Those who know me well, know that my two greatest passions are the Reggio Emilia philosophy to early education and food. About twelve years ago, I got the opportunity to share both in passions in a private preschool I owned in Toronto. I had the opportunity to share my passions and traditions by investing in school gardens with the support of my own parents and the community and to share the philosophy and guiding principles of Reggio Emilia. I can honestly say that this was the best journey and experience I took in my career as an educator and owner. The travels of Acorn School and our school gardens were another learning curve in my professional and personal life. I wanted a school that my own children could flourish in and studying the schools in Reggio years prior, I wanted this for our community.
Each situation came with learning. Soon Acorn flourishhed in school gardens and a menu that was up and beyond the Canada Food Guidelines, children enjoyed and felt a sense of belonging with assisting in menu planning, our Ministry Advisory and Health Department were very impressed with the way children were involved with food and how much they knew about growing and caring for plants. We had food specialists and nutritionist coming in to help with research and parent involvement as well. Food became our focus, food waste was an issue of the past, food sustainability and food ambassadors came into the forefront at Acorn.
Over the years, I learned that even when Acorn School closed and continued to offer workshops, atelier of taste became an important workshops for us. Meeting up with celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and supporting Food Revolution and later meeting up and working with Rob Gentile form Buca Restaurants. We all share a common passion, food, culture, values, traditions, education, children. How do we time this all so that we can show the value into our education systems? It can be as easy as an herb plant in a classroom to a school kitchen with cooking lessons.
Amelia Gambetti from Reggio Emilia, Italy and Rob Gentile. Conversations about the culture of food
In this day, our decline of good food is crucial. We rush our meals,we don’t eat together, and making a meal is challenging as some find it insufficient. There are many ways to work around this issue, This blog isn’t about solutions in food, it’s about awareness and sharing a passion. I think there is enough resources for parents to access now a days it is a matter of where your roots stand. Finding a way to be passionate about an idea and find a journey to get you on the move. The journey will continue, it will take different routes, the important thing is that the journey doesn’t stop, we keep on learning.
As an educator, when we consider the concept of the Image of the Child we all come with a different view point, some might be very similar views, there are hundreds of images. These views guide us through how we relate to children. It pushes us to listen, observe children. I believe the environment we construct around us and the children also reflect this image we have about children. It’s different when you have listened closely, built a relationship that your environment changes to fit the child that is in front of you as opposed to the preconceived image of the child that sometimes we are given. Every relationship is different, every child is different, therefore the environment fits to these children. When Acorn started out, we set out an invitation for children to come explore with ideas, provocations, and plans to build their own school. It was through communication, collaboration, sharing, and relationship building that the school gardens grew over the years to an important piece to our history. The children defined it, they built new theories, created plans for bird sanctuaries, insect investigations, and nature to happen, the possibilities were endless.
As the founder of Reggio Emilia philosophy to early learning, Loris Malaguzzi expressed the importance of the Image of the Child, enjoying relationships, building schools for children to enjoy learning, all very important in order to grow healthy and confident, to feel engaged, motivated, and to be a learner. Children need to love their school and be able to interact with it so that learning can happen. Education has to focus on each child, to be seen in a relation with family, other children, the community, the environment of the school, with the teacher, it is how relationships and learning happen, interwoven and spiral.
Finding Our Way in the Forest
All of this is a great forest. Inside the forest is the child. The forest is beautiful, fascinating, green, and full of hopes; there are no paths. Although it isn’t easy, we have to make our own paths, as teachers and children and families, in the forest. Sometimes we find ourselves together within the forest, some- times we may get lost from each other, sometimes we’ll greet each other from far away across the forest; but it’s living together in this forest that is important. And this living together is not easy.
We have to find each other in the forest and begin to discuss what the education of the child actually means. The important aspect is not just to promote the education of the child but the health and happi- ness of the child as well.
Loris Malaguzzi Founder of Reggio Emilia Philosophy