Landscape of Rights 2009

Posted on August 10, 2009

Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange

Adelaide Conference 9th – 12th July

“To feel a sense of belonging, to be part of a larger endeavour, to share meanings – these are the rights of everyone involved in the educational process, whether teachers, children or parents.”
Carla Rinaldi, President, Reggio Children

How wonderful it was to be in Adelaide, Australia for the fifth biennial REAIE ‘landscapes’ conference. This was an opportunity to rekindle and deepen existing relationships with the community of Australian friends. It also gave us an opportunity to make new friends with the two keynote speakers from Reggio Emilia, Elena Giacopini and Ivana Soncini. They are both very keen to come to New Zealand in the future.


The Journey of Rights of Children was expressed by Elena Giacopini, Pedagogista, from Reggio Emilia in her keynote address to the conference. She introduced the rights of the individual child within the group. She expressed that the world had the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the child, 1959 but we need to be careful and respectful when we mention the rights of the child that we must also talk about the Image of the Child. We must respect the cultural image of the child. We need to invest in the present not talk about the investment in the future child. Children have the right to be citizens of our cities today.

The culture expressed by children should be brought from the Centres and Schools to the City. The Exhibition is one way to express meaning but there are other ways for children to be made visible in the cities. Debating ways for children to be seen helps to make meaning. Elena asked us “How can a school- as a learning community – offer itself as a political and cultural subject and not just an answer to a need?” The school needs to look at the rights of parents to arrive and leave at different times. What are the rights of the parents? The school takes it’s identity from the community, it is a “school for childhood”, a “nest for childhood”, a “Nido” or a safe place. The school takes identity from a place, but it also gives a place an identity.

Elena challenged the conference to “Transform practice into theory – theory into practice.” Elena asked us “How do children acquire knowledge?” “How do children process and organise knowledge?” “How do children carry out research?” “How do teachers construct their knowledge together with children?” Elena said Reggio Emilia schools like to observe what the children are proposing. In small groups, not getting caught up into checking on what someone else has proposed but what the children are saying.

Elena went on to expand on the many rights of the child in the school or centre, she used examples with photos and children’s drawings.

The Right of play

The Right to learn to learn

The Right to be recognised as a pedagogista.

The Right of the school as “Agora” (Greek – to be an open place)

The Right to a learning context. To use ‘intelligent materials’ children deserve more, not to repeat preconceived ideas.

The Right of loans of knowledge.

The Right to listen

The Right to construct meaning.

The Right to organise knowledge.

The Right to a culture of the contemporary.

The Right to not agree, to have a different point of view.

The Right to aesthetic dimensions that could help us emerge from conformity.

The Right to make explicit that space in time which gives shape to imaging, to get excited, to dream and to learn.

The Right to feel the air as something that exists, that can’t be seen.

Nothing without joy!

There were many highlights from a wonderful conference. Some of these included hearing other guest speakers and Australian presenters talking on the rights of aboriginal children and immigrant children. There were visits to inspiring schools and early childhood centres. We were honoured to be invited to the official opening of the Hundred Languages of Children Exhibition. We had a warm welcome to Adelaide.