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Irish Architecture Foundation
Date: 2pm, Friday 25 June

In collaboration with the London Festival of Architecture, Irish Architecture Foundation will host a live, virtual panel discussion entitled Together We Care About Public Spaces as part of their ‘Architects in Schools’ initiative 2021.

The panel will include Blaithin Quinn (Irish Architecture Foundation), Muhammad Achour (Places of ARcture), Frank Monahan (Architecture at the Edge) and students and teachers from Holy Faith and Synge Street secondary schools in Dublin, Ireland, and focus on imaginary public realm projects as part of the Irish Architecture Foundation’s ‘Architects in Schools‘ initiative 2021.

In their collaborative work with the students, Muhammad and Frank focused on care, co-creation, pride, citizen engagement and ownership in the design of public space. How we care for our public realm is always relevant, even more so now as we adapt to life in a post-pandemic world.

‘Architects in Schools’ is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland, Department of Education and Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Date: 2pm, Friday 25 June

For more information, see: https://architecturefoundation.ie/event/architects-in-schools-at-london-festival-of-architecture-together-we-care-about-public-spaces/

Imaginate

Deadline: 5pm 30th November

Valuing Young Audiences: Fully Funded PhD opportunity with Imaginate 

Imaginate is seeking prospective doctoral students to work with them on an AHRC-funded PHD exploring the value for children of experiencing live theatre and dance as audience members. This is an exciting new collaboration between Imaginate and the University of Aberdeen, as part of the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities’s (SGSAH) Collaborative Doctoral Awards Programme. The PhD student will be supported to engage with children, parents and teachers on three Imaginate projects: Inspiring Schools, Theatre in Schools Scotland, and the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival. The research will be supervised by Professor Amy Bryzgel (Visual Culture, University of Aberdeen), Dr Jo Vergunst (Anthropology, University of Aberdeen) and Imaginate’s Chief Exec Paul Fitzpatrick.

The successful applicant will work with the supervisory team to prepare a final proposal to SGSAH in February 2019, with notification in April. If successful the studentship will commence on 1 October 2019.

Imaginate warmly encourages applications from researchers with a background in the performing arts, arts-in-education or research on the value of the arts, but this is not a prerequisite.

For more details and to download the full details go to www.imaginate.org.uk/artists/opportunities/phd-opportunity-with-imaginate-fully-funded.

Jean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, Jean Tormeyevents and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London. 

Blog 4: Interview with Assistant Curator Lucy McDonald

In my final blog post I’d like to focus on the most recent addition to Tate’s Early Years and Families’ programme offer – Under 5s Explore the Gallery – an artist-led, monthly event for under 5s and their families held in the collection galleries of Tate Britain. http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/workshop/under-fives-explore-gallery.

To introduce another voice to this series of blogs, I asked Assistant Curator Lucy McDonald [1] (the lead curator on the under 5s programme strand) to reflect on her involvement in the development of this programme.

Where did the idea for ‘Under 5s Explore the Gallery’ come from?


The impetus came from an institutional objective to increase the family offer at Tate Britain – to improve attendance, but also visibility of this audience. It felt very important for the sessions to be held in the galleries – openly exploring the spaces and artworks as opposed to out of sight in a studio space. The presence of other gallery visitors in the sessions supports the building of families’ confidence to find their own individual way of being in the gallery as a family.



What are the key elements of this programme for you?


Key elements include the role of the artist, who are briefed carefully about their position in the sessions and invited to find ways of supporting families’ journeys through the galleries. Within this, children are encouraged to lead – deciding what to look at, where to go and setting the pace. The artist shares ideas they are exploring in their own practice to provide strategies that families can use to experience the spaces and artworks in their own way. These strategies can include, but are not exclusive to, ways of looking, ideas to promote discussion about art and/ or encourage physical exploration of the galleries. This is usually done with a selected range of materials that are introduced at carefully considered moments.

The structuring of the sessions is also key. Being in and moving around the galleries is core to the programme, so limiting the number of visitors that can join is important. Maximum group size is 30 including adults, ensuring the sessions do not become overwhelming for the participants or other visitors. This works towards the families being integrated into the everyday landscape of the gallery, so it doesn’t feel like a ‘special event’ as such, and families can feel empowered to return independently. The structure includes careful consideration of timing and pace, with the two hour duration allowing a relaxed, unrushed atmosphere.

Another key aspect of the programme is having a dedicated space to gather for the introduction, where the tone and some key ideas are first introduced. This space also acts as a place to return to during the sessions should families need to, as well as somewhere to re-group at the end to reflect on what has happened – encouraging families to recognise the learning that has taken place.

Reflection is core to Under 5s Explore, and it is encouraged to take place during the session and at the end, where families are invited to consider what is happening and what it means for them. Participants have access to digital cameras, where they can capture what they notice or something that happens within their family unit that they feel is of value. Images are projected at the end of the session, and families are invited to observe and chat about what they and other families notice, giving value to what they have done and learning further ways of exploring the gallery from other families.



What kind of artists’ practices are you interested in exploring, and how have artists used their practices to facilitate activity?

I am interested in practices that encourage a gentle approach to exploring new ideas, and artists that are skilled in supporting families to develop an understanding of artworks on their own terms – so that sessions are accessible to all visitors including new ones. For me, artists who have been particularly successful in facilitating the sessions in the past are those who are open to seeing them as a series of experiments or possibilities, and are confident in allowing unexpected happenings to unfold and emerge.

What has been the audience response to this event?

It has been really positive, with parents and carers reporting a real shortage of gallery/ museum programme specifically for this age group, especially ones that encourage children to lead and value the unpredictability they can bring to these environments. Through interviews with families during the first few months of the programme, I discovered that many have preconceptions about Tate Britain being less welcoming of families than Tate Modern, and less appropriate for under fives in particular. Happily, feedback gathered indicates that families greatly value the sessions, enjoy experiencing the galleries together and show an interest in returning.

