and stay as long as they needed to help everyone adjust to the change. It took families about 3-4 days to transition to preschool, with children staying the full day without their parents.

Josephine and Yvonne from Mexico City shared a project about trees. They work in an inner city private preschool without much open green space. However, there was a small tree growing fruit in their yard. The children noticed this and thought it was a lemon tree since the fruit was yellow. A few weeks later the fruit ripened and the children realized they were peaches. Someone wondered if trees grow many kinds of fruits. A project about fruits, trees, cacti and flowers grew from this conversation. Because of the school’s urban setting, the teachers showed the value of planning visits to places like orchards so children could collect “field notes” and hear from experts.

Finally, Anshul from India offered his perspective on the many recent changes in India, which include a growing positive image of the country in the global economy. However, leaders there have begun to realize that a new kind of talent must be grown among the society to continue its participation. Only recently did a law pass that makes education compulsory at age 6—a great step for India. Anshul acknowledges that it will take a huge mind shift among Indian leaders (and perhaps a life changing event) to bring about significant changes to the educational system there, but he sees the Minister of Education as a person who actively works to make change. Anshul has opened 3 Reggio inspired preschools in India and is using his connections to the media industry to get the word out to the Indian people about the aspects of quality programs.

Stayed tuned for more—coming up soon—about the poster session where we shared BHCP work with our international community here!

1 comment:

  1. This post is very thought provoking for me because I often think about the RE philosophy is meaningful in our American school. The idea of focusing on our differences as a means to expand our thinking is as powerful locally as it is internationally. It is a habit of mind both difficult and worth cultivating.