Today was our first full day of the program and it started at the Educational Center of Pistoia with an introduction by Donatella Giovannini who is the pedagogical coordinator for infant and toddler services in Pistoia.
For about two hours she provided our group with an overview of the early education programs in Pistoia – both from an organizational perspective as well what was more interesting: she provided an in depth look into the values, consideration, and priorities for the early education programs in the municipality of Pistoia.
Here are some of the highlights from her talk – which resonated with me on a very deep level. I now have heard first hand why Joanne years ago so instinctively felt the connection between these schools and much of what we also share, believe and value when it comes to our approach to children and community.
- Centers are a place for daily life; developmental growth is hand in hand connected – there no division between in their approach between care and education; meaning that there can not be education/learning without care – mind and body; reasoning and emotions; it all goes hand in hand.
- They take each child in all their complexity.
- Environments are created to inspire on an emotional and cognitive level.
- “You don’t learn alone.” Learning must effectively take place in a social context. Affection and positive affection play a role in cognitive development.
- “Education of the mind is not disconnected from emotional security.”
- “What is functional can also be beautiful; Children have a right to beautiful things. Beautiful spaces reflect care for children and all relationships.”
- “All relationships at the schools are open to dialogue, exchanged and are mutually respectful.”
After her talk, we then spent the rest of the day visiting two different centers: Area Rossa and Area Gialla. Both of these provide services to children and families. The pictures speak a thousand words and the spaces were absolutely beautiful in both schools. Every single detail is attended to – they are simply elegant, mindful, and a place when entered filled me with a sense of wonder, admiration, and desire to interact with the materials.
But beyond the beautiful spaces and attention to detail – we also heard many themes that resonant with us regarding the importance of play and giving children the time for play. The first center has a part of their program for children ages 3-10 -an afterschool invitation to come and play with materials. “It seems to us that children lack space where they can just play.” “We need to change the constant organizing of children’s time – they need space and time to play.”
The second place that we visited was similarly beautiful – with again every single detail attended to…but what was more important was the attention and value that is place on their community. Involving and support parents and children – creating support for families in a way that includes them in every aspect. This reminded me so much of what we try to maintain and celebrate at CNS. But I also got many new ideas and inspiration as to how we can maintain and grow our community and involvement.
The people here are incredibly warm and welcoming. They have so much love and pride in what they do – they are committed to their work and passionate about the children, families, and community. I am looking forward to Day Two – we visit two more schools and will continue to immerse ourselves in the ways in which these schools consider and approach the care and education about the total child, family, and community.