growthtable 2Few weeks ago, Spaziopensiero has been asked to join into the participation of an international tender. The project aim is to introduce qualified participants, coming from one of the poorest country in the world, into the best practice and knowledge for each area of competence. Our commitment is to expose the participants, to creative, child friendly methods of teaching to be used in managing school behaviour, leading to realization of the concept of education as a “basic human right”.

The main aim is to allow trainees observing participatory and child-friendly learning techniques being used successfully in leading community schools of Italy. By noting the positive environment within such institutions, participants will be able to learn about child-friendly alternatives for transferring skills and knowledge to students.

Together with being exposed to conducive and positive learning environments participants will also be made aware of surrounding environments and facilities that holds children’s interest in school such as gyms, libraries, other cultural/recreational laboratories, leading to more knowledge retention and minimising drop-out rate. Master trainers would in turn be expected to train further school teachers and leaders once they return to their Country.

Reading the introductory notes about the Country, which the project is aimed to, I didn’t resist  the temptation to make a switch. So, I wrote ‘Italy’, instead of the name of the poorest country in the world and the sentence didn’t lose its meaning, sounding at me as the incipit of one in hundred articles you can read on Italian newspaper nowadays:

Italy is facing a crisis of its educational sector with problems plaguing the country’s school including bad infrastructure, shortage of teachers, poor teaching capacities, teacher absenteeism, corporal punishment and low levels of community involvement all contributing to drive children away from public sector schools.

For a while I thought to decline the offer because I realized the gap between idealized reality and real reality. Then, I became aware of the great opportunity given by this kind of cultural and social exchange, if only I changed my attitude.

So I restored both the original motivation by which, everyday, in Spaziopensiero Educational Services we tray our best to improve quality teaching and child care, and the trust in the positive power of research and shared knowledge.

As a recent U.N.I.C.E.F. report says, it has been observed in several countries that teachers who have been introduced to child-friendly pedagogy often serve as ambassadors for the model. They motivate other teachers to become more reflective in their work and are more concerned with the general welfare and improved learning achievements of all their students. The teacher’s role is the key to achieving results in child-friendly schools and learning spaces. Therefore, the required training and support to prepare teachers for this important role must be a priority.

Education reform based on the child-friendly school model makes it possible to:

  • Implement innovative classroom practices that greatly improve learning outcomes;
  • Encourage the involvement, cooperation and participation of children, teachers, school heads and parents in the reform process;
  • Cultivate incentives for improving the quality of education based on favourable working conditions that serve to motivate teachers, students and the community.

In the last century Italian pedagogists proposed learning methodologies, then accepted and followed all around the world. Maria Montessori, Lorenzo Milani, Mario Lodi, Gianni Rodari, Fulvio Acanfora, Sergio Pastorini, Loris Malaguzzi, Bruno Munari, contributed to the development of a child-friendly approach and participatory learning methodology, now widely shared in our Schools systems and abroad.

The pleasure of learning, of knowing, and of understanding is one of the most important and basic feelings that every child expects from the experiences he confronts alone, with other children, or with adults. It is a crucial feeling which must be reinforced so that the pleasure survives even when reality may prove that learning, knowing, and understanding involve difficulty and effort.” [Loris Malaguzzi]

The main goal of our action is to offer to the participants a deep and worthwhile taste of the leading Italian educational experiences, a study opportunity for deeper investigation into the concepts, contents, and values of the Italian Approach to Education. The Italian experience has to be presented, including visits to leading schools. Meetings with schools management and staff have to be organised for discussions and round table. Eventually, I convinced myself that the context offered by Spaziopensiero educational system is appropriate in order to achieve this objective, since at present it is offering a good synthesis of Italian educational best practice. Furthermore, since it has been established, Spaziopensiero is operating in different social context, even in the most disadvantaged one.

Participants to the panel will be exposed to the child friendly educational approach based on the following statements:

Focus. Spaziopensiero’s educational approach pays particular attention to child developmental task, bearing in mind that the child’s growth and learning curve are non-linear. Teachers fluctuate their attention based on any early signals of crisis where the child is facing a turning point in his growth.

Play. The child we have in mind is a social and cooperative one, but also a child who is looking for his individuality. We help him take in the best of what he has on offer to satisfy his social and individual growth needs.

Freedom. We do not ask children to cope with a standardized and pre-set curriculum; rather, we allow them to nourish their own thirst for knowledge. The children have everything at their disposal – learning materials, toys, books – in a child-dimensioned learning environment, to develop their natural curiosity.

Rules. Children develop a sense for rule if a rule makes sense to them. Most things in nature and culture are governed by rules, and it is up to us to help children discover them through curiosity and creativity.

Relationships. The adult-child relationship is asymmetric but reciprocal. In order to become autonomous a child must develop a healthy dependent relationship with a reliable adult. The reliable adult allows the child to learn from experience, helping him to make meaningful links between various experiences.

Creativity. The Spaziopensiero teacher makes it easy for child’s play to become more and more structured, by getting to know and understand the child’s individual interests.

Educational space. The environment children play and learn in shouldn’t resemble a room for adults. Our classroom is specifically designed to develop children’s creativity and tailored towards children’s needs, allowing them to explore their imagination.

“I hear and I forget. I see and
I remember. I do and I understand”. We share Bruno Munari’s vision of the experience of learning which is a mental push forward from solely understanding concrete concepts towards being able to understand abstract ideas.

Language. Spaziopensiero’s School is a bi-lingual school where the acquisition of a second language is encouraged by the presence of an English native speaking teacher, towards whom children may turn, and from whom they can learn by identifying with.

Welcome&Acceptance. We welcome any child and family and we make every effort to offer them equal opportunity to grow and learn. We plan individual projects for children with special needs.

Parental Involvement. Parental involvement and sharing responsibility in a child’s education is key in order to build up a trusted social network around the child.

Continuing Education. You cannot take care of anybody if you don’t take care of yourself. Continuing education for our staff is at the foundation of our methodology. Throughout a teacher’s professional experience at Spaziopensiero, the “Participant Observation of the Child” methodology is used, followed by weekly work discussions.

The training will be divided into four main subjects: the first two addressed to developmental approach to education; third and fourth to the work with parents and teachers, namely:

Subject 1 – Child development task and educational task

Subject 2 – Preserving creativity and curiosity in learning processes

Subject 3 – Working with parents to contrast drop out

Subject 4 – Continuing education for teachers

There is no reason to prevent us from proposing the same training to teachers and trainees coming from a country facing a crisis of its educational sector with problems plaguing the country’s school including bad infrastructure, shortage of teachers, poor teaching capacities, teacher absenteeism, corporal punishment and low levels of community involvement all contributing to drive children away from public sector schools: Italy!