Nothing without Joy: Relationships, laughter and play in Reggio inspired practice

REIE bike R-LIn his lifetime Loris Malaguzzi was an elementary school teacher and taught middle school; he had a degree in pedagogy and psychology. He worked as a psychologist for 20 years in the Municipal Psycho-Pedagogical Medical Center, which he founded. He cycled to Reggio Emilia to a village called Villa Cella just outside of the city because he was inspired by a group of citizens building a school with the benefit no money and only the rubble left from the devastation of WWII. “By all accounts, including his own, Loris Malaguzzi did ride his bicyle a great distance to join what would become a historical school movement”.

When I was in Reggio Emilia in 2007, I had the opportunity to visit several nursery and infant toddler centres.  As is the shared experience of many who visit the educational project in Reggio Emilia, I will always remember feeling connected to a movement. I felt an overwhelming strong connection that was fuelled by passion, a desire to share and a quest to learn more.

I have enjoyed reading the following blog Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research which  was posted on August 23, 2014 by Diane and Louise.

All of this is a great forest. Inside the forest is the child. The forest is beautiful, fascinating, green, and full of hopes; there are no paths. Although it isn`t easy, we have to make our own paths, as teachers and children and families, in the forest. Sometimes we find ourselves together within the forest, sometimes we may get lost from each other, sometimes we’ll greet each other from far away across the forest; but its living together in this forest that is important. And this living together is not easy.

Loris Malaguzzi (1994)

Early learning professionals, in their pursuit of the new—the innovative—too often overlook the traditions that inform the sector’s approach to pedagogy. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. Spodek & Saracho (2003) remind us that only by building and understanding the past, can we come to understand the practices of the present and seek better ways of working with young children in the future. Interestingly, Loris Malaguzzi was described by those who knew him as a gentle giant, and his thoughts on teaching and learning have a great deal of currency today and a symbiotic connection to learning in and with nature.

Malaguzzi is quoted as saying, “creativity seems to emerge from multiple experiences, coupled with a well-supported development of personal resources, including a sense of freedom to venture beyond the known” (Malaguzzi, 1998, p. 76). Learning in and with nature, is venturing beyond the known. It leads us to forge a path of possibilities, but as Malaguzzi suggests in the opening quote, we have to make our own paths, as teachers and children and families, in the forest.


When I began writing this blog, I “googled” the words, “relationships, laughter, play and Reggio inspired practice” and discovered an article from 2011 which is an interview with Lella Gandini, North American Liaison for the Dissemination of the Reggio Emilia Approach, in the American Journal of Play. In the article, when Lella was asked by the interviewer about who inspired the innovators of the Reggio Emilia Approach she spoke of the influence of others.

“In France, for example, there was the work of Celestin Freinet; in Switzerland, there was Jean Piaget; and in Russia, the influence of Lev Vygotsky, who had been interested also in the psychology of play. Malaguzzi was an avid reader of all these thinkers, but the one who probably influenced him most was the American John Dewey, whose work dated from much earlier but was translated for the first time in the 1950s. A decade later, Malaguzzi was very attentive to the work of two other influential Americans, David Hawkins and his wife Frances Hawkins, who were active in developing experiences and reflecting on them in line with progressive education. You can see why the Reggio Emilia approach resonates with educators in the United States even though there is a feeling that progressive education failed. In my view, it was never given time enough to develop on its own, whereas, by an odd turn of fate, it developed in Reggio Emilia”.

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