The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 16, 2013

New day care uses method founded in Italy

MANKATO — A teacher pokes her head in the door.

“Do you have your camera?” she says.

“Yes. Why?” day care owner Elizabeth Webb says.

“Because Reese put on a dress and is running around,” the teacher says.

In a little gray building just north of town, Mankato’s newest kid on the day care block has set up shop.

 In many ways, it’s just like any other day care. There are toddlers. There are books and toys and rooms separating the little ones from the not-as-little ones. Little coats hang on little hooks, and little boots can be seen lined up against the walls on little trays.

The approach at Here We Grow, however, is a little different.

Nowhere are there schedules rigidly dictating when a child will read, play, or work on math. There is a structure, but the structure is heavy on giving kids a choice in how they want to spend their time.

The theme of the day was the rainforest, so kids were given options for how they’d spend their time. There were books about the rainforest, stuffed animals lying about that you might find in a rainforest, a water tub with monkeys, and another tub with large-leafed plants.

Kids went where they wanted to go. They had fun, and according to owner Elizabeth Webb, they learn better that way.

“Everything here is hands-on learning,” Webb said.

Here We Grow is one of the few day cares that use what is known as the Reggio approach, a style of day care named after the city in Italy where it was developed. It was developed by Loris Malaguzzi, a teacher in the village of Reggio Emilia, in the years just after World War I. According to Reggio Emelia entry on Wikipedia, it was developed following the destruction of the war in a time when parents wanted a way to teach their children quickly but effectively.

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