Early Childhood Development of today

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Montessori and Reggio
Looking for creative and colorful classrooms? Do a google search and you would find that your inspiration may come from either a Montessori or a Reggio school, which both would give you beautiful classrooms that are serene, filled with light and extraordinary.However, if you do another google search on the names mentioned, you would find, However, if you do another google search on the names mentioned, you would find yourself being left speechless with the amount of information being brought up. Information such as names in foreign languages, regions and a plethora of other research for each.All individuals who are considering the path of an early childhood development teacher MUST be familiar with the different educational philosophies for ECD. It helps guide you to understand the exact ECD path to follow. An individual wishing to start ECD should first do their own research and then look at the curriculum’s of various universities first, look for the methods that you are taught and then go on from there. In my opinion, if the universities do not cover all philosophies, you should look elsewhere.

So what are Montessori and Reggio schools about?

The Montessori approach
was founded in Rome- Italy by Dr.Maria Montessori in 1907.Her aim was to see an educational system that involved the whole child. Maria Montessori’s work became a global sensation and spread across the world. Anywhere you go today, they’ve got a Montessori school. The system groups kids into multi-aged groups to promote peer relationships and learning between the different ages. The Montessori approach believes that a child can naturally absorb knowledge from their surroundings and through exploration self-direct what they have learned. The curriculum is very much like today, with the very many subjects involved. The Montessori Method also focuses on observing a child. These observations are meant to guide the teacher on what to present next. Based on the observations, lessons and materials will be decided.

Reggio Emilia approach 
came about after world war 2.There was a desire for a new educational system. It took an Educational psychologist named Loris Malaguzzi to bring about the change with a new method to ECD. Founded in 1950, in an Italian city known as Reggio

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 Emilia. The main idea behind this approach is that the child should be an active participant in their education. There is no set curriculum as opposed to the Montessori Method. The curriculum moulds itself according to the child by their interests and responses. Malaguzzi collaborated with parents within the area to develop the new childcare. The Reggio approach focuses on documentation whereby a teacher documents both the work and words of the child, using everything from pencil and paper to audio and video equipment. The Reggio approach documents both the academic and social progress of a child.

In both methods students use their senses to explore and direct their learning, however in the Montessori approach students are free to choose from pre-planned activities to work independently and use movement. Montessori kids pace themselves and decide when to have a snack, and play with each other. In the Reggio approach, on the other hand, collaborative education is the main focus, any student can direct the learning, and using their many languages kids direct their curiosity and inspire lessons through questions and answers and questioning again. Students use the environment as the teacher and the teacher as their guidance.

The key to any successful system is the environment, in particular, the classroom which needs to be friendly welcoming and ready for learning. In the Montessori approach, the classrooms contain specific material that’s required and set up accordingly to allow students to choose how to use them. Instead of desks tables are put in place and is at eye level with the kids, in fact, everything is at eye level to accommodate the little ones and make things easy for them. This approach also allows for the use of the floor if they feel comfortable to learn on the floor rather than their tables, but keep in mind cleanliness is also a key factor in Montessori.
With the Reggio approach, the classroom is also very important. However here we find that teachers would set up different sized tables according to the different sizes of children in their classes. The Reggio approach is a very hand on approach and so we find that in Reggio classrooms the tables are different in textures and colors in order to inspire students more. Efforts are collaborative and documented throughout and as such on a walk around a Reggio classroom you will find displays of the children’s work. The idea of displaying their different works I actually like because it encourages them, and also allows for reflection which is important at any stage of development.

In both methods students do not take assessments or exams and are not graded, they work on a portfolio system where they are documented according to their levels of success and participation level. It must also be mentioned that while Montessori groups different age groups together, Reggio would group the same ages together as in a more traditional style. In a Reggio classroom, you will find that students will learn directly from their environment meaning that their environment is created to be an extension of the children’s world. Whereas in the Montessori approach there are age-specific tools of learning which are also self-correctable whereby if a child makes a mistake they can go back and correct the mistake.

For parents, the decision to send your child to a Reggio school or a Montessori school is a hard decision. However they both offer unique experiences, and both have their benefits and are similar in ways to the subtle differences that can lead you to make the decision that you need to make. The Reggio approach is a very collaborative method, parents are active in their child’s education, not just at home but are also invited to the school to be part of it. The Reggio approach to early education reflects a theoretical kinship to the ideology of constructivism. The Reggio approach, in my opinion, is a modern-day early childhood development.

For teachers, if your path is traditional, I would suggest going the Montessori way, but if you are a modern day teacher who, like me, believes that kids need to be kids, they learn to learn lifelong skills that they can actually use, that kids need to socially develop and become critical thinkers and should ask questions, then is suggest look at going the Reggio Emilia approach.