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The Program

Visual Arts Program


As children make hypotheses, explore their environment, