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Inspiring News and Events 
from the Reggio
-Inspired Network Of Minnesota

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  • 07 Nov 2022 9:34 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    The North America Reggio Emilia Alliance publication, Innovations, asked Lani Shapiro to write about the Network’s Open Book Study, in particular The Wonder of Learning. The piece that follows was first published in the Summer 2022 issue of Innovations. Lani Shapiro serves on the Network’s Board, Communications Committee and is the editor of this quarterly newsletter.

    The Wonder of Learning – The Hundred Languages of Children

    By Vea Vecchi, Ilaria Cavallini, Tiziana Filippini, and Lorella Trancossi, Eds. Translation by Jane McCall

    The Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota’s (RINM) “Open Book Study” participants have gathered on the third Sunday of every month for 15 years to engage in an ongoing conversation about Reggio-inspired publications. A flexible and ever-changing group, we arrive as individuals with diverse perspectives—parents, students, teachers, administrators, and citizens—who work or learn in varying contexts, in homes, preschools and childcare centers, schools, graduate schools, clinics, and civic institutions. We have met at coffee shops, and we have convened more recently via Zoom and consequently assembled participants from both near and far with numbers ranging from two to 15. Each meeting we form a flexible learning collaborative without a fixed destination with the intention of cultivating a context that can welcome uncertainty, diversity, and complexity. We have become a learning group. This learning together in groups is highlighted in the following quote from Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children exhibition catalog:

    Learning in groups which provide a space for argumentation – for sharing interpretations, emotions and reflection - creates favourable conditions for subjective learning; acquisition of content; and awareness of ways of learning: a capacity for understanding that “viewpoint” has a pluralist nature. Learning in groups gives rise to social forms of knowing and knowledge which are essential to an idea of citizenship for the world today and the world tomorrow. (Pedagogical Co-coordination of Preschool and Infant-toddler Centres – Istituzione of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, 2011, p. 15)

    Our goal has never been to “finish” our texts. Instead, our intention has been to practice working with Reggio values and dispositions. We listen carefully to one another, examine content, read closely, formulate questions, wonder, and speculate about what is included or excluded while

    examining the structural details of the text. We read methodically, never more than one chapter per month. Sometimes we repeat a chapter if we don't feel finished. This has afforded us an opportunity to grow our capacity to listen generously and practice building knowledge together in an environment that welcomes “roomy ideas.”

    We have explicitly discussed ways we approach a text: How will we work with each other? Where do we start? What do we notice about the structure of the text (table of contents, bibliography, graphical details)? We ask each other: What stood out for you? What questions are you holding? We probe: What do you want to understand better? What is it about this selection that is salient for you? We bring our attention to the specific page, passage, or image of interest. Then we can explore: How does this inform our work? How do you consider these provocations in light of your own context? In a discussion with Carolyn Edwards (2015), John Nimmo, Loris Malaguzzi, and Vea Vecchi, Tiziana Filippini illustrates the importance of educators thinking and asking questions together:

    Yes, the important thing is not just to hear diverse points of view, but instead to go so far with the discussion that it is clear that each person has taken something in and moved in his or her thinking, as a result of what has been heard. (p. 19)

    Book study participants have asked and noted:
    “What does the text mean? How does it relate to our own context?”
    “How do we put these ideas into practice?”
    “The pedagogues of Reggio Emilia think about how children think 
    and think about their own thinking.”
    “Book study transformed how I read and how I view my practice as an educator. I find myself reflecting even more deeply about my practice. I changed from thinking how I can make an activity better to how I can create conditions that will help me see children’s thinking processes.”

    Over the last 2 1⁄2 years, following a RINM-organized trip to Madison, Wisconsin to visit The Wonder of Learning – The Hundred Languages of Children exhibit, the RINM’s book study immersed itself in the exhibit’s catalog, The Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children. This volume, published in 2011 by Reggio Children, is a lively synthesis and distillation of experiences, representations, interpretations, and re-interpretations from the infant-toddler centers and preschools of Reggio Emilia. This book, like other Reggio Children publications that derive from an exhibit, is characterized by captivating glossy images and poetic narratives of the children and their theories. The publication speaks in the languages of graphics, images, photography, and text. The chapters are brief, generously illustrated excerpts that highlight children’s thinking, drawings, and constructions that represent a distillation of previous work, re-considered and re-written. The delightful work of the children is bookended by essays that introduce the exhibit, the catalog, the principles of the work, the collaborative working journey, and the historical context.

    Readers may be tempted to leap into the visual story of the children’s experiences in volumes laden with imagery. However, to overlook the essays and narrative is to read only half the book. Our book study tradition is to read and discuss the book cover to cover, mining the insights and perspectives of various contributors beginning with the introductions. The voices that precede the visual narrative in The Wonder of Learning catalog include Graziano Delrio, the mayor of Reggio Emilia from 2004–2014, Jerome Bruner, and Howard Gardner. As noted, we go slowly, considering and mulling over each point of view. In subsequent meetings, we delved into the stories of the children’s work. We were surprised and curious about the children’s observations and their use of metaphors and creative interpretations. We were both impressed and intimidated, asking, “How does this work happen?” We find the answers to our wonderings within the text, images, narrative and especially the reflections of the educators.

    A deceptively straightforward declaration by the pedagogical team highlights principles that underpin the Reggio Emilia educational project and are reflected in the exhibit and essential to the text. Each section is introduced with a brief narrative that identifies the rationale for the “big idea” of the section and the specific projects selected to represent children’s nuanced relationship to place, materials, light, and mark-making. This way of working highlights educators’ decision-making nodes and illuminates their thinking, resulting in a map of the unfolding project. This provides a privileged window into the thinking of the Reggio educators as they initiated a project, maintained momentum, and searched for clues to relaunch the work. It’s all there!