How do you think this strand might develop in future?

I have been particularly struck by how families (especially young children) very intrinsically and naturally explore the space of the gallery with their whole bodies through movement. I would like to work with more artists who work with movement to experiment with this further, as I feel movement as a practice is a positive way to address the negative ideas about gallery behaviours and etiquette that many families have. This would need to be done carefully with the right artist to ensure it didn’t become too performative or intimidating in nature. 

I would love to see all families feeling like they no longer needed the support of the sessions to visit and be in the galleries, and that through the sessions a network of families could emerge, who become advocates for under 5s in galleries and museums more broadly.

[end of interview]

I think Lucy’s viewpoint in this concluding post reiterates some of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, as well as our non-negotiables discussed previously, and hope that the series as a whole have given a sense of the inspiration, thinking around and development of the early years programme at Tate.

[1] Lucy McDonald has been Assistant Curator on the Early Years and Families programme for the last 2 years with a special emphasis on early years, and has recently taken over as Curator (jointly with Jessie McLaughlin) to cover my maternity leave 2017/18. Lucy also worked as an Assistant Curator on the final year of the Big and Small programme in 2013/ 2014 and as project manager on a number of BP Family Festivals in  2014 and 2015.

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London.

Blog 3 – EYF programme

In this penultimate blog post I’d like to talk about what we currently programme for early years audiences at Tate Modern and Tate Britain, reflecting on the history of the programme and its current ‘non-negotiables’ of agency, curiosity, diversity and openness – which reflect the influence of the Reggio Emilia philosophy.[1]

By designing an open programme with artists, we aim to encourage the agency of a diverse group of children and carers to use their curiosity to explore the social space of the gallery together – inclusive of art and architecture – to co-construct meaning relevant to their lives.

Children of an early years’ age come to Tate with parents or guardians if they are in a family unit or early years’ practitioners if they are with their nursery, and our programme needs to speak to these adults as much as to the children. We are keen to acknowledge the expertise and inherent knowledge these adults hold in relation to the children in their care, and for our resources and events to draw this out and build on it. We offer a range of self-led resources that can be used independently for people to use in their own time and in their own way. Through their openness, our self-led resources aim to evoke the unique interests, abilities and motivations of visitors under 5.

An example of one of these resources at Tate Britain is ‘Swatch’.[2] Swatch takes its name from a colour swatch and is a palm-sized collection of cardboard pieces with images of details of the gallery (one of which has a raised texture, another a hole through which to look), a mirror piece and an orange-coloured perspex piece. Developed by artist Abigail Hunt [3] with the Early Years and Families’ team over 5 years ago, it has a long history with the programme.

Its language-free, sensory and tactile nature means it’s accessible to children with special education needs, and it has been used succesfully as part of projects for children with speech and language development needs as a communication tool in the gallery.[4] When facilitating the resource, we try and offer it to the child rather than the adult so that they can choose the images or materials that excite them to act as a catalyst for their collective experience of the gallery.

For many families a resource is not enough. An event, where parents/ carers know that other families will be present and more guidance will be offered, is far preferable. Our artist-led and staff-led events are aimed at either parents/ carers or early years’ practitioners and aim to support people to have confidence in using their own expertise and knowledge of the early year’s children in their care to support a very individual, child-led experience.

In the last year a new monthly event was launched by the Early Years and Families team at Tate Britain entitled Under 5s Explore the Gallery.[5] Taking the learning from the aforementioned Big and Small programme as well as borrowing a format similar to our 8-14s Studio programme at Tate Modern[6], this relatively new strand works with a different artist every 3 months and explores their practice in the galleries with families through different choices of artworks or spaces, materials and processes. This strand considers the environment of the gallery as educator, capitalises on the social experience of the gallery for families, and ensures early years audiences are visible and evident to other audiences.[7]

Another strand worth mentioning is our seasonal Early Exchange event for early years’ practitioners.[8] Building on previous experiences trying to work with partners in a reciprocal, equitable way through programmes like Big and Small and the Early Years Open Studio[9], this social event invites practitioners to come together, view an exhibition with early years audiences in mind, and engage in a discussion about the benefits and challenges of working with early years in the gallery. As well as being an opportunity for practitioners to find out what we do, it’s a great way for our team to find out about the challenges facing this audience and remain relevant to the sector. We invite these practitioners to return with groups of under 5s and lead their own visit of the galleries based on our advice and the learning from this event.

My next blog will consider the artists’ practicies being explored through our early years programme.

[1]  Up to date listings of what’s on for families at Tate can be found here –

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/kids-and-families/tips-for-families

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/10-visiting-tips-tate-britain

[2]  Swatch is listed on the Tate website here after our Title resource which is a self-led paper-based resource aimed at visitors of all ages –

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain/pick-up-activities-2016

[3]  Abigail Hunt is an artist who we work with again and again on our early years programme and who has been pivotal in shaping what it is today. More information about her work can be found here –

http://www.abigailhunt.co.uk/a.statement

[4]  A major example of this is when it was used as part of projects for the Big Lottery funded Big and Small programme of long-term projects, veents and resources. More information and a film explaining the aims and different facets of this programme can be viewed here – http://www.tate.org.uk/about/projects/big-and-small.

[5]  More information about this event can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/workshop/under-fives-explore-gallery

[6]  More information about the 8-14s programme can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/workshop/8-14s-studio-performing-bodies.

[7]  Over the summer we worked with a PhD student who is looking into this area of practice in different arts organisations across the UK. http://www.tate.org.uk/research/research-centres/learning-research/in-progress/investigating-value-experiential-creative-play

[8]  More information about this event can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain-tate-modern/courses-and-workshops/early-exchange-professional-development.

[9]  More information about this London Development Authority funded programme can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/courses-and-workshops/early-years-studio-programme-tate-modern

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London.

