Reggio Children | Loris Malaguzzi International Centre | Reggio Emilia Approach

From programming by activity to preparing learning contexts

 Conditions that open a multiplicity of possible pathways.


This webinar is part of A SERIES OF WEBINARS ON DESIGN / PROGETTAZIONE: Design / progettazione in infant-toddler centres and preschools. Strategies for participating with children in the construction of knowledge

This webinar is on demand. You can view it whenever you like for 6 months after purchase, in your personal area.


What is a context?

What difference is there between preparing a context and thinking up an activity?

This is the theme we will be developing in our second webinar. Drawing on a wide range of documentary materials, we will be sharing the knowledge acquired by teachers in Reggio Emilia's municipal infant-toddler centres and preschools.


The etymology of the word "context" refers to things woven together, a concept lying at the foundation of systemic approaches in contemporary science and which brings relational dimensions to the fore.

What is it that is woven together?

Material aspects such as spaces, tools, furnishings, and people; and immaterial aspects such as timesrelations, and rules both explicit and implicit - which is to say the culture the situation is part of.

Thinking in terms of opposites and taking the concept to its extreme, we could say programming activities usually means preparing, by making right and necessary materials available, a succession of situations, with precise objectives, in which children are asked to execute a task in a more or less correct or creative way.


Progettazione / designing through contexts means giving shape to open-ended spaces in which children, together with adults, work within a shared purpose, researching together for greater understanding of the world they live in, opening pathways of research and elaboration that are not always predictable, trying to give their own original form to the ideas and representations engendered, in a dimension of co-operation.

How children proceed is the space of adult research, and a decisive part of the context.

There is no such thing as a neutral adult in observations.

Adults observe, and as they observe they modify the actual context through their presence, made up of gestures, expressions, words, postures, ideas, theories, interpretations and silences.

Children in a context think, act, dialogue, try things out, and wait, and all this changes the context, i.e. the space, the children and the adults.

A context is therefore a dynamic and constantly modifying, a dynamic that co-evolves through actions and relations.

Observation, even when we are not aware of it, is a process activating circularity between the minds of the adults and the minds of the children. If we are aware, this can become a particularly fertile resource for both children's and adult learning.

In contrast with an activity, a context by its very nature is an opportunity for the adult professional learning and self-learning.

In a context, as we will see, the actions promote new kinds of awareness and a constantly increase in conceptual and operational instrumentation, which teachers continue to inform in the dynamic between prefigurations, preparations, observations, interpretations, and the re-designing of new contexts.


In this webinar, using documentary materials we will try to share with participants the knowledge acquired by teachers in Reggio Emilia's municipal infant-toddler centres and preschools, about the thinking, actions, and kinds of attention necessary for giving shape to the learning contexts whose evolution constitutes the central nucleus of a design/progettazione strategy. 



Paola Cagliari

Paola Cagliari was a teacher in Reggio Emilia’s “Diana” municipal preschool, pedagogista in the Pedagogical Coordination, and Director of the Istituzione of Preschools and Infant-toddler Centres of Reggio Emilia Municipality. For Reggio Children, she collaborates on realising projects involving research, publishing, exhibitions, and professional learning journeys, in Italy and abroad.

Lucia Colla

Lucia Colla has been a Teacher Educator for the Istituzione of Preschools and Infant-toddler Centres of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia since 2007.
Colla collaborates with Reggio Children on the realisation of publishing projects and professional learning journeys, through participation in seminars and workshops in Italy and abroad.

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The Reggio Emilia Approach® is an educational philosophy based on the image of a child with strong potentialities for development and a subject with rights, who learns through the hundred languages belonging to all human beings, and grows in relations with others.