Journal: Sweden Study Group 2015 Day 1

Sweden Study Group 13 - 15 May 2015
Facilitator: Rick Ellis
Coordinator: Alyna Chong

Day 1 - May 13, 2015

It was the first day of the study group and we were excited about meeting with the group of educators from Norway and Greece.  Alyna and Rick were at Scandic Klara an hour earlier on the morning of May 13, 2015 to organize the room before the arrival of the educators.

The group comprised of 18 educators from Norway and 1 educator from Greece.

We used the first half of the morning as introduction to the programme.  Rick Ellis, acting as group facilitator spent the morning developing community amongst the group and using some interactive practices to acquaint the group with some of the theory of Reggio Emilia, attempting to emulate the style even with an adult group. The purpose of this was to emphasize the importance of the concept of community in the Reggio philosophy. 

There seemed to be agreement amongst all of us about the goals of Reggio and the Norwegian group has been attempting to be Reggio-inspired for about five years now.  They have a custom-built school that includes having their own boat!  They shared photos with Rick of their school, and these were so indicative of how they use what’s in their own culture to provide provocations for the children.  

The photos showed them visiting a fishing site where fish are caught and processed.  It was obvious from their sharing that the Norwegians place a high value on being outdoors and participating in activities like boating, hiking, building bonfires, camping, etc., so it wasn’t surprising to see the children in the photos in the boat, painting outdoors, etc.  

Mariliza from Greece indicated other points of view, in that there is no evidence of Reggio thinking there and the curriculum is structured from the top-down point of view.  Children do NOT have input and the teacher plans everything solo. 

A game was played that involved pasta shapes/names and people had to find their partner, using everyone in the group to help them out. Once they found that partner, they sat with each other.   

Each person designed their own nameplate and on the reverse side listed features about themselves that showed their individual personalities, interests, hobbies, etc.  The purpose of this is to show that we are all individuals BUT we are still a part of a group; a key concept for Reggio practitioners. Rick introduced the concept in Italian of “Io sono chi noi siamo” which translates to “I am who we are”.  This is a key concept for Reggio practitioners. 

What was interesting today was seeing how the culture of the people is always reflected in the school.  We had an opportunity to compare and contrast amongst our cultures the commonalities or differences we experienced in trying to implement developmentally-appropriate education for young children.  

After a short break, Rick took the group through a Powerpoint that reviewed basic Reggio principles, such as the overall view of the philosophy, the roles of teacher, pedagogista, and atelierista. Rick’s goal was to show how the 100 languages of children relate to the 100 languages of many educators over the years and how many thoughts dovetail with the practices of Reggio. 

Rick also explained to the group about the difference in planning in a Reggio-based school vs. traditional schools and used the quote from Carlina Rinaldi that a “lesson plan is like a compass, not a train schedule.”  This concept impresses upon the educator that planning has to include the needs and questions of the children and thus must be flexible.  This actually occurred towards the end of our morning session when a teacher brought up the question of setting boundaries.  Rick picked up on that cue and went into the idea of teaching procedures and modeling for materials so that children CAN be free to use them but with respect and a procedure.  The group also discussed the need for logical consequences and what that would look like in practice.

After lunch, the group took the bus to the Humpty Dumpty Nursery School, where they met Helena and Nikki, two of the teachers there.  They were given a brief Powerpoint to explain the premise of their school, and then broken up into two groups to receive a tour.  Nikki and Helena were more than willing to answer questions and proud to show the work that the children had done.

The group seemed to enjoy the tour of the school from the conversations with some of them.  They were most amazed with what the teachers at Humpty Dumpty did with a small space, as their own school is much larger.  

Teachers were permitted to take photos of Humpty Dumpty so long as no children were in them, which several of them did.  What worked really well was that we were able to see examples of the theory in practice as pointed out by the two presenters.  

All in all, they enjoyed this experience.  It was the first time the people from this school had had the opportunity to share their setting, and they were enthusiastic and excited about having us visit!