Our core values
Our core values are linked to the experience in educational services run by the Panta Rei cooperative, including the specific cultural and pedagogical characteristics of this experience developed all these years. They are also linked to the educational experience of nurseries and pre-schools in the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, which have always been characterised by the modernity of their theoretical reflections and their deeply-rooted commitment to research and experimentation; experience which Panta Rei has always used as a reference ever since it was founded.
A focus on children
The idea of a child is that of an active being that has all the potential to develop by encountering rich environments and opportunities for exploration, expression and different languages. A child who, if placed in a situation where he or she can bring out this potential, will read and actively build his or her own story and knowledge. Childhood is therefore a time of great potential when children can begin to build their understanding and express their own personality through relationships and experiences.
The central role of the child is the main characteristic of nurseries and pre-schools, along with opportunities and materials for development and an approach of continuous research.
The one hundred languages of children
Given the belief that children have one hundred languages, it is the adult’s responsibility to listen, recognise and enhance them, encouraging situations where many forms of potential can emerge. The atelier and mini-atelier therefore become places that can accommodate some of the children’s many languages, including graphical, pictorial and manipulative languages and body languages linked to movement. The atelier and mini-atelier are intended as laboratories, inside the larger laboratory that is the nursery and the pre-school, laboratories that can encourage meetings and experiments with materials and instruments which welcome and support children’s different expressive and symbolic languages; they can be a meeting place for children, teachers and families; they can expand the projects set up in these classes, which find a natural sounding board in these laboratories for continuous development, breaks and restarts over time, partly supported by the workshop workers. Workshop workers are professional figures with artistic training, whose presence at the nursery and pre-school aims to enrich the research and documentation on the many languages of children with new knowledge and awareness.
The educational environment
In addition to being an architectural structure, educational space is a place of life, meetings and affection, which is home to relationships between people and interaction between objects. Nurseries and pre-schools are living environments continuously marked and altered by the exploration, research and experiences of all their participants. This environment is therefore not designed as a rigidly structured space, but rather as a living organism/place that can combine several aspects. An environment that takes shape and forms an identity from the relationships built inside it; a space intended as an active partner, a metaphor for knowledge. It therefore seems essential to design and plan the environment by creating important surroundings for the subjects who live there, where everyone can feel welcome and be a part of it and can leave their own mark. All this leads us to see the space as a research project that can be measured every day by its own success, by the effectiveness of its language, and by its ability to create a dialogue with the evolution that characterises education.
Continuous scientific data supports the importance of making quality nutritional choices.
Right from the first days of life, children feed to satisfy their physiological needs, but at the same time they also discover taste, smells, flavours and food colours, experimenting on their own and with other children. Nurseries and pre-schools can enhance the idea that nutrition is about health, enjoyment and culture, focusing on the source of food, the type of production, the seasonal nature of food and the typical products that are eaten at the school.
The nurseries and pre-schools we run have always made important choices in terms of nutrition, ensuring there is a kitchen onsite that can prepare meals according to a set menu every four weeks, taking into account guidelines on proper nutrition and the recommended daily intake of energy and nutrients (LARN), while also ensuring the food tastes good, not just due to its flavour and aroma but also down to how it is prepared, understood and interpreted. The responsibility is to create a dialogue around nutritional education together with the families regarding the children’s eating habits and palates, while also following any medical advice (intolerances, allergies, etc) and religious choices. The daily relationship with the chefs, and the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen together with them, has a fundamental educational value for children and parents. Lunchtime further helps create a friendly atmosphere and restore the image of the nursery and pre-school as a living environment. The kitchens are and can become open, welcoming laboratories that can accommodate special projects for children and adults, celebrations and courses on nutrition.
Our educational experience recognises parents as valuable partners in the educational project as well as their right to experience their own function within a broader context than family life, where they can discuss and learn from others’ educational experience. During the school year, our services promote structured meetings between workers and parents to provide information to the family and get them involved in life at the nursery and pre-school.
This is the first meeting for parents to get to know the nursery environment and its pedagogical project together with the nursery staff.
Together with their families, the children will meet each other and begin to discover and experience the nursery’s spaces.
These meetings are the first important opportunity for individual families to meet and talk to the teachers before their children start the nursery or pre-school, after which other meetings can be arranged at the teachers’ and/or parents’ request.
These are meetings between teachers and parents who share the same group section to talk about the evolution of the service’s experience and educational project, to tackle any potential difficulties together, to discuss suggestions and initiatives, and to talk about educational problems and the issues of education today.
Here, parents can experiment in the kitchen with the chefs on the chosen menus, while watching and preparing dishes and recipes under the guidance of the kitchen staff.
These evenings are about workshops and about building relationships through action, while offering opportunities for discussion, including interculturally, that are different from those set up by important “word” groups that qualify relationships in an educational community (e.g. organising parties, preparing and making gifts, fitting out and looking after the environment, etc).
Children and parent ateliers
These are important opportunities for sharing experiences within the nursery and the pre-school in the afternoon for children and parents, where the working method takes its meaning from the time spent together.
These are precious moments for an educational community open to families.
Documentation is making listening visible; it is building records that can show the children’s learning paths and processes through slides, videos and writing. Documentation allows for comparison, reflection and assessment of the learning environments.
Teamwork and the role of adults
Teachers support children as researchers: the teacher’s task is to create and offer contexts in which it is not just the final product that counts but also observing and listening to the children’s learning processes, either individually or as a group: teamwork as the meeting of many points of view surrounded by richness, culture and research.
