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

  • 08 Jul 2019 9:14 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    By Tam Weiss Rhodes and Heidi Wolf

    Marvel: ​to become filled with surprise, wonder, or amazed curiosity, to feel astonishment or perplexity at or about, intense surprise or interest

    I. Learning in context

    The Exhibit:
    The “Wonder of Learning” exhibit brought a multi-media display to the Madison, Wisconsin Public Library sharing the work of educators and children from Reggio Emilia, Italy with educators, parents and child advocates. The Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota coordinated a study visit to the Exhibit April 12 – 13, 2019. An event on Friday evening framed our experience and helped us start thinking of moments in our lives with children that were moments of wonder. In small groups, we shared a photo or described a moment when we witnessed a moment of wonder in learning.

    Through the exhibit we were offered a deeper look at potential ways teachers can implement and support child-centered learning, and teachers and children can co-construct knowledge around projects.

    Heidi:​ ​Many of the exhibit panels had sentences or paragraphs that I had to read and reread and even write them down to ponder later. One that stood out was:

    “Environments can multiply these marvelings – singling out certain phenomena and ‘amplifying’ them, making them more spectacular.”

    Tam:​ The exhibit triggered reflections and questions on our interactions with children, heightened our awareness of patterns of adult thinking that can hinder us from seeing children and gave guideposts, generated ideas and posed new questions.

    • Where are my “aha” moments, and why?
    • What happens when I see this learning in the children around me? How do I respond now and what can I change?
    • How can I bring about this change?

    Heidi: ​Since seeing the “Wonder of Learning” exhibit, I am making a renewed effort to REALLY observe the youngest in my classroom, to set up the environment with simple materials that engage children and to slow down and let them take in the magic and be in the moment with them.

    I am still learning to observe the toddlers in my care and join in their delight and surprise, and to remember what magic each of these experiences might be for them.

    II. The photograph

    We are standing together at the “Wonder of Learning” exhibit; independently stopping in silence for a long time in front of one particular panel.

    Tam: ​I turn to Heidi and launch into an exchange that seems to continue a conversation begun the night before, during the Network welcome, to launch our work. We are looking together at an image in which children are walking, there are vines tangling their feet, and the teacher appears to realize that something magical is happening.

    What grabs my attention is this moment here. Much of the other work is beautiful, but it seems familiar to me because it is situated within the context of the school and classroom. (I point to the photograph.) But here - here’s what I can’t stop thinking about.

    Heidi: ​I was struck with how closely the teachers watched the children for evidence of learning, especially reading body language since these children are just beginning talkers. This reminded me how important observation is, especially with the youngest learners.

    Tam: ​As an adult, attuning to the emotional lives of children distorts time. I have to slow down to value the child’s frustration simply feeling a vine tangling tiny feet – feet that have just mastered walking. At the same time, I have to speed up to act quickly enough to snap the mental image (or photograph), listen to the child, envision the possible trajectories of this learning opportunity, and ensure the child is safely able to negotiate space once more.

    And so, I’m here. I get stopped right here.

    Heidi: ​When I was looking at the panel and that photo of feet, entangled in a vine, I too get stuck, but in a way that makes me speculate how often I miss moments of opportunity with children when I rush them along, especially the toddlers, in my effort to keep up with the group of older children in our multi-aged classroom. How often have I robbed the toddlers in the group of a moment of wonder or missed a chance to notice a discovery? I stop myself here, asking, how can I remember to SLOW down, and join the moment of discovery and to see it?

    It occurs to me that as adults, as we gain knowledge in life, the routine of daily life becomes mundane. I wonder if we have lost touch with the feeling of what it is like to marvel. Maybe it’s a version of childhood amnesia. With children, especially toddlers, everything is new, everything is magical – a true MARVEL. I think adults forget that the joy and struggle of discovery is more important than the final skill acquired.


  • 20 Jun 2019 8:11 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    by Eileen Galvin, Friends School of Minnesota Communications Director

    This March, Marshall Anderson, Kindergarten teacher; Laura Pereira, Art Specialist; and Karen Salter, Music Specialist presented at a RINM Saturday Gathering.

    Their presentation titled Creativity, Collaboration, and The Arts explored how their collaboration deepens their children’s learning, and how their collaboration deepens and energizes their practice as teachers. 