Blog Post 2:

This post looks at some of the key parallels between the Reggio Emilia philosophy and the ‘non-negotiables’ or values of Tate Learning’s Early Years and Families’ programme. It’s worth noting just how different the conditions of each context are before launching into this. While the early years’ schools of Reggio Emilia are formal educational settings, Tate offers an informal, flexible learning setting not restricted by the demands of curricula, but inextricably linked to the Tate collection (sometimes exhibitions) and the buildings artwork is housed within. In Reggio Emilia, the pedagogistas, atelieristas and others who run the schools have an opportunity to get to know children and families well, meeting them daily and going on a journey of at least an academic year with them. At Tate, the Early Years and Families’ team are usually dealing with a transient, fleeting audience who drop in to the programme occasionally – sometimes by accident. Despite this, there are many correlations that can be made between our approaches to learning.

Agency

In the Early Years and Families’ team, we are passionate about treating children as equal gallery visitors and as an audience of the here and now rather than a developmental audience of the future. Similar to Reggio, this is about treating every child as an individual and programming in a way that recognises their unique interests, abilities and motivations.

One of our key values as a team is agency. We aim to design a programme that invites families of all ages from many different backgrounds with a range of experiences and knowledge to participate and find their own personal route through the gallery via our programme. Our resources and events should be an opportunity for families to co-construct meaning together (which also relates to the Reggio approach). In order for this to be successful, activities need to speak to and attract both adults and children in a very open-ended way.

Art and artists

The status of artists on our programme and the way we work with them can be compared to the Reggio approach. When we engage artists in the work we do, it’s about agreeing on where we would like to get to in terms of audience engagement, without knowing exactly how we’re going to get there.[1] This makes it an exciting but often complex relationship that needs to be continually managed and reflected upon.

Like in Reggio, we view artists as experts in their own practice and as having a very particular view of the world which can be very different to ours, but we do not expect them to be experts in working with children or the Tate collection – which is where our expertise comes in. At the heart of this is a discussion about their studio practice and how the materials and processes might relate to engagement with the Tate collection and our audience.

Curiosity

When working with an artist, our approach to the framing of an activity and to the use of materials we employ can be compared to the Reggio approach too. We believe in using high quality materials that relate to artists’ studio practice, ones that cannot be found in conventional educational settings. We aim to present these materials in a way that engages children and families’ curiosity (another of our non-negotiable) and imagination through introducing materials and processes in layers that unfold, rather than introducing everything all at once. This relates to the Reggio Emilia belief in ‘environment as educator’, and we would include the setting and location of our activity in this – the galleries and architectural spaces of Tate.

A social space

By its very nature the gallery environment is a public, social space. It is a space where families have the potential to view each other in a very different light, where they can encounter (and sometimes collide with!) other visitors, and where they can communicate about ideas and issues they may not have explored before. I think this aspect of our work relates to the importance Reggio places in children forming relationships with other people in order to learn. We are keen to make our programme as visible as possible in the gallery so that families and our programme can be seen and heard rather than tucked away in a studio space.

In my next blog post I’ll consider some specific examples of programming for early years audiences at Tate.

[1]   I always find a quote by artist Jeremy Deller useful when thinking about this – “A good collaboration is like going on a long journey without a map, never knowing quite where you will end up.”

http://www.tate.org.uk/about/our-work/learning-at-tate

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London

Inspiration for Tate’s EYF programme – the Reggio Emilia approach

“The child is not a citizen of the future; they are a citizen from the very first moment of life and also the most important citizen because they represent and bring the ‘possible’… a bearer, here and now of rights, of values, of culture… It is our historical responsibility not only to affirm this, but to create cultural, social, political and educational contexts which are able to receive children and dialogue with their potential for constructing human rights.” Carlina Rinaldi, In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, Researching and Learning

 When I took up the post of Early Years and Families (EYF) Curator at Tate, most of my experience was with families’ programming aimed at 5-12 year olds, with under 5s included as part of an intergenerational group, or where activity was primarily aimed at parents with an understanding that early years are welcome.[i]

I was introduced to the theory influencing Tate’s EYF programme – the Reggio Emilia approach[ii] – by the Convenor of the programme, Susan Sheddan[iii], and through working on the programme have learnt about the potential of the gallery to be used as an important site of learning and communication specifically for this agegroup.

The infant and toddler schools of Reggio offer places to 0-6 year olds and consist of a mixture of municipal, state, public and private schools. The aims of the schools are to involve their community in participatory consultation in all aspects of their running, to be transparent and shared in this approach, to give substance and voice to the rights of children, parents and teachers, and to improve the quality of life of children in the city overall. Each centre has a pedagogista, teacher, atelierista and cook. Children and parents are involved in the running of each centre, which is closely connected to its context. The process of how people communicate and when is of utmost importance to the streamlined running of the centre.

The learning principles of Reggio are that children must have some control over the direction of their learning, be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing and hearing; have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that they must be allowed to explore, and have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves. I had the opportunity to visit Reggio Emilia for a study week in spring 2014 and came away with the following highlights relevant to my work at Tate. These are reflected in the EYF team’s current values or ‘non-negotiables’ of agency, curiosity, diversity and openness.

“The best we can be”: Carla Rinaldi, president of Reggio Children, talks about childhood as a quality (not just a stage of life), and about it representing ‘the best we can be’. She describes children as being in a constant state of searching for meaning and understanding in the world – interpreting their surroundings to find answers in life. The Reggio approach sees children as keen, sensitive observers with the  potential to fill flexible contexts and generative environments with meaning.

Diffused atelier: There is an atelier (studio) and atelierista (studio artist) in every Reggio school. Atelieristas are considered to have heightened awareness of contemporary culture, know how to interpret art, and have a unique perspective on learning. They work as co-constructors with teachers, students and parents to create contexts for learning a range of different subjects – the process for which can be compared to an artist developing work in their studio. The atelier, a metaphor for the Reggio approach as a whole, pervades the public space of the school so that everyone involved can influence the atelier and come together to co-construct meaning.

