In the Reggio Emilia educational approach, there is an expression, “A child has a hundred languages.” These languages refer to an art, innovation, nature, construction, fantasy, music, dance, building, writing, talking, signing, science and more. An education incorporating these multiple languages helps children build knowledge and understand the world around them.
With the Reggio Emilia approach, a child is considered a competent, capable and natural researcher who wants to learn and explore. To encourage this, many Reggio Emilia schools offer an Atelier for children to use.
What is an Atelier?
“Atelier” means “art studio” or “workshop” in French. A Reggio Emilia Atelier is a welcoming and inspiring place offering a wide variety of natural and man-made materials for artistic expression. Here, children of all ages come individually or in small groups to encounter experiences with these different media that will progressively support all their languages of expression. The early exploration of the visual arts offers children endless possibilities.
Inside the Atelier
In the Reggio Emilia approach, the environment is the third teacher. Nowhere is this more evident as in the Atelier. A bright and welcoming space, the Atelier is designated for children to explore and have fun. Materials such as clay, paper, fabric, wire, light, beads, shells, leaves, and wood, among others, are available for children to explore as they see fit. The Atelier is designed to encourage collaboration as well as creativity, and children are can work together with their peers to complete a project or discover new ideas. In the Atelier, the mood is calm and inspiring. Children go at their own pace and learn to problem-solve and express themselves without time limits or restrictions.
Ateliers are led by an Atelierista, a teacher who is a partner in the child’s artistic journey. The Atelierista encourages the child to experiment and create and collaborates with individual children and small groups to support their ongoing learning. As part of the Reggio Emilia educational approach, the Atelierista documents each child’s process to further understand and celebrate their ideas.
The benefits of a Reggio Emilia Atelier
An Atelier in a Reggio Emilia school encourages experimentation, intuition, and spontaneous creativity. The wide variety of materials allows for free expression of ideas. The Atelier, along with other spaces in a Reggio Emilia school, invites children to invent, create and explore themselves through art.
In addition to encouraging creativity and self-expression, the Atelier promotes other benefits for children. Exposure to art develops several important skills, including motor skills, cognitive development, and social and emotional skills.