    • What language embodies the spirit of collaboration?
    • What does collaboration feel, sound and look like in your setting?

    "We know from research that the brain’s weakest function is the retention of isolated bits of data. Its strongest function is the retention of pattern, narrative, story and system. The brain is a patterning organ, and it thrives on making connections." 

    – Parker Palmer

    The Arts and Insects 

    Each year, Laura collaborates with teachers from first and second grade to focus on the natural world, and on insects in particular. Through collaboration, this project evolves each year depending on the children’s responses. 

    The children explore insects from many different perspectives and using multiple media: 

    • observing insects outside 
    • looking at pinned insects in a science lab 
    • writing about how they have interacted with insects in their lives 
    • painting watercolors of insects 
    • making 3-D insects out of found materials
    • sharing their knowledge with their older buddy 

    The children reflect on these questions: 
    • “What do artists and scientists have in common?”
    • “How can viewing an object from the perspective of an artist help scientific understanding?” 

    “Artists and scientists both observe, experiment, and discover things,”
    Lola, 1st grade

    “What did you discover? How can you use these discoveries in your paintings?”
    • “What parts exist on real insects?”
    • “Can you create an imaginary insect that uses real insect parts?”
    • “How can you use found materials to imitate nature?”

    Children make deeper meaning when they examine a subject from many different perspectives, in many different ways. The arts provide space for deeper thought, creativity and engagement throughout a curriculum. 

    “The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences. We must widen the range of topics and goals, the types of situations we offer and their degree of structure, the kinds and combinations of resources and materials, and the possible interactions with things, peers, and adults.”

     – Loris Malaguzi

  • 10 May 2019 9:18 AM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Join the Reggio Inspired Network of Minnesota this evening, at Dodge Nature Preschool, at 6:30 pm, to celebrate the year with wine and conversation, and to learn more about our exploration of The Wonder of Learning exhibit in Madison, Wisconsin. It's free!

  • 30 Jan 2019 3:11 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Teaching: A Delicate Balancing Act
    Sandra Burwell

    As teachers working with children, how do we decide when and how to offer support that honors the power of children’s own discovery and learning? My journey with the Reggio Approach is changing the value I place on the children’s own process of learning. I don’t want my perceptions, viewpoint or knowledge to interrupt the children’s thinking. Despite additional intellectual insight from my Montessori study of the child’s competence in self-direction, I am still tempted to “instruct.”

    I have always enjoyed exploring a new topic with children. If I know nothing or very little about it, then I am sure we will learn together, as happened when children began exploring “sewers.” From the very first day, it was evident that this had the makings of a long-term exploration and deep investigation.

    How many times have you walked past the metal grill in the street next to the curb? Did you stop when you heard water rushing through? Did you look down, even get on your knees to look further? I have not. Neither had the teachers with whom I was working. But a group of children in their class were engrossed and delighted!

    At the newly formed South Metro Documentation Lab, our group collaborated on this exploration of sewers, sharing photos, conversations and drawings. During our discussion, we recognized how very little we knew about sewers. Our follow-up research made our lack of knowledge obvious. It is humbling to think that because the children were calling them “sewers” we did too. We realized these were not sewers, but storm drains. We made a plan to offer pictures of different views and types of what the children had seen, to discover more about the children’s knowledge.

    “In order to meet students where they are… you have to know the individual and collective zone of proximal development (ZPD) of your learners. ‘The ZPD is the distance between what children can do by themselves and the next learning that they can be helped to achieve with competent assistance.'"

    -Eileen Raymond

    We did not share graphs showing both sewers and rain run-off drains with the children, but saved them for possible use later. We discussed how we did not want to influence or discount the knowledge they were formulating, nor should we introduce our research and terminology until they were further on in their investigation.

    We continued to observe, listen and think. One particular incident gave us a clue.

    There was a depression near the drain that would fill up during periods of heavy rain and allow the water to seep slowly into the ground. The children talked about this phenomenon:

    Al: We have two sewers in back. We heard water. I keep hearing water going.

    An: There’s water underground in the dirt. It’s brown under there. It goes under the train. Now there’s leaves, not water. Garbage gets stuck and mixed up like a tornado. Sometimes there’s water by the railroad tracks and we can hear it coming down.