Co-researchers: The role of the teacher is as researcher alongside the children (with parents and artists). This might include exploring existing theories together, but also developing new theories and going to new places of learning as a result of exploration. Parents are involved as much as possible in the building of shared value.

Traces of learning: In order to research alongside children, observation (of and by children) is a key process used by Reggio teams – with drawing being used as a consistent tool for this, revealing traces of learning. Active listening, consulting with and talking to children about what they have noticed or observed develops critical thinking skills among children.

Exchange: The Reggio approach is highly influenced by Lev Vygotsky and the belief that psychological development occurs through interpersonal connections, actions and play in small groups. Children have a predisposal to creating relations and engaging in exchange. This is encouraged in Reggio schools by adults offering their point of view ready for children to offer theirs, using a range of the so called ‘100 languages’ Reggio deem children to have.

Education is political: Reggio is a political project, ultimately trying to change the status of EY schools nationally in Italy from service providers to education centres. They consistently refer to the rights of children and to some children as having ‘special rights’ (rather than special needs). In Reggio Emilia itself, the schools played an important role in welcoming and involving immigrant communities from Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and China.

‘Shaped by the city but also shaping the city’: The city of Reggio plays a leading role in the school – it is referred to as a protagonist, with schools visibly present in the city/ their local areas. Bringing the school and children to the city and making the culture of children more public strengthens the school’s alliance with their context.

 In the next post I’ll explore how the Reggio Emilia approach influences the EYF programme at Tate.

[1] Examples of this activity are National Drawing Day at the Butler Gallery Kilkenny www.butlergallery.com/national-drawing-day-2016/ or Crib Notes at the Whitechapel www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/crib-notes-emma-hart-mamma-mia/.

[1] The Reggio Emilia approach emerged in the small northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia after it was badly affected by World War II. A visionary educator named Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) along with parents from the locality wanted  “… to bring change and create a new, more just world, free from oppression” urging people to “gather their strength and build with their own hands schools for their young children.” Influenced by early childhood psychologists and philosophers such as Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Gardner and Bruner, the educators of Reggio Emilia, inspired by their already existing community-centred culture, went about setting up a new form of early years learning for the children of the city.

In 1963, with great economic and social development taking place across Italy, the first municipal preschool was opened. In the late 1960s the schools were transferred to the city government for operation and financing. There was a feminist focus to the setting up of the schools as it enabled women to go back to work and tried to garner more respect for early years educators, usually the responsibility of women (formally/ informally). By the 1980s the Malaguzzi method was known and appreciated by many educators including thanks to an exhibition at the Modern Museet in Stockholm. At this time, the National Group for Work and Study on Infant Toddler Centres was formed in Italy.

In 2003 the municipality of Reggio Emilia chose to manage the system and the network of school services and toddler centres by forming the Istituzione Scuole e Nidi d’Infanzia. Municipal schools and preschools had their own independent programs and activities, but were supported by the public sector. The political roots of the approach and its continued political engagement in campaigning for the importance of governmental support for early years education is important to acknowledge.

In February 2006, the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre opened in Reggio Emilia for professional development and research of the philosophy. The foundation was officially established in 2011 with the aim of “Education and research to improve the lives of people and communities, in Reggio Emilia and in the world”.

[1] More can be learnt in Transforming Tate Leaning about the influence of Reggio Emilia on the programme at this time – http://www.tate.org.uk/download/file/fid/30243.

 

 

 


                                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Examples of this activity are National Drawing Day at the Butler Gallery Kilkenny http://www.butlergallery.com/national-drawing-day-2016/ or Crib Notes at the Whitechapel http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/crib-notes-emma-hart-mamma-mia/.

[ii] The Reggio Emilia approach emerged in the small northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia after it was badly affected by World War II. A visionary educator named Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) along with parents from the locality wanted  “… to bring change and create a new, more just world, free from oppression” urging people to “gather their strength and build with their own hands schools for their young children.” Influenced by early childhood psychologists and philosophers such as Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Gardner and Bruner, the educators of Reggio Emilia, inspired by their already existing community-centred culture, went about setting up a new form of early years learning for the children of the city.

 

In 1963, with great economic and social development taking place across Italy, the first municipal preschool was opened. In the late 1960s the schools were transferred to the city government for operation and financing. There was a feminist focus to the setting up of the schools as it enabled women to go back to work and tried to garner more respect for early years educators, usually the responsibility of women (formally/ informally). By the 1980s the Malaguzzi method was known and appreciated by many educators including thanks to an exhibition at the Modern Museet in Stockholm. At this time, the National Group for Work and Study on Infant Toddler Centres was formed in Italy.

 

In 2003 the municipality of Reggio Emilia chose to manage the system and the network of school services and toddler centres by forming the Istituzione Scuole e Nidi d’Infanzia. Municipal schools and preschools had their own independent programs and activities, but were supported by the public sector. The political roots of the approach and its continued political engagement in campaigning for the importance of governmental support for early years education is important to acknowledge.

 

In February 2006, the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre opened in Reggio Emilia for professional development and research of the philosophy. The foundation was officially established in 2011 with the aim of “Education and research to improve the lives of people and communities, in Reggio Emilia and in the world”.

 

[iii] More can be learnt in Transforming Tate Leaning about the influence of Reggio Emilia on the programme at this time – http://www.tate.org.uk/download/file/fid/30243.


!!!! Architects in Schools Panel Discussion at London Festival of Architecture

Irish Architecture Foundation
Date: 2pm, Friday 25 June

In collaboration with the London Festival of Architecture, Irish Architecture Foundation will host a live, virtual panel discussion entitled Together We Care About Public Spaces as part of their ‘Architects in Schools’ initiative 2021.

The panel will include Blaithin Quinn (Irish Architecture Foundation), Muhammad Achour (Places of ARcture), Frank Monahan (Architecture at the Edge) and students and teachers from Holy Faith and Synge Street secondary schools in Dublin, Ireland, and focus on imaginary public realm projects as part of the Irish Architecture Foundation’s ‘Architects in Schools‘ initiative 2021.

