Continuing the Adventure: Day 2 in Reggio Emilia, Italy

By Kate Cicchelli, Principal & Chief Academic Officer

An intense morning here in Reggio. Today’s presenter, Paola Caligari, gave a rousing talk about the concept of continuity. She started by creating a “provisional map” for the week generated from suggestions shared by audience members as to what continuity means within our schools.
Caligari then introduced her presentation with a question: Why is it that continuity is of great interest around the world?
In the context of this workshop, continuity has to do with the practical transitions from one school to another (pre-primary to primary to middle to secondary to post-secondary), but also goes further to the idea of continuity of lifelong learning.
The Italian school system, not dissimilar from the traditional school models in the United States, follows a very linear model; formal learning begins in primary school and proceeds forward in a linear way.  A teacher transmits content and/or knowledge in a sequence, and the student learns that content and gains some knowledge before moving on to the next piece.

But research suggests that learning is not linear. In fact, the human mind appears to learn in a more spiraled fashion, visiting and revisiting ideas and concepts that build one to the other in myriad connections rather than in a connect-the-dots model.

Similarly, schools in Italy, as with many in the United States, insist on a clear distinction between learning by experience and learning by instruction. These two approaches are kept separate and distinct.

But again, research suggests that this distinction muddies teaching and learning far more than it illuminates. As Rinaldi told us firmly, we must focus less on teaching as a technique (experiential teaching versus instructional teaching), and instead find the pleasure of learning, the significance of learning as life and citizenship, learning as creating life and living.

While this is not all we heard today from Rinaldi or her co-presenter Jovanka Rivi, it was an important missive. In so many ways, these words ring true for Bennett Day School and what we intend for our students, our faculty, and our school, neighborhood, and citywide community.

With that in mind, I am eager to work with neighborhood schools to develop something similar to the Reggio Emilia Reggio Narra.  This annual event is citywide and dedicated to the concept of narrative.  Throughout the city, for one day a year, parents, teachers, civic leaders, community members, open their houses, their businesses, their churches, schools and theaters, and invite everyone throughout the region to celebrate storytelling.  Last year it was titled, “The Color of Stories:  Is the Night Really Blue?”

Can we do this in Chicago?  Yep.  We can do this.