Reggio Emilia is a city of 170,000 people in the wealthy region of Emilia Romagna Northern Italy, a short drive from the city of Bologna. There has been a considerable increase in the population in recent years, due to both immigration and the birth rate. This is contrary to the trend in other northern Italian cities. For the first time in its history, Reggio Emilia faces a multiethnic future. The city believes that the attention and commitment it dedicates to the education of young children is therefore even more essential for a future of civil coexistence
where differences are valued rather than feared.

Parents organised the first secular schools for young children in 1945, a few weeks after the end of World War II. The first preschools, directly run by the city administration, commenced in 1963 and the first Infant toddler centres for 1-3 year olds opened in 1970. The present network of early childhood educational services operated by the Municipality of Reggio Emilia are made up of twenty-one preschools and thirteen infant toddler centres. The children remain with the same two co-teachers for their 3 years in the schools and this extended relationship between children, teachers and parents provides the foundation for learning and understanding for all those concerned with the program.

This collaboration has assisted in the development of a distinctive and innovative curriculum, pedagogy, and
method of school organisation, which recognises the potential of children to question, reflect, problem-solve,
theorise, experiment and express their findings. When provided with sufficient opportunities and time to
experiment, explore and play, children master the many tools and skills of communication. Children are able
to actively translate what they perceive, not only through the spoken word, but also through other potent
languages such as drawing, sculpture, sound, drama and movement. In the last 25 years this experience and
the continuing project of research and experiment has attracted the attention of educators, administrators,
architects, designers, researchers and politicians on an international scale.

The municipality’s programs for their young children have become acclaimed as an outstanding example of a
grass-roots project that has attracted an international audience of educators.

The schools, which began more than thirty years ago, and are inextricably intertwined with the local community
as well as the wider context of Italy, do not provide a model, but rather the opportunity to reflect on our own
educational theories, practice and organisation.