In their collaborative work with the students, Muhammad and Frank focused on care, co-creation, pride, citizen engagement and ownership in the design of public space. How we care for our public realm is always relevant, even more so now as we adapt to life in a post-pandemic world.

‘Architects in Schools’ is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland, Department of Education and Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Date: 2pm, Friday 25 June

For more information, see: https://architecturefoundation.ie/event/architects-in-schools-at-london-festival-of-architecture-together-we-care-about-public-spaces/

!!!! Opportunity: PhD Opportunity with Imaginate – Valuing Young Audiences

Imaginate

Deadline: 5pm 30th November

Valuing Young Audiences: Fully Funded PhD opportunity with Imaginate 

Imaginate is seeking prospective doctoral students to work with them on an AHRC-funded PHD exploring the value for children of experiencing live theatre and dance as audience members. This is an exciting new collaboration between Imaginate and the University of Aberdeen, as part of the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities’s (SGSAH) Collaborative Doctoral Awards Programme. The PhD student will be supported to engage with children, parents and teachers on three Imaginate projects: Inspiring Schools, Theatre in Schools Scotland, and the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival. The research will be supervised by Professor Amy Bryzgel (Visual Culture, University of Aberdeen), Dr Jo Vergunst (Anthropology, University of Aberdeen) and Imaginate’s Chief Exec Paul Fitzpatrick.

The successful applicant will work with the supervisory team to prepare a final proposal to SGSAH in February 2019, with notification in April. If successful the studentship will commence on 1 October 2019.

Imaginate warmly encourages applications from researchers with a background in the performing arts, arts-in-education or research on the value of the arts, but this is not a prerequisite.

For more details and to download the full details go to www.imaginate.org.uk/artists/opportunities/phd-opportunity-with-imaginate-fully-funded.

!!!! Blog 4: Jean Tormey: Interview with Assistant Curator Lucy McDonald

Jean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, Jean Tormeyevents and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London. 

Blog 4: Interview with Assistant Curator Lucy McDonald

In my final blog post I’d like to focus on the most recent addition to Tate’s Early Years and Families’ programme offer – Under 5s Explore the Gallery – an artist-led, monthly event for under 5s and their families held in the collection galleries of Tate Britain. http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/workshop/under-fives-explore-gallery.

To introduce another voice to this series of blogs, I asked Assistant Curator Lucy McDonald [1] (the lead curator on the under 5s programme strand) to reflect on her involvement in the development of this programme.

Where did the idea for ‘Under 5s Explore the Gallery’ come from?


The impetus came from an institutional objective to increase the family offer at Tate Britain – to improve attendance, but also visibility of this audience. It felt very important for the sessions to be held in the galleries – openly exploring the spaces and artworks as opposed to out of sight in a studio space. The presence of other gallery visitors in the sessions supports the building of families’ confidence to find their own individual way of being in the gallery as a family.



What are the key elements of this programme for you?


Key elements include the role of the artist, who are briefed carefully about their position in the sessions and invited to find ways of supporting families’ journeys through the galleries. Within this, children are encouraged to lead – deciding what to look at, where to go and setting the pace. The artist shares ideas they are exploring in their own practice to provide strategies that families can use to experience the spaces and artworks in their own way. These strategies can include, but are not exclusive to, ways of looking, ideas to promote discussion about art and/ or encourage physical exploration of the galleries. This is usually done with a selected range of materials that are introduced at carefully considered moments.

The structuring of the sessions is also key. Being in and moving around the galleries is core to the programme, so limiting the number of visitors that can join is important. Maximum group size is 30 including adults, ensuring the sessions do not become overwhelming for the participants or other visitors. This works towards the families being integrated into the everyday landscape of the gallery, so it doesn’t feel like a ‘special event’ as such, and families can feel empowered to return independently. The structure includes careful consideration of timing and pace, with the two hour duration allowing a relaxed, unrushed atmosphere.

Another key aspect of the programme is having a dedicated space to gather for the introduction, where the tone and some key ideas are first introduced. This space also acts as a place to return to during the sessions should families need to, as well as somewhere to re-group at the end to reflect on what has happened – encouraging families to recognise the learning that has taken place.

Reflection is core to Under 5s Explore, and it is encouraged to take place during the session and at the end, where families are invited to consider what is happening and what it means for them. Participants have access to digital cameras, where they can capture what they notice or something that happens within their family unit that they feel is of value. Images are projected at the end of the session, and families are invited to observe and chat about what they and other families notice, giving value to what they have done and learning further ways of exploring the gallery from other families.



What kind of artists’ practices are you interested in exploring, and how have artists used their practices to facilitate activity?

I am interested in practices that encourage a gentle approach to exploring new ideas, and artists that are skilled in supporting families to develop an understanding of artworks on their own terms – so that sessions are accessible to all visitors including new ones. For me, artists who have been particularly successful in facilitating the sessions in the past are those who are open to seeing them as a series of experiments or possibilities, and are confident in allowing unexpected happenings to unfold and emerge.

What has been the audience response to this event?

It has been really positive, with parents and carers reporting a real shortage of gallery/ museum programme specifically for this age group, especially ones that encourage children to lead and value the unpredictability they can bring to these environments. Through interviews with families during the first few months of the programme, I discovered that many have preconceptions about Tate Britain being less welcoming of families than Tate Modern, and less appropriate for under fives in particular. Happily, feedback gathered indicates that families greatly value the sessions, enjoy experiencing the galleries together and show an interest in returning.

How do you think this strand might develop in future?

I have been particularly struck by how families (especially young children) very intrinsically and naturally explore the space of the gallery with their whole bodies through movement. I would like to work with more artists who work with movement to experiment with this further, as I feel movement as a practice is a positive way to address the negative ideas about gallery behaviours and etiquette that many families have. This would need to be done carefully with the right artist to ensure it didn’t become too performative or intimidating in nature. 

