A Visit to Boiardo Primary School in Villa Bagno, Reggio Emilia

Our visit to Boiardo Primary School, a state school in the neighborhood of Villa Bagno, Reggio Emilia, started with snacks made by the students and a welcome from the network director Anna Maria.
There are eight schools in the network, and five of them are primary.  The Boiardo school just moved to their new building in September.  The community, students, teachers, parents, and local residents worked collaboratively with architects, municipal planners, and an atelierista and pedagogista to realize the school design all the way down to the furniture.

The Officina Educativa, a state group focused on pedagogy in the schools, oversaw this collaboration and realized the production of the furniture with local manufacturers.  They work with all of the schools and seem dedicated to incorporating the “Reggio Approach” within the state-mandated curriculum, which decidedly does not respond to the Reggio approach.

The Officina Educativa’s five core tenants certainly resonated:

  1. Subjectivity and intersubjectivity
  2. Interdisciplinary
  3. Participation
  4. Documentation
  5. Learning to learn/learning for learning

The building itself was beautiful.  The new school came about because of the population increase (the neighborhood doubled its population between 2006-2011), and the entire community demanded that school size and capacity be addressed.  In Villa Bagno, there are two significant cultural elements:  the church and the school.  Community engagement in the building project extended beyond those families immediately impacted but by the community as a whole.

With that in mind, the entrance to the school–their piazza–was designed as an invitation not just to the students and families but to the community as well.  The space is a declaration of the work at hand and place to begin an educational journey.  The large red piece in the center of the piazza was developed based on student designs and fabricated locally for the school.  The sense that the children have, as a result of this type of detail and inclusion seen throughout the building, is that they own the schools; the school is their school and their handiwork is evidenced in the four walls, as well as on the four walls
There are windows everywhere, bringing the outside in and the inside out.  The dance studio has a long mirror at child height, and a window that is almost as long, also at child height.  This is a beautiful example of whom the building was designed for: the bambini.

While the classrooms and hallways are fairly Spartan right now, the teachers told us that the building has yet to create its history; it is a space only just inhabited so the collective memory in this space is still in infancy.  All those living in the school building are getting accustomed to the new space.  Unlike their previous building, this one has five common spaces and they are all learning how to use these.  The teachers were excited about how this was impacting their curriculum and their approach to teaching and learning.

The atelier had a long easel that ran at least ten feet mounted to the wall.  I LOVE this.  What a brilliant way to provide a space for collective and individual expression.  Note to the Bennett Day architects – we need these!

A handful of students stay beyond the official school end for an extended day journalism program.  They proudly walked us through their school and showed us the unique nooks and crannies that they had taken part in designing.  From the rooftop green space to the reading corner (where they designed low tables that also serve as seats with cushions for reading, chatting, and inquiring) to the bright green bathrooms with the trough sinks, no space was of lesser value.

These young journalists gave the conference participants a questionnaire to fill out for their journalism class, and it included questions about where we are from and why we came.  The last questions asked, “What will you take away with you from our school?”

What I took away from this visit was the overwhelming sense that this school is a place where children are recognized as active, competent protagonists, and the school is a place of inquiry and sharing points of view.

That is a takeaway.

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