A dynamic forum focused on the experience of childhood and the process of learning

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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 26 Mar 2021 9:57 AM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    As I write this my children are back in virtual school after two weeks of winter break. During the break, my four children (two grade school-aged, a preschooler and a toddler) engaged in deep imaginative play. They wrote, designed costumes and sets, and performed plays; built a freeform Lego Hogwarts (all the while constructing a series of cars for the 2-year old to keep him occupied); and busied themselves making endless little trinkets for one another as gifts. Outdoors, they developed an elaborate imaginary game of warring kingdoms. Each child constructed a fort in one corner of the yard and met in the middle for swordplay and council meetings. As a parent, I make a practice of observing them with a critical eye, noticing all they are learning and working through in play. As I watched them over break, I was struck that this play seemed both so familiar and typical for them, but also that it had been a long time since I had seen them play in this way.

    What started as a small nugget in the back of my mind during break, became obvious when school resumed. Now my older children spend their mornings on zoom, and the afternoon is mostly taken up with reading quietly in their beds or maybe playing in their room. This was what I became accustomed to seeing since school started and why their play over break had struck me. After a morning online, there are no sweeping imaginative games that engross all four kids for hours.

    The tenor of my childrens’ play changes on distance learning days. They seem lethargic, tired and spent from their morning online, while simultaneously vibrating with pent up energy. I push them outside, but they struggle to get into the same wonderful play groove they previously enjoyed. There is more fighting as siblings struggle to remain on the same page or some will want to play while others do not. They do not seem able to problem-solve their differences in play ideas. Rather than being motivated to work it out simply to ensure play continues, they give up and retreat to read alone in their room. Meanwhile, my little two happily play with one another, but they also yearn for the bigger ones and do not understand their absence.

    I deeply appreciate and marvel that my children can self-regulate in this way. I know that after a stimulating morning online perhaps an afternoon of quiet reading is just what they need. Also, I want to provide the caveat that I am thrilled with how their teachers structured distance learning and know that my kids are primarily happy, engaged and learning. Still, I wonder what these play changes signify and watch my children for clues as to their mental health and how they are weathering these times. We are all walking through this global crisis together for the first time, and no one knows how to navigate past every hurdle. I am finding value in this Reggio-inspired practice of curious observation and allowing my noticings to affect how I respond to my children’s changing needs.

    -Reba Batalden

    Reba Batalden co-founded and currently serves as Board Chair of St. Paul School of Northern Lights, a Reggio-inspired K-8 school. She holds a Ph.D. in Ecology and during her graduate tenure developed and taught inquiry-based, interdisciplinary science curriculum for St. Paul Public Schools and professional development courses for middle and high school science teachers. In a pandemic, she is mama, teacher, chef and playmate to 4 children, ages 10, 8, 5 and 2.

  • 02 Mar 2021 1:38 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    by Meredith Dodd

    As lead teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, Meredith’s teaching is structured to build young children’s democratic dispositions through social emotional learning, mathematics, symbolism and ecological systems approaches. Meredith loves to help people understand the power of documenting children’s learning in ways that reveal children’s growth in comprehension and understanding - and inform teachers’ decision-making.

    The goal (of educators) is to better understand and reflect on the capacity and skills and way of thinking of children.
    Magdalena Tedeschi, Pedagogista

    The Reggio Emilia Approach views interactive, kinesthetic mediums as languages children use to express their knowledge. At the November Network Gathering, Sandy Burwell presented a rich tableau for how light and shadow are such languages. Her examples of children enthusiastically engaged in playful, creative ways demonstrates a natural and yet intentional approach to learning.   

    Burwell’s presentation reminded me of the 2020 Reggio-Children E-Learning Webinar, Children and the Digital. Teachers in Reggio Emilia are intentional in the integration of materials into classroom learning spaces. In fact, they view their spaces as living environments. Their classrooms grow and change to reflect children’s developing interests and acquired knowledge.  The webinar presenters, Magdalena Tedeschi and Simona Spaggiari, described three important concepts that guide the Reggiani educators thinking, decision-making and planning: agency, beauty, and time. They use these concepts to thread together images, anecdotes and the idea that digital is a place for expanding upon languages to interact with each other.

    The language of light and shadow naturally lends itself to support children’s agency. Burwell’s examples for exploring light and shadow invite children to independently construct their learning about the world around them. Children enter into a magical world of light and shadow intentionally constructed by teachers to create deep, feelings-based relationships with the language. Children have space to actively explore the language and begin to use it with their own intentions. 

