I was inspired by the teaching going on at mom-ay-mon when I visited there last week. The Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) childcare centre is using the Reggio Emilia approach, a preschool educational philosophy that was started after the Second World War in Italy.
Teacher Loris Malaguzzi and parents from villages around Reggio Emilia came up with the teaching style based on the understanding that children form who they are as individuals in the early years of life.
The Reggio Emilia approach (named for its place of origin) calls for a child-led curriculum focused on exploration and discovery and the need to express oneself. The program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community and caters to the many different ways children learn.
It also puts a strong emphasis on the need to connect to nature and throws the traditional roles of teacher and student out the window.
In Reggio Emilia, teachers are taught to listen and observe children to craft learning opportunities around things they enjoy, which can lead to much deeper learning.
Letís face it, we all absorb more and are more engaged when weíre being taught something we actually care about.
For example, mom-ay-mon Childcare Centre manager Sonya Swift told me that at the beginning of this year, students wanted to learn about dragons, so the teaching started there, exploring the mythical creatures. It then led to princesses and knights and the roles they play in fairy tales.
Next children wrote their own stories and learned concepts about writing. Wanting to tie that learning back into the original idea, students looked back at dragons and realized they breathe fire, which started a unit on fire safety.
Dragons sometimes make people feel scared, so students got into discussions about feelings and the difference between real and pretend. That discussion led students to discover different types of lizards, which they explored.
As you can see, all that learning, about three monthís worth, came from one topic students were excited about. That excitement kept them engaged through all the teaching that took place, and Iíd bet my favourite hat that the learning will stick because they were involved in it.
I love the proverb SIB director of education, culture and recreation Lenora Joe told me this week: ďTell me and Iíll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.Ē Itís so true.
Reggio Emilia involves children in their learning. Add to that the outdoor focus and connection with nature, as well as daily opportunities to express oneself through art, and I see a winning program that makes me wish my children were still toddlers so I could enroll them.
Joe explained mom-ay-mon adopted the Reggio Emilia approach because it was similar to how children were traditionally taught in their culture.
Looks like the Sechelt Nation had it right the first time, again.
I hope more preschool programs on the Coast take note of the amazing programming at mom-ay-mon and try integrating parts of it into their curriculum. If nothing else, more time outside and daily opportunities for artistic expression would do us all good.