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Nicola Cargill works at Little Learners Childcare Corby, a nursery in Northamptonshire inspired by the Reggio Emilio approach. Here, she talks about her love of working in a Reggio nursery, with its philosophy of flexibility, encouraging settings to use their own environment, personalities and situations to mould the development of each child.
'Children engage in making the rooms beautiful rather than tidying up'
Ms Cargill has many roles within the nursery, ranging from senior practitioner to outdoor learning coordinator. She even manages the permanent outdoor classroom and enjoys the variety her work offers.
She points out: “It’s really hard to describe my typical day as it is so dependent on the children, the weather, whether we are going out to forest school and generally what’s been happening. The only thing that stays the same is the routine of the day (when we are not out of the setting).”
According to Ms Cargill, much of the very early part of the day is taken up by breakfasting and finding small jobs for the children to do indoors. After this, some group time is enjoyed and a moment taken to say hello. There is also singing, including the participation of a “golden rules” song” and some “free-flowing” singing.
The nursery has a unique approach to tidying up, with free-flow continuing "until 11.30 where we will then tidy up the rooms we are in; our children really engage in making the rooms beautiful rather than tidying up".
“We will then come back together within our base rooms for a quick group time before preparing for lunch at 12pm. This process is then repeated in the afternoon.”
It is this daily structure, which allows the Reggio nursery to have a more organic approach in other areas.
Reggio Emilio is an approach to pre-school learning that differs slightly from the possibly more well-known Montessori, but it’s gaining increasing popularity within modern nursery settings. It was developed by a teacher named Loris Malaguzzi, with the support of parents just after the second world war in the villages around the Italian town Reggio Emilia.
'Act in the moment, or it could be lost'
Much of the philosophy of Reggio is based on environment, and it has a very flexible approach, promoting that each nursery be guided by its own environment, personalities and situations. Community is also a key factor.
It is this strong sense of community that Ms Cargill especially likes about working in a nursery that follows Reggio principles. She believes that the Reggio approach to community is something that the rest of the sector can learn from.
She says: “One of the biggest things that has influenced me through my research into the Reggio approach is the ethos of ‘community’. The original centres in Reggio Emilia were built by the local community and they all really put everything into making the best possible start for their children. Throughout my experience and within the EYFS, parent partnership is always looking to be strengthened, however, the community spirit isn’t always there.”
She continues: “My first year within the outside classroom really showed me what community was all about with the children, their parents, their extended family and the staff in the room all completely in sync with each other.
“We all had shared values and goals for the children and our room and the results were absolutely amazing; it’s definitely a hard year to beat!”
Another thing that Ms Cargill particularly likes about the Reggio approach is that it allows individual nurseries and practices to cherry-pick different methodologies of the original philosophy to work within their own settings.
Ms Cargill explains: “Although originally inspired by the Reggio approach as we have developed as a setting we have found that we’ve created our own approach. We have been influenced by the variety of staff and our vast knowledge base; the parents inspire us with the weird and wonderful resources that they know we’ll love and most importantly we are inspired by the children.”
The great outdoors
Being an outdoorsy sort of individual, it’s not hard to guess what Ms Cargill enjoys most about her working day. She enthuses: “I’ve always been the type of person to get outside but since being based in an outside classroom you can really see all of the opportunities that could be missed.”
As well as being thankful to work in an environment which has ample opportunity to be outdoors, Ms Cargill also finds the fluid approach of the nursery fits her personality well. She says: “I love the fact that each day is different, and I can be constantly surprised by the children. Following the children’s lead means I can get completely swept away in their knowledge and imagination.”
When asked about what she would change in the early years sector if she could, Ms Cargill says: “For practitioners to stop being so scared of the rain! It’s still the case for a lot of people that if it begins to rain when they're outside they will immediately bring the children in.
“So many children nowadays only go outside when they are in a setting, so we need to make the most of it and create memories!”
• daynurseries.co.uk has a huge range of nursery related jobs in its jobs section ranging from manager and room leader jobs to roles for early years teachers as well as early years practitioners. To view these go to www.daynurseries.co.uk/jobs/