    We realized that the children had made the connection between the drains and the water run off in the lowlands and something “under” the train tracks.

    We offered materials: loose parts of tubes, small grates, boxes and fabric so the children could express

    and develop their ideas by building different versions of “sewers.”  They drew map-diagrams and built constructions with blocks and other loose parts.  Increasingly, their focus was on what was underground, what they could NOT see.

    After the teachers thought the children had advanced their work and thinking, we introduced a detailed and uniquely formatted book about all that goes on underground.The Street Beneath My Feetby Yuval Zommer seemed to us to be a resource that could further the children’s knowledge. They became more interested in possibilities other than just rain run-off.

    We gathered the four most interested children to the art studio where we offered tubes, cardboard and other loose parts. We invited the children to represent their concept of what happens underground. There were several discussions and disagreements. At one point the children divided themselves into two groups and created an ‘’upper sewer” and “lower sewer.” Several times when they got stuck, they referred back to the map diagram that A. had drawn, paying special attention to clean water and dirty water and how it is kept separate.

    When considering the teachers’ thinking and choices, one can see these are very new steps in our journey. We see a lot we could have done differently, but we are gratifiedin our realization that we were all learning together step by step. The children’s exploration continues.

    “Observe and listen to children because when they ask ‘why?’ they are not simply asking for the answer from you. They are requesting the courage to find a collection of possible answers. This attitude of the child means that the child is a real researcher . . . Yet it is possible to destroy this attitude of the child with our quick answers and our certainty. How can we support and sustain this attitude of children to construct explanations?”

    -Carlina Rinaldi


    Raymond, Eileen as cited in “6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use With Your Students” Rebecca Alber, TEACHER LEADERSHIP at edutopia.org 1/24/2014

    Rinaldi, Carlina, “Relationship Between Documentation and Assessment” INNOVATIONS Vol. 11, No. 1, Winter 2004

    Zommer, Yuval, The Street Beneath My Feet QED Publishing 2017

  • 17 Jan 2019 7:59 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Reggio-Inspired Network of MN

    Trip to Madison, WI to see 

    “The Wonder of Learning” Exhibit from Reggio Emilia, Italy

    Friday, April 12 - Sunday, April 14, 2019

    Join area colleagues for this unique travel opportunity that includes:

    • the “Wonder of Learning” Exhibit
    • a visit to the Pre-School of the Arts, a Reggio-inspired school in Madison
    • time with colleagues to reflect 

    The “Wonder of Learning” Exhibit will be housed primarily in the Central Madison Library and at the Overture Center, right across the street from the library.  http://wonderoflearningwisconsin.org/

    Register for the Trip

    Click here to register for any part of the trip


    Transportation to Madison is on your own. The Network will gather and share information from participants to help with arranging carpools. 

    Where You Can Stay 

    The Reggio-Inspired Network has reserved a block of 15 Standard Double Queen rooms at the Hampton Inn. 

    Address: 440 W. Johnson St., Madison, WI  53703.

    Phone: 608-255-0360.

    Cost: $169 a night for Friday 4/12 and Saturday 4/13 and includes breakfast.

    How to book the rooms: The rooms will be held until 3/15/19,  then released for public sale. You can book rooms for one night or both nights by phoning the Hampton Inn directly, or book online:  


    Friday, April 12 1pm--4pm

    Preschool of the Arts, Madison, Tour and Workshop 

    “The Role of Art and Music Studios in Reggio-Inspired Practice”

    Preschool of the Arts, a Reggio-inspired early childhood program in Madison, Wisconsin, serves more than 200 children and employs a team of full-time art and music specialists.

    Come learn about how these teaching artists and musicians collaborate with the classroom teachers to create vibrant, responsive, child-centered studio experiences. In this workshop, we will explore the Reggio Emilia concept of “the hundred languages of children” through conversation, demonstration, participation, and reflection. 

    Address: 11 Science Court, Madison, WI 53711

    Cost: $35.  Advance registration required (Note: we need to have at least 10 people register to hold this workshop).  See registration above.


    Friday, April 12--Late Afternoon

    The “Wonder of Learning” Exhibit is open until 6pm at the Central Madison Library and at the Overture Center, right across the street from the library if you want to see it on Friday. 201 Mifflin St. Madison, WI 53703

    Dinner on your own. We will provide restaurant suggestions

    Friday, April 12--7:30 – 9 PM

    Reception and Orientation to the Exhibit: “Setting the Stage” in the Hampton Inn meeting room. 