    The Italians believe beauty is a necessary condition for learning. Beauty, in our interpretation, is not a characteristic to just be added. It is a crucial condition. It’s part of our DNA in the construction of the environment so that children and adults can feel at ease and can support each other.  Tedeschi

    The images shared in Burwell’s presentation and the Reggio webinar were environments of simplicity. Children’s use of open-ended materials with the languages of light and shadow emerged due to an absence of distraction. The beauty of the spaces appeared because the children could clearly read and interact with the materials presented by the teachers. There is not too much, not too little.  Burwell states, “What matters is the intention you have for the materials. What are you thinking or focusing on with a few materials?  What are you and the children excited about? Keep it simple.”

    In their webinar the Italians describe that time is experienced differently as an adult and as a child. “We found a sort of oxymoron in the construction of the culture of the adults around technology…As adults, we speak about time as a dimension that passes by very fast.” Thus, the adult’s intention for a language may be at odds with how children desire to explore and utilize the language. “Children can really just lift up the dimension of time by unzipping their mental steps and by slowing down their reflections.” Tedeschi’s statement focuses on the dichotomy between a child’s use of technology and an adult’s understanding of the purpose of technology.  The adult views technology as a tool to accomplish tasks faster. The Italians found that children’s use of technology can be a tool for slowing down time. Children use technology to look closely at an object, an idea, or to bring together many languages to express their understanding of the world around them.

    This idea of using a language for different purposes as a result of one’s experience of time resonated with me in one particular example in Burwell’s presentation. Like Burwell, I love the overhead projector as a material to explore the language of light and shadow. The projector provides so many possibilities for individual and group discoveries. Burwell shared an image of a child’s assembly of mixed objects illuminated on a white wall:  transparent, colored plastic alongside and on top of opaque letters and necklaces. I have seen images such as this in my classroom. There are moments when I question my purpose for offering this exploration of an overhead projector and loose parts. Why do children seemingly always create a mound of materials onto the projector? Am I not listening to the children correctly? Have I provided too many loose parts? Is this language of light being lost?  What happens next? The following quote from Burwell brought me comfort, gave further insight into this “oxymoron,” of time’s purpose, and reminded me of why I love what I do. She states, 

    There is a tendency of children to keep intentionally and carefully placing objects on the overhead until the whole thing is a pile and you can’t see the light. I wonder what problem they want to solve? What wonder!

    Agency, beauty and time are all found in this image of a child’s first experiences with an overhead projector. Burwell’s presentation challenges us to explore languages alongside children.  In doing so, the adult needs to model patience and curiosity. It is the responsibility of adults to reflect on their assumptions of children’s purpose. We need to consider the meaning of a child’s use of a language as a part of their relationship with time. Burwell ends with a gift for early childhood educators during this time of separation due to COVID-19. She reminds us of the power we have to influence generations of human beings. We have a commitment to play with children in the ever-growing environments we co-construct. 

    We need stories of hope. These stories can nurture our spirits for a future of joy. We get to be a part of it!  

  • 22 Jan 2021 1:42 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    “Children build knowledge of the world with their bodies. Their actions precede and follow one another in an unfolding process in which children continually create new actions. So many of those actions are non-verbal. Because mind andbody are one, those actions are imprinted in the brain kinesthetically and lay thegroundwork for later thought.”   -Tom Bedard 

    I did not grow up with plans to be an early childhood educator. The thought never even crossed my mind until I was 30, so anything I have learned has not come from a master’s degree or even a bachelor’s. All my knowledge has come from the three-, four-, and five-year-olds that I am lucky enough to spend my days with as well as information I have acquired from books and blogs by play-based educators and any others who share my pure joy and passion for the field.

    One of the magical aspects of our senses is that they are universal, they cross language barriers and completely disregard race or gender. The conference featured Tom Bedard, who creates wonderful and thought-provoking experiences in sensory tables for his students. He does not hold preconceived notions. The installations are there for children (and adults) to learn, problem-solve, socialize and have fun! As I watched the videos in his presentation I could imagine the learning taking place as his students explored the oobleck dripping down through the pegboard and the sense of wonder when things disappeared into the hidden compartments.

    3,000 sense receptors in each fingertip!

