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What is a Reggio Inspired Art Class?

5:22:00 PM

Painting with natural brushes from Reggio Inspired Mini Camp 2017

A bit of background:

Reggio Emilia is a city in Italy that is famous for its approach to early childhood education. The Reggio approach has been studied, by educators all over the world and has inspired the development similar educational programs the world over. The approach is based on the constructivist theory which, according to Wikipedia, states that people learn by constructing their knowledge through their experiences and by reflecting on those experiences.
One of the cornerstone beliefs in the Reggio approach is that children have "100 Languages" with which to express themselves. Each school is equipped with an 'atelier" or art studio and an "atelierista" or art teacher central to the school, where the children and adults in the environment can express themselves symbolically through various art "languages." See, the Reggio children Website for more info on the Reggio Approach.

Exploring the auto harp with Mama Gayle, Reggio inspired mini camp 2017

Art Inspired by the Reggio Approach:

Part of the tinkering area of our studio

In a Reggio inspired art program the various art mediums are considered "languages" which children can use to express themselves. There are a variety of materials open for the children to explore their own ideas. The atelierista, art teacher, sets up provocations or invitations to create within the studio. It is important to know that these provocations may not follow the teachers initial plan, and that is OK. The idea is for the children to follow their own interests. The teacher and the environment adapt to meet their needs. In a Reggio inspired program the environment is particularly important. It is often referred to "as the third teacher" because it carefully prepared and designed to encourage exploration, self expression, and active learning. The studio remains accessible to the child and children are encouraged to explore their own interests. 
Examples of common items found within a Reggio Inspired studio:
  • Tinker trays filled with items for children to explore and build with. Items can be virtually anything but they should offer various textures and shapes that invite the child to touch, feel and construct with them.
  • Natural Items such as sticks, pine cones, seed pods, rocks, flowers, leaves... These items can be added to tinker areas or set up with other provocations. 
  • Clay is offered for exploration either on its own or in conjunction with various other items such as sticks, or other tinkering items. Children are allowed to explore without too much adult interference. 
  • Observational drawing prompts with various drawing mediums. these could be things like a plant or flower to observe and draw or even a mirror to draw one's own face. 
  • Mirrors allow children to not only observe themselves but also provide a unique canvas for exploring other items in the studio.
  • Sewing, weaving, and other fiber arts. 
  • A collage area which can be part of the tinkering items as well.
There are so many interpretations and provocations in addition to those listed above that might be included within a Reggio inspired studio. I am still learning and being inspired by others working with children in the Reggio way, and by the children in my classes. Each group of children bring their own interests and perspectives to each class so no two classes look the same! 

I am always the one taking pictures so there are not many with me in them, haha!
The teacher's role in the studio is more of a guide or a resource for the children. They are not the central figure, instead they help to provide an environment that encourages the child to explore their own interests. They carefully observe and document the children so that they can continue to meet the needs of the children as they arise. They help the children to discover and solve their own problems, interests, and ideas. It is the job of the atelierista or art teacher, to guide the children to a mastery of various mediums of expression by setting up provocations that spark curiosity, and providing ample opportunities to explore the various mediums in new and interesting ways. The child is always at the center of the work, they are following their own directives and there is no set "right way" to complete a project. For this reason the art often looks very different than in other art classes where the goal is to complete a set project or directive in order to accomplish a specific goal. 

Some of my Reggio Inspired Influences:

I have always been drawn to process art which focuses on the experience of creating rather than the end product that is created. I believe that children and adults alike benefit from these types of creative experiences. When I started this studio I began really looking at my teaching style, my influences, and the direction I wanted this studio to go. I began seeking out other studios across the country who were offering similar experiences. Through out all of my research I have been continually drawn to the Reggio approach. I have been inspired by the many schools and art studios I have found which base their programs on this school of thought. You can read more about my teaching influences here where I discuss not only my Reggio influences, but also my other areas of influence for my teaching style here at the studio. 

Experimenting with watercolor and leaves, Art and Science Camp 2017

I would like to specifically share with you today a few of the many great studios which have influenced our little studio, particularly our programs for young artists. These amazing studios are all located here in the US and each offer a unique program for young artists based on the Rggio Emilia Approach! I encourage you to visit their websites (linked to their names) to learn more about what a Reggio inspired art class might look like. 

