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June Blog 2022: Educational Pioneers.

June 5, 2022


Two Great Pioneers

This month I am looking into the past for inspiration into the Early Years.

As Churchill said

“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”


I start with a poem from Loris Malaguzzi.


The child

is made of one hundred.

The child has

a hundred languages

a hundred hands

a hundred thoughts

a hundred ways of thinking

of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred

ways of listening

of marvelling of loving

a hundred joys

for singing and understanding

a hundred worlds

to discover

a hundred worlds

to invent

a hundred worlds

to dream.

The child has

a hundred languages

(and a hundred hundred hundred more)

but they steal ninety-nine.

The school and the culture

separate the head from the body.

They tell the child:

to think without hands

to do without head

to listen and not to speak

to understand without joy

to love and to marvel

only at Easter and Christmas.

They tell the child:

to discover the world already there

and of the hundred

they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:

that work and play

reality and fantasy

science and imagination

sky and earth

reason and dream

are things

that do not belong together.

And thus, they tell the child

that the hundred is not there.

The child says:

No way. The hundred is there.

Loris Malaguzzi

(translated by Lella Gandini)

Loris Malaguzzi

Loris Malaguzzi was born in Correggio on 23 February 1920. He grew up in Reggio Emilia.

Creativity becomes more visible when adults try to be more attentive to the cognitive processes of children than to the results, they achieve in various fields of doing and understanding. ~  ~ Loris Malaguzzi


It is important to know the three core principles of the Reggio Emilia philosophy: the child, the environment, and the teacher.

The Child

The Reggio Emilia philosophy values the child as central to their own learning, not simply an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge. Children can pursue their own interests and revisit and build upon ideas at their own pace.

Reggio Emilia approach encourages children to use every tool they have, to express themselves.

The Environment

A Reggio-inspired environment, often referred to as ‘the third teacher’ is one that is open and free-flowing. It enables uninterrupted exploration, play and learning. Outdoor spaces are valued as much as formal classrooms, and the design of the space should allow children to move freely between the two. In addition, it is important that children have free access to stimulating resources, as they cannot be the owner of their learning journey without this.

The Teacher

Teachers observe children rather than direct them. It is important that children can experiment in their own way, make mistakes, and find innovative solutions. The role of the teacher is to gently move students towards areas of interest to them, through careful observation conducted over time.

The Benefits of The Reggio Emilia Approach

  1. Encouragement

There is an extraordinarily strong emphasis on the social development of children as part of the community and their relationships to other children, their families, and teachers.

  1. Explorative

A creativity of thinking. Exploring and learning are expressed through drawing, sculpting, music, dance and movement, painting, and drama.

  1. Problem solving techniques

Children have learning projects that provide extensive research opportunities. Real-life problem solving, creative thinking and exploration.


Susan Issacs


“If we were asked to mention one supreme psychological need of the young child, the answer would have to be play-the opportunity for free play in all its forms. Play is the child’s means of living and understanding life.” Susan Isaacs

Susan Isaacs was a British psychologist and educationalist whose work spanned the first half of the twentieth century.  Isaacs was born in Lancashire in 1885.

She came to education with a background in philosophy and psychology and this influenced much of her work with young children.

Isaacs’ child-centred theories expanded on the work of other educationalists, such as Froebel.

Isaacs’ Theories

The Value of the Nursery School

Susan Isaacs had an enthusiastic belief in the place of nursery education in society. She felt that attending a nursery school should be a natural part of a child’s early life: ‘Experience has shown that it can be looked upon as a normal institution in the social life of any civilised community’ (Isaacs, 1952).

The early years setting was a place that should both mirror the family through love and warmth, as well as offering new and exciting opportunities and resources that might not be available at home. Isaacs was clear that the nursery school was an extension of the function of the home, not a substitute for it. The nursery setting provided social experiences and companionship that Isaacs believed were vital to a child’s development.

The Environment

The environment should best facilitate children’s development. The indoor space be richly resourced to stimulate learning through play.

Children should be taken out of the setting. The trips always being purposeful and initiated by the children.

Isaacs knew children needed time and space to set up games and, where appropriate, to sustain them over extended periods, rather than be rushed to tidy them away. Isaacs felt that this promoted focus and patience. The children were expected to take responsibility for the nursery environment, including planning the lunches, setting the table, and washing up.

The Role of the Adult

Adults working in the nursery school were as much a part of the environment as the space and the resources. The adult’s role was to promote this social development by acting as the good parent, as the positive side of the super ego of the children.

Without security a child would not explore and experiment, express feelings or try out new relationships.

The adults knowledge of the individual child would come from observation.

The Importance of Play

Children’s play, as Isaacs thought, was a form of self-expression that enabled them both to release their real feelings safely and to rehearse ways of dealing with a range of emotions.

Play was the vehicle for development. Isaacs felt that one of the most valuable contributions of the nursery environment was that it provided opportunities for cooperative play.

As well as the emotional benefits of play, Isaacs also saw it as a means for children to discover and experiment with the world around them.

Linking theories to today’s practice

Both Loris Malaguzzi and Susan Isaacs have influenced how we think today. We can learn from them and implement their theories into our practise.

EYFS guidelines state: “While playing, children can express fears and relive anxious experiences. They can try things out, solve problems and be creative and can take risks and use trial and error to find things out.”

Isaacs’ understanding of the need for emotional security to support learning is also present in the EYFS: “To mentally or physically engage in learning, children need to feel at ease, secure and confident”.