ORA-Journal-MastFall 2011


ReflectionsFrom Different Canadian Locations

In this Issue:

  • President’s Message

  • Localizing Reggio: Adapting the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood

  • Ebb and Flow – Thoughts on ‘Artists at the Centre’

  • Richland Academy’s Reggio Journey

Editor’s Notes

2011-1Our fall issue of ORA NOW, the online journal of the Ontario Reggio Association features pieces from three locations. You will be interested to know that people as far east as Prince Edward Island wish to participate in the journal and this issue features an article by Anna Baldacchino, developed out of her Master’s thesis, on three centres in Prince Edward Island that are attempting to become Reggio inspired. She says, as you will read in more detail, that these centres Hind the effort to be Reggio-­‐inspired both feasible and highly beneHicial, Hinding that they have fewer “behavior” problems, more engagement and concentration in children, and teachers with higher job satisfaction. ORA NOW online journal REFLECTIONS From Different Canadian Locations

From Ontario we have two locations writing about their work. Kathy Cope and Marla Panko are professional artists who are part of the Artists at the Centre project in Hamilton, working several days a week in early childhood education programs in the area. They write about the nature of their work, in their view, and accompany their description with images of the children engaged in thoughtful and generative experiences with them.

We also have three teachers from Richland Academy, an independent elementary school in the Richmond Hill area, writing about their early attempts to bring the philosophy and pedagogy of Reggio Emilia into a setting with standardized curriculum, always a challenge for teachers who feel the tension between two powerful ways of being in schools. Here Jane Buckley-­‐Black, Paula Ciocio, and Kate Daniel share some Hirst steps in their school and some accompanying images.

For those of you working on pedagogical documentation, don’t forget the session Friday evening, February 24th, when the ORA conference holds its documentation and cocktails event. Proposals for submitting documentation are due Jan. 9 and details are on the ORA website.

Remember too the Saturday Documentation Study Sessions held once a month during the year and held at York University from 10-­‐12 noon in Room 283b, Winters College.

My gratitude to the contributors for this issue, to their thoughtful and caring work with children, families and teachers, and for their time and efforts for our sakes.

All good wishes for the holiday season,

Carol Anne Wien, Editor

President’s Message

By Karyn Callaghan

2011-2As summer birds are winging, we can look back over this year with satisfaction, thinking about where we have been and where we might be going. Our study week in Reggio Emilia in March brought together educators from across the country, and it is evident that the sensibilities that are inherent in the Reggio philosophy are taking root. This issue of our newsletter bears witness to the meaning-­‐making that is engaging educators and artists both within and outside of Ontario, in early learning and elementary school settings. Our Ministry of Education has shown its intent to introduce emergent curriculum into kindergarten classrooms, and Boards of Education in various communities are supporting the professional learning of full day kindergarten educators with regard to pedagogical documentation. There are vibrant study groups in Toronto and Hamilton and events in other communities to bring educators together to consider our views of children, teaching and learning, inspired by the schools in Reggio Emilia. This growing momentum may be signalling that we are on the verge of a profound positive change in early education.

ORA is a relatively young organization. It arose from what Glenda MacNaughton and others have described as rhizomatic roots. The Hundred Languages of Children exhibit was brought to Toronto through collaboration between The Bishop Strachan School, York University, the Toronto District School Board, and Seneca College. The energy generated by this powerful experience blossomed into our organization. We have been honoured to have had Lella Gandini, Amelia Gambeti, and Carlina Rinaldi as keynote speakers at our conferences through Reggio Children, as well as Carol Anne Wien, Pat Tarr, Carolyn Edwards, Jean Clinton and Stuart Shanker, who have brought a range of perspectives to our context.

In February, we look forward to learning with Daniela Lanzi, pedagogista, and Maura Rovacchi, atelierista at our conference, “Inviting Complexity: Deepening Our Understanding of Pedagogical Documentation”. We celebrate that our colleagues on the west coast are bringing The Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Learning exhibit to Vancouver this summer and fall.