I would love to see all families feeling like they no longer needed the support of the sessions to visit and be in the galleries, and that through the sessions a network of families could emerge, who become advocates for under 5s in galleries and museums more broadly.

[end of interview]

I think Lucy’s viewpoint in this concluding post reiterates some of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, as well as our non-negotiables discussed previously, and hope that the series as a whole have given a sense of the inspiration, thinking around and development of the early years programme at Tate.

[1] Lucy McDonald has been Assistant Curator on the Early Years and Families programme for the last 2 years with a special emphasis on early years, and has recently taken over as Curator (jointly with Jessie McLaughlin) to cover my maternity leave 2017/18. Lucy also worked as an Assistant Curator on the final year of the Big and Small programme in 2013/ 2014 and as project manager on a number of BP Family Festivals in  2014 and 2015.

!!!! Blog 3: Jean Tormey, Curator Early Years & Families at Tate Modern & Tate Britain

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London.

Blog 3 – EYF programme

In this penultimate blog post I’d like to talk about what we currently programme for early years audiences at Tate Modern and Tate Britain, reflecting on the history of the programme and its current ‘non-negotiables’ of agency, curiosity, diversity and openness – which reflect the influence of the Reggio Emilia philosophy.[1]

By designing an open programme with artists, we aim to encourage the agency of a diverse group of children and carers to use their curiosity to explore the social space of the gallery together – inclusive of art and architecture – to co-construct meaning relevant to their lives.

Children of an early years’ age come to Tate with parents or guardians if they are in a family unit or early years’ practitioners if they are with their nursery, and our programme needs to speak to these adults as much as to the children. We are keen to acknowledge the expertise and inherent knowledge these adults hold in relation to the children in their care, and for our resources and events to draw this out and build on it. We offer a range of self-led resources that can be used independently for people to use in their own time and in their own way. Through their openness, our self-led resources aim to evoke the unique interests, abilities and motivations of visitors under 5.

An example of one of these resources at Tate Britain is ‘Swatch’.[2] Swatch takes its name from a colour swatch and is a palm-sized collection of cardboard pieces with images of details of the gallery (one of which has a raised texture, another a hole through which to look), a mirror piece and an orange-coloured perspex piece. Developed by artist Abigail Hunt [3] with the Early Years and Families’ team over 5 years ago, it has a long history with the programme.

Its language-free, sensory and tactile nature means it’s accessible to children with special education needs, and it has been used succesfully as part of projects for children with speech and language development needs as a communication tool in the gallery.[4] When facilitating the resource, we try and offer it to the child rather than the adult so that they can choose the images or materials that excite them to act as a catalyst for their collective experience of the gallery.

For many families a resource is not enough. An event, where parents/ carers know that other families will be present and more guidance will be offered, is far preferable. Our artist-led and staff-led events are aimed at either parents/ carers or early years’ practitioners and aim to support people to have confidence in using their own expertise and knowledge of the early year’s children in their care to support a very individual, child-led experience.

In the last year a new monthly event was launched by the Early Years and Families team at Tate Britain entitled Under 5s Explore the Gallery.[5] Taking the learning from the aforementioned Big and Small programme as well as borrowing a format similar to our 8-14s Studio programme at Tate Modern[6], this relatively new strand works with a different artist every 3 months and explores their practice in the galleries with families through different choices of artworks or spaces, materials and processes. This strand considers the environment of the gallery as educator, capitalises on the social experience of the gallery for families, and ensures early years audiences are visible and evident to other audiences.[7]

Another strand worth mentioning is our seasonal Early Exchange event for early years’ practitioners.[8] Building on previous experiences trying to work with partners in a reciprocal, equitable way through programmes like Big and Small and the Early Years Open Studio[9], this social event invites practitioners to come together, view an exhibition with early years audiences in mind, and engage in a discussion about the benefits and challenges of working with early years in the gallery. As well as being an opportunity for practitioners to find out what we do, it’s a great way for our team to find out about the challenges facing this audience and remain relevant to the sector. We invite these practitioners to return with groups of under 5s and lead their own visit of the galleries based on our advice and the learning from this event.

My next blog will consider the artists’ practicies being explored through our early years programme.

[1]  Up to date listings of what’s on for families at Tate can be found here –

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/kids-and-families/tips-for-families

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/10-visiting-tips-tate-britain

[2]  Swatch is listed on the Tate website here after our Title resource which is a self-led paper-based resource aimed at visitors of all ages –

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain/pick-up-activities-2016

[3]  Abigail Hunt is an artist who we work with again and again on our early years programme and who has been pivotal in shaping what it is today. More information about her work can be found here –

http://www.abigailhunt.co.uk/a.statement

[4]  A major example of this is when it was used as part of projects for the Big Lottery funded Big and Small programme of long-term projects, veents and resources. More information and a film explaining the aims and different facets of this programme can be viewed here – http://www.tate.org.uk/about/projects/big-and-small.

[5]  More information about this event can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/workshop/under-fives-explore-gallery

[6]  More information about the 8-14s programme can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/workshop/8-14s-studio-performing-bodies.

[7]  Over the summer we worked with a PhD student who is looking into this area of practice in different arts organisations across the UK. http://www.tate.org.uk/research/research-centres/learning-research/in-progress/investigating-value-experiential-creative-play

[8]  More information about this event can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain-tate-modern/courses-and-workshops/early-exchange-professional-development.

[9]  More information about this London Development Authority funded programme can be found here – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/courses-and-workshops/early-years-studio-programme-tate-modern

!!!! Blog 2: Jean Tormey, Curator Early Years & Families at Tate Modern & Tate Britain

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London.

