Exploring the Magic of Project-Based Learning

The Reggio Emilia approach places great value on project-based learning in guiding your child’s development. In contrast to more traditional pedagogies, project-based learning is a child-centred method that contributes significantly to building independent thinking, collaboration skills, and resilience in young people. 

In this article, we’ll explore this teaching methodology in more detail; breaking down what it is, how it works at Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres and the many benefits it will have on your child’s early education.


What is Project-Based Learning?

Project-based learning, often abbreviated to PBL, is an educational approach centred around gaining knowledge through experience. PBL is a shift from traditional lecture-style teaching and instead immerses students in authentic, hands-on experiences to foster a deeper understanding of the world around them. It is incorporated heavily into the Reggio Emilia approach, and recognises that to address modern problems with confidence, children should be equipped with modern solutions and practical problem-solving skills. 


How do we Integrate PBL into the Reggio Emilia Approach?

We make project-based learning a focus at Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres to ensure that children not only learn new things but also have physical examples to draw from in their day-to-day. To make PBL even more valuable, we discuss and agree upon projects at our centres with the children — effectively co-constructing the curriculum with them.  This is so our educators can identify what the children’s interests are and then explore them in more detail. Projects are also designed to be fun and engaging, as we believe play is one of the best opportunities to learn. 

We use the ‘Frog Project’ as a real-life example of how we’d approach PBL at Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres. Firstly, your child’s educator would open up a forum with the children to determine what topics they’re interested in. After agreeing that they’d like to learn more about frogs, our educators and children would then explore frogs in more detail. We may ask questions such as: what do we already know about frogs? What would we like to know about frogs? And what can we, as a class, ‘do’ to interact with frogs? 

A breakdown of the learning process for the ‘Frog Project’ might look something like this:


What do we know?

  • They live in water
  • They jump
  • They live in ponds
  • They lay eggs
  • Tadpoles are baby frogs

What do we want to find out?

  • How they breathe underwater
  • Food they eat
  • Types and sizes
  • Names

What can we do?

  • Grow tadpoles
  • Read books
  • Draw and paint frogs
  • Make frog ponds

Once a project is chosen, we’ll work on it together, troubleshooting and reviewing when necessary. 


The Importance of Identifying Interests in Project-Based Learning

As mentioned above, the Reggio Emilia approach aims to explore projects that children are most interested in. This ensures they are thoroughly engaged and develop their understanding of a topic in meaningful ways. Projects are designed to delve deeper into the surface topic, forming a connection with the child’s environment — what we refer to in the Reggio Emilia approach as the ‘Third’ Educator — and the knowledge they can gain from it.

In addition to this, children get to choose how these projects are designed. This process falls under the Reggio Emilia ‘100 Different Languages’ philosophy which explains that due to their limitless imaginations, children have an extraordinary number of ways with which to express themselves. For children, speech is simply one of many avenues for expression. They may decide to use art, music, or even movement to conduct their project, finding a method that best suits the challenge presented. Revisiting the ‘Frog Project’ example from earlier, if children are interested in a frog’s life cycle, they may use art to draw that life cycle out on paper or music to create a song about it. Whatever they choose, the project is not only about the destination but also the creative journey they undertake to get there.


How we Track Project-Based Learning Through Documentation

At Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres, we use documentation to track your child’s progress. First and foremost, we add daily journal entries that are either emailed to you or uploaded to your child’s Kinderloop page. These entries include an outline of your child’s interests and progress, as well as photos of them participating in a range of experiences. Educators also complete a communication book entry at the end of each week, outlining highlights, and once a month, a Reggio Connect entry will be uploaded to your child’s Kinderloop page. All of this documentation will outline the projects that your child is participating in and how these have helped their development. 

We document our student’s progress to give parents a better understanding of what their interests are and how this is being applied through PBL. At the end of our childcare program, children take home a beautiful portfolio detailing their unique and individual learning journey. This ensures that not only will they learn new things through PBL, but they can also reflect on their projects and learn from them.


What are the Benefits of Project-Based Learning? 

Now that we’ve explored how we use PBL at Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres, let’s dive deeper into why this methodology works so well when applied to the Reggio Emilia approach. By asking children very specific questions about their interests and the projects they’d like to create, we can use PBL to improve a child’s critical thinking skills. As opposed to if we dictated which projects we’d be conducting from the start, our approach presents children with the opportunity to make their own decisions and judgements regarding a project. Likewise, the format we use to conduct project-based learning at Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres allows children to collaborate and work with others — preparing them with essential teamwork skills they’ll need throughout their schooling, career, and family life.

In order to effectively learn and understand different topics, children need to be engaged. Project-based learning — particularly when it is used in the Reggio Emilia approach — ensures that children are deeply engaged with what they’re learning. It shows children how to apply knowledge to a variety of real-life scenarios. Growing up isn’t easy, and it comes with its unique set of challenges and obstacles to overcome. By introducing children to new information through project-based learning, they are being given the opportunity to critique and revise how they would approach different situations. As they face roadblocks and are forced to inquire further in their projects, they are actively learning about perseverance, and developing this essential skill to use in all aspects of their lives.


Based on what we’ve explored above, it’s no wonder that project-based learning has become an increasingly popular method in early education. By incorporating PBL methods at Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres, we’re sure that your child will be prepared with essential life skills that they can take into primary school and beyond. 

To find out more about the magic of project-based learning and the Reggio Emilia approach, feel free to reach out to us on 02 9891 2222 or via email at mail@reggioemilia.com.au.

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