Before attending the study tour in Reggio Emilia, I wondered how the ‘Reggio’ approach could be seen through an Aboriginal lens and I thought about ‘how and if Reggio’ might align with an Aboriginal worldview.
I was keen to consider what aspects fitted with or challenged my own cultural beliefs and ways of teaching, learning and being.
My first encounter with Reggio was in Melbourne in the early 1990’s, when Carla and others shared their story. From that experience, I took away that Australian systems could not replicate ‘Reggio’ but that the philosophical and collectivist principles that guided Reggio’s teaching and learning were important values that we could learn.
I had no idea what to expect when I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to travel to Reggio earlier this year. I swung between a range of emotions such as disbelief, gratefulness, excitement, curiosity, nervousness and fear. Colleagues told me that I would have a great time and talked about the town, the food, the people but nothing prepared me for the strong sense of belonging that I felt when I arrived and connected with this unique place, the people and community of learners I met, it felt like home.
The similarities that stood out for me between Reggio’s approach and traditional Aboriginal ways included the expectation that everyone is valued and respected; that relationships are fundamental to developing strong communities that promote shared values for family, learning and teaching, work, life, and wellbeing. We collectively view all children as having additional rights to engage in research, collaborations, trial and error, observations, problem-solving and learning from the heart and to do so with the freedom that they need and deserve to enrich their educational experiences.
The educational landscape in Reggio closely aligns with Aboriginal Elders, communities’ and educators’ beliefs that our world is not limited to the here and now. Our worldview has always shared the belief that our cultural way of being, incorporates many languages and we teach our children to listen to the voices that make up our deep sense of being and connectedness. We are among the first peoples who share the concern for the land, the sky, the water, the spirits and all life forces that we nurture from strong relationships founded in respect and responsibility to protect and sustain our cultural song lines, stories and rights that are uniquely created from our many languages. We share the same strength and resilience that Reggio has displayed in keeping true to their beliefs, as we continue to advocate for our right to creative and constructive lifestyle choices. I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to allow us to be who we are and make the learning journey more comfortable for our children as they navigate the two worlds we now live in.
My take-home positives from ‘Reggio’ are:
My take-home challenges are:
I wonder if the origins of Reggio that were born from a peace and rights platform could be adopted everywhere? I hope that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are educated with these principles rather than the deficit ways our system and funding view our children, and I wish that our cultural knowledge was sustained and taught by the experts our knowledge holders and Elders as the Ateliers facilitate their speciality in Reggio Emilia schools.
I have come home with a new fire in my belly and a lot of unresolved questions and ideas that I am keen to explore.
In the words of Carla Rinaldi: “The most important gift that we can give to the children in the school and in the family is time”. Time is what I now need as I consider my experience and learnings. I look forward to creating spaces to further the conversations throughout KU, with Elders and in the broader community.
And from the Uluru Statement From The Heart:
“When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds, and their culture will be a gift to their country.”