A Coquitlam school is planning to experiment this fall with an unusual approach to education that’s already won high praise from researchers and academics. Meadowbrook elementary is preparing to open a Reggio Emilia classroom for children in primary grades, following a vote of support late last year from the board of education. It is believed to be only the second such experiment in a B.C. public school, with the other starting quietly in 2010 for K-3 students attending Burnaby’s new University Highlands school.
Superintendent Tom Grant said the Coquitlam proposal is part of a broader effort to provide a range of programs that appeal to different types of students. And it’s the second time in recent years that his district has introduced a groundbreaking program, following the launch of a K-1 bilingual Mandarin program in 2010.
Although the Reggio Emilia philosophy is rare in the B.C. public school system, it is practised in some independent schools and preschools, such as Childgarden Preschool in Coquitlam, which has been operating since 2007. Director Sue Woodward said one of the defining features of Reggio Emilia is the “emergent” curriculum, which is created according to student interests, rather than a “canned” curriculum that is taught year after year without change.
Sometimes the students’ interests reflect what is happening in the community, such as at Christmas or Halloween, but at other times simple curiosity, for instance about tape or movement, can be turned into lessons, she explained. The Reggio Emilia approach was developed in Italy after the Second World War in an effort to reconstruct society and help students become more resilient and creative. It is similar to Montessori education, another Italian import, in that it encourages students to be actively involved in their personal development, but has a less formal structure.
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