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In the Spirit of the Studio : Summer reading new in stock

Hello, we've received new stock of this most useful book. Here below is a detailed review by a network member.The bookshop link is at tthe bottom of the article.


"This is an inspirational book which clearly documents different stories, projects, challenges and ideas by educators, from both Reggio Emilia and North America, on the prominence of the atelier space within the schools. Examples are given from American schools inspired by the unique and creative philosophies and practices of the Reggio Emilia preschools, alongside articles and quotes from renowned creative thinkers such as Vea Vecchi, Carla Rinaldi and Loris Malaguzzi who have been key figures in the growth of the Reggio Emilia approach. In the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia is beautifully illustrated making visible the learning processes from both children and adults."

"The book is divided into 13 chapters each with a particular direction of thought or purpose to enlighten readers on the variety of elements that co-construct the overall presence and dimensions of the atelier space. Not only the spirit and mindfulness of the studio space is engaged but also the structural and practicalities of the space. The complexities of the atelier space which I myself find difficult to put into words for colleagues or other interested parties has been creatively woven throughout the pages, building a feeling of appreciation and understanding with each new chapter you read.

A key factor in my recommending this book to others is the reflective and honest experiences and encounters that the educators write about. While reading this book I continued the work in my own atelier space with children, alongside introducing a new atelier space and atelierista to her role at my setting. I have now lost count of the amount of times I have referenced this book to the atelierista and other teachers I work with, in supporting the development of ideas, enquiries, documentation and the aesthetics of the environment. The mini stories of projects, enquiries and the negotiations of setting up new atelier spaces has been a great reference point for examples to share with colleagues. The stories within have provoked and stimulated new reflections and questions I have about my own personal and professional development whilst working in the role as an atelierista. From reading the book I have already brought in new knowledge, ideas and questions into my everyday encounters with the children.

A central idea expressed through many voices within the book is the studio space as a distinct space where children can express, question, reflect, explore and become inspired by the world around them. This idea is reflected by Barbara Burrington in chapter 8, page 90 when she says 'the studio needed to be invented first and then it needed to be lived in, in order to absorb some spirit so that, in turn, it could inspire others'.

As this central idea appears throughout the book many more fundamental ideas are raised, questioned and discussed, keeping the book actively engaging. Through this diversity of mini subjects and contexts within a central theme, readers are then able to explore something that may be of particular interest to them. For example I enjoyed reading about some of the difficulties experienced by educators in particular Lynn Hill's writing in Chapter 9 from the Virginia Tech Child Development laboratory School, in negotiations of space and building new relationships when working from the philosophies of the Reggio Emilia Approach. Some of these struggles are familiar to me from initiating concepts of this approach into my setting three years ago; making the transition from a traditional nursery setting to supporting an enquiry based learning approach. Reading about these difficulties created a feeling of being a part of something bigger and continuing to believe 'in the richness of your own context' as they say in Reggio Emilia. For me this richness comes from an understanding and appreciation of the community in which your setting is based as each community has it own uniqueness and a key value in promoting respectfulness of relationships for adults, children and the world around them.

The practice of integrating digital technology alongside natural and found materials has been very thought provoking for me as I researched these ideas for my degree and within my practice. Charles Schwall explores this idea in Chapter 6 – The Grammar of Materials, through the documentation of one site-specific piece of work in collaboration with the REMIDA recycling center. The project entitled 'Bikes – Lots' or the bicycle project according to Schwall 'aimed to open up new interactions between traditional materials and digital media'.

The book has made me think more of the positive effects of using digital technologies to enhance relationships between children, and about how these digital materials can richly support an enquiry rather than the traditional, static uses of the ICT equipment in the Early Years educational system. In which I mean to use a computer, keyboard and a mouse with the children in what has felt more like an ICT lesson, rather than exploring the many possibilities offered from experiences with cameras, scanners, projectors, printers, video and many more. The difficulties in negations of space and building new relationships and the use of digital technology as an expressive language are just two examples of the ideas that have piqued my interest further, there is many more which could be discussed and aspects that I am looking forward to researching in more depth.

In conclusion I would recommend this book to anyone interested and inspired by the philosophies of the Reggio Emilia approach and in particular the ideas surrounding the uniqueness of the atelier and studio spaces. Reflections on materials, practicalities, documentation, relationships and many more are explored in relation to the studio space, taken directly from the educators who have worked in these spaces. Such as Lella Grandini, Lynn Hill, Louise Cadwell, Charles Schwall, Barbara Burrington, Susan Haris Mackay, Carla Rinaldi, Lori Geismar Ryan and Vea Vecchi. As I am an artist and Early Years Teacher at my setting I can see the huge benefits to reading this book from both of these perspectives and how they are intertwined. As an artist I have been particularly interested in the detailed accounts of the projects and materials used in the studio spaces and how these are investigated with the children, with the active role of the adult and the aesthetics of the environment central. As a teacher I have witnessed and taken note of the quickened progress of the children's development in language, theorizing and collaborating skills, from the transcribed conversations of the children within the projects that are documented in the book and from my own practice. These are a couple of the reasons why this book is enchanting and inspirational for educators and artists alike with their roles being closely linked and just as imperative in the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach. "

Rachel Robertson, Atelierista and Early Years Teacher at Thames Tiddlers Nursery, London September 2015

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Saturday, 17 August 2019

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