As a member of ORA, you are a participant in this important and joyful journey. We look forward to opportunities to get together again, to engage in the difficult, zigzag, intricate, important discussions about which the children in the Diana School wrote and drew.

Joy always, all ways.

Karyn Callaghan, ORA president

Localizing Reggio: Adapting the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood

Education in Three Childcare Centres on Prince Edward Island

By Anna Baldacchino

The study of the cultivation of the Reggio Emilia approach in early childhood settings outside of Reggio Emilia, Italy, has been a key interest of many researchers (Corsaro, 1996; Hewett, 2001; New, 1998). The benefits, challenges and limitations of cultivating such an approach have been the subject of considerable research (Abramson, Robinson & Ankenman, 1995; Goldhaber & Smith, 1997; Haigh, 2007; Kroeger & Cardy, 2006). The research questions driving this study were:

  1. How has the Reggio Emilia approach been adapted by three childcare centres on Prince Edward Island?
  2. What were the benefits and challenges that these early childhood education centres faced in adapting the Reggio Emilia approach?
  3. What are the future goals for the Reggio Emiliainspired centres on PEI, and what do stakeholders identify as necessary supports to make these happen?

I planned my research in such a way that included the following research components: (a) interviews with supervisors and staff at three childcare centres on PEI; (b) interviews with parents of children attending these centres; and (c) observation in the three childcare centres. The focus of my fieldwork observations was to identify: (a) the benefits of the fundamental principles of the Reggio Emilia approach; and (b) the challenges that are being faced by the staff in cultivating these principles. This identification process was undertaken via a translation of the Reggio principles into a set of recognizable observational practices. I used such a framework to guide my observations, so that I was able to deduce whether the principles were being implemented or not.

Three centres were introduced to emergent curriculum in 2006 through the Measuring and Improving Kids Environment (MIKE) program conducted by the Early Childhood Development Association (ECDA) of PEI (B. Goodine, personal communication, February 27, 2010). This led these centres to choose to become Reggioinspired, the only three centres on PEI that are adapting the Reggio Emilia approach. My research suggested that these three centres in Charlottetown are being inspired by Reggio principles, and then making them work as best they can for the children in their centres. This is in line with the pragmatic thinking of Gambetti as quoted in Wien (2008who warns: “Reggio schools are in Reggio Emilia” (p. 6) and cannot be transferred in their entirety to other countries. As Wien (2008, p. 6) contends: “what we create…may not look at all like what we would see in Reggio Emilia” but this could still mean that the centres or schools are nonetheless inspired by the Reggio Emilia principles, which are then integrated into the existing cultures of these centres or schools.

It was also observed that all three centres have their own unique ways of doing things depending on their particular structural, financial, cultural, and other factors pertaining to the centre. Each centre seems to be strong in different areas. One centre is strong in documentation, one in outdoor environments, one in being more trusting and looking at the child as competent and capable. What follows is a graphical breakdown of the findings emerging through the observations and interviews:

ORA NOW Journal - FALL 2011 ORA NOW Journal - FALL 2011 ORA NOW Journal - FALL 2011

The following were detected through the findings as being areas that needed more support:

  • Supervisors would like to see more financial support to be able to better cultivate the Reggio Emilia principles in their centres and to be in a better position to offer training to their employees.
  • Educators felt the need to have the opportunity of working in pairs, to have more time for discussion and documentation, and to have more practical sessions about the Reggio Emilia approach.
  • Both supervisors and educators felt the need for more quality speakers to be invited to conduct workshops/seminars about the Reggio Emilia approach during staff professional development sessions.
  • Parents would like more information about the Reggio Emilia approach: how it works and how it benefits their children.


