The Reggio Emilia approach is based in the municipal system of 46 centres for children from birth to age six owned and operated by the city of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy since the 1960's. It was initiated by parent cooperatives following World War 2 and mentored by Loris Malaguzzi from the late 1950's until his death in 1994. The city now has an international centre for the study of childhood and maintains ongoing contact, through study tours and conferences, with over 80 countries.
The keystone in the philosophy of the approach is the image of children and teachers as capable, resourceful researchers, interested in inquiring seriously into the world around them. Such thoughtful engagement includes working through theories, thoughts, feelings and values in multiple modes of representation, such as drawing, dance, wire, clay, music, painting, light and shadow, design and building, and so forth. It includes the teacher research of pedagogical documentation in which teachers inquire into children's thinking and understanding, invite children to revisit documentation, and study documentation in order to propel curriculum further. It includes the notion of children as full participants in their society, and creators of culture for others to study and enjoy. It includes the notion of parents as full participants in the life of schools. It is the richest, most expansive and demanding vision of childhood we have encountered, and as we attempt to cultivate its possibilities, we see children, teachers, and families respond with a depth of thinking, feeling, and joyful participation previously unexperienced.