Not everyone is lucky enough to get a company-sponsored trip to Europe, but the nine employees of Nido Early Education who visited Italy recently are determined to make sure that their good fortune has long-lasting and tangible benefits for the wider community.
For a week, the group immersed themselves in the small Italian town of Reggio Emilia, which is the birthplace of the internationally acclaimed approach to early childhood education of the same name, with the specific aim of gaining greater insights to the culture which they could bring back to their Reggio-inspired centres in Perth.
The town’s most famous citizen, Loris Malaguzzi, founded Reggio Emilia’s educational philosophy and was instrumental in building a network of municipal preschools and infant toddler centres which served as the precursor to the remarkable global growth of the approach.
The team attended numerous lectures at the Loris Malaguzzi Centre and visited several of the schools, and despite coming away with a mass of information and new experiences from Reggio Emilia’s Italian heart, the team is totally confident that their Australian early learning centres are up there with the world’s best.
For Olivia Ketteridge, one of the Area Managers on the trip, some of the key take-outs were the importance of dialogue and experiencing the role that the central piazza played in the healthy functioning of the town and how the concept can be reinforced at their schools as a metaphor for participation and communication. She also said it was amazing to see how the community came together at the schools, how they used different ways of documenting the children’s work and how importance it was to celebrate every child’s work.
Immediately following the trip, the company recruited a Director of Education to implement the key learnings and add value to their educational offering. Each centre now also has its own curriculum leader who is responsible for implementing and maintaining the premium natural play environments, improving sustainability practices and enhancing their already extensive educational programme.
“In my view, the children, their parents and the wider school community have already benefited from our trip in many different ways,” said Olivia. “It has strengthened our resolve to celebrate diversity and not to pigeonhole children, to consider the child’s point of view and to truly hear their voice and to set up provocation programmes to promote conversation.”
The overall feeling from the group was that the Italian schools were less structured than their Australian counterparts and that there were fewer requirements and regulations that had to be adhered to. Ongoing participation in the Reggio Emilia exchange programme will ensure continual cross-pollination of ideas and inspiration across the globe and the local Perth team remains eternally grateful to their employers for the opportunity they were given.
As Olivia said: “The investment made by Nido Early School in this trip highlights just how important education is to the group and how much value it places on the ongoing development of the curriculum and of its staff.”
For more information on Nido Early School or to see this extraordinary educational approach in action for yourself, please visit a centre near you.