1. That the three Reggioinspired centres that participated in this study endeavour to make children’s learning more visible by displaying documentation of the process of the children’s learning in their respective settings. This would provide important new opportunities for these centres to branch out into their immediate communities.

2. That these three centres act as mentors to other centres interested in finding new ways to enhance and enrich the learning environments they provide for children. Educators from such centres could visit the three Reggioinspired ones to experience firsthand how the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach are being cultivated in their context.

3. That the three centres could team up and prepare a public exhibition of artefacts and documentation of their children’s learning, thus creating PEI’s own ‘hundred languages of children’. Such an initiative would not only reach out to the larger community, but would also give ownership to the children and educators of the work and learning that go on in these centres. The Early Childhood Development Association (ECDA) of PEI would hopefully consider hosting and supporting this exhibition.

4. Since all three centres are in the city of Charlottetown, this municipality could support and help these centres in the cultivation of the Reggio Emilia approach, by making available public places, such as the art gallery, the public library, or town hall, where documentation of children’s learning could be made visible to the members of that community.

5. That the Faculty of Education at the University of Prince Edward Island follow in the footsteps of Holland College, and start offering a credit course in the principles and practices of the emergent curriculum and the Reggio Emilia approach as part of the program leading to the degree of Bachelor in Education, specializing in early childhood education.


I commend the early childhood educators at these three centres for the efforts and their present achievements with integrating the Reggio Emilia principles into their centres. At the same time, I encourage other early childhood educators to learn more about the Reggio Emilia approach, appreciate how it validates children’s learning, and understand more deeply how hard working educators contribute to this learning. Localizing Reggio has its challenges, but it also has rich rewards. I invite other early childhood educators to find this out for themselves.

To obtain a copy of the full thesis, please contact Anna Baldacchino at: abaldacchino59@gmail.com


Abramson, S., Robinson, R., & Ankenman, K. (1995). Project work with diverse students: Adapting curriculum based on the Reggio Emilia approach. Childhood Education, 71, 197202.

Corsaro, W. (1996). Early education, children’s lives and the transitions from home to school in Italy and the United States. Journal of Comparative Sociology (37)12, 121139.

Goldhaber, J. & Smith, D. (1997). “You look at things differently:” The role of documentation in the professional development of a campus child care center staff. Early Childhood Education Journal 25(1), 310.

Haigh, K.M. (2007). Exploring learning with teachers and children: An administrator’s perspective. Theory Into Practice 46(1), 5764.

Hewett, V. M. (2001). Examining the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 29(2), 95100.

Kroeger, J. & Cardy, T. (2006). Documentation: A hard to reach place. Early Childhood Education Journal 33(6), 389397.

New. R. (1998). Reggio Emilia’s commitment to children and community: A reconceptualization of quality and DAP. Early Years 18(2), 1118.

Wien, C.A. (Ed). (2008). Emergent curriculum in the primary classroom. Interpreting the Re$io Emilia approach in schools. New York & Washington DC: Teachers College Press and National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Anna Baldacchino is a research assistant at the Centre of Educational Research, University of Prince Edward Island and leads workshops in her area on the Reggio Emilia Approach.


Ebb and Flow – Thoughts on ‘Artists at the Centre’

by Kathy Cope & Marla Panko

2011-1We are part of a collective of artists and educators working in an innovative project in children’s education in Hamilton, Ontario referred to as Artists at the Centre. For the last decade, this project has been inspired by educators from Reggio Emilia, Italy and reinterprets that philosophy in the context of our local environment. As two artists involved in the project reflecting on our practice, we would like to share some thoughts along our journey.

