Experience Early Childhood at Portledge

How an Italian Approach to Early Childhood Education Inspired Teaching & Learning at Portledge School.


by Leigh Farrell & Katie Henry '99

After World War II, parents and townspeople of the city of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy set their minds to building a school that would help to ensure a better future for their children. Brick by brick, the townspeople began to rebuild their community by creating a school that would encourage a new way of educating and learning. Their goal was to build a school that embodied the principles of respect, responsibility, and community in an enriched environment that supported discovery and exploration through a self-guided curriculum. These educational methods, designed by founder Loris Malaguzzi, began the groundwork for what is now the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Childhood learning. Today, Reggio Emilia is a world renowned approach influencing the education of young children and teachers around the globe.

Each year, educators from all over the world attend the international conferences held at The Loris Malaguzzi Center in Reggio Emilia, Italy, to deepen their understanding of the principles of this approach and draw inspiration from its schools and researchers. Ten Portledge teachers are among those who have had the privilege of attending the Loris Malaguzzi Center and now incorporate the Reggio Emilia philosophy at Portledge.

Subtle elements of each faculty’s Reggio Emilia experience are evident in their implementation of the Portledge curriculum and in their interactions with their students. Children are encouraged to explore their interests deeply and share their learning. In the younger grades, students lead the way as the themes and topics of study emerge from their interests. Deep thinking and observation are inherent in both the teachers’ and students’ daily experiences. Methods of recording observations to share with others are integral to our Reggio Emilia journey. Our youngest children are active learners by persistently seeking answers to their questions and solutions to their problems, using a variety of means including interviewing experts,conducting experiments, consulting text, and engaging in collaborative problem solving.

Collaboration among faculty, parents, students, and outside community members broadens the scope of learning for all active participants. At Portledge, young children are afforded a great amount of responsibility and are held accountable to be respectful and active members of the classroom and community. As you walk by the colorful and interactive classrooms, that many refer to as their second home, you notice children’s thinking and learning documented on the walls, hear animated voices debating a topic, and observe children collaborating to build their new masterpiece. Teachers can be found provoking discussions, facilitating small group projects, and documenting student voice. Following these practices, Early Childhood education at Portledge respects children’s intrinsic sense of wonder by providing them time and space to play, interact, and construct their own meaning of the world. This approach to education has become a natural fit at Portledge, echoing our mission: Portledge School offers a competitive college preparatory program in a warm, inclusive community. Students are inspired to realize their individual potential by developing the critical thinking skills and moral courage necessary for lifelong learning in an increasingly complex world.

For more information on Portledge Early Childhood Programs please contact: 

Leigh Farrell 
Director, Early Childhood Programs

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Please Join Us for a Day of Play

We invite you and your children to partake in our Days of Play. Our teachers will guide students in interactive projects that incorporates student ideas and interests. Parents are invited to join in on the collaboration, or tour the Lower School building and learn more about the Early Childhood and Lower School programs at Portledge School.

Ideal ages: 2- 6 years old.

For more information, please contact:
Leigh Farrell at (516) 750-3224 
or lfarrell@portledge.org

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  • Jan
    26

    Day of Play

  • Apr
    13

    Day of Play

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