THE CHILD IMAGE
"If you break the child image in your mind, look at the child in front of you with your naked eyes, and listen to him, you can really start to see the child," says the Reggio Emilia Approach. What is a child? How does he learn? How does he discover? He asks you to continue by asking yourself these questions, and then the questions "What is school?" and "What is education?" come after. Think as if you don't know anything, as if there is no single truth, he also directs. This approach constantly asks questions and does not give much answers to avoid creating a mold. He says you should look for your answers in your own culture and environment. It does not offer a system, a model."
Since 2005, we have structured our work inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach in our own city culture and our own school culture at MeşePalamudu Children's House in line with this principle. Instead of repeating theoretical information about the Reggio Emilia Approach here, we attach importance to explaining how we interpret the Reggio Emilia Approach in our own school culture and conveying which points of the approach we are inspired by.
We want to explain it with a tree story like the name of our school The children choose a tree for their class in Yıldız Park, where they spend two days a week every year. "A class tree is chosen every year" sounds like a curriculum, a mold program or an activity, doesn't it? Then questions like "There was no curriculum in Reggio Emilia Approach or there were no activities" may come after. Let's answer and continue. Yes, there is no pre-prepared curriculum in Reggio Emilia approach and MeşePalamudu Children's House and this routine that we repeat every year like a tradition is not an activity.
Because something different happens every year.
Every child is different, every class is different, every year new children join us or they come to school a little older. The trees are different too. "A tree is a tree and only a \"little child\" can perceive this", it can be thought, or rather we usually think that the child thinks as our child image in our mind. The saying of Reggio Emilia Approach "Look at the child with naked eyes, listen to the child" finds its meaning here. Children are different unique, trees are different and seasons are different even if their names never change. But to see the differences, you need to look again and carefully each time.
Choosing a class tree can sometimes take several months. If the teachers see the children's doubts about which tree they will choose as an opportunity, that is, if they are listening, curious teachers, a process that develops entirely in line with the children's curiosity begins on how to proceed and where to go. After that, it becomes the teacher's duty to collect what the children say. For example, if a suggestion comes as "We should choose the biggest tree in the park", he asks "Which one do you think is the biggest tree?" and tries to see how they define the size of the tree. The teacher puts aside his own image of a big tree and tries to see the image of a big tree in the children's minds. Listening to children starts with really wondering what children will say. A teacher who does not see transferring his knowledge directly to children as "education", who does not seek "the right" answer or rather knows that there is no single right answer can listen to children. A teacher who does not classify what children say as right or wrong, who provides opportunities for testing "hypotheses" by creating a concrete environment also opens his own learning path.
How does a teacher enjoy learning the answer to the question of which is the biggest tree in Yıldız Park with children? Even if it is a very difficult journey. It can mean examining all the trees and can take months. Do children get bored of this? There is a real task at hand, a decision that belongs entirely to them and an increasing curiosity while looking for the biggest tree. Children love facts, what bothers them is being stuck in the "little child" image. Children follow their curiosity, they look at the world with endless curiosity.
To find the biggest tree, you may need to measure the size of the tree. Is it length, is it the size of the tree trunk? Is it the number of leaves? How will they measure the trees in the park with what, how will they count the leaves when they have just started counting numbers?
We can find the answers to these questions from the observations and documentations of the processes that teachers keep, but we want you to dive into such an adventure with your child if you are a parent reading these lines, or if you are a teacher, follow these questions and a lot of other questions with your students. Start experiencing looking at education, children, and trees in this way and start your own
learning process inspired by Reggio Emilia Approach.
This section we described is called "Project" in Reggio Emilia approach. The project should include elements such as taking place in a concrete environment as much as possible for early childhood and children who are experiencing concrete stages, actively using their senses and constructing their knowledge in this way. In projects, children actively use their languages such as drawing language, clay language, body language. What they say is tried to be captured with notes or sound recordings. Their drawings are evaluated and examined, even if they are in the scribbling stage and look like scribbles. If he jumps to explain the size, this is also noted. How he uses which language is observed first, which one he resorts to first and what he needs to express more. Children's ways of thinking become visible in this way. This happens thanks to the documentations made by teachers. In the story we shared, when children tried to design a meter to measure trees, we saw from their drawings the concept of size/number in their minds. They had supported meter strips with objects or drawings to concretize numbers. They had designed size gauges with names like stone meter, dinosaur meter.
While explaining our interpretation of key concepts in Reggio Emilia Approach such as teacher's role, project, child's languages, observation and documentation
We actually told them through visual sections from various moments from MeşePalamudu Children's House.