    For example, in the section of the book titled “Dialogues with Places,” the educators declare their assumptions and rationale. They wanted to better understand how children approach a place and the processes children use to build relationships with that space. Introducing the section, educators make their ways of working visible. They chose a place, the yet-to-be completed Loris Malaguzzi International Center, placed themselves (as adults) in dialogue with its sensory aspects and, after that, invited the children “to think of a gift which would please them and please the place” (Vecchi et al., 2011, p. 19).Then they identify their process, summarized in the following steps:

    • Educators visit the building (to experience the context).

    • Invite children’s thinking about “listening” to a place (What does it mean to listen?).

    • Take small groups to visit the center and suggest the children look, draw, photograph, and then choose a particular detail they find interesting that could receive a “gift.”

    • Children’s work proceeds. Each group has a unique encounter with the unfinished space and creates a gift through their work.

    • Educators meet, consider the work generated, and relaunch.

    • Educators reflect and refine their documentation tools, interweaving visual and written traces.
    • Educators select projects that highlight children’s recurring strategies: physical movement, sensory input, attention to detail, creating stories, and games.

    Through dialogue, we grappled with this behind-the-curtain view of the structures and processes that support project work in Reggio Emilia. Examining these details together gave us a map or a compass to make sense of the results.

    We began to contest the common understanding that Reggio-inspired work always follows the child’s lead. The educators explicitly made proposals to the children. They identified possibilities worth pursuing, listened generously to the children’s responses, and then supported their thinking. With these insights, we inquired about our own processes: What essential understanding informs our proposed projects? What do we need to understand to be useful to the children’s investigation? What essential knowledge, understanding, or experience precedes our work with the children? What are we, as educators, interested in understanding? We noticed that the children’s questions and the educators’ inquiry are not always the same.

    The animating force and foundation for everything we have read is daily documentation, without which there would be no small traces to reflect upon, no projects to share with families, no exhibits to share with the community, and no books for international readers. The reflective process of the educators, as authors, invites us, as readers, to revisit, rethink, and reconsider. This results in a refractory reading with angles that reveal many possibilities, not just one. This reminds each book study participant to capture small traces and use them to reflect, not to prove a single story but to make space for many perspectives.

    As I write this, we are nearing the end of The Wonder of Learning catalog, a journey that pre-dated Covid-19. Some of the other books we have studied to date include Making Learning Visible: Children as Individual and Group LearnersThe Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in TransformationBeyond Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care: Postmodern Perspectives; Dialogues with PlacesArt and Creativity in Reggio Emilia: Exploring the Role and Potential of Ateliers in Early Childhood EducationThe Diary of LauraChildren, Art, Artists: The Expressive Languages of Children, The Artistic Language of Alberto Burri; and In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, Researching and Learning. We have decided our next text will be the Digital Educational Toolbox, which includes readings and videos from Reggio Children.

    At first glance, a book study is a modest undertaking. However, within this small time and space, we continue to learn together and practice skills and dispositions fundamental to the Reggio Emilia Approach: deep listening, reflection, and collaboration. In “Open Book Study,” we transform ourselves into a learning community as we engage in the pleasure of dialogue, debate, and inquiry.

    Now retired, Lani Shapiro was an early childhood educator teaching both typical and special rights children and their adults (parents and teachers) in public settings for more than 40 years. She is a founding member of the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota (RINM), a current RINM board member, editor of its quarterly newsletter, and facilitator of the “Open Book Study” since the inception of this initiative in 2007. Lani is particularly interested in the democratic aspects of the Reggio Emilia educational project.


    References
    Dahlberg, G., Moss, P., & Pence, A. (1999). 
    Beyond quality in early childhood education and

    care: Postmodern perspectives. Falmer Press.
    Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. (Eds.). (2012). 
    The hundred languages of children: The

    Reggio Emilia experience in transformation (3rd ed.). Praeger.

    Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Nimmo, J. (Eds.). (2015). Loris Malaguzzi and the teachers: Dialogues on collaboration and conflict among children, Reggio Emilia 1990. Zea Books.

    Edwards, C., & Rinaldi, C. (Eds.). 2009. The diary of Laura: Perspectives on a Reggio Emilia diary. Redleaf Press.page6image1430883488

    Filippini, T., Giudici, C., & Vecchi, V. (Eds.). Dialogues with places. Reggio Children. Giudici, C., Rinaldi, C., & Krechevsky, M. (Eds.). (2001). Making learning visible: Children as individual and group learners. Project Zero; Reggio Children.

    Pedagogical Co-coordination of Preschool and Infant-toddler Centres – Istituzione of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia. (2011). The theses of the exhibition: The wonder of learning. In V. Vecchi, I. Cavallini, T. Filippini, & L. Trancossi (Eds.), The wonder of learning: The hundred languages of children, pp. 14–15. Reggio Children.

    Rinaldi, C. (2006). In dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, researching and learning. Routledge.

    Vecchi, V. (2010). Art and creativity in Reggio Emilia: Exploring the role and potential of ateliers in early childhood education. Routledge.

    Vecchi, V., Cavallini, I., Filippini, T., & Trancossi, L. (Eds.). (2011). The wonder of learning: The hundred languages of children. Reggio Children.

    Vecchi, V., & Giudici, C. (Eds.). (2004). Children, art, artists: The expressive languages of children, The artistic language of Alberto Burri. Reggio Children.

  • 21 Sep 2022 2:02 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)


    Every material has got a set of specific characteristics and qualities resulting from its nature, that defines its limits and potential as well as its range of possible transformations, reversible or not. It is what I call a kind of “natural grammar”, meaning some inner rules that can be empirically investigated. How? Observing and transforming the material with a friendly approach, remaining attuned to its nature, with the curiosity and discretion of a guest. If we do not want to impose a shape but are in a respectful interaction, the material itself will suggest us what to do. Take for example a sheet of paper.

