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August 30, 2007
The Child and Family Research Center hosted a reception for the "Children...Discover, Investigate, Learn" exhibit in the Reno-Tahoe International Airport Monday, August 6. The exhibit documents and presents the early learning of children in the CFRC program inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach developed in Italy. The exhibit will be on display until early September.
The exhibit displays several different panels of the children's learning and descriptions of their varied projects. The exhibit depicts such projects as the children's work with photography and their discussion about the abstract issue of power.
While these projects may seem too advanced for young children, Eva Essa, foundation professor and chair in the Human Development and Family Studies department, believes the children can excel with challenges.
"Projects such as these are an outcome of our belief that all children are competent, capable of sustained interest over long periods of time, and able to evolve theories about how the world works," Essa said.
The approach the teachers in the CFRC use view children in a very different way than what is sometimes thought of them. Because the teachers remain confident in the children's abilities, the children are urged to take on challenges and experiences that ultimately shape the adults they will become.
"Their experience here sets them up for the future as good students and as good citizens," said Leah Sanders, the CFRC's Reggio Emilia consultant.
The children's learning processes are fully documented by the teachers, shedding light on how the children learn about their world and culture. The documentation and the exhibit also show the degree of involvement with which the children and the teachers interact.
"It makes the teacher's work more visible," said Sherry Waugh, director of the CFRC. "Teachers play such a big role in their lives."
The reception and the exhibit allow the community to understand the philosophy's innovation and show how the children are excelling under the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach. CFRC is raising funds for a staff trip to the famed schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, to learn more about the philosophy.
"There is recognition that investment in young children is one of the wisest investments we can make," Essa said.
The Reggio Emilia approach emphasizes the documentation of the learning process that occurs in children, and believing them to be intelligent and capable of being challenged. It involves every concept of the children's environment, the children's theories about the world, and a routine with enhancing their education and their experiences.
The approach evolved in post World War II Italy, in the city of Reggio Emilia. The preschools were meant to raise young children to be democratic citizens, who would be able to fight back against possible fascist regimes. Today, Reggio Emilia has established 46 municipal infant/toddler and preschool centers.