Artists in this collaborative group arise from various creative disciplines, and we recognize that our participation in the project is contributing ‘how we see’ and not limited to simply ‘what we do’. The Artists at the Centre (A@C) project is unique. Within the context of the city itself, A@C environments are like an archipelago of learning islands within the broader community. The project is available city-wide and open to children of diverse socio-economic neighbourhoods. Evidence of our participation is displayed in an annual exhibition as documentation directed at making thinking visible. This public display is viewed by those children, parents, and educators directly involved in the project as well as others in the region at large. It is a thread which joins the children’s centres to the greater community. This exhibit in conjunction with regular meetings provides the opportunity for valuable professional development. We use these meetings as a way to extend the dialogue between educators and share our experiences of working alongside children. This opportunity to reflect and pause mirrors the creative practice of working artists.

Around these islands of creative learning, we accept that there is an ebb and a flow to the process. Flow is positive energy — the quickening of an idea that emerges from the recognition of the moment. Every small moment has the potential to become something big. As artists, our eye is always looking for that wonder-full small moment. When these expressive and unhurried moments are identified, a larger creative process begins. When we can share our recognition of these moments with other adults, children’s thinking is made visible.

The creative process is not finite, and the small moment flows into a larger fluid experience. Appreciation for the richness of imaginative possibilities is shared by both artists and children alike. An artist is able to utilize materials as language to translate ideas and to facilitate this same process with children. Synesthetic leaps are also introduced in the reciprocity of learning, and the child is viewed as an engaged participant. By supporting children throughout this process, a child learns they are valued. Through considered display of documentation, engaged listening, and thoughtful questioning, a child understands that he is a respected individual.

The ebb tide of any growing process arrives unexpectedly and is laden with challenges. When the ebb, or tension between what we know and what we don’t know, is the greatest so is the greatest possibility for learning. From artistic experience, accepting these encounters as equal partners in the path of learning nurtures flow.

A familiar challenge we have encountered seems to arise around a tension with the nature of collaboration. As artists we are accustomed to sharing ideas, for example as a way to support one another’s work or to help realize a creative vision, but we acknowledge that this is not common practice. Learning to participate in the exchange of ideas with other educators is pivotal to recognizing this tension and increasing the flow. Children are natural collaborators who are eager to share their learning. That learning is ongoing and not necessarily linear.

The development of documentation poses similar challenges. Just like a blank canvas, the practice of documenting recognizes the unlimited directions a child’s learning may go. It can reveal the value of what a child is experiencing. Without a chance to see and reflect on what thinking has or hasn’t occurred, the richness of the shared experience shrinks, and this richness involves always seeing a bigger picture. It is simplistic to think of documentation as being limited to the transcription of an event.

2011-6The physical environment can also affect the flow. The challenge here is providing a rich atmosphere that promotes respect for the individual and nurtures creativity. Furthermore, the environment encompasses not just the physical space and furnishings but also those intangible sensory elements that generate the atmosphere within the room itself. As artists, we realize that environmental preparedness is highly conducive to creative thinking. Therefore providing a space for children that promotes the growth of ideas can lead to deeper thinking and also reinforce positive values.

We see our participation in the A@C project as a unique opportunity to contribute to a community of learners, and we are aware of the ebbs and flows within that fluid experience. We also recognize that many of the challenges we face are inextricably bound to the impoverished cultural values of modern life. Therefore in our endeavor to find meaning within the children’s thinking and experiences, we can embrace and promote those values which enrich our culture.

Kathy Cope BSc. and Marla Panko BFA, MFA are both professional artists teaching at the Dundas Valley School of Art who also participate in the A@C project.

Richland Academy’s Reggio Journey

by Jane BuckleyBlack, Paula Ciocio, and Kate Daniel

2011-7According to Malaguzzi, “Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water. Through an active, reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen learning how to learn.”

Richland Academy is now entering its tenth anniversary, and comes with a history of traditional teaching. Three years into the transition from a traditional teaching model to a Reggioinspired approach, the wonders of this way of supporting learners are emerging. But with wonders come the challenges of bringing on board an already existing team of excellent teachers, as well as new teachers, and asking them to teach and learn through a different lens. We are learning how to listen and how to observe the children and each other. As we constantly reflect, we realize that our journey, although fraught with selfdoubt, feelings of inadequacy, and the need for us to let go of our own personal egos, also brings with it renewed joy in our teaching. It allows for deeper creativity, and supports us as we move forward in ‘21st’ century learning,’ that is based on natural inquiry and views the child as a key player in his/her own learning.