"Painting Rain" in Reggio inspired mini camp 2017

Located in Louisville KY Side by Side Studio is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit art studio. They offer amazing community art programs for children and families which are inspired largely by the Reggio approach to art. One of their programs called the Whole Child Program is a semester long preschool arts program with a focus on creative play and discovery. I encourage you to read more about this amazing program as well as the many other classes and camps they offer.  
Side by Side studio is a major influence to me and It is my goal to take our little studio in a similar direction while keeping in mind the unique needs of our local community here in Knoxville. In fact I found this studio because of my research in nonprofit children's art studios! I am particularly drawn to their open ended approach to art, especially their focus on  mindfulness and self reflection through art exploration. 
Exploring symmetry in leaves, Art & Science Camp 2017 

Meri Cherry
Located in Tarzana, CA (part of Los Angeles). Meri Cherry is a Reggio inspired atelierista (art teacher) with 20 years teaching experience in LA. She keeps a beautiful blog filled with information, tips, project ideas and more. She now has her own studio which she opened just over a year ago where she offers various classes, workshops, camps, and parties all influenced by her passion for the Reggio Emilia Approach. The blog is over five years old, and I can not remember when I first came across it, but I have been keeping up with it for several years now, lol! You can see photos of her beautiful studio here. It is a magical looking space filled with creative inspiration! I am drawn to the beautiful projects and creative experiences she incorporates into her classes with children. I am especially inspired by the way she incorporates nature into her art making experiences, like in this project where they are using beads and wire to decorate a piece of cactus wood!

Creating with nature, Reggio Inspired Mini Camp 2017

Located in Los Angeles, CA, Purple Twig is a process based art studio focusing on children and families. I located this studio via their Instagram profile and I fell in love with their many beautiful art projects. They do a lot of building with found objects and if you have ever set foot in our studio you know that I am quite fond of found object art! 

Exploring color blending by scrape painting, Art & Science Camp 2017

With 2 locations one in Portland, OR and another in Takoma Park, MD, Little Loft Studios offers classes, camps, parties, and open studio sessions to children preschool to middle school age. I found these wonderful studios via their Instagram feed as well. They have beautiful process based art projects that encourage exploration and creative play. 

Nature Mobiles made in Reggio Inspired Mini camp 2017

How does this all relate to our studio?

Well many of you already know that we offer various art classes for kids each year, including our Messy Baby classes, homeschool art classes, after school art enrichment classes, summer camps, and open studio sessions for creative exploration (Click the class link for more info on specific classes). These classes offer a blend of my various teaching influences as discussed here. Many of these classes also offer a set theme or objective that leads to more project based classes, but this year I have also added  Reggio inspired art classes for preschoolers. I am very excited to offer these classes to the greater Knoxville community.
Sewing on burlap in Reggio Inspired Mini Camp 2017

We began our Reggio Inspired Art program this summer with a mini camp for 4-5 year olds (See many of the photos sprinkled throughout this post!). The camp was amazing, we had such a great group of young artists. I was inspired by their open creativity, and I learned so much from them. I am excited to continue developing this program throughout this school year with 45 min. classes offered on a month to month basis. At this time parent participation would be required for our youngest group the 2-3 year olds and would be optional for our older group, the 4-6 year olds. 

A preschool art Exploration from a class last spring, 2017

We hope to continue developing this program, eventually transitioning it to a semester long preschool arts program which would feature a half day drop off option 1-3 days per week. Such a program would allow us to take more time developing relationships with our students and their families and better tailor the program to meet their individual needs and interests. The longer class periods would allow for a more diversified program similar to the mini camp we offered this summer where students could explore a wider variety of art forms including music, drama, and storytelling. 

Mama Gayle telling our first ever group of campers a story, 2015

This year I will be gauging the interest of the community for such a program and I would love to get your feedback. Please feel free to comment on this post or email me at thebasemenartstudio@gmail.com 
I plan to spend this year developing this idea further including looking into nonprofit status, researching state requirements, expanding the business plan to include this program, and touring/reaching out to other studios such as the ones listed above for tips or advice. I will keep you posted as we go here on the blog. I would love to hear about any relatable experience you might have and volunteers are always welcome! 

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