Last week, I had the unique privilege to engage in an in-depth study tour at the Loris Malaguzzi International Center; focused specifically on the role of the Teacher, Pedagogista, and Atelierista. As excited as I was to dive into those topics, I was equally as intrigued by the idea of learning more about the environments of the learning spaces in Reggio schools. I’ve always been fascinated with architecture and design, and as an early childhood professional, I have developed a particular interest and passion in bridging the design world with the world of education. Environment has a huge influence on a child’s learning, development, and educational experience, and this is a concept that is widely embraced and embodied within the early childhood educational system in Reggio Emilia.
As stated by Vittorio Gallese, “Architecture is not a conceptual abstraction, rather it is an embodied practice and the architectural space is built primarily through emotional and multi sensorial experience.” No where have I seen this concept in practice more than I did while visiting schools in Reggio. Interestingly enough, the physical architecture of each school varied dramatically, however, the attention to how each element of the space interfaces with the children and acts as a pedagogical structure was clear and consistent. Environments have fundamental roles, and instructional and architectural professionals work closely to ensure that spatial qualities are optimized as part of learning. Unfortunately, that is not typically the case in the design of American early childhood environments.
My hope is that we are able to begin to build a bridge between architecture and pedagogy. That through space, we can create a more welcoming context for learning; because as noted during my time in Italy, “children have the right to quality spaces.”