At the centre of this approach is always the child. The shift from ‘the child following the teacher’, to ‘the teacher following the child’ has been a monumental one. In the beginning we questioned, “Will we cover the curriculum? Will they learn to read? Will they learn their math skills?” These questions are indeed being answered for us. The children are showing us that they are deep thinkers who can question their own learning and challenge both themselves and us.

As we begin to look back at the beginning of our Reggio journey, we can laugh at the exuberance of how we leapt in feet first. Our first changes began with the environment. We knew we had to bring nature in, so we went out and purchased natural baskets and branches. We look now with amusement realizing that yes, environment is of key importance, but we did not have to take it so literally. Every type of branch we could find was strung throughout each classroom. A classroom that looks like a forest is not necessarily a Reggio classroom!

2011-8We learned that everyone learns differently, even teachers, and to think that they would all spontaneously and unquestionably embrace this philosophy was idealistic. Perhaps we needed to slow down, take more time to reflect deeply and allow everyone to move at their pace in their learning. No one book provides you with a step-by-step guide, and it is only through reading, reflecting, dialoguing with others, observing, and embracing new ideas that we can transform.

At Richland Academy, we have a strong and supportive administration that allows us to experiment, and encourages us to challenge our own beliefs. As we dialogue with our colleagues, we are ever changing as we listen and learn from each other. Together, we are co-constructing what is Reggio-inspired in our school. What we are realizing is that Reggio cannot be transported from one place to another. It needs to be molded and nurtured, and made our own.

Our journey is an inspirational one and truly transformative, both for the children and ourselves as co-learners. Embracing the Reggio Philosophy has brought us back to the roots of childhood, and allowed us the privilege of experiencing the joy and wonder of learning through children’s eyes.


Jane BuckleyBlack, Paola Ciocio, and Kate Daniel are elementary teachers at Richland Academy in Richmond Hill, Ontario.


We invite you to consider submitting to the ORA online journal. The Ontario Reggio Association online journal, ORA NOW, is a scholarly non-refereed journal edited by members of the ORA board. It comes out twice a year, spring and fall.

There are two types of submission. The first is a full-size article (see details below) selected by the editors either from submissions or by invitation. These main articles are intended to represent experienced perspectives of those working to interpret the Reggio Emilia approach in their Canadian contexts.

The second type of submission is for our section Beginnings, and consists of a brief story (250-500 words) from a program attempting to understand Reggio and the possibilities for rich practice in our own settings in Ontario. The story includes a question this program wishes to have addressed. An interactive space allows members to respond to the question.

Each issue will include two main articles and at least one beginning story. Some issues may have a specific theme or focus, depending on decisions of the editorial committee. A final section includes brief reflections from members (about 150 words) who have attended events listed on our website.

The journal is available to ORA members only. Submissions from members of ORA will have priority.

Requirements for manuscript submission:

ORA members are invited to submit articles for consideration by the editorial committee. Length may vary from brief articles of 7-10 manuscript pages to longer articles up to 20 manuscript pages. We wish articles to be accessible but also grounded in literature related to the work of Reggio educators and others writing about their interpretations in North America. Manuscript pages are double-spaced with 1” margins and carry about 250 words. Style should be consistent with either the APA manual (5th ed.) or the Chicago manual. Articles should be sent as email attachments to the editor. Images may be included if ethical consent to use such images has been given. Authors do not need to submit consent forms but should keep them. A brief biographical sketch of the authors (up to 150 words) should be included.

Submission deadlines: Spring edition – April 30th, 2012

Download a PDF version of this journal.

ORA NOW Journal Fall 2011