    Wine and cheese reception to informally meet with others from the Network who will be touring the Exhibit. Prepare to visit the Exhibit and explore introductory questions together.

    Address: 440 W. Johnson St., Madison, WI  53703. 

    Phone: 608-255-0360 

    Cost: There is no cost for this event. 

    Saturday, April 13--9am to Noon

    Self-guided visit to the “Wonder of Learning” Exhibit 

    We will spend the whole morning experiencing the Exhibit at our own pace, viewing, listening, reading, thinking, conversing and interacting about “The Wonder of Learning.” 

    Cost: There is no cost for this event. 

    Lunch is on your own. We will suggest places to eat within walking distance; we can have lunch together in small groups for further conversation.

    Saturday, April 13--1:30 to 4pm

    Post-Visit Discussion – Meet in the Program Room at the Central Madison Library. We’ll gather to think and talk together about what we’ve experienced.  

    Cost: There is no cost for this event. 

    Sunday, April 14 

    The exhibit is open 1 to 5pm. You are welcome to explore on your own or in self-forming groups.

  • 27 Sep 2018 10:30 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    By Barb Murphy

     Over the course of the last year, the Network has spent considerable time engaging with early childhood professionals, parents, and community members-at-large exploring how our childhood experiences shape our values and worldview as adults, and influence the way we view and work with children.  In particular, we asked participants to reflect on questions about where they had grown up; the sights, sounds, and other visceral qualities they remembered from important “places” from their childhood.  How did these “spaces” of our childhoods, in which we existed, and our experiences within those spaces, impact the construction of our adult identities?  How did our own childhood contexts shape our expectations for the current generation of children? We were invited to create a tangible response using a variety of media and materials, which amplified the effect of these exercises and reflections and created a vehicle for sharing our memories with others.

    As a board member, I have had the opportunity to participate in this exercise several times. My initial response, which echoed the responses of almost all participants, were memories of being outside, being able to make choices about what to do, and having connections to trustworthy adults and peers. The predominant themes were of unstructured time vs. structured time; adult-centric constraints vs. personal freedom; in-school time vs. out-of-school time; positive social connections with peers vs. negative; and adults who “saw” children and valued them vs. adults who didn’t pay attention.  As I pondered the important places of my childhood for a third time at our January gathering, I tried to go beyond the happy, cherished memories of time spent in my favorite tree reading a book, playing “horses” in the field behind our house with a group of neighborhood children, packing a bag lunch and heading to the small neighborhood “woods” with my best friends to go exploring and have a picnic, etc., all memories that make me smile and feel a warm, nostalgic glow of “happy.”  These times of freedom to play outside after school and in the summer helped to shape who I am as an adult and an early childhood professional who values relationship-based teaching, play and time spent in nature for all children. However, I was struck by the overall lack of memories and responses from the group that identified adverse or negative experiences. Surely, it is not only our happy childhood experiences that influence our worldview, our values and help to shape us in positive ways.   I have always “known” that those eight years in Catholic school were the catalyst for my desire to find a “better way” to educate children than I had personally experienced. Not only were most of my classes overcrowded, with 50 – 60 children and one nun to keep order and see that we were “learning” by diligently taking us through our workbooks, but also the primary behavior guidance methods were smacking hands with pointers, standing children in the corner, and berating children who struggled to read or finish their workbooks problems. We sat at our desks all day; our only respite from workbooks and worksheets or tests was group instruction and oral recitation. 

    As I thought about these things I felt a clear sense of urgency to craft my response with a focus on my elementary in-school experience. Those eight years of elementary school were extremely adult constrained with little to no recognition of individual children within the class or adult concern or caring for children as individuals. There were no opportunities to play or think creatively. The spaces of my classrooms were all identically dull and uninspiring.  

    As I chose the materials to represent my thoughts, I began to construct a 3-dimensional portrayal of the restriction and monotony that filled our days; the uneasiness that we felt at the lack of compassion for children with any type of exceptionality; and the pent-up angst that we kept under control until the bell rang. 