    Just taking it in your hands, you immediately understand it can can be rolled or folded. But how many ways? The exploration of this simple action opens up a world of variations: different dimensions, inclinations, proportions, forms of the starting sheet, and so on. Could we have imagined all these possibilities without a thorough investigation? Likewise, many other actions can develop (rubbing, piercing, cutting, rolling, wetting …) and be combined. The richer this inventory will become, the more possibilities you will have available to creatively transform the material.

    continue reading Roberta's piece on The Grammar of Matter

  • 20 Aug 2022 2:35 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Reflection of an Experience
    Rie Gisldorf
    Rie Algeo Gilsdorf, MS, MA, has broad experience as a principal, arts administrator, instructional coach, teacher of science and dance, and parent in many settings, including the Reggio-inspired programs of Portland’s Opal School and The Blake School in Minneapolis. Rie is a past Board Co-Chair and Civic Engagement Committee Chair of the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota and current member of its Resource Development Committee. She now provides racial equity seminars, coaching and consulting through Embody Equity, www.EmbodyEquity.com.

    During the Network’s End-of-Year Celebration/Annual Meeting, I led a social arts activity called 3-D Mapping. This is a methodology for adults that is deeply aligned with Reggio-inspired practice in its collaborative, emergent practice, its inclusion of the community as researchers and its use of multiple languages of thought and learning. Over the course of the evening, a dozen people stopped by to consider how to represent the current state of Early Childhood Education in Minnesota as seen from their unique perspective. We are interested not only in perceptions of the system as a whole, but also in how the Reggio-Inspired Network specifically fits into it.


    3-D Mapping comes out of the systems thinking lineage of Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer and others at the MIT Center for Organizational Change, now a separate organization called the Presencing Institute. Senge’s work, in turn, comes out of Kurt Lewin’s writings on Action Research. Interestingly, our consciousness of a system and our ability to change it are interrelated. Here’s the evolution of the ideas:

    • You cannot understand a system unless you try to change it - K​urt Lewin
    • You cannot change a system unless you transform consciousness - ​Peter Senge
    • You cannot transform consciousness unless you make a system see and sense itself - ​Otto Scharmer
    • You cannot make a system see and sense itself until you see and sense yourself as part of the system - ​Ubiraci Pataxó

    3-D Mapping is a process for increasing our awareness of our system, part of an “Awareness-Based Systems Change” approach.. Notice that in addition to thinking about a system, 3-D Mapping invites members of the system to sense into it by using the aesthetic language of found objects placed into a collage. The meeting venue of Belle’s ToolBox, which houses the Network’s Loose Parts Laboratory Materials Center, provided a rich source of small objects to use. I collected a basket of items and placed them around the edges of a card table, then invited people to place them on a sheet of paper representing our system. As they placed their objects, I jotted down their words on post-its and placed them in a corresponding spot on a sign that invited people to participate.

    Participants were curious but a bit shy at first – how could their experience in one corner of the system inform the whole? Interestingly, as more objects and quotes were placed, people resonated with others’ experiences and were stimulated to add their own ideas. Also, the languages of the process, both visual and tactile, added to the play of the ideas. For example, the first pair of people approached the table and talked about how their program, a center housed in a larger organization, experienced both synergies and misunderstandings with the wider community. They noticed a couple of puzzle pieces, first placing them near each other, then trying to fit them together. They giggled at their first attempt, which seemed to fit, but on closer inspection, the words didn’t line up correctly. “Exactly! The communication is off!” they said.

      

    Then one of them said, “Wait, or do they actually fit? Like this? She turned the pieces and, voila, the words, “Thank You” appeared.

    But, after considering it for a moment, they eventually decided to place the two pieces in proximity to each other, but not touching. It was important for them to have seen that the pieces could fit, but weren’t currently connected. The process itself had not simply allowed them to express their thoughts, but had in fact furthered their thinking. Starting from an initial complaint, they had come up with a more nuanced understanding. Their final quote: “Community Relationships (puzzle pieces): They do fit, but they’re misaligned.”

    That first pair started with an idea and looked for an object to represent it. Others were strongly drawn to an object and then let a meaning emerge. For instance, one person kept coming back to an old compact disk.


    Eventually she placed it in the center and then said, “Oh! It would spin, and it’s reflective and shiny!” Her final quote: “Creativity (CD): Keep spinning out those ideas!”


    Some had no trouble choosing at all. “Outdoors!” said one woman, immediately reaching for a pinecone and plopping it down. That was her full quote: “Outdoors (pinecone)!” An important dynamic of the map is not just what objects are picked, but where they are placed in relationship to other objects. In this case, it’s significant that the outdoors pinecone is in close proximity to the CD of creativity and spinning out ideas. Others who came by later commented on the truth of that, that we, and children, are stimulated by time in nature and emerge with more ideas spinning out of us. It’s a small and simple truth; it’s also profound and needed to be captured in our map.

    Several other items were similarly clear to everyone that saw them: the “Tinker Toy of Play,” the Bird of “Launching kids so they can fly” and the worn Elastic Circle of “Hoops we have to jump through.” Although these are clear representations of elements that most observers would agree are features of our system, it is important to place them in the map.

    In any efforts to co-create a future evolution of the system, we wouldn’t want to leave out play or launching kids, and we would want to deal with those nagging hoops.

                                    

    We can really see the co-construction going on in a conversation about a corn cob. Someone had picked it for its color and texture but was feeling bad that all its kernels were gone. It certainly had been a nourishing thing. . . but what was it now? At that point, another participant chimed in to suggest the empty cob being “the wise woman who has given away all her kernels.”