Blog Post 2:

This post looks at some of the key parallels between the Reggio Emilia philosophy and the ‘non-negotiables’ or values of Tate Learning’s Early Years and Families’ programme. It’s worth noting just how different the conditions of each context are before launching into this. While the early years’ schools of Reggio Emilia are formal educational settings, Tate offers an informal, flexible learning setting not restricted by the demands of curricula, but inextricably linked to the Tate collection (sometimes exhibitions) and the buildings artwork is housed within. In Reggio Emilia, the pedagogistas, atelieristas and others who run the schools have an opportunity to get to know children and families well, meeting them daily and going on a journey of at least an academic year with them. At Tate, the Early Years and Families’ team are usually dealing with a transient, fleeting audience who drop in to the programme occasionally – sometimes by accident. Despite this, there are many correlations that can be made between our approaches to learning.

Agency

In the Early Years and Families’ team, we are passionate about treating children as equal gallery visitors and as an audience of the here and now rather than a developmental audience of the future. Similar to Reggio, this is about treating every child as an individual and programming in a way that recognises their unique interests, abilities and motivations.

One of our key values as a team is agency. We aim to design a programme that invites families of all ages from many different backgrounds with a range of experiences and knowledge to participate and find their own personal route through the gallery via our programme. Our resources and events should be an opportunity for families to co-construct meaning together (which also relates to the Reggio approach). In order for this to be successful, activities need to speak to and attract both adults and children in a very open-ended way.

Art and artists

The status of artists on our programme and the way we work with them can be compared to the Reggio approach. When we engage artists in the work we do, it’s about agreeing on where we would like to get to in terms of audience engagement, without knowing exactly how we’re going to get there.[1] This makes it an exciting but often complex relationship that needs to be continually managed and reflected upon.

Like in Reggio, we view artists as experts in their own practice and as having a very particular view of the world which can be very different to ours, but we do not expect them to be experts in working with children or the Tate collection – which is where our expertise comes in. At the heart of this is a discussion about their studio practice and how the materials and processes might relate to engagement with the Tate collection and our audience.

Curiosity

When working with an artist, our approach to the framing of an activity and to the use of materials we employ can be compared to the Reggio approach too. We believe in using high quality materials that relate to artists’ studio practice, ones that cannot be found in conventional educational settings. We aim to present these materials in a way that engages children and families’ curiosity (another of our non-negotiable) and imagination through introducing materials and processes in layers that unfold, rather than introducing everything all at once. This relates to the Reggio Emilia belief in ‘environment as educator’, and we would include the setting and location of our activity in this – the galleries and architectural spaces of Tate.

A social space

By its very nature the gallery environment is a public, social space. It is a space where families have the potential to view each other in a very different light, where they can encounter (and sometimes collide with!) other visitors, and where they can communicate about ideas and issues they may not have explored before. I think this aspect of our work relates to the importance Reggio places in children forming relationships with other people in order to learn. We are keen to make our programme as visible as possible in the gallery so that families and our programme can be seen and heard rather than tucked away in a studio space.

In my next blog post I’ll consider some specific examples of programming for early years audiences at Tate.

[1]   I always find a quote by artist Jeremy Deller useful when thinking about this – “A good collaboration is like going on a long journey without a map, never knowing quite where you will end up.”

http://www.tate.org.uk/about/our-work/learning-at-tate

!!!! Blog 1: Jean Tormey, Curator Early Years & Families at Tate Modern & Tate Britain

Jean TormeyJean Tormey is Curator of the Early Years and Families programme of resources, events and projects at Tate Modern and Tate Britain for under 5s, 8-14s and intergenerational audiences. She has worked on Families’ programming in galleries since 2008. Her practice involves working with artists, audiences and colleagues at Tate to develop content and activity through which diverse children and families can be considered as equal and valued visitors to Tate. Jean has worked in gallery learning since 2005 as an intern in New York and as a learning curator in different galleries in Liverpool, Kilkenny and London

Inspiration for Tate’s EYF programme – the Reggio Emilia approach

“The child is not a citizen of the future; they are a citizen from the very first moment of life and also the most important citizen because they represent and bring the ‘possible’… a bearer, here and now of rights, of values, of culture… It is our historical responsibility not only to affirm this, but to create cultural, social, political and educational contexts which are able to receive children and dialogue with their potential for constructing human rights.” Carlina Rinaldi, In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, Researching and Learning

 When I took up the post of Early Years and Families (EYF) Curator at Tate, most of my experience was with families’ programming aimed at 5-12 year olds, with under 5s included as part of an intergenerational group, or where activity was primarily aimed at parents with an understanding that early years are welcome.[i]

I was introduced to the theory influencing Tate’s EYF programme – the Reggio Emilia approach[ii] – by the Convenor of the programme, Susan Sheddan[iii], and through working on the programme have learnt about the potential of the gallery to be used as an important site of learning and communication specifically for this agegroup.

The infant and toddler schools of Reggio offer places to 0-6 year olds and consist of a mixture of municipal, state, public and private schools. The aims of the schools are to involve their community in participatory consultation in all aspects of their running, to be transparent and shared in this approach, to give substance and voice to the rights of children, parents and teachers, and to improve the quality of life of children in the city overall. Each centre has a pedagogista, teacher, atelierista and cook. Children and parents are involved in the running of each centre, which is closely connected to its context. The process of how people communicate and when is of utmost importance to the streamlined running of the centre.

The learning principles of Reggio are that children must have some control over the direction of their learning, be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing and hearing; have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that they must be allowed to explore, and have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves. I had the opportunity to visit Reggio Emilia for a study week in spring 2014 and came away with the following highlights relevant to my work at Tate. These are reflected in the EYF team’s current values or ‘non-negotiables’ of agency, curiosity, diversity and openness.

“The best we can be”: Carla Rinaldi, president of Reggio Children, talks about childhood as a quality (not just a stage of life), and about it representing ‘the best we can be’. She describes children as being in a constant state of searching for meaning and understanding in the world – interpreting their surroundings to find answers in life. The Reggio approach sees children as keen, sensitive observers with the  potential to fill flexible contexts and generative environments with meaning.