    As disturbing as this “childhood experience” may seem, it was clearly the foundation and catalyst for my lifelong passion to work with children. I saw how the school operated, doing harm to individuals by demeaning them and controlling signs of individuality and sparks of creativity. I know that this experience shaped my worldview and my values regarding children, parents and teachers as equal partners in the educational dialogue. It fueled my passion for playful learning and immersion in creative pursuits. It inspired me to carefully get to know the children in my care and “see” who they are. I want to know them, honor and respect them, and help them become their best selves. I want to assist parents to do the same. 

    In the weeks following this gathering, I kept my piece of responsive art on the table in my Director’s office at our school. As parents, teachers and children came in to the office, their responses upon seeing the piece were immediate and enthusiastic. I was asked repeatedly to explain what it was; who made it; what did it represent? The children wanted the detailed story behind the mad faces. They knew it was a story that was not happy. But I could share myhappy ending. The parents’ responses were unexpectedly emotional. Several teared-up and thanked me for being here to make a difference for their children and for all children.  Their response to my depiction of my early school years was remarkable. I could clearly see and appreciate the power of sharing our stories to bring about a feeling of connection and the possibility of opening up to new viewpoints. There is impetus to share the story of The Geography of Childhood Projectwith our families and reflect together on our shared values for our children. When we truly listen to one another’s stories, we can become aware of how similar we all are, no matter where or how we spent our childhood years.  And this can bring about positive change on many levels.

  • 31 Jul 2018 8:14 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    By Jeannette Lutter-Gardella

    I was able to attend a Documentation Lab in the early spring with Marshall Anderson, kindergarten teacher at Friends School of Minnesota. As the assistant head of school, my role is to support teachers and provide the resources they need to do their jobs as an aspect of ensuring the strength and vitality of the overall educational program. 

    For many years, Marshall and I have been in dialogue about the Reggio-inspired concept of seeing children as capable. We have explored how to provide sustenance and guidance on children’s journey of discovery about themselves and the world around them. We have supported each other to increase and deepen the practice of listening to children, following children's interests and identifying ways to document what the children are learning, in order to inform what might come next. 

    Yet, for twelve years we have struggled to maintain an intentional and focused practice of reflecting on children's learning as it is happening. School is a busy place packed with the unexpected and fluid nature of many small bodies moving in time and space. The urgent can crowd out the important and, before we know it, we are on the downhill side of the school year and summer is fast approaching. 

    At the Documentation Lab I somehow experienced time being stretched out in a thoughtful and deliberate process using a protocol (Documentation Lab Protocol) through which to view and think about children's learning. The protocol promoted a lively and robust dialogue as we explored and mused over a series of pictures documenting the dramatic play of a group of preschool children. It was fascinating to hear others’ thoughts and questions and, equally intriguing, the silence the protocol required of the presenting teacher. It created such a deep curiosity and openness for seeing possibilities. It brought to mind a reoccurring mantra... All teachers deserve this time, all children deserve this reflective "gaze" 

    “A gaze which...sees the resources and potential of each.” 

    (referenced multiple times in the reflection from the NAREA Conference:
    Ideas in Motion, by both Cagliari and Soncini: https://www.mnreggio.org/Blog/6111777).

    Most profound to me was the realization that I, the administrator, need this time with teachers. I need to see what teachers notice, what they hold and what they wonder. The Documentation Lab has fortified my role in ensuring there is collaboration time for teachers during school, to embed the seeing and wondering into our weekly schedule. I want to elevate the learning journey between the teachers and the children, to commit more fully and deeply to the power and promise of what comes from observing, collaborating and documenting. Part of my responsibility is to provide an administrative "gaze" of understanding and honoring the reciprocal nature of teaching and learning.

    The Documentation Lab was a wonderful experience and reminder of the power of collaborating and thinking together about the capacity of children to learn and to teach each of us everyday. 

    I encourage teachers and administrators to come to any one of the Documentation Lab gatherings that will be coming up, resuming in the fall.  The meetings are free, held in various locations around the cities and you can participate fully, whether or not you bring student work.  Joanne Esser can provide further information (jesser@blakeschool.org). The dates will be announced on the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota website.

  • 18 Jul 2018 11:01 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Professor Dr. Sabine Lingenauber has pulled together her research on the women of Reggio Emilia and collected it all in this website, Visions for the future - A documentation by Sabine Lingenauber. 