    The corn cob is now standing for the wise elders of our network whose kernels of wisdom nourished generations. Interestingly, this is the only item in the map that represents an individual human role in the system. In a system that depends so heavily on human beings – children, caregivers, educators, family members – it’s interesting that most of the elements of our map were abstract concepts. What does that say about how we perceive the system with its conflicts, agreements and sources of power. Would adding more human elements help us to reframe our challenges? And where does the Reggio-Inspired Network fit into Minnesota’s early childhood system?


    Another item reveals a desire to synthesize and operationalize an abstraction – a lump of concrete. Concrete is both a mixture that includes gravel and cement and also a durable material that forms foundations. It’s human-made, mixed by trial and error. Concrete is a common metaphor for things that have substance and aren’t only abstract. The quote for this item: “(Concrete): Mixing it up; Starting with something concrete in all the change; try the best and leave behind the baggage.” 

      

    This unique object also generated multiple ideas – a small wheel with an S-hook on it. The original idea for it was Spinning our wheels…” Then in the ensuing conversation another idea built on this: “Training wheels.” As the back-and-forth continued a unifying theme emerged: “Looking for connection and support. It’s an idea that connects to and shows motivation for our Community Relationships puzzle pieces above. Of course we’re yearning for those puzzle pieces to snap together, in a way that gives connection and support. 


    As I was getting ready to pack up someone came by and grabbed this rubber stopper, plopped it at the top of the map and said, “Put a cork in it!” She turned out to be expressing the desire for oversight organizations to Trust our love for children.” And, I experienced her expressing the sense of humor that is also a feature of early childhood education – I personally couldn’t have survived without it!

    Looking at the full map of our Early Childhood System, it seems a bit random and disconnected to me. There are parts with hooks, slots, claws or holes to offer connections, but they aren’t relating to each other. Verbalizing these kinds of descriptions is the next step in the 3-D Mapping process, all a part of becoming more conscious of the details, relationships, obstacles and opportunities in our system. The process asks the participants to look at the map from different perspectives, physically walking around the table to get a fresh view. Since we’re no longer gathered in one spot, I’ve included four different rotations of the map, along with questions to think about as your eyes wash over the image.

    What emotions arise when you look at this picture? What about it ignites your best energies? What makes you feel curious? What are the relationships (connections, separations or proportions) between the parts? What do you sense? Is your intuition telling you anything important about what is happening?

    What are some key agreements in the system that determine how it works? What are key conflicts or hard truths that you have to face in order to move forward? Where do the different sources of power lie in this system?

    Is there a way to reframe the challenges or see them from a different perspective? Where is the hidden leverage? What are the most important barriers that, if removed, could help the current system to evolve?

    What is ending in this situation? What’s the old skin that needs to be shed? What is seeking to emerge or wanting to be born? What’s the highest future potential that’s being called for in this situation? What will a better system look and feel like in 50 - 100 years?

    Just as our documentation of children’s ideas, work and conversations is meant to be revisited collectively as we ponder what is emerging, what might come next and what provocations could open new doors, the 3-D process also doesn’t stop with creation of the map. The set of questions connected to each view are meant to inform a second round of mapping where we would modify the objects’ placements to represent the future we want to co-create. This simple activity is so rich in surprising ways – often people that have been quiet bring ideas forward visually or people find their limiting concepts dissolving as they move pieces into new relationships. In the schools of Reggio Emilia, this documentation-based design process would be called, “progettazione.” I invite you to think about these questions, perhaps in dialogue with your team or community, and see what insights bubble up.

  • 22 Jun 2022 1:48 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)


    “We are at our best when we serve others. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

    This quote speaks to me about the Reggio-Inspired Network in general and the Loose Parts Laboratory in particular. Our initiative is making small changes in our own small context. For many years, members of the Network have talked and dreamed and attempted to create a resource center where donated materials could be purchased for a very low cost in order to recycle, re-purpose and reduce waste in order to re-imagine experiences for children. Through the work of our thoughtful committed members we have created an instrument for change.
    page3image3609906656 page3image3609907056 page3image3609907360

    Our soft opening on March 26 was a joy-filled occasion - to actually have shoppers visiting our venue and purchasing “beautiful stuff.” A Grand Opening celebration is planned for Friday evening, May 20th, 6:30 to 8:30 PM. Please come for our annual end-of-the-year social gathering. There will be refreshments. a short presentation, information about the work of the Network, visiting, shopping and an auction. Look for prizes to be announced soon on our Facebook page.

    Mission: The Loose Parts Laboratory is a space curated with a variety of materials donated to distribute for low or no cost.

    Vision: The Loose Parts Laboratory aims to provide a growing initiative of increasing materials, patronage and volunteers.

    Updates and Particulars
    E-mail: 
    loosepartslabmn@gmail.com

    Facebook page: Loose Parts Laboratory: Materials Center Project Minnesota Be sure to check out the video on our Facebook Page.

    Instagram: @loose_parts_laboratory
    Address: 3400 42nd Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55406 

    Visit us: June 14, 16 and 18 July 12, 14 and 16 August 16, 18, and 20

    Sandra Burwell's professional career includes over 50 years in education as a teacher, director, supervisor, mentor and educational coordinator for children birth through high school but primarily early childhood. Presently, she is a consultant and presenter for professional development inspired by the philosophies of Reggio Emilia and Maria Montessori in the areas of authentic experiences, material exploration and the environment.

  • 20 May 2022 7:59 AM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    "Education is an opportunity for the growth and emancipation of the individual and collective; it is a resource for gaining knowledge and for learning to live together; it is a meeting place where freedom, democracy, and solidarity are practiced and where the value of peace is promoted." -Reggio Children

    An often overlooked aspect of the Reggio Approach is that it animates a democratic society through its values, structures and practices. This is evident at every level – within the schools, with families, in the management of the schools and in relationship with the city, the country and international partners, but it all starts with the youngest citizens, the children in the infant-toddler centers and preschools. This is where habits, dispositions and principles, essential for democratic life are rooted, introduced and practiced.