Diffused atelier: There is an atelier (studio) and atelierista (studio artist) in every Reggio school. Atelieristas are considered to have heightened awareness of contemporary culture, know how to interpret art, and have a unique perspective on learning. They work as co-constructors with teachers, students and parents to create contexts for learning a range of different subjects – the process for which can be compared to an artist developing work in their studio. The atelier, a metaphor for the Reggio approach as a whole, pervades the public space of the school so that everyone involved can influence the atelier and come together to co-construct meaning.

Co-researchers: The role of the teacher is as researcher alongside the children (with parents and artists). This might include exploring existing theories together, but also developing new theories and going to new places of learning as a result of exploration. Parents are involved as much as possible in the building of shared value.

Traces of learning: In order to research alongside children, observation (of and by children) is a key process used by Reggio teams – with drawing being used as a consistent tool for this, revealing traces of learning. Active listening, consulting with and talking to children about what they have noticed or observed develops critical thinking skills among children.

Exchange: The Reggio approach is highly influenced by Lev Vygotsky and the belief that psychological development occurs through interpersonal connections, actions and play in small groups. Children have a predisposal to creating relations and engaging in exchange. This is encouraged in Reggio schools by adults offering their point of view ready for children to offer theirs, using a range of the so called ‘100 languages’ Reggio deem children to have.

Education is political: Reggio is a political project, ultimately trying to change the status of EY schools nationally in Italy from service providers to education centres. They consistently refer to the rights of children and to some children as having ‘special rights’ (rather than special needs). In Reggio Emilia itself, the schools played an important role in welcoming and involving immigrant communities from Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and China.

‘Shaped by the city but also shaping the city’: The city of Reggio plays a leading role in the school – it is referred to as a protagonist, with schools visibly present in the city/ their local areas. Bringing the school and children to the city and making the culture of children more public strengthens the school’s alliance with their context.

 In the next post I’ll explore how the Reggio Emilia approach influences the EYF programme at Tate.

[1] Examples of this activity are National Drawing Day at the Butler Gallery Kilkenny www.butlergallery.com/national-drawing-day-2016/ or Crib Notes at the Whitechapel www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/crib-notes-emma-hart-mamma-mia/.

[1] The Reggio Emilia approach emerged in the small northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia after it was badly affected by World War II. A visionary educator named Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) along with parents from the locality wanted  “… to bring change and create a new, more just world, free from oppression” urging people to “gather their strength and build with their own hands schools for their young children.” Influenced by early childhood psychologists and philosophers such as Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Gardner and Bruner, the educators of Reggio Emilia, inspired by their already existing community-centred culture, went about setting up a new form of early years learning for the children of the city.

In 1963, with great economic and social development taking place across Italy, the first municipal preschool was opened. In the late 1960s the schools were transferred to the city government for operation and financing. There was a feminist focus to the setting up of the schools as it enabled women to go back to work and tried to garner more respect for early years educators, usually the responsibility of women (formally/ informally). By the 1980s the Malaguzzi method was known and appreciated by many educators including thanks to an exhibition at the Modern Museet in Stockholm. At this time, the National Group for Work and Study on Infant Toddler Centres was formed in Italy.

In 2003 the municipality of Reggio Emilia chose to manage the system and the network of school services and toddler centres by forming the Istituzione Scuole e Nidi d’Infanzia. Municipal schools and preschools had their own independent programs and activities, but were supported by the public sector. The political roots of the approach and its continued political engagement in campaigning for the importance of governmental support for early years education is important to acknowledge.

In February 2006, the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre opened in Reggio Emilia for professional development and research of the philosophy. The foundation was officially established in 2011 with the aim of “Education and research to improve the lives of people and communities, in Reggio Emilia and in the world”.

[1] More can be learnt in Transforming Tate Leaning about the influence of Reggio Emilia on the programme at this time – http://www.tate.org.uk/download/file/fid/30243.

 

 

 


                                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Examples of this activity are National Drawing Day at the Butler Gallery Kilkenny http://www.butlergallery.com/national-drawing-day-2016/ or Crib Notes at the Whitechapel http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/events/crib-notes-emma-hart-mamma-mia/.

[ii] The Reggio Emilia approach emerged in the small northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia after it was badly affected by World War II. A visionary educator named Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) along with parents from the locality wanted  “… to bring change and create a new, more just world, free from oppression” urging people to “gather their strength and build with their own hands schools for their young children.” Influenced by early childhood psychologists and philosophers such as Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Gardner and Bruner, the educators of Reggio Emilia, inspired by their already existing community-centred culture, went about setting up a new form of early years learning for the children of the city.

 

In 1963, with great economic and social development taking place across Italy, the first municipal preschool was opened. In the late 1960s the schools were transferred to the city government for operation and financing. There was a feminist focus to the setting up of the schools as it enabled women to go back to work and tried to garner more respect for early years educators, usually the responsibility of women (formally/ informally). By the 1980s the Malaguzzi method was known and appreciated by many educators including thanks to an exhibition at the Modern Museet in Stockholm. At this time, the National Group for Work and Study on Infant Toddler Centres was formed in Italy.

 

In 2003 the municipality of Reggio Emilia chose to manage the system and the network of school services and toddler centres by forming the Istituzione Scuole e Nidi d’Infanzia. Municipal schools and preschools had their own independent programs and activities, but were supported by the public sector. The political roots of the approach and its continued political engagement in campaigning for the importance of governmental support for early years education is important to acknowledge.

 

In February 2006, the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre opened in Reggio Emilia for professional development and research of the philosophy. The foundation was officially established in 2011 with the aim of “Education and research to improve the lives of people and communities, in Reggio Emilia and in the world”.

 

[iii] More can be learnt in Transforming Tate Leaning about the influence of Reggio Emilia on the programme at this time – http://www.tate.org.uk/download/file/fid/30243.