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Collage Teachers Focus on Fostering Creativity and Individual Learning

May 3, 2017

Teachers at Collage Day School will employ the Reggio Emilia approach as part of the School’s educational philosophy. As Mary Ann Biermeier writes in NAEYC’s YC (Young Children), Vol. 70, No. 5, Loris Malaguzzi, the founder and director of the renowned municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, developed this philosophy, which is a blend of theory and practice that challenges educators to see children as competent and capable learners in the context of group work (Fraser & Gestwicki 2002).

Malaguzzi emphasized that “it was not so much that we need to think of the child who develops himself by himself but rather of a child who develops himself interacting and developing with others” (Rankin 2004, 82). As such, at the core of the Reggio Emilia philosophy is its emphasis on building and sustaining relationships. Malaguzzi believed that social learning preceded cognitive development (Gandini 2012).

He defined the environment as the third teacher. The first teacher—the parent—takes on the role of active partner and guide in the education of the child. The second is the classroom teacher. Often working in pairs, the classroom teacher assumes the role of researcher and intentionally engages children in meaningful work and conversation. The third teacher is the environment—a setting designed to be not only functional but also beautiful and reflective of the child’s learning. It is the child’s relationship with parent, teacher, and environment that ignites learning.

Fostering creativity through the work of young hands manipulating objects or making art, it is an environment that reflects the values we want to communicate to children. The classroom environment can help shape a child’s identity as a powerful player in his or her own life and the lives of others. To foster such an environment, teachers must go deeper than what is merely seen at eye level and develop a deep understanding of the underlying principles and of children’s thinking, questions, and curiosities.

What children learn does not follow as an automatic result from what is taught, rather, it is in large part due to the children’s own doing, as a consequence of their activities and our resources.

Loris Malaguzzi, The Hundred Languages of Children

Children construct their own knowledge through a carefully planned curriculum that engages and builds upon the child’s current knowledge, recognizing that knowledge cannot simply be provided for the child. The curriculum, often emergent in nature, is based on the interests of the children. When learning is the product of the child’s guided construction rather than simply the teacher’s transmission and the child’s absorption, learning becomes individualized. Most important, teaching becomes a two-way relationship in which the teacher’s understanding of the child is just as important as the child’s understanding of the teacher.  Flexible environments allow teachers to be responsive to the interests of the children, freeing them to construct knowledge together.

Teaching for creativity involves asking open-ended questions where there may be multiple solutions; working in groups on collaborative projects, using imagination to explore possibilities; making connections between different ways of seeing; and exploring the ambiguities and tensions that may lie between them. 

Ken Robinson, Out Of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative


Recognizing that at the very core of creativity is our desire to express ourselves, Collage Day School will create environments that inspire and support creative thinking and invention. If building and sustaining relationships are to be the foundation of a learning community, then creativity must always be present. Creativity is the conduit—the instrument that allows us to communicate with and understand others. Collage teachers will place great emphasis on using materials and activities that provoke investigation and group learning.

There is a big difference between what a child is capable of doing and what a child is willing to do. Collage teachers know that they cannot teach someone who does not want to learn or someone who does not believe he or she can learn. Collage believes in promoting the hunger for learning by creating environments in which students and teachers feel safe to venture beyond what is already known—environments that reflect our values and celebrate students and teachers as uniquely creative individuals.

Parent Resource: “Inspired by Reggio Emilia: Emergent Curriculum in Relationship-Driven Learning Environments”

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