    Some of those habits and dispositions were introduced in Part I of Unpacking DemocracyThey include deep listening, a capacity for dialogue, the ability to think critically and a desire to work collaboratively for the common good as the foundation for democratic life.

    Value Difference

    Valuing difference is both acknowledging and seeking multiple identities, practices and points of view. This represents both a disposition and a constellation of pedagogical decisions.

    Accepting, respecting and valuing the differences in others is a great ethical choice, which is possible for every modern person. Differences are not a problem that we annul or eliminate. They are a resource and an opportunity.”
    Sergio Spaggiari, 2004

    Since diversity is an asset, it makes sense to plan for different group structures and composition – large group, small group and individual – and notice the range of perspectives that emerge. Consider how diverse abilities, age groups and home languages add richness to your setting. Select tools that will enhance exploration and provoke surprise. Provide a range of expressive media: clay, wire, digital, marker, pencil, paint, etc. to explore ideas. Reflect on how each medium impacts and challenges understanding. Offer contrasting media to deepen a common theme. In addition to the voices of the children, seek input from families, community and colleagues. Each decision can support democratic life.

    Be Curious

    To focus your curiosity, ask yourself, “what do I wonder”...about the learners, their approaches to learning, the work of teaching and learning, particular areas of learning, learners at different ages or stages of life or particular interests of individuals?

    Deep listening invites both speakers and listeners into unexpected terrain. Consider uncertainty, doubt and error as resources in education.

    Use Language With Care

    Dialogue is enriched when you are genuinely curious about others’ beliefs, assumptions, or theories and when peers share group work. Language is intertwined with deep listening, a capacity for dialogue and the ability to think critically.

    Consider all the possible “think about questions” you might pose, rather than “do you know questions.” For the ‘think about’ questions to be effective, you must listen (with all your senses) and build upon what follows.

    I would like to know more... Some aspect that interests me.... This is very interesting....
    You started to say....
    I am wondering....
    And then...?

    Maybe...
    Does this remind you of anything? What do you think about this?
    I wonder...?
    Do you mind if I ask...?
    What do you think about...?

    Would you mind sharing more...? I’m curious...?
    In which way does...?
    What might happen if...?

    I wanted to know...
    What do you suppose happens when...? So it is...?
    Why do you suppose this happens?
    So what aspect impresses...?
    How do you think this happens?

    I see, so... ?
    What are the possible consequences?
    Is it...?
    Do you see any patterns? Has this happened before?
    Why... ?
    What did you notice when...?
    Can I say something?
    What was it like when...?

    Offer language that children can borrow to support peer exchange and genuine listening:

    I think...
    My idea is...
    In my opinion...
    Thanks for sharing your opinion. I have a different one. Here’s mine...
    It’s ok that you don’t agree with my opinion. We can have different points of view. I respect your opinion. I have a different one that I’d like to share with you.

    Think about the way your decisions about space, materials, tools and time affect conversation.

    Use Documentation as an Invitation for Exchange

    Pedagogical documentation is a process which makes this listening, thinking, learning and teaching visible and consequently subject to reflection, interpretation, dialogue and exchange. The point of pedagogical documentation is not to establish what the learner can do, but how the learner is thinking about what he/she is doing. As an iterative and recursive process, documentation continuously generates new questions and challenges. As educators listen, observe, inquire and relaunch, learners experience different perspectives and uncertainties, growing in their capacity to construct knowledge and appreciate complexity.

    page11image34166880


    When you collect traces, you are simultaneously documenting the learner’s process, your work as a teacher and communicating what you deem important. Documentation is an interpretation of what you see; it defines, refines and reveals your values. Documentation takes many forms: daily traces, photos and transcription, video, sketches; project narratives; class/school/public exhibits; publications; presentations for study.

    page12image34113776

    These elements are useful as they are shared and contested, allowing new points of view to enter and inviting others to propose avenues to extend this process. Share traces with an individual, with a small group or large group, families or other educators. Find a venue to make your ongoing work public, such as a library.

    “Sharing the documentation means participation in a true act of democracy, sustaining the culture and visibility of childhood ... a product of exchange and visibility.”
    Carla Rinaldi

    page12image34353552

    In participation with others, documentation becomes a democratic tool.

    "Participation, in fact, is based on the idea that reality is not objective, that culture is a constantly evolving product of society, that individual knowledge is only partial; and that in order to construct a project, especially an educational project, everyone’s point of view is relevant in dialogue with those of others, within a framework of shared values. The idea of participation is found on these concepts: and in our opinion, so, too, is democracy itself." Paola Cagliari, Angela Barozzi and Claudia Giudici

    Watch Video Here

    Foundations for democratic life ARE BUILT upon being curious, using language carefully to promote exchange and practicing pedagogical documentation to promote transparency and participation. Since how children are treated when they are very young profoundly affects how they will live the rest of their lives, historian Timothy Snyder points out that a “free country thrives over generations.” A free society is strengthened when its citizens think critically, compare diverse points of view, vet sources and consider the common good. These values, structures and practices are central to the Reggio Emilia project.


    Now retired, Lani was an early childhood educator teaching both typical and special rights children and their adults (parents and teachers) for more than 40 years. She is a founding member of the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota, is a current Board member, works on the Network’s Communication Committee and facilitates its Book Study. She is particularly interested in the infrastructural aspects of the Reggio project.

  • 18 Feb 2022 2:27 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Unpacking Democracy and Education

    The Reggio Emilia Approach

    Last December, Lani Shapiro hosted the monthly gathering, titled “Unpacking Democracy and Education.” In the piece that follows, Lani was asked to expand on ideas she presented during that meeting.

    Education is “always a political discourse whether we know it or not. It is about working with cultural choices, but it clearly also means working with political choices.”

