SHED Children’s Campus – Learning the 100 Languages of Reggio Emilia
Would you like your child to speak 100 languages fluently?
According to adherents of the Reggio Emilia educational approach, children speak many symbolic languages, including playing, building, acting and even dreaming.
To develop these languages, students need the right environment.
Andover’s SHED Children’s Campus uses the Reggio Emilia approach, a self-directed, student-focused philosophy for its preschool and kindergarten programs, before- and after-school clubs, and five summer programs.
The Reggio Emilia approach says environment is the third teacher, and that is the case on a campus where you’ll find 15 organic gardens, a basketball court and a giant chessboard. There’s a secret garden (look for lines from T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” etched upon a rock) and a hidden world marked by the paths of Abbot Woods. Summer programs such as Team Adventure take the exploration outside of Andover, to the rest of the Merrimack Valley and beyond.
For teachers adopting the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy, the learning environment is a critical component to childhood development. SHED Children’s Campus provides participants with 2 acres that they are encouraged to explore freely. Regular walks are taken to the nearby “library, police and fire station, historical museum, Rabbit Pond and the bird sanctuary,” according to Executive Director Linda Shottes-Bouchard.
“We live and breathe the Reggio philosophy,” Shottes-Bouchard says of SHED. This philosophy is named after the northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia, where the founder of the approach, Loris Malaguzzi, a psychologist with a background as a primary school teacher, developed and refined his pedagogical ideas.
Malaguzzi’s outlook was heavily influenced by his experiences during the two world wars, but it was five days after World War II ended when he had an experience that would change his life. In the outskirts of Reggio Emilia outskirts, he witnessed peasant women trying to rebuild a school from rubble. From that day on, Malaguzzi worked with the community as the influence of his ideas grew. Preschools modeled on the Reggio Emilia approach were founded in other European countries before spreading abroad to towns such as Andover.
The philosophy is based on the idea of respecting the whole child, with an emphasis on developing inborn curiosity and multilingual expression, including the “symbolic languages” of painting, theater and architecture.
SHED has been active for over 30 years. What began at Andover’s Shawsheen Elementary School (SHED stands for Shawsheen Extended Day) grew into a self-sustaining nonprofit in the 1986. In 1997, it moved to its current home on the grounds of Phillips Academy.
Dina Hurley, the director of Kid’s Club, SHED’s before- and after-school programs, says SHED has been able to send 12 educators for training in Reggio Emilia. Hurley has gone twice.
There, she witnessed student-teacher interactions that transformed the way she looked at education. She began to see that traditional education often robs children of the vital process of discovery.
More than that, for Hurley and Shottes-Bouchard, learning and happiness are interrelated.
“We come here every day and get to feel the true joy of children,” Shottes-Bouchard says.
Hurley adds, “There is not a half hour that goes by without a laugh. … That joy is so important to have as a human.”
SHED’s Children’s Campus brings this European method to the Merrimack Valley for children ages 2 1/2 to 15. Visit SHED’s website for videos, blogs and to learn more.
SHED Children’s Campus