Newtowne school is a Reggio Emilia inspired parent cooperative preschool in Cambridge, MA. Reggio Emilia is a philosophy that originated in post war Italy, and quickly spread around the world. Reggio is based in the idea that children learn best through discovery and pursuing their interests. This means we closely listen and document what happens in the classroom to guide our curriculum. There is no set curriculum in Reggio Emilia, the curriculum emerges from interests the children have. For example, in the youngest classroom (2-3 years old), the children decided to build an airplane in the classroom. They set up rows of chairs and one child pretended to fly the plane. We helped them further this idea by giving them open ended materials (objects that could be used in multiple ways) to continue their interest. Old keyboards and calculators became controls and phones, and lunch boxes became luggage. The airplane became a form of collaborative dramatic play. The children discussed where the plane was going and what people do on a plane. This kind of social dynamic is important for very young children to participate in.
My official role at Newtowne was as a “Resident Artist Intern.” I spent two weeks in each of the four classrooms assisting teachers, participating in play, and planning and presenting my own activities to the children. My co-op culminated in a collaborative mural which I created with all the students. What was really special was that I had established a relationship with all the children in the school, so when they started coming to work on the mural with me we had a rapport. How our piece developed over time was interesting. I documented the entire progression:
I believe that preschool education is some of the most important education in a person’s life. Children are very malleable at this age, establishing creative ways of thinking and social skills can have a profound effect on the years following. In the short time I was at Newtowne I witnessed growth happening. Children that used to grab things from other children started asking “Can I have that when you’re done?”.
Connecting with each of the children at Newtowne showed me that one of the most important things you can do for a child is listen to them. If you listen to a child you can understand how they think and what you can do to nurture their curiosities and passions. After this experience, I feel confident that I want to be an early childhood educator. Every day was filled with moments of joy and wonder – even on days that a child vomited. http://newtowneschool.org/