The Reggio Emilia preschool teaching philosophy is loosely demonstrated in these images, where, while at play, children are made to become aware of everyday and worldly interactions. Children become conscious of shadow and hence light, the passage of time, the movement of the earth and its materiality. Commonplace settings are used as backdrops for heightened awareness of the myriad of interactions between the seemingly ordinary happenstances that contain the mystery and magic of our physical world and experiences.
Through play, children experience, rather than regurgitate, information. As a result, Bathroom decor they not only have a better understanding of subjects such as communications, sciences, mathematics, and the arts, but they also develop a strong awareness of their ability to solve complex problems through inquiry and adventure. What’s more, personal exploration and collaboration seem to unlock the children’s inner creative potential.43
Reggio Emilia’s progressive pedagogy serves to shed light on how design could be taught to include the experiential through a natural process of collaboration – an essential way of working for this century. Unlike the well-structured and established pedagogies of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts or the Bauhaus, the Reggio Emilia methods are as much about the interaction between people and things, including teacher and child, the collaboration between pupils, and growing through experience -the seemingly unstructured, yet intentional, goal for the final outcome.
Rather than quoting the published literature, Reggio Emilia’s experiential process is best described as witnessed during a workshop which outside observers were allowed to attend. The methods used to allow children to discover and learn the properties of light are a good example of the schools’ instruction.44 Unlike conventional science teaching, where a lesson on light may not occur until much later in a child’s education and would be accompanied by charts and numbers, the Reggio Emilia exercises are structured to first expose children to the phenomenon of light.
Through gentle guidance the pupils, working together, gradually unveiled the properties of the light spectrum, especially its two invisible ends: ultraviolet and infrared light. They observed and manipulated the light source’s color, temperature, and shadow, as well as investigating reflection, refraction mirroring, density, and speed. The experiments utilized tubs of water, metals, plastics, wood, photosensitive paints, and physical volumes in which children walked and crawled. The insights garnered were especially creative and clever for pupils under the age of six. At the end of the session, the children, all age five, had firsthand knowledge that prepared them to understand light as a scientific abstraction at a later stage of their education.
Two facts about the Reggio Emilia approach are worth emphasizing. First, the kindergarten holds experiential learning as critical to understanding the world, and the systems it has developed for observational studies are worth thinking about for design pedagogy.45 Second, while these exercises are intended for children between the ages of 18 months and five years, the experiential knowledge imparted is arguably just as advanced as that gained by the typical first-year design student. The Reggio Emilia method presupposes that this foundation will inform all future learning, experiential or not.
Experiential learning lends itself to a classroom structure different from the traditional design studio46 – inherited from Beaux-Arts education – which may not be most conducive for a twenty-first-century design education. A more appropriate model may include a research laboratory with formal and informal interactive learning zones where work can be undertaken over a longer time span than is typically allotted to studio instruction, a model that many design schools in name have accepted.47 Phenomenological studies require a variety of interactive and flexible setups for group engagement, and careful observation and monitoring. In the Reggio Emilia example, for instance, it is not possible to explore light without simultaneously learning about materials, volume, space, proportions, texture, color, etc. By embracing nature’s complexity, rather than rote learning and memorizing select information that may some day come together, children master a deeper understanding of the physical world. This would be invaluable for designers of the built environment. An example is that of designers who, when redesigning hospitals, did not rely on institutional or professional statistical data to tell them about the patient’s journey through the hospital – a frightening experience for most people. Instead, they checked into
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