    This website reconstructs the rich contributions of women to the history of the Reggio Emilia Approach (1943-1973).

    Visions for the future - A documentation

    The narrations of Ione Bartoli, Eletta Bertani, Giacomina Castagnetti, Loretta Giaroni, Lidia Greci, Marta Lusuardi and Carla Maria Nironi bear witness to events that should be remembered. 

    They show how female partisans, citizens, councillors, politicians and municipal councillors influence the development of a new form of education (Reggio Emilia Approach) in Reggio Emilia from the Resistenza (1943–1945), to the women’s movement and up until today.

  • 19 Apr 2018 7:08 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Reflections on a Professional Development Experience
    Patti Loftus and Lani Shapiro

    What prompts any of us to attend conferences and what expectations do we bring to them? We recently attended the NAREA Winter Conference (held in Seattle in March), titled “Constructing a Culture of Shared Values for Children and Childhood: Honoring Diversity, Differences and Democracy.” The conference presenters, Paola Cagliari and Ivana Soncini, are both from Reggio Emilia with long and deep experience in the municipality’s early childhood education system. The title and speakers immediately drew our interest, and we anticipated a depth of thinking that is typical from the Italians. Paola Cagliari has a background as a teacher and pedagogista and now is director of the municipal infant-toddler centers and preschools of Reggio Emilia, while Ivana Soncini, a psychologist, brought an eye toward children with special rights. We found ourselves intellectually challenged and emotionally moved beyond our expectations by the ideas and diverse modes of documentation shared by Cagliari and Soncini. They focused on the many aspects of participation and the value of difference as a way of promoting and realizing democracy.


    Over three conference days, the speakers wove together values and concepts including the “centrality of participation”, the “power of documentation” and the “importance of place” as they shared the evolution of particular layers of the Reggio-Emilia educational project. They described how teachers engaged families through a narrative of the children’s ideas about and representation of “place,” in this case, the “piazza” both in the town and inside school. Their presentations were punctuated with stories of particular children with special rights which affirmed the enduring participation of allchildren in school life. Click for an example of documentation of this project.

    The concepts highlighted at NAREA closely mirror three areas of focus for the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota. We see the “centrality of participation” reflected at the Network Gatherings, the “power of documentation” made visible by the ongoing work of the Documentation Lab and the “importance of place” illuminated through the Geography of Childhood project. The conference speakers’ portrayals conveyed the coherence of Reggio practice, where: 

    “the actions of instruction, assessment, documentation and research come to contain each other. They cannot be pulled apart in any practical sense; they are a piece. No dichotomy between teaching and research remains.” (Seidel, 2001, p.333).

    A conference, like all teaching/learning contexts, offers participants the opportunity to experience insight and construct understandings in ways that cannot be predicted or controlled by the presenters. This opportunity is enhanced when colleagues spend much of the time between sessions debriefing and considering together the questions that arise from the presentations. There is always, as Cagliari noted,

    “a plurality of different possible journeys.”          

    A particular reflection that we want to privilege for the duration of this article focuses on the notion of “the gaze,” referenced multiple times by both Cagliari and Soncini:

    “Each one of us is asking to be looked at with an optimistic gaze.”

    “A gaze which...sees the resources and potential of each.”

    “… being more aware (as adults) of the gaze that we have. That means knowing about the beliefs we look at children with, the expectations of our adult gaze.”

    “A strong gaze toward the future…”

    We were struck by the repetition of the concept of the gaze, particularly since our broader society is examining this idea when discussing social justice (the white gaze, the male gaze). In those contexts, the gaze has involved a power differential that objectifies and marginalizes the “other,” the person being gazed upon.

    There is an inextricable, reciprocal, complex connection between how we are seen by others and how we view ourselves, both as individuals and in the context of a collective identity or category; as members of a particular gender, race, faith tradition, social class or (dis)ability. The gaze can be an expression of power and surveillance: objectifying, intimidating, disapproving, or anxiety producing. The gaze, as suggested by Cagliari and Soncini, however, can be loving, reciprocal, affirming, respectful, or empowering.

    Here was the gaze in the context of Reggio Emilia. The speakers called multiple times for awareness of the adult gaze: the gaze of the teacher on the children, a gaze that sees and respects differences in children, that does not limit children, that gives them space to be who they are and hopeful expectations for what’s to come, without over-manipulating the present moment by pushing toward where their potential might take them.

