Our Approach

Northside's Approach to Early Childhood Education

Rooted in the Reggio Emilia Philosophy, we believe that children possess infinite potential and creativity, and when granted the trust and freedom to exercise autonomy over their own education, are able to construct their own knowledge within the context of an emergent curriculum. It is therefore our responsibility as a faculty of co-learners, to create an environment that is aesthetically pleasing, provocative in its material offerings, and supportive of the development of our students' unique identities. 

We do this through a multi-sensory approach, giving value to the 100 languages of children, which includes more creative forms of expression, such as music, movement, and art. Through these modes of self-expression, we are able to differentiate our approach to the learning styles and developmental needs of each child, and communicate the value and responsibility of each voice within our community, intentionally setting the groundwork for a lifetime love of learning.

The Reggio Approach

The schools of Reggio Emilia, a town in Northern Italy, were first developed after World War II, when the Italian government gave each town a monetary allocation to help restore their communities. Collectively, the residents of Reggio Emilia elected to use these funds to build a school for young children, as they felt it was an investment in their future. The project was eventually spearheaded by Loris Malaguzzi, now known as the father of the Reggio Emilia approach. 

Image of the Child

In our school we maintain a strong and positive image of the child. More specifically, we believe that all children are born as capable and competent, and have definite preferences, interests, and opinions on the world and how it effects them. 

We believe that our students have potential to offer to our school community and we therefore listen, document, and encourage them to voice their ideas and suggestions, in the interest of bringing positive change. 

Teacher as Researcher

Our teachers have the responsibility to observe and document the ideas, questions, struggles, and connections that their students share on a daily basis, and to use this information to edit their environment, curate relevant materials, and build curriculum from the students' interests. Teachers are therefore viewed as "facilitators," above all else, learning alongside their students, modeling a deep curiosity of growth and learning, while also offering support, challenge, and guidance within the contexts of in-depth studies. 

Documentation Techniques

Teachers use observation and documentation techniques to capture the children's interests, learning and development. Documentation tools and techniques include written anecdotes, collected samples of children's work, photographs, video recordings and written transcripts of children's conversations. Documentation serves the purpose of encouraging children to make connections between ideas and reflect on their work. This then allows adults to reflect on children's work and predict where their work with the children might go. Families are enabled to experience the work and explorations of their children, document their growth over time, and communicate the shared respect for children and their accomplishments with the school and larger communities. 

Classroom Environment & Design

The classroom environment plays a critical role in the development of young children, and is therefore viewed as equally important to the teachers themselves. The teachers arrange and rearrange the classroom with intent and respect, and materials are chosen to stimulate, inspire, and challenge the children as they enter the room each day. As the year progresses and specific needs arise, the environment will likely change and as a result, never remain stagnant. For example, dramatic play areas may become restaurants, taxi cabs, subway stations, and post offices, in line with the interests of the particular group. 

The classroom is also set up with intentionality, so that children may freely engage in activities, access materials, and make choices with little intervention. They are able to use art materials, select books and serve themselves snacks because of the purposeful design of the environment. This respectful process fosters the development of independence and self-confidence. 

Project Work Approach

The Reggio Emilia approach uses an emergent curriculum that is developed and guided by the children's interests. Children engage in collaborative projects, which may last anywhere from a few days to a few months. These studies may involve a small group of students or the entire class and always involve hands-on investigation, and active construction of new knowledge through teacher-guided critical thinking. Students are taught to question the world, hypothesize about the answers, and carry out the research to find the answers to their own curiosities. This may involve reading about a topic, visiting relevant sites, talking to experts and working through their learning through a variety of media forms. Assemblies are strategically held at specific times during the school day to allow children to plan their project ideas and to reflect and expand upon their work. Pre-academic and academic areas are integrated into the project whenever possible and when developmentally appropriate.