Playful Encounters with the Reggio Emilia Approach

Sunday, 22 May 2016


     I recently went to Rochester, NY to attend a conference at the Strong National Museum of Play entitled, Playful Encounters with the Reggio Emilia Approach.  

Keynote speakers included Lella Gandini (United States Liaison for the Dissemination of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education and coauthor of Hundred Languages of Children) and Ben Mardell (Project Director of the Pedagogy of Play, Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education).  Both speakers provided insightful and inspiring stories, challenges, and food for thought.  
     The museum itself offered a wonderful backdrop for this professional development and is home to the Woodbury School, a Reggio-inspired preschool and early kindergarten program. As part of a break-out session, I was able to visit the classrooms and snap a few photos.

indoor garden space

They also have an outdoor discovery garden to extend their indoor garden space

beautiful provocation

love the bleeding hearts!

a sculptural way to display children's art

possible inspiration - Very Hungry Caterpillar??

floating fish hung from the ceiling

natural treasures to explore

caterpillar provocation

words showing what they value

artwork as inspiration displayed between the easels

feltboards attached to the wall

an invitation to write

 "Habitat Boards" created by children

Documentation Panel: How Can We Care For Mother Earth?

Documentation Panel: What is life in a castle like?

Documentation Panel: What was it like to live long ago in a castle?

light exploration table

resources to connect children to the larger world

 dramatic play
more dramatic play



wall boxes

castle exploration

Transcribed Documentation: How can we care for Mother Earth?

ceiling sculpture

loose parts storage

more loose parts storage

art offerings

clay sculptures and painted habitats

animal paintings on a vinyl shower curtain

more opportunities for writing

documentation of their shared story

story stones

process art

sun prints

portfolio storage

bird treasures

mailboxes made from milk cartons
     Debbie McCoy, assistant vice president for education at Strong, shared, on a previous visit, Lella had suggested to the staff that they might consider scaling back a bit on the materials offered in the classroom by placing some in storage and rotating them out.  They took her up on her suggestion and the classrooms felt orderly, inviting, and despite their small size, not at all overcrowded.  I realize that I too have some work to do in this area and that some serious weeding out is in order!
     On another breakout session, entitled Playful Inquiry, I visited the museum's Butterfly Garden and Lab.  

In the garden:

In the Lab:

     The big take-away from this session was the modeling of a process called Science Talk inspired by the book, Talking Their Way Into Science by Karen Gallas.

     I was able to connect my own experiences with children's questions to this process and am hoping the book will take me further in the coming school year. 
     While most (if not all) of us aren't lucky enough to have our classrooms located within a children's museum, there are elements of their classrooms that could certainly be replicated within our own spaces.  What inspires you most as you end one school year and look ahead to another?  

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Thank you for this Jackie. I'm going to share it with the teachers I consult with.