    As we observe our students’ learning we often think about what they are seeing, what they are hearing or even what they are tasting or smelling. When reflecting on myself I know that more often than not I forget about touch! And when I say that, I am saying that I am forgetting the experience of 3,000 sense receptors in each finger, that’s 30,000 sense receptors at the very tips of our hands. As adults, we have lived with these receptors for decades and have grown to take them for granted, whereas the children we are teaching have only lived with this experience for a few short years or some only months. Take a moment and imagine how it would feel to experience thousands of grains of sand cascading over your hands for the first time or if the feeling of water flowing between your fingers was a complete unknown. Better still, collect a cup of sand and a cup of water, close your eyes, hold your hands out and ask someone to surprise you by pouring one of them over your hands. That feeling is the beginning of fluid dynamics and solid mechanics, something which, when studied, can take you into what I think is one of the most interesting areas of science.

    Tom Bedard explained that building varied sensory table apparatus is his creative outlet.  I would love to invite children from my class to help brainstorm, collaborate, design and build with their peers, teachers and even parents, to come up with their very own sensory experiences that we could all explore together. We miss details when we become too involved, instead of quietly observing and noticing clues such as - the interest in gravity from crashing down blocks or curiosity about water that appears from the student who waters the plants each day. From moments like these we can elaborate our sensory tables, in collaboration with our children, to ensure that we can all explore together, growing the many languages of children.

    Tom Dodd grew up in the North of England and after studying sustainable engineering and working for eight years ineconomic development as an architectural, planning, and design consultant, he moved to Grand Rapids, Michiganwhere his career changed paths completely. He has spent the last three years at Grand Rapids Early DiscoveryCenter, a Reggio Emilia inspired early childhood school, as a teacher, and a few months ago took on the role of pedagogista.

  • 17 Dec 2020 1:54 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Kristenza Nelson is a lead teacher at Dodge Nature Center Preschool. She earned a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and is working on her Master Degree in Environmental Education from Hamline University. Working with children in nature combines both of her passions. She considers it an honor to foster these connections.

    In early March of 2020, the children at Dodge Nature Center Preschool were tapping maple trees in the woods. Together we stretched our trunks and reached our fingers toward the blue sky. Children gave thanks to the Pancake Tree as they whispered, “Wake up!” Spring is a magical time together. The children were relaxed and comfortable in the March thaw. Hope returned with the light and the earth began to squish beneath our feet.

    Then, news of Minnesota’s first COVID case came. Within days our joyful preschool fell silent. Our school doors closed as COVID arrived. It was heartbreaking on so many levels. 

    How were our young children and families coping in isolation? How could we continue to cultivate the many relationships we’d fostered? Could we engage three, four and five-year old children in ZOOM meetings?  These were trying times, a far cry from being together on the trail. How could we bring children’s voices back to the center? The project that follows emerged from those days of isolation. 

    During the closure we invited families to stay connected to our classroom community by offering twice weekly ZOOM meetings that included songs, stories, and time to share. We reached deep to find ways to stay connected. I knew that screens were not ideal and wanted to continue to support their connections to the natural world. I encouraged the children to choose a nearby tree that spoke to them. I asked them to create drawings to share in our virtual spaces and newsletter. We created our own forest, as amazing and unique as each child. How would we continue to grow in place? Perhaps like trees. This was my proposal to families:

    Hello Beautiful Spruce Families,

    The last time we were together at Dodge we were learning all about Maple trees. Tasting the sweet sap and noticing the buds emerge on the branches.

     We are proposing a long term project that begins with choosing a tree to observe over an extended period of time. You don't have to be experts to learn together. There is magic in discovery.

    Begin by having your child make a drawing or take a photo of a tree.

    Write down one observation a week to share with the Sprucies.

    What does your child notice?

    Remember to ask open ended questions.

    • Who lives in a tree? 
    • What do you think is happening?
    • Where are the leaves?
    • Do trees eat?

    • There are never any wrong answers!

      With my whole heart I believe that nature is the best medicine for whatever ails us. Encouraging families and children to go outdoors to observe their trees brought them outside and brought us together. We came together through art, nature and observation. We came together while staying apart, just like trees in the forest.


    This fall we are grateful to be welcoming children back to Dodge Nature Center Preschool. COVID is still present in Minnesota, but we have learned spending time outside is the safest way to be together. For that we are grateful. It is beautiful to see children back on the trail enjoying the autumn glow beneath the beautiful pancake trees.