    Patti Loftus currently works in a classroom with young children and found this consideration of gaze gripping, which was a testimony to the power of the presenters. The conference led her back to herself, to thinking about her gaze as a teacher and her view of the children in her classroom. The idea of the gaze particularly prompted her to speculate about the children’s view of her as one who observes them.

    This happens as I make notes, (“Ms. Loftus, what are you writing?”) or take photos as they work and play. How do the children perceive me as they are being observed? Do they sense judgment?

    My hope is that the children sense the affection and appreciation I feel for them, but what evidence do I have that this is true? Do they sense when the gaze is intended to influence behavior (for example when I ask, “Who looks ready?” expecting each in the group to get ready.) What message is the child sending me when she uses her hand to cover the drawing she is doing as I pass by? Alternately, do they “feel the love” when I marvel at what I observe in their work or interactions?

    Questions I’m pondering:

    • Do children interpret my gaze differently by my posture, position or expression?
    • How do the tools I use in observing affect my gaze and the children’s perception of my observations?
    • What gazes do the children offer each other? In what ways do I create a culture of optimism and empathy that imbues a spirit that can be shared?
    • Do children in school have ways to avoid the gaze of teachers?
    • What gaze (or gazes) do I have of the parents? How are they perceived by the receivers?

    Soncini noted that children aren’t always kind, but in Reggio Emilia, the schools construct a community of shared values, one of which is dialogue that doesn’t assume or require agreement, but dialogue that is built around difference.

    “…that positive trusting gaze is trusting attention…”

    “adults must be aware of the gaze that they have of children.  These are adults, in schools . . . who recognize the different ways children have of giving a shape or form to the world around them."

    "We're trying, in our meetings, to build together the gaze of empathy, of proximity, welcoming of all children.  It's about permanent, ongoing education for us, participation, building education together."

    "Schools promote the value of diversity when they are capable of stimulating gazes that are divergent.”

    “Gaze of empathy,” “positive trusting gaze” and “optimistic gaze” – these, referred to by Paola and Ivana, are all favorable gazes, reminiscent of the “image of the child” so often talked about in Reggio Emilia, the view that children are competent, powerful and unique protagonists in their own growth and development.

    Ivana and Paola referenced the 20th century French philosopher, Foucault, who explored “the gaze”, and its relationship to power and knowledge in institutions, including schools.

    Foucault's argument is that discipline creates "docile bodies", ideal for the new economics, politics and warfare of the modern industrial age - bodies that function in factories, ordered military regiments, and school classrooms. But, to construct docile bodies the disciplinary institutions must be able to (a) constantly observe and record the bodies they control and (b) ensure the internalization of the disciplinary individuality within the bodies being controlled. That is, discipline must come about without excessive force through careful observation, and molding of the bodies into the correct form through this observation. (Discipline and Punishment, 2012)

    The idea of gaze as control, gaze as an invasion of another’s being is troubling, but it’s a wake-up call, suggesting that our gaze might be perceived negatively by the children in our care, even a source of distress. It’s important for us to remember the power that we have over children and be thoughtful of how we wield it. It’s not just that the gaze might be perceived as negative. Relentless surveillance hasactual unintended negative consequences, affecting the delicate balance between attention in the name of “safety” or “control,” and the essential role of trial and error in the development of agency, autonomy and problem-solving skill of a growing child (Rooney, T., 2010 p. 344-345).

    The challenging presentations and compelling documentation Paola Cagliari and Ivana Soncini suggested a possible gaze that teachers and families might direct toward each other and, further, how we might be more intentional as we create a community of learners, families and educators with this awareness. They described the “sideways gaze,” which reminds us there are other angles from which we can view things that might otherwise go unnoticed. The sideways gaze is connected to diversity, with learning anew, and with avoiding certainty and rigid mental constructs. Soncini elaborated,

    “As Foucault often said, complexity requires looking at things slightly side-on.  It’s too easy to look straight forwards, from one frontal point of view, but if we can see side-on, then we can see different points of view on the same subject. In today’s world, in the culture, it is becoming more and more difficult to practice the ability to look at things side-on vs. frontally with one gaze.”

