Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version

October 1995


Lecture prepared for "Nostalgia del Futuro: Liberare speranze per una nuova cultura dell'infanzia," an international seminar to consider the educational contributions of Loris Malaguzzi. University of Milano, October 16-17, 1995. Copyright 1995 by Carolyn Pope Edwards.


We consider relationships to be the fundamental, organizing strategy of our educational system. -- Loris Malaguzzi, 1993, p. 10.

The metaphor of education as relationship provided Loris Malaguzzi with the fundamental premise for his philosophy and pedagogy. The child--seen as powerful, rich in resources, competent, and social--seeks from the beginning of life to find out about the self, others, and the world through interaction: knowledge is co-constructed. Education, hence, must focus not on the child considered in isolation from others, but instead on the child seen as interconnected with particular others in nested communities: home, classroom, school, neighborhood, city, region, nation, and eventually extending out to include the whole world.

This principle, that "education is relationship," puts great priority on establishing a learning and caring community composed of educators, families, and children, based on sharing of perspectives and resources, and with expectations of continuity and long-term relationship. Features of the Reggio schools that promote the establishment of meaningful relationships with a long time horizon by and among children and adults include the system of keeping children in a classroom group together for the three years of the infant-toddler or preschool cycle, the system of also assigning two teachers to each classroom group for the full three years of the cycle, and emphasizing collaboration among teachers as the starting point of all learning and development for adults and children, many practices (at the level of physical environment, curriculum, and work with parents) intended to carefully and thoughtfully introduce each new child and family to the school community and to allow relationships among and between adults and children to grow and flourish, many customary curricular activities that bridge children to their near community (neighborhood, city, and surrounging countryside) as well as bringing the community into the schools and fostering the public's interest in and commitment to the schools, the project approach, involving long-term, open-ended investigations, usually conducted by small work groups of children, and many and extensive uses of documentation to create public memories and a sense of belonging within each classroom group and school, and to provoke and enrich learning about project work among children, parents, and teachers.