Lab School Teachers Explore the Roots of Reggio-style Education IPS/Butler University Laboratory School 60 applies the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy. Recently Marissa Argus, kindergarten and first grade teacher, and Nicole Cegielski, third and fourth grade teacher, sought to understand more about the Reggio approach by visiting the city where it originated—Reggio Emilia, Italy.

“Because the Lab School is a Reggio inspired school, we were there to help further develop our understanding and think about how we can apply the beliefs and practices to our setting in IPS!” said Cegielski.
They traveled from March 21 to March 26, during spring break. “It was a study trip through Butler University where we heard teachers and leaders from the Reggio Emilia schools present on their philosophies and projects. We also visited schools and had Q&A sessions with teachers at the different schools,” Cegielski said.

Argus noted, “One of the biggest things about the Reggio model is the philosophy that all children are capable and all children are competent and also that children have many ways of expressing their thinking and learning.”

For example, Lab School classrooms don’t have desks in the classroom—they have tables of different sizes, clipboards, counters students can stand and work at. “We trust students to find something works for them,” Argus said.

Similarly, the Reggio approach inspires their use of materials and integration of art. When students finish a writing project, they’ll often put them together into a book, or when they finish a math or reading unit, they’ll do an art project like a poster or something in clay culminating the work.

So Argus and Cegielski went to Reggio Emilia looking for ways to deepen their understanding and application of that educational philosophy.

Argus summarized what they found. “One of my biggest takeaways was the community aspect. The communities are very interested in what the schools are doing, so often the schools will have exhibitions and they will invite community members to come see what the students have been up to.”

“I think in general instead of the asking, ‘What can the school do for us?’, the community is asking, ‘What can we do for the school, for the children?” she said.

Now that she is back, Argus thinks establishing strong family involvement and conducting more open houses and school tours are ways to start building community at the school level. “Invite people in to see the good going on in all of our schools,” she said.

She also believes like in Reggio Emilia we could “showcase our students’ work in the community right here. What would that look like if we did a project and then the students went down on the Circle and shared their work? Right now we’re doing a project on chickens and urban farming. What would it look like if we took that to the people at the state fair and showed them what we were doing?”

Argus and Cegielski definitely walked away thinking how appropriate it was that the philosophy was named after a city since the idea of community involvement and support was so central!

With dedicated professional development and strong community involvement playing such an integral part in the district’s strategic plan development, we were excited to hear about Argus and Cegielski’s trip to Reggio Emilia and what they found there. We look forward to seeing the ideas and techniques they bring into the classroom, district and community from this great experience!