  • 22 Oct 2020 2:44 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Reflections on Retirement: "Nostalgia for the Future"

    by Patti Loftus

    "gestures and dialogues of peace are still possible"

    As friends and colleagues gear up for a new school year, the shape of which, because of Covid, is still being determined, I am happily unhinged from the contingency planning and restructuring. Since the end of May, when my final eight weeks of distant teaching ended and my retirement commenced, my brainspace has been entirely taken up with how to live in response to the death of George Floyd (and many others) and the seismic opportunity for awareness and change that seems to have emerged.

    Although the following piece by Loris Malaguzzi to parents and children in Reggio Emilia is over 25 years old, it’s remarkably relevant this summer of 2020.

    "To the parents and children of the infant-toddler centres and preschools.

    It has been a difficult summer for the world, for Europe, for Italy. Because of wars, sometimes invisible and often "forgotten", because of terrorist attacks, because of earthquakes – "attacks" by nature of enormous proportions – tragedies added to tragedies. In our Countries we are witnessing a human exodus. The rights of many are betrayed... starting with children... starting with the right to life and to safety.

    Those who work and live with children have a duty to renew hope in their daily action: a message of trust we must embed within us, educators and parents, in order for changes to be generated. In fact, we would like to hope, believe and communicate to the children that gestures of dialogue and peace are still possible, always possible, and that these are the foundation of human relations.

    Education to respect for a life and ideas different from one's own, the determination and capacity to dialogue with differences, compassion, and solidarity, are the conditions for a stable peace, capable of halting appalling "holocausts" and giving voice to human reason again.

    At the start of this new school year, what we ask of each one of us, we who are parents, educators and citizens in educational institutions, is a daily commitment to reaffirming the right of every person and every society to life and to a future, to education, to safety, to beauty, to play and to relations; continuing "to give a human and civilized meaning to existence... to feel nostalgia for the future, and for humankind".

    (Loris Malaguzzi). Infant-Toddler Centres and Preschool of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia - Reggio Children - Reggio Children Foundation" found at Sightines-Initiative.com – “Change is Everyday”

    We in the U.S. are in similarly troubled times this summer with the losses and uncertainties that Covid-19 has brought and we are in a time of social earthquakes with renewed calls that “Black Lives Matter,” that racism be named and rooted out. Will this moment of heightened awareness move a critical mass of us to new ways of living so that next generations will no longer replay the same injustices that are still deeply established?

    I believe that educators and parents have the potential of leading the way. Malaguzzi wrote that “gestures of peace and dialogue are still possible”​ ​and calls them the​ ​“foundation of human relations.”​ ​He named educators and parents as having a duty to​ ​“renew hope.”

    So what are “gestures of peace and dialogue?”

    Here is one example.... In our Pre-K classroom, we engaged 4 and 5-year olds in conversations about fairness, skin color, who makes the rules and the big idea that “everyone counts.” I am convinced that if we begin when children are young, we can teach them to “dialogue with differences.” In the book, Nurture Shock, in the chapter titled, “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race,” deeply held but false assumptions about young children are described – that children are color blind and that it’s better not to talk about race but, instead, simply expose children to diverse environments. Both of these have been found to be myths.

    “The same way we remind our daughters, ‘Mommies can be doctors just like daddies,’ we ought to be telling all children that doctors can be any skin color. It’s not complicated what to say, it’s only a matter of how often we reinforce it...Explicitness works.”

    Pre-K teachers at Blake let parents know in advance that, as part of our social studies curriculum, we would be talking with the children about differences and similarities, fairness, inclusion (“welcome” in Pre-K terms) and that no one is inherently better or worse than another because of their skin color. Each year the teachers drew from a lengthy list of book titles and selected those that best led to conversations. We believed it was as important for the white children to engage in conversations about skin color, fairness and civil rights as it was for the children of color. Each year’s work varied and unfolded in ways unique to that particular group and in dialogue with the parents. We shared conversations with the parents in our daily journals, encouraged them to look at the books we read to their children and provided additional titles for parents, particularly those who identified as white, to expand and deepen their knowledge about identity development and U.S. history.

    Malaguzzi’s hope (and mine) for children’s “right to life and to safety” and the “capacity to dialogue with differences” will require of teachers (and parents) the determination to be and remain open and curious, to learn more about the difficult racial history of the U.S. (that we adults did not learn in school,) to introduce books, experiences and conversations into classrooms and homes so that children can grow up to be comfortable talking about differences, race, fairness and inclusion. Malaguzzi described a ​“nostalgia for the future,”​ a yearning for a world better than today’s, which holds the possibility of ​“reaffirming the right of every person and every society to life and to a future, to education, to safety, to beauty, to play and to relations.” ​With a renewed focus on justice and change building in our country, I feel hopeful that a better world is indeed possible for all, if teachers, parents, and children make a priority of having these vital conversations together.

