ISMILE and ISHINE Preschool and Kindergarten educators have brought their children’s learning to a higher level by providing a richer environment, more valuable documentation, and significant time for reflection, as well as provoking the children to think with unlimited possibilities.
Like in the Reggio Emilia approach, ISMILE and ISHINE educators’ believe that:
Children are capable of constructing their own learning. They are driven by their interests to understand and know more.
Children form an understanding of themselves and their environment in the world through their interactions with others. There is a strong focus on social collaboration, working in groups, where each child is an equal participant, having their thoughts and questions valued. The adult is not the giver of knowledge. Children search out the knowledge through their own investigations.
Children are communicators. Communication is a process, a way of discovering things, asking questions, using language as play. Playing with sounds and rhythm and rhyme; delighting in the process of communicating.
Children are encouraged to use language to investigate and explore, to reflect on their experiences. They are listened to with respect, believing that their questions and observations are an opportunity to learn and search together. It is a process; a continual process. A collaborative process.
The environment is the third teacher. The environment is recognized for its potential to inspire children. An environment filled with natural light, order and beauty. Open spaces free from clutter, where every material is considered for its purpose, every corner is ever-evolving to encourage children to delve deeper and deeper into their interests.
The space encourages collaboration, communication and exploration.
The adult is an observer, provider and a mentor. Our role as adults is to observe the children, listen to their questions and their stories, find what interests them and then provide them with opportunities to explore these interests further. The Reggio Emilia Approach takes a child-led project approach. The projects aren’t planned in advanced, they emerge based on the child’s interests.
An emphasis on documenting children’s thoughts. ISMILE and ISHINE emphasize on carefully displaying and documenting children’s thoughts and progression of thinking; making their thoughts visible in many different ways: photographs, transcripts of children’s thoughts and explanations, visual representations (drawings, sculptures etc.), all designed to show the child’s learning process.
The Hundred Languages of Children. Probably the most well-known aspect of the Reggio Emilia Approach. The belief that children use many different ways to show their understanding and express their thoughts and creativity. A hundred different ways of thinking, of discovering, of learning. Through drawing and sculpting, through dance and movement, through painting and pretend play, through modelling and music, and that each one of these Hundred Languages must be valued and nurtured. These languages, or ways of learning, are all a part of the child. Learning and play are not separated. The Reggio Emilia Approach emphasizes hands-on discovery learning that allows the child to use all their senses and all their languages to learn.
Living with Lifelong Learners
The beginning of the school year brought with it an enormous amount of new knowledge, new ways of thinking and new opportunities for growth for all of us. One would think that with the tremendous responsibility of applying new methods (and even perception), teachers would have been overwhelmed, confused and disheartened. It was gratifying to witness the opposite happen. Yes, there were confusions and some growing pains, but the teachers were not only able to persevere but thrive.
Reading their documentations and watching their faces when they talk about their learning journeys with their kids – excitedly sharing new discoveries and trying out new possibilities – my heart smiles at how far we have all grown. Yes, we still have a long way to go – a lot of learning to do – but we do this with enthusiasm for the school has truly become not only a learning environment for the young, but more so for the (much) older learners. This proves how effective teachers are indeed the most avid learners.
In “A Return to Community: Inquiry in Action” Ann H. MacKenzie wrote: “We must model… inquisitiveness in the classrooms. Our students must see us involved in our own life-long learning… Watch us passionately immerse ourselves in our own curiosities.”