Thursday, December 8, 2016

Growing My Brain :: in Reggio Emilia, Italy

You know those life changing events? The ones that change your world forever and open up new possibilities?

Yep. That's happened. And I'm here to report that Italy is ALL that it's cracked up to be.

Teaching at a top-notch International School has its perks. Excellent professional development is one of them. How am I this lucky??! Four teachers plus myself flew off to Reggio Emilia, Italy for a week. (How's that for awesome?) In my opinion, we were headed to the "mothership" of early childhood education genius. And it did not disappoint.

My mind is absolutely awhirl with the ideas, concepts, and philosophies I encountered at this conference. A fan for nearly a decade - it was an absolute DREAM to be HERE - at the heart of 'The Reggio Approach' to learning - meeting the experts and seeing these schools in action. Project Zero? My eyes are more fiercely on you than ever before!

But this is not a teaching blog. It is a travel blog. So let's talk about ITALY!

First stop? A night in Milan. (Let me just say that again....) A night in Milan.

Hotel Senato - urban chic

statue of Leonardo Da Vinci - standing opposite of La Scala Theatre

We ate croissants galore!  Alfresco - often.

Best place for breakfast? This place (on left)! Called Pave. Worth the wait for a table. Unbelievable pastries (I think I ate about 5!). They make their own hazelnut-chocolate spread that is divine.

Cappuccino (cappuccini in the plural!) every single day -- for 2 Euros a cup (that's $3).

Wine at lunch (with a view).

Admittedly, I was a bit self-conscious being in the fashion capital of the world. And really - every person walking on the street was dressed with a purpose. Style is everywhere!

And the fall season! We just don't see colors like this in Hong Kong. That crisp air! The crunch of leaves under your feet.

The Duomo!!! 

This incredible structure is the largest cathedral in Italy. It took 6 centuries to complete - beginning in 1386. The ancient baptistery (dating the year 335!) can still be visited beneath the Milan Cathedral.

yep - I totally got conned. Paid a guy after he thrust corn into my hand for the pigeons to come.
(but it was kinda awesome)

now THAT'S the spirit!
Milan in 36 hours, baby!
Then - we sped south in the fast-train to the historic town of Reggio Emilia...

Home of parmesan reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, and the birthplace of Italy's flag.

In Reggio Emilia people go on "vasca" - 
which means they walk up and down the street. That's it. Not to shop, not to run errands, not for any purpose other than walking up and down the street. They socialize with whomever they happen to run into - and do this pretty much every day (usually after a meal).

sounds rather nice, doesn't it?
main road where people "vasca"

hello up there!

A few big ideas to ponder from the conference ...
Art is an essence of being human. It is not an "add on" or separate specialty area. It is about humanity - perceptions, interpretations, and communications. What, then, does this mean for schools?
School is not a means to an end. It is a place, an experience, in fact - a childhood. How, then, are we honoring childhood? What do we believe to be important about childhood?
Knowledge is constructed, not dished out. What are the implications for structures of learning in our schools? For encounters with varying perspectives? For interpretation and communication in the many human ways that we communicate other than with words?
Visibility - visible learning, visible thinking, visible listening. These provide opportunities for construction of knowledge, for reflection, for understanding. Are our schools currently rich with visible learning or with visible teaching?
Rights of Children - what are our cultural beliefs about the rights of children? What constructs do we have in place that actually support these beliefs? Are there some that don't?

This special town will live in my heart forever.

Teachers on the loose in Italy! Watch out!
Al fresco lunches, bicycle rides, lambrusco, cured meats, hunks of parmesan for breakfast-lunch-and-dinner, school visits, 10-hour days at the conference, and schooly-talk in between it all.
Restaurants didn't even open for dinner until 8:30pm. Long days - and late nights. And it rocked.

our hotel room - teachers who travel together, stay together!

view from my room - one of many piazzas

al fresco cappuccino any time of day - in 8 degrees celsius

so crazy - this H&M store is in an historic building with hand-painted frescoes on the ceiling!!!!

Pretty much sums up our entire week. This picture has it all.

visited the "Remida" center - a recycling center where companys contribute curated waste products to be used by regional schools and local community for projects. BRILLIANT!* and artfully organized.





A night out in the countryside for a parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar tour!

ALL these wheels of parmesan cheese!! Each weighs 40 kilos and has to be turned and dusted every single day. For two years to reach prime flavor. It has to pass many strict assessments to become official parmesan. Real parmesan reggiano is only from this small area of Italy and farms tend to stay in families for generations.

admittedly watched these men for a loooooong time! Precision in their craft of carving up the cheese wheels.

learned about balsamic vinegar too - quite the process.
and who knew it was so ANCIENT!?
super moon in lion's square

reflective and brain SO FULL...
headed to the train station through the graffiti rich tunnels we traversed each day

Back to Milan for dinner, sleep, then morning jet home.

this time in the hip Navigli district along the canals - rainy night seemed fitting for our farewell

I still can hardly believe that I have now been to Reggio Emilia. I have steeped myself in the Reggio Approach from the home base itself. I have lived for a week entirely on cheese, pasta, espresso, and wine. My favorite things.     I 💛  Italy!!

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely fascinating! Beautiful photos! What a Perk!