The Natural Learning School and the Reggio Emilia approach

By Dalila Early

For a Reggio teacher, the most commonly asked question is not “What are your views on education?” or “How do you teach math?” or even “Do you give standardized tests?” The most asked question is “Who is Reggio Emilia?” The truth is Reggio Emilia is not a person, but a place – a city in northern Italy.

After the destruction of World War II, the citizens of Reggio Emilia decided that a new approach to early childhood education was necessary. Families worked together not only to physically build schools, but also to develop a philosophy based on an emergent curriculum where children learn by becoming part of their world through direct experiences, relationships, and exploration. They also believed that the children would develop as individuals through respect, responsibility, and following their own interests. This innovative approach stressed that a child’s education is in the hands of the child, and that teachers are present not to teach, but to facilitate the child’s learning.

A Reggio education occurs through questions. Information is not given by teachers, but rather discovered by students. Teachers step in when a child truly cannot either perform a specific skill, or cannot find answers after much investigation. When a child asks “Why?” the Reggio teacher answers with the question “What do you think?” Children then have to look inside themselves for answers; in other words, they have to think. They form their own opinions and theories, and come to their own conclusions. This is true learning, and is the heart of the Reggio philosophy.

This approach is only possible if one trusts in the fact that children are innately curious and eager to learn. Following the interests of the child through project based curriculum, children learn math, science, social studies, art, language arts, movement, and music in a more in depth manner. As a Reggio Emilia teacher, this is proven to me every day at the Natural Learning School. Whether it is a baby watching leaves falling from the trees, preschoolers mixing colors for the first time, or an elementary student researching and finding the answer to the all-important question “How does an airplane stay in the sky?” our teachers have the privilege of being a part of discovery every day.

Located in the heart of the Cooper-Young at 1992 Nelson Ave, the Natural Learning School is the best kept secret in town providing a child centered, project base, Reggio inspired education for children 1 year to 11 years old. For more information check our website at



Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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