    Lori Malaguzzi

    Education is always political. Education for democracy, however, is not inevitable; it is a possibility and choice. Democracy can be understood as a way of thinking, being, acting and living together, as Dewey described, “a democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience.” (Dewey, 1916).

    Throughout the evolving educational project that is called the Reggio Approach, there are constant references to democracy, democratic life and democratic participation.

    Historical Notes:

    The Reggio Emilia approach is not just a way of working with preschools; it is a pathway to create a more democratic society. The Reggio project had an explicitly political birth as World War II ended: it responded to fascism, asserted women’s rights and called for greater social equality through collective civic action.

    With proceeds from selling debris left behind by the retreating German army (a tank, six horses and three trucks) citizens from Villa Cella, a small community outside of Reggio Emilia, set about constructing a school for their youngest children because, according to the mayor, their wartime experience had ‘taught them that people who conformed and obeyed were dangerous, and that in building a new society it was imperative to safeguard and communicate that lesson, and maintain a vision of children who can think and act for themselves.’

    “We didn’t want our children to be duped by fascism, as we were.”

    Over seven decades, the Reggio Approach has become an international project of social, cultural, political and economic significance that balances the value of individual difference and understands that individual freedom must be connected to a social demand for justice and solidarity.

    “Education is an opportunity for the growth and emancipation of the individual and collective; it is a resource for gaining knowledge and for learning to live together; it is a meeting place where freedom, democracy, and solidarity are practiced and where the value of peace is promoted.”

    Reggio Children: Indications

    Dispositions that Cultivate Democratic Living

    For Reggio Emilia educators, the goal is not to teach about democracy but to nurture habits, dispositions and values like deep listening, a capacity for dialogue, the ability to think critically and a desire to work collaboratively for the common good, which lay the foundation for democratic living experienced through daily life in school.

    A disposition is a characteristic attitude, an inclination or habit. Listening

    Carla Rinaldi insists that in order to truly listen, you have to give up the idea that you control the outcome. Listening requires genuine curiosity about what you will encounter. This kind of listening invites all parties into new terrain. When we are open-minded, we can listen with empathy, see each person’s unique perspective and learn from each other. Bruner wrote that “open-mindedness is the keystone of what we call a democratic culture.” (Bruner, 1990).

    Capacity for Dialogue:

    The disposition for dialogue is characterized by an inclination to reflect and compare points of view through exchange.

    Four rules for a good discussion

    The children soon learn four things:

    ●  That it is indispensable to have one’s own personal feeling and words about things
    ●  That understanding things often means changing our words and thoughts
    ●  That these changes often come about by communicating with your peers and with adults
    ●  That when this process takes place, it is often perceived as a sort of subtle shift that involves the body as well as feelings, the mind and relationships with things and with others.


    -Reggio Children, Commune di Reggio Emilia – Nidi e Scuole dell’Infanzia


    Valuing Difference

    The Reggio Approach seeks, welcomes and includes a wide array of perspectives on issues, recognizing that multiple perspectives and diverse paradigms are central to democratic living. Each human being is unique, with a wide range of individual and cultural identities: gender, age, race, class, language, ability, temperament, personal history, etc. yielding more than one answer to most questions. These varied perspectives can promote insight and creativity.

    In addition to human differences, there are many ways of viewing and understanding the world, such as through the perspectives of academic disciplines, arts, industry or agriculture.

    Beyond individual differences and interdisciplinary perspectives, a new question arises: whose voices are not here?

    Critical Thought

    Democratic life understands that people (including children) have theories and expectations (whether they are aware of them or not) and an inclination to seek evidence: How do we know what we know? Where do we get our information? How do we vet our sources? What is the evidence? Could there be another point of view? This kind of inquiry is nurtured by the disposition to question and challenge, rather than to accept and obey, especially those things that seem as if they were timeless, natural, unquestionable or inevitable.

    Social Construction of Knowledge and Participation

    The individual constructs their own knowledge, always in relationship with others. Since individual knowledge is always partial and provisional, it is essential to be open to different perspectives. Since learning is the construction of meaning, always in relationship with others, group learning and individual learning cannot be divided.

    Participation is based on the idea that reality is not objective, that culture is a constantly evolving product of society, that individual knowledge is only partial; and that in order to construct a project, everyone’s point of view is relevant in dialogue with those of others, within a framework of shared values. The idea of participation is founded on these concepts: and in our opinion, so, too, is democracy itself. (Cagliari et al., 2004).

    Collaboration and Compromise for the Common Good

    The habit of collaboration draws on an inclination to address questions together, through interaction and discussion. It propels participants to seek input from others, especially people different from themselves, and genuinely listen.

    The dispositions and values of listening, dialogue, difference, critical thinking, socially constructed knowledge and participation for the common good do not exist separately; they intertwine, spiral, complicate and deepen each other.

    In the next issue, Unpacking Democracy, Part Two will offer examples drawn from local work as well as from Reggio, to highlight practical strategies that support these values.

  • 20 Nov 2021 7:56 AM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    For many years, the possibility of having a materials gathering space has been a dream of many people in our Network. This dream is inspired by the Remida center in Reggio Emilia, Italy in which the city collects, curates and makes materials available to its citizens for creative endeavors. We want to create such a space in the Greater Twin Cities area.

    We now have some definite positive movement toward this goal. Heidi Wolf, Lisa Small, Sandra Burwell, Deborah Schein and Nancy Nakaoka have formed an ad hoc committee to spearhead, explore and pursue the dream and all it involves.