    Books for Children, including books about “change makers”

    One​ by Kathryn Otoshi

    We Are All Alike We Are All Different​ by Cheltenham Elementary School


    The Colors of Us​ by Karen Katz

    All The Colors We Are​ by Katie Kissinger

    Skin Again​ by bell hooks and Chris Raschka

    Whoosh​ by Chris Barton

    Mae Among The Stars​ by Roda Ahmed and Stasia Burrington

    Ron’s Big Mission​ by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden Wilma

    Unlimited​ by Kathleen Krull and David Diaz

    Queen of the Track​ by Heather Lang

    Dolores Huerta​ by Sarah Warren

    A Splash of Red​ by Jen Bryant

    Wonder Horse​ by Emily Arnold McCully

    My Brother Martin​ by Christine King Farris

    Back of the Bus​ by Aaron Reynolds and Floyd Cooper

    Fly Bessie Fly​ by Lynn Joseph and Yvonne Buchanan

    Ruby Bridges​ by Ruby Bridges and Grace Maccarone

    In The Garden​ with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby and Nicole Tadgell

    Resources for Adults

    Waking Up​ White Debby Irving

    White Fragility​ by Robin D’Angelo

    Stamped From The Beginning​ by Ibram X. Kendi

    Note: May, 2020 marked the end of Patti's 36-year career in early childhood education - 28 years as a Pre-K teacher at Blake School in the Twin Cities area and eight as a Montessori and ECFE teacher. Patti’s status is “retired” but she is available (at no charge) to share resources and ideas with anyone interested.​pattiroseloftus@gmail.com

  • 24 Sep 2020 2:52 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    The changes that have come with the Corona virus have disrupted everyone’s lives, relationships, routines and expectations. President of Reggio Children, Claudia Guidici said (regarding COVID), “This completely unknown and unforeseen situation obliges us to rethink our daily way of life, our work and our relations, our way of seeing others and everything that surrounds us.” Uneasiness increases when we add inequality and civic unrest.The structure of care and education for the coming year is uncertain, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

    While there is a plethora of sources for parents and teachers to access to support relationships and learning for both children and adults, we have been moved by the civic generosity of Reggio Children in making their current work freely available and translated into English. There are several kinds of offerings. 

    The first, via Reggio Children, offers a collection of small proposals “to develop ideas and initiatives, for us to stay together, play together, and make school together.” The accessible provocations are loosely organized: stories, sounds, drawing, number, digital, etc. 


    For many years we have wanted to better understand the work of the teachers in Reggio. While inspirations from Reggio Emilia are not intended to be copied, educators from Reggio Emilia are regularly making distance learning experiences visible, which serve as powerful examples. The Reggio Children – Loris Malaguzzi Centre Foundation (Fondazione Reggio Children Centro Loris Malaguzzi) promotes the Reggio Approach around the world.

    "These are proposals that, despite the difficulty of not being able to attend school, going out, meeting friends or playing outdoors, allow children to investigate, think from different points of view, graphically represent, explore with the imagination to support their curiosity and desire to know."   

    These online documents give us a glimpse into teachers’ thinking and planning which deepen experience, not only in the context of the digital environment. They provide intriguing starting points for distance learning.


    Please regard these online provocations as a framework and consider how they might affect your planning. The breadth, depth and accessibility in the workshop design are remarkable. 

    Reggio Children is also offering, for the first time, live webinars at relatively modest tuition, presented by teachers, pedagogistas and atelieristas sharing narratives, images and videos of projects from their educational project. The webinars are structured very much as presentations during Study Tours. Webinars are in Italian with simultaneous translation voiceover in English. There will be a new schedule of events for the fall. 


    We would like to encourage everyone to document and reflect on your experiences as we adapt to our current circumstances and would love to gather traces and reflections inspired by Reggio Emilia. We are interested in working via any of the distance platforms with you, at any step along the way. It’s a fresh opportunity for collaboration. Contact Lani Shapiro at lani.shapiro@gmail.com and/or send an email to reggioinspiredmn@gmail.com

     -Lani Shapiro

All content and articles may be used for educational purposes with proper citation (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License).

Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota is a 501(c)3 non-profit located at 525 Pelham Blvd. N., Saint Paul, MN 55104 

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