What’s a great way to spend spring break? Nineteen College of Education students and a professor attended the “U.S. Students and Professors Study Group” in Reggio Emilia, Italy, to learn about early childhood education concepts developed in that city and copied around the globe.

They saw Italian classrooms and teaching practices that could be models for a K-5 magnet school that COE and Indianapolis Public Schools are co-developing at IPS 60. Starting in fall 2011, College faculty and students will be actively involved in teaching and research at the IPS/Butler University Laboratory School, using Reggio-inspired ideas.

The Butler travelers also visited schools in Italy that featured elements essential to the success of the Reggio approach.

“We saw environments that foster dialogue between adults and children, between teachers and families, and between the schools and the community,” said Assistant Professor Ryan Flessner, who led the trip. “We were able to see the ways that children, as well as adults, formulate questions for sustained inquiry.

“We interacted with world-renowned educators as they talked about the importance of trusting children as competent individuals, engaging in deeply collaborative professional conversations, and respecting the diversity among human beings as well as what that diversity brings to the classroom.” 

Participants in the for-credit, independent-study trip included graduate students Emily Benson and Rene’ Mancourt and undergraduates Rachel Bowers, Angelique Carlson, Kristina Colvin, Wendy Danner, Christine Finch, Ciara Jeffrey, Ian Marsee, Mary Moats, Nicholas Papineau, Ashley Pistello, Rachel Polkow, Camille Richie, Kate Robison, Deanna Schmidt, Megan Shuck and Katie Vollmer.A majority of the students had completed COE’s Block A semester, in which elementary education majors learn about the early years of schooling, including Reggio Emilia concepts.

Flessner said he was impressed by his students’ reactions on the trip. “They understood the magnitude of the opportunity, and were more than willing to reflect deeply on what they were seeing, why it was important, and how it would influence them as future teachers,” he said.Emily Benson co-facilitated the trip as her culminating project in a “Teacher Leadership” course Flessner teaches in COE’s Master’s in Effective Teaching and Leadership (METL) program.

“Emily was a master at keeping us on time and organized,” Flessner said. “Because it was such a large group, she helped make reflective discussions more manageable by helping me lead small-group reflective discussions.”

Media contact: Mary Ellen Stephenson(317) 940-6944mestephe@butler.edu

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