    We activate a sideways gaze when we engage a community context or a parent’s narrative that helps us see children’s unique experience and expression. We exercise the sideways gaze when we create opportunities for all children to express their different perspectives and when we offer multiple avenues for representation. Pedagogical documentation animates this work.

    “If you want to give voice to the multi-dimensional aspects of human learning, then we have to be capable of creating contexts in which children can leave traces of themselves.”

    Respect for diversity, recognition of multiple perspectives, welcoming curiosity, uncertainty, and subjectivity, and participation are conditions necessary for democratic practice to flourish (Moss, P.). Reggio Emilia demonstrates exceptionally cohesive theory-and-practice that is not limited to the education of young children. The “diversity, difference and democracy” highlighted at this conference made visible multiple perspectives of children, families and pedagogical teams in Reggio Emilia, and their relationship of observation, reflection, interpretation, and decision-making through documentation and dialogue. As adults who attended this conference, we were among those who experienced the “multi-dimensional aspects of human learning” that Ivana and Paola noted. We were struck side-on by concepts we encountered anew and took pleasure in opportunities to discuss particularly salient ideas proposed by the speakers and illustrated by the documentation they shared. The conference constructed a context that enhanced our desire to listen and exchange views, and to contest our thinking.


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discipline_and_Punish. Wikipedia. Discipline and Punish Published July, 2012 Accessed April 08, 2018

    Moss P. Democracy as First Practice in Early Childhood Education and Care. In: Tremblay RE, Boivin M, Peters RDeV, eds. Bennett J, topic ed. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development [online].http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/child-care-early-childhood-education-and-care/according-experts/democracy-first-practice-early. Published February 2011. Accessed April 8, 2018.

    Rooney, T. (2010). Trusting children: How do surveillance technologies alter a child’s experience of trust, risk and responsibility? Surveillance & Society 7(3/4): 344-355.

    Seidel, S. (2001). The question cannot be satisfied with waiting, In Project Zero & Reggio Children, Making learning visible: children as individual and group learners. Reggio Emilia, Italy: Reggio Children.

    Patti Loftus is an early childhood teacher at Blake School in Wayzata, MN.

    Lani Shapiro is a consultant and early childhood, early childhood special education, and parent educator (retired), St. Paul, MN. lani.shapiro@gmail.com

  • 15 Feb 2018 7:36 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    by Eileen Galvin

    What does it mean when you are trying to get someone to do something? What kind of relationship do you have? How does the language we use shape our relationships or reveal how we see our relationships?

    Last November, I attended the Saturday Gathering titled "Whose Agenda Is It? Mapping the Terrain of Parent Engagement from Multiple Perspectives," facilitated by Lani Shapiro. With a good mix of parents, teachers and administrators in the room,we explored the relationship between these three roles as co-constructors of a school community and as citizens. What do we, as educators, mean when we promote ‘parent involvement’? What do families have in mind when we seek to be ‘engaged’ in our children’s education? How do school communities understand ‘being involved’?

    There was one word that kept surfacing. At times we discussed the word, its meaning, and context. Other times it was used without further comment. The word was get.

    “How do we get parents to participate?”

    “How do we get different people with differing perspectives to come together with openness and curiosity?”

    And the question that resonated with me the most, “how do we get parents to be interested in documentation that isn’t focused on just their child?”

    I have never minded the word get. It is small, efficient, and implies action. This gathering made me think of the word differently. It inspired me to reflect on the power of this tiny little word.  Now, I think the word implies manipulation. It implies a power dynamic that is out of balance. It implies superiority. It implies a “right way.”

    ...if we want to have a school based on participation, we must create spaces, contexts, and times when all subjects—children, teachers, and parents—can find opportunities to speak and be listened to.”

    --Paola Cagliari, Angela Barozzi and Claudia Giudici

    If you are trying to get others to do something you are not listening, you are not considering their truth, their perspective. When we use that word, what do we communicate about how we see our relationships? What does it say about how we define the democracy within our educational systems? How can documentation draw parents in and inspire them to think differently about the important work of all children?

    In a shared partnership, we value differing perspectives, we are open to possibilities, we inspire, and we are inspired.  For me, this simple shift, moving away from this efficient little word, is a concrete way to remind myself of the kinds of relationships I want to build in this world.

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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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