Inspired by Butler and Lab School, northern Ind. preschool adopts Reggio.

By Octavia Lehman

Auburn, Ind. – The typical approach of planning out lesson plans for the entire year is not the style Trinity Lutheran Church preschool is taking with its new pre-kindergarten class. Their approach to learning evolves as students learn.

The class will be taught according to the Reggio Emilia approach. The name is derived from a place in Italy and is based on an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education.

TLC preschool expanded its classes for the fall, adding a 4-and-5 year old pre-kindergarten class. When Connie Fullerton, the director of curriculum, decided to add the class she thought back to an approach of learning she encountered at a Butler University workshop in Indianapolis.

Fullerton retired from teaching a few years ago, but could not stop teaching, and now works for TLC. She taught for decades in the DeKalb School system teaching grades 3, 4 and 5. Before she retired she worked for Fort Wayne Community Schools.

It was while at FWCS she attended a teaching conference that exposed her to the Reggio Emilia approach to learning. Fullerton thought the style gave students a purpose for learning. “It’s an explosion of learning,” Fullerton said.

The class at TLC preschool is Reggio inspired and will be adapted to fit their audience.

What makes the Reggio Emilia approach different from other ways of learning is the evolution of curriculum. Students are taught based on interests of whole groups, smalls groups and individuals. The image of the child is that all have potential and are competent, curious and creative learners. “We listen to students, and ask ‘what are (your) interests?’” Fullerton said.

One of the cores includes the environment as teacher. “The environment is exploration,” Fullerton said. The rooms will have less decorations as students have the task of creating from things they discover outside. The students will spend a lot of their time outside exploring nature.

Instead of creating a craft project to make a craft, the students will focus on the process of designing, creating and exploring with various materials. The focus of creation will be on the process. One project Fullerton plans on using is creating something from clay.

On a small scale, Fullerton likens the style of learning similar to New Tech at DeKalb High school – the idea of collaboration among students to spur on learning. While her class does not focus on technology it does on how to learn together in groups, and finding one’s interests.

What Fullerton hopes this type of learning does for children is to give them a life geared toward learning. When it comes to other approaches, she realizes that guided learning provides a good structure for socialization and creates expectations, but sometimes the learning doesn’t always translate beyond the classroom.

“You write because you are supposed to write,” Fullerton stated. She wants to see students writing because it comes natural, not because they are in school mode.

The family is also an important aspect of learning. Fullerton observed [the IPS/Butler Laboratory School] in Indianapolis where families of the students came together to create wind chimes. She wants to includes that at TLC – bringing families together to learn alongside the students.

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