    There is a unique space in the heart of the Longfellow neighborhood called Belle’s ToolBox where Tamara Weiss Rhodes, a member of the Resource Committee, has been a long-time, regular visitor. This site of joyful learning inspires us, and we see an opportunity for collaboration. Belle’s ToolBox offers a free and welcoming family and caregiver opportunity to join children as they explore a wide variety of engaging, hands-on materials. Areas of exploration are well-stocked and organized to promote children’s autonomy and independence as they do their work, transforming them into eager and focused scientists, book makers, engineers, artists and musicians. There is an outdoor space that offers a winding pathway through native plants, a rain garden and even a special investigation area for budding geologists. The indoor space serves about 10-12 comfortably. They currently require masks indoors as COVID protocol.


    Belle’s ToolBox founder, Lucy Elliott, pours her extraordinary heart into creating a space that connects multigenerational and multicultural populations through the experience of exchanging ideas. She designs all of it through the lens of environmental responsibility, sustainability and stewardship.

    The committee met with Lucy at the ToolBox and she is excited to work with us. We set some short term goals. Many small and large tasks are needed to make this dream possible. We are using two documentation tools to make our process visible. One is a web of possibilities that we have generated so far:


    An online collaborative platform called Miro will also help us document our work and make it visible, so anyone can become involved and be kept up-to-date. Those interested in being actively involved with this work can reach out to Heidi by email: hwolf@bsmschool.org.

    To learn more about Belle’s ToolBox, here’s the link: http://www.belles-toolbox.org

  • 23 Oct 2021 9:43 AM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)


    In our program, transition into early care is supported by predictable daily routines, beginning with each family’s orientation.

    Prior to the arrival of the Coronavirus, our families came into our classroom, we greeted each other and had a daily health check with the child. Parents put prepared bottles away and placed car seats by their child’s crib, then completed information on our large whiteboard in the classroom. Daily, parents were asked about their child’s wake-up time, last feeding and mood. They were also asked to identify who to contact first on a given day, whether the child was given any medications and approximate pick-up time. Families were oriented to how these routines helped us function together for their child’s well-being. At the end of the day, families came back into our classroom and saw how we built their child’s day around the information parents had given us. Each child had their own schedule.

    As the shutdown began in March of 2020, our precious routines were disrupted. Our child care remained open but parents could not enter the school. Instead, parents remained at the front door to complete information on a clipboard while we conducted a wellness check. In April 2020, we were required to wear masks and staff were offered furlough. There were additional challenges. We lost our communication app and came up with a way to email parents about their child’s day. We recognized we were living in a pandemic, a state of emergency. Many families began working from their homes, keeping their children with them. We made a few phone calls and received some photo emails as a way to stay in touch with families. These were important to our sanity. In May, we welcomed a few families back. We watched for signs of stress. Together, we encouraged a new normal, trying our best to stay afloat and hold each other up.

    In June, I was overwhelmed by the new tension brought on by civic protests and nearby property damage, knowing we had staff traveling through town and by bus. One day Metro Transit gave notice that they were closing down and we sent one of our teachers home early. Some teachers quit or did not return to the classroom. Our families and staff were additionally stressed.

    Social distancing, disinfectant wipe downs, hand washing, gloves, masks, face shields and gowns were made available and used as needed to ensure safety for staff and families. Classroom staff welcomed and brought in each child from the entry. At the end of the day, one staff person was available to watch for each parent arriving. This continues to be a new dance as we respond to changing CDC guidelines. We are cross training. In the beginning, adjusting schedules helped us get used to wearing masks and working in a new way. Staff are continually needed, days off are less. We grieve for the way it was, while we adjust to the way it is. The children hesitate as we hesitate. The children embrace the situation much like we do. Trust is huge. We can’t do what we do without trust. We are grateful every day.

    Still, connections persevere. One cold day during the winter of 2021 as I was masked, wearing my down coat and trudging through the parking lot on my way to be tested, a weekly part of our routine, a dad and daughter pulled up nearby. I heard the one-year-old call out my name. She recognized me. I couldn’t believe it. I turned and squatted down as my friend ran and gave me a big hug. We wore masks in the infant room while she was growing and learning, listening closely and assimilating language. Our connection and trust is strong, even in this new world.

    Still, so many people are hurting in this new and complicated reality. Recently, I was looking forward to welcoming a new family. I left a voicemail and waited patiently, anticipating the arrival of a family of four. I was asked specifically if the older sister could come and play in our large muscle room while we went over the infant’s routines and how everything was going for the family. We planned to review policy and procedures in the process and welcome the family by creating a family panel with photos.

    But on this very sad day, no one came. The director came into the room. She stood in front of me as I fed an infant and said, “I have very sad news. The worst possible news.” She sat down on the cushion in front of me and told me she received word that the new infant, who was to be oriented today, had lost his mother. His mom was suffering from postpartum depression, had a psychotic episode, and ended her life. Dad, in his grief, had no plans to return to work. There would be a memorial service later as he gathered her distant family.

    I am sad. I grieve for this family. I grieve for the way it was and all of the rich opportunities we had for family connection and support. What next? I’m not sure. How do we keep on? Sometimes circumstances keep us from having opportunities to be with families. But still, I think of the smiling faces of the children and look at what we do have. We can still be a part of someone’s day, and maintaining these bonds is important. Caring is our connection and we must look for the opportunities to care for families whenever we can.

  • 26 Aug 2021 2:27 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Re (3) Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose

    Thank you all who responded and expressed interest in the Minnesota Remida Dreaming Project. Here is an update in three areas: survey results, our work thus far and an invitation to think together.

    Survey results:
    We had 30 responses to the survey sent in the Winter 2021 Newsletter. Of those thirty, nineteen people replied with a yes or maybe, with interest in the committee and thinking group. Thank you to all those who responded! 

    Our work so far:
    We met over Zoom with two people who were instrumental in developing the Inventing Remida Project Portland (IRPP), Will Parnell, a Portland State University professor and Angela Molloy Murphy, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne education center. They shared their experience with IRPP and we shared our hopes for moving forward on this project as a collective. We are grateful for their willingness to think with us.

    From our perspective, this Remida - recycle, repurpose center - will be a place to hold materials that can:

    • be reused
    • be offered to children to honor and support their thinking
    • offer education opportunities to educators, parents and community at large
    • invite people to look at the impact of materials on our environment 
    • be an equitable resource that is offered to all at little to no cost

    The heart of our hope will be establishing a creative recycling center with a civic focus. We are on a mission to identify a local name as we find our definition! Maybe you have some ideas.

    • Do you or know of someone in your circle with grant writing skills?
    • Do you have an idea of space for a first home for the project?
    • Do you have a connection to a small business with possible materials to donate?
    • Do you patronize a small business or local artist that could be involved?

    A few committee members are investigating two nonprofits in Minneapolis in the coming weeks: Belle’s ToolBox and Twin Cities Makers to see if there are possibilities for collaboration.

    We have planned a virtual brainstorming session via Zoom on September 26, 2021. We will discuss, question, dream and envision possibilities! If you are interested in joining the conversation or have ideas, email Heidi Wolf (hwolf@bsmschool.org). It is not necessary to be local to the Minneapolis area to be involved - all are welcome! 

    Lani Shapiro recently reminded me that the "thinking with" process we hope to offer the children in our care is often left out of our adult experience and practice. In order to work this way with children, we need to have such experiences ourselves. We hope growing this recycle/repurpose center will be a process of true collaboration where we look at the task and move forward together.


    Heidi Wolf
    Teacher and Director
    Little Knights Early Childhood Program
    Benilde-St. Margaret’s School
    Minneapolis

  • 07 Jul 2021 3:20 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)


    My first child is growing up, up, up and away, faster with each passing day. He is in the last few months of his fifth grade year, just four months shy of turning twelve and five months or so from his first day of middle school. I’m not sure how it is possible, but my son is now a tween, and I can see the hints of it in the ways he is beginning to pull away; he is well on his way to becoming a teenager.

    Much of this was evident in the winter of 2020, when he was ten, and in the fourth grade. He was more interested in playing basketball than building creations with LEGOs, more intrigued by his Nintendo Switch than the games of make believe he’d played for so many years with his younger sister. School took much of his time, sports practice and games ate up some of our precious evenings, and the weekends flew by in a blur of socializing and activities. I felt that it was too hectic, but that was just the way life was for most all of the families we knew.

    But something happened when the world shut down last March. With the influence of fourth grade and peers removed, time didn’t just slow down. In our home, time actually reversed course. My son had the time to be bored, to imagine and to play again. My son had a little more time to be little.

    This didn’t happen on its own. We had the amazing good fortune of friends of ours moving into a home behind ours the first weekend of March of 2020. They have three children, and since we were all staying at home from everything by mid-March, we decided to band together to weather the storm as a sort of two house commune. There were so many gifts that came along with this decision. We cooked meals for one another, gave each other a social outlet and watched over each other’s children to alleviate the stress of remote learning. But the most special gifts of all were the relationships that developed between the five children and the imaginative play that followed for all of them together.

    The youngest of the group was four, the oldest was my son, then ten. But they never separated by gender lines or into age groups. They just spent time as a group, three boys and two girls, grateful to have each other. They played in the woods and captured a snake, and many little frogs and toads, creating habitats and then releasing after observing. They made an art studio and painted water colors and held a gallery show, and the grownups were instructed to dress up in order to attend. They built elaborate LEGO houses and then a LEGO world where they hosted each other for holidays and birthdays – bountiful LEGO social lives where birthday parties could actually be attended and holidays could be celebrated with others, unlike the actual world they were living in. They wrote and filmed a stop motion LEGO film, choreographed a dance recital and rehearsed and performed a couple of choral concerts - all for only four lucky adult attendees - their parents. They played endless games outside: four square, freeze tag and cherry bomb, and my personal favorite, “Shipwreck,” where they pretended they were shipwrecked children that had to survive on their own in a new and different world without adults. Shipwreck made me wonder about how much their new Covid world influenced this imaginary world. Their Covid world was without teachers, coaches, or grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles. It was a world with only their parents - and even then, their parents were not the same parents - they were frazzled by the responsibilities of remote learning, navigating an often stressful and heartbreaking world that changed each day, and some with jobs that had demands like never before. Shipwreck gave them agency, and didn’t saddle them with the baggage of parents who often seemed either distracted or on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

    His time with his neighbor crew changed with the seasons. When the two families went back in person to different schools in the fall, the children preferred to play outside, even when chilly, and play inside included masks. They still had plenty of time to create together, as no one was socializing or rushing off to any kind of practice. With hybrid and pod models and distancing all around, school peers had less influence. The lure of imaginary play remained for him all through the fall and winter, though I can finally see it losing some of its lustre this spring. He recently rearranged his bedroom and made a huge give away pile of toys and treasures of a younger era, and the pile included some LEGOS.

    Did my son lose some things during all of this? Yes, of course. We all lost things, and as we know, some lost much more than others. His losses are minor compared to so many, but in his world, they loom large. He lost precious time with his grandparents and other dear family members that live far and wide, he lost three months of his education, as remote learning was a struggle for him. He lost time playing basketball, a sport he loves, and he lost time with his friends from school - friends he has known for years and years. But I saw him gain so much, too, in our tiny world. As he played in the woods, spun stories and got lost in the possibilities of LEGO parts with his band of friends, I saw the pressure of growing up slide away. I saw him letting go of the real world, and instead, choosing the pretend world, where anything could happen with the right storyline and willing partners. And so, even though this last year was painful in so many ways, I can look back at it with gratitude for the magical gift it gave our family. As I see him today, back in school and growing up and away at an alarming clip, I look back at the chaos and confusion and can see clearly what our time at home gave to him - a bonus year of being a child.

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