What is the Difference Between Reggio Emilia and Montessori?
During your search for appropriate preschool options for your child, you may have stumbled upon two alternative approaches: Reggio Emilia and Montessori. Both methods promote a nurturing, child-centric environment, but their methodologies differ in quite a few ways.
Choosing a school for your child can be stressful enough already, without the added hassle of researching the ins and outs of each methodology. We have outlined the history and key principles of Reggio Emilia and Montessori and their main differences. With this understanding, you can make the most informed decision regarding your child’s early childhood education.
The History of the Reggio Emilia Approach and Montessori Learning
The Reggio Emilia approach originated in the mid-20th Century, following World War II. Its creator was Loris Malaguzzi, a teacher in the Northern Italian city Emilia-Romagna who worked with parents in the area to create a new learning system for young children who had been born into the tragedies of war. They aimed to build a learning methodology that would encourage children to learn with enthusiasm and independently seek knowledge through a combination of autonomous and guided learning.
Reggio Emilia rose in popularity in Italy over the next few decades before making its way to the USA in 1987. In 1991, American weekly magazine Newsweek dubbed Reggio Emilia Diana municipal preschool the most advanced in the world for early childhood education, drawing worldwide exposure and interest.
Also founded in Italy, the Montessori method was established in 1907 by Dr Maria Montessori, a physician and educator. She opened a school in Rome to test her theory that children can direct their education through self-discovery, encouraging child-led learning. Following a visit to the United States in 1913, Dr Montessori’s methodology continued to rise in popularity over the next few years and experienced an international boom in the 1960s.
Understanding the Reggio Emilia Approach
The belief that humans develop as individuals early on in their development drives the Reggio Emilia approach. It encourages children to build their “voice”, allowing them to use their “100 languages”, that is, the many possible ways they can express themselves. The Reggio Emilia philosophy directs education through child-led and adult-led learning techniques. Teachers respond accordingly to the needs of each child by attentive listening and observation. In Reggio Emilia Schools, children learn using a wide range of tools and hands-on activities, such as experience, dance, painting, and storytelling.
Key Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach
Some of the main characteristics of the Reggio Emilia approach include:
- Emphasis on relationships: Social interaction is important in the Reggio Emilia approach. Teachers actively encourage children to collaborate and communicate with them and other students. Beyond the classroom, teachers also promote the same type of interaction between the parents and child and even community members.
- Self-constructed learning: Whilst there is some structure involved in lesson planning, Reggio Emilia is a child-centric methodology, meaning children direct the route of their education. Teachers allow them to construct their learning based on the idea that they seek to learn and gain knowledge through their motivations. For this reason, play-based learning is common in Reggio Emilia.
- The teacher as an observer: Teachers closely observe each child’s behaviour and actions to introduce projects that complement their natural line of questioning and curiosity. This practice originates from the idea that the teacher is there to guide the child-led learning journey.
- The classroom is living: The child’s classroom environment plays a large role in Reggio Emilia. The classroom should stimulate all senses, allowing children to see, touch, listen and move to enhance their learning. Reggio Emilia classrooms often display artwork and other creations across their walls and throughout.
Understanding Montessori Learning
The Montessori philosophy distinguishes Four Planes of Development which shape an individual’s social, emotional, and intellectual development from birth to the age of 24: Infancy (0-6 years), Childhood (6-12 years), Adolescence (12-18 years), and Maturity (18-24 years). The Montessori approach targets children at their specific developmental stage. It supports not just their learning, but also social and emotional growth. Children learn at their own pace and can choose their learning tools and materials from an allocated classroom area.
Some of the main characteristics of the Montessori learning include:
- Child-led learning: Children in Montessori are encouraged to work independently, choosing from a variety of prescribed activities at their own pace. Montessori teachers are considered guides to children’s learning.
- Set work time: Montessori students work for set amounts on time on projects, so they can decide their own pace, when to work in groups or alone, and take breaks.
- Holistic approach: Montessori classrooms teach more than just academics. Lessons cover other aspects of life, including life schools like cooking, cleaning, and positive social behaviour.
- Practical learning: Physical learning materials are important in Montessori, allowing children to move objects around and self-correct. Practical learning also gives children a more hands-on educational experience.
What are the Differences Between the Reggio Emilia Approach and Montessori Learning?
There are many similarities between the Reggio Emilia approach and Montessori Learning. Both are
play-based, consider the teacher as a guide, and focus on developing well-rounded citizens.
However, they do have the following main differences:
- Age groups: Reggio Emilia is only for preschool children, whereas Montessori ranges from ages 3-18.
- Teaching roles: Both methodologies view the teacher as a guide. However, Reggio Emilia teachers are co-learners whilst Montessori teachers are directors of education.
- Structure: The Reggio Emilia approach follows a philosophical basis rather than a curriculum; Montessori learning is more structured.
If you are looking into alternative childcare options, the Reggio Emilia approach and Montessori learning are both reputable early childhood educational techniques. Whilst they share many characteristics, such as a child-led learning experience, play-based learning, emphasis on social interaction, and vibrant classrooms, they do differ slightly.
Reggio Emilia embraces a less rigid structure than Montessori and Montessori teachers direct learning more than in Reggio Emilia. Whilst Reggio Emilia only takes preschool-aged children, Montessori classrooms take children aged between 3-18 years old.
Choosing schools for your child ultimately comes down to which environment and learning style works best for them. Both methodologies suit hands-on, curious children who work best in a collaborative and social environment. Always conduct individual research, attend orientation days, and ask further questions if you are interested in a particular school.
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the-art facilities in-person!