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Reggio Emilia & the Co-op

From its beginnings, the Co-op has naturally embodied aspects of the Reggio Emilia approach: cooperation, parent involvement, and deep respect for children. After discovering the philosophy of the Reggio schools, and recognizing the similarities in our own cooperative school, further learning and study of the Reggio Approach has informed the Co-op in its daily experiences and its dedicated studio space.

A Timeline:

The Co-op’s first Director, Jennifer Saltman, is instrumental to bringing the Reggio Exihibit “The 100 Languages of Children” to The Daugherty Arts Center, Austin, Texas.

Co-op staff travels to Reggio Emilia, Italy, to study the Reggio Approach at the Reggio schools and infant toddler centers.

The Co-op staff and two parents from the board of directors receive a grant to attend the Study Group from North America at the Reggio Schools, Reggio Emilia, Italy.

With support from parents and staff, Kerry brings the atelier (or studio) to the Co-op, beginning studio work with the Co-op children in the back of the Co-op kitchen.

Kerry attends “The Atelier of Reggio Emilia” at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA.
Kerry attends a study group designed specifically for the Atelierista in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

The parents and staff realize a dream, and wall off a portion of the Co-op kitchen, creating a dedicated studio space for Co-op students.

The staff and board president attend the International Study Group “The Reggio Emilia Approach to Education”  in Reggio Emilia, Italy.


Ateliers in Reggio Emilia inspired the Co-op studio. The Co-op studio remains a space for quiet thinking, material exploration, and idea exchange for the Co-op children. Encounters with various materials, communication between the children, parents, teachers and the community, and the respect for the rhythm of the children are all a part of the Co-op. Studio notes and photographs help make visible to the parents the unfolding thinking and development of the children. The Co-op continues to embrace and expand upon the influences gained through the Reggio approach with its great respect for the young child. This approach supports interaction, observation, and deep listening. 


As Vea Vecchi, Atelierista in the Reggio Emilia schools, once said, “The atelier serves two functions. First, it provides a place for children to become masters of all kinds of techniques, such as painting, drawing, and working in clay - all the symbolic languages. Second, it assists the adults in understanding processes of how children learn. It helps teachers understand freedom, symbolic freedom, and path to communication. The atelier has an important, provocative, and disturbing effect on old-fashioned teaching ideas.”


In many ways, the whole of the Co-op is one large atelier, with children, parents, teachers, and staff creating meaningful experiences together, documenting these experiences, reflecting upon them, and, ultimately, growing and learning from these shared experiences.

“Children’s art is beyond the realm of known language. It lies beneath the skin of language, in other words. There aren’t words to describe the feelings, the emotions, the pleasure, the pain, the reasons for painting, scribbling, and daubing. Art helps humans actualize and internalize experience. When adults, however well meaning, interpret and attempt to bring art into the mundane rather than the majestic realm of experience, they diminish the value of children’s art.”

                            --Bev Bos & Jenny Chapman

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Ursula Kolbe says in her book “It’s not a Bird Yet”: 


“Drawing beside a friend sustains and deepens children’s engagement, often keeping them focused and inspiring them to extend ideas. Drawing beside a more experienced peer is helpful for the less experienced  -  children learn by “borrowing” graphic solutions from each other. And the more experienced drawer gains support from the other’s attention.”

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