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Innovations Volume 31, Number 2 | Summer 2024

Innovations Volume 31, Number 2 | Summer 2024

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Welcome to the Summer 2024 issue of Innovations in Early Education: The Reggio Emilia Exchange. The topic of this issue is “The School as a Living Organism Reflective of Contemporary Culture: Quality Education as a Right.” This topic was inspired by an article by Carla Rinaldi, president of the Fondazione Reggio Children – Centro Loris Malaguzzi, on the rights of children and quality education, and Quality Education, A Global Challenge: The Charter on Quality Education in Response to the Educational Emergency, which were both published in the Summer 2023 issue of Innovations.

In Rinaldi’s article titled “Quality Education: The Answer to Emergencies in the World,” she introduces the charter, which was developed by the Fondazione in 2021. When describing their work around the world, she shares, 

It became even clearer how the true, deep soul that generated the Reggio Emilia Approach preschools and infant-toddler centers—that is, the “political” soul . . . is the indispensable blood to keep the civil community alive, a community that is based on rights, on equity and that, in this direction, knows how to continually regenerate itself, to think about itself and the world of living beings that surrounds it. (Rinaldi, 2023, p. 13)

Rinaldi explains that the charter was written from their awareness of the global emergencies in the world and from the pandemic. The goal of the charter is to “propose quality education as the answer to all emergencies. Quality education is the answer. Based on the uniqueness of each person, quality education saves the individual and saves the community, as every uniqueness discusses with each other and grows together in dialogue” (Rinaldi, 2023, p. 13).

In Quality Education, A Global Challenge, the Fondazione vision of children is outlined, including: “In the fight against educational poverty, the right to a quality education has a key role” (p. 16). Their vision of quality education includes recognizing the “uniqueness of each child.” They assert that “quality education begins with educational services but is completed within the educating community.” It “recognizes the potential of children and their Hundred Languages . . . fosters learning as a process of reciprocity and research . . . welcomes fragility and differences . . . [and] sets up the essential elements for the social reconstruction of fragile communities.” The commitment of the Fondazione is to bring “quality education experiences into contexts of educational poverty . . . ” (Fondazione, 2021, pp. 16–17).

 The first article in this issue is “Attending to Vitality and Liveliness in Learning” by Debi Keyte-Hartland, an independent artist-educator and early childhood pedagogical consultant from the United Kingdom (UK). Debi and colleagues from the UK, Ireland, Canada, and Australia respond to the provocation of Malaguzzi’s metaphor on schools as a forest and living organism in his 1994 article “Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins.” Debi reflects on the idea of the school as an organism, “For a living community to thrive, it requires nourishment to grow and build resilience against the flow of forces and fluctuations it might experience.” 

 The next article is “Creating a School Culture of Belonging” by Roleen Heimann, co-founder and executive director of the New School-West (NSW) in Los Angeles, and Adriana Olivera, a teacher at NSW. This is a story of “becoming” by making meaningful relationships throughout the history of the school. Heimann writes, 

I . . . know that to get to this place of belonging . . . you must listen first and understand the importance of slowing down . . . knowing who you are in place, and finding a context from which to begin building a relationship. 

Olivera’s contribution supports the culture of reflection and the wish to be a growing community at NSW. She declares that “participation becomes the primary tool for new possibilities and where education becomes political.” 

 Reflections on “The 15th NAREA Winter Conference” offer the path the three educators from Reggio Emilia took to address the topic “Transforming Early Childhood Education: What Do We Know About Learning?” On designing beautiful learning environments that become contexts for learning, Annalisa Rabotti, pedagogista, states, “The adult’s hands offer, the children’s hands interrogate.” Romina D’Antonio, a preschool teacher, comments on the role of participation, “We believe that this active participation from the children . . . is extremely important in the building of their learning development.” In her concluding remarks, Samanta Gaspari, an infant-toddler teacher, envisions, “I think that educators are bringers of future. And that is why we have to have this optimism, this imagination for the future, and this dream.”

The final contribution to this issue of Innovations is a review of the book Affirming the Rights of Emergent Bilingual and Multilingual Children and Families by Jennifer M. Ono, who holds a EdD from Webster University, and Tamara K. Rodney, who is an EdD student at Webster University. The authors write, “By embracing the Reggio Emilia Approach, educators can move beyond languages in isolation, incorporating all home languages, dialects, creoles, pidgins, and African American English.”

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