Marina Castagnetti – who many might remember as the keynote speaker at our 2017 conference – was out in South Africa again from 23-25 October 2018, this time as part of the Italian delegation visiting South Africa for the SA-Italy Summit, and the annual celebration of Oliver Tambo’s life.
Marina was one of the keynote speakers during the ECD seminar that took place during this summit. In describing Reggio Emilia as an “education city”, she highlighted the remarkable role parents had played and continue to play in the educational project of Reggio Emilia and spoke of the deep relationship existing between the staff of the schools, the pedagogistas, the municipality, and the community of Reggio Emilia. She posed questions about one’s first impressions as one first walked through the door of a school: “What kind of school is this? What opportunities are there for children to explore, to be listened to, to reflect on and ask their own questions?”
In reviewing ways in which early childhood centres in Gauteng could begin to transform and embrace the Reggio Emilia approach, she suggested that schools and teachers:
- Start with the physical environment: The secret is to think differently about it, to see how it can be changed to reflect and allow for the Reggio Emilia approach to flourish.
- Ensure that teachers (and other staff) have opportunities for ongoing professional development to deepen their understanding of the values of the Reggio Emilia approach.
- Offer multiple opportunities for children to create and communicate through many languages of expression, and focus on the diffusion of the culture of the atelier and of learning inside the school. She gave the example of South Africa’s wonderful natural environment as a rich resource for materials to support and provoke learning. The Reggio Emilia approach is to “discover another way of working”.
- Arrange visits by pedagogistas from Reggio Emilia to improve and develop educational practice from a theoretical point of view and thus to deepen the quality of the daily life and experiences of children in a school.
- Collaborate in organising one of the Reggio Children exhibitions in South Africa, during which there could be opportunities for atelieristas from Reggio Children to work directly with teachers and children.
- Strive to visit the schools of Reggio Emilia with a group of South African teachers.
Above all, she urged teachers and schools to bear in mind this question: “How do children learn, and how do we embrace that?”