To create a project that justifies research as a permanent approach among children and adults, the professional updating and training of educators becomes an essential prerequisite. Meetings with all the workers and exchanges with other educational and cultural institutions form extraordinarily informative opportunities for comparison. The training times and methods therefore include:
– section and inter-section updates
– group updates with all the professional figures involved
– meetings with the research and study staff on specific issues of shared interest
– study seminars
– teacher exchanges
Staff organisational structure
All the educational services involve a working group that forms an essential opportunity for reflection and suggestions on the educational plan and the aspects connected to the nursery’s activities. In particular, the working group identifies and develops educational projects, continuously comparing and checking experiences, critical issues, section projects, the current planning and organisation and all the meetings with parents, while also sharing in-depth studies on specific training courses.
Depending on the specific nature of the service, the working groups include:
- educational staff
- people with artistic training and English mother-tongue speakers
- kitchen workers
- support workers for educational activities, looking after and cleaning the environments
These combined human resources have been structured according to the ratios recommended by the existing legislation in the region of Emilia Romagna and Italy as a whole concerning nursery and pre-school staff and, depending on the specific and complex nature of the nursery school through a shift system and alternating weekly times, can guarantee coverage all throughout the day with the maximum number of staff possible. Indeed, having several members of staff present is a significant factor for educational workers to create the pedagogical project.
The presence of several members of staff underpins the principle of collective responsibility for work, while also prioritising experiences and activities in small groups as much as possible, complying with the adult/child ratios set by existing legislation, and highlighting the interdependency of all the figures working for the service and encouraging a sense of belonging.
The acclimatisation period occurs during the first few weeks of the nursery and is intended as a flexible path characterised by the entrance into an environment that is not yet established but is open and ready to meet the needs and points of view of children and parents, an environment where the teachers and all the nursery school staff are being acclimatised, not just the children. To make this time easier it is important to discuss and negotiate certain things about it with the children and parents. The nursery should also acclimatise children in small or very small groups, asking parents to bring in important items for the children (such as blankets, teddy bears, dummies, etc) that could help facilitate their transition, as much as possible, between the nursery and home, dealing with these changes more smoothly.
Possible acclimatisation path at the nursery
Parents are asked to be available all throughout the first week, which should be agreed depending on the needs of each child. On the first day, the children will stay at the nursery from about 9:00 am until 11:00 am together with their parents who will give them a snack so the teachers can observe the parents’ techniques and the children’s habits; on the third day, the parents and children will also stop for lunch at around 11:15 am; throughout the morning the parents can decide whether to leave the class briefly to see how their child reacts; on the following days, depending on the children’s response to their parents’ brief absence, the mornings at the nursery will gradually extend up to 1:00 pm and, consequently, the parents’ absence from the classroom will become longer. Nevertheless, parents are asked to make sure they are available for lunch in case they are needed.
In any case, the structure of the first week will be assessed in terms of times and methods by the teachers together with the parents to fully meet the needs of each child. From the week after they start nursery, the children can also stay for the afternoon. This will start on Tuesday so the children can re-acclimatise to the nursery on Monday after the weekend break. On the first day, parents will be asked to pick up their child immediately after their nap. On the second day, the children will also have an afternoon snack and then on the following days, they will stay longer until the set finish time.
For anyone who requests the after-school service, it will begin from the first day after the child has begun attending the nursery in the afternoon.
A day at the nursery and pre-school
A day at the nursery school appears to be a structural element in the overall educational experience. It is the time when the educational project takes shape, lives and is accomplished. Consequently, it is essential to have a balance between a stable side, involving rhythms and set areas/times forming a link that provides stability and continuity for the experience, and the more flexible side, which is open to changes according to the identity and meanings of the experience.
7:30 am – 9:00 am Entrance and welcome_ The arrival at the nursery and pre-school offers a moment to say hello and meet each other; when welcoming the children it is therefore important to provide a degree of flexibility in encouraging curiosity and individual approaches to the experience through relationships with adults, other children and objects.
9:00 am – 10:00 am Morning assembly_ The assembly marks the beginning of the experience and the project; it is a moment of dialogue, narration and conversation. The assembly is a place for all of us, a special moment for sharing.
It is the moment when children meet as a group for their morning snack and, together with the teachers, they organise their day together.
The following meals are organised throughout the day:
– morning snack 9:30 am; lunch 11:15 am (for the nursery) 11:45 am (for the pre-school)
– early afternoon snack 3:15 pm; late afternoon snack 5:15 pm
10:00 am – 11:00 am Experiences, small groups and planning_ This is a busy time full of meaning divided into small or medium-sized groups within the classes.
These small groups are special places of exchange and discussion where individual times for research and shared knowledge building are supported and followed to a greater extent.
The children will be offered learning materials, games and activities, with or without direct adult intervention. This time is structured differently depending on the different ages of the children: for certain age groups it might also be necessary to organise rest periods.
11:00 am – 11:15 am Get ready for lunch_ The children will clean up and get ready for lunch, beginning at an early age to develop their own independence. Attention will be paid to individual needs so that each child can experience this moment with peace of mind and good health.
11:15 am – 12:30 pm Lunch_ This is full of relationships and experiences, when children can taste, encounter and experience the food prepared according to controlled dietary standards. It is a time when the needs and individual nature of each child must be grasped and respected, including in terms of education about independence.
12:30 pm – 1:00 pm Early finish for families who want it
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm Rest time_ Once the children have cleaned up again, they will get ready for a nap following individual patterns (with toys and/or cherished, bedtime objects), e.g. partially dimmed light, reading stories and fairy tales, listening to music, etc; these patterns will respect the children’s right to rest.
3:00 pm – 3:30 pm Snack and playtime
3:30 pm – 4:00 pm Goodbye and finish for the children_ This will provide an opportunity to talk with the parents about how the day went; it is essential to exchange ideas and plan ways to provide different daily experiences.
4:00 pm – 6:30 or 6:50 pm After-school service_ This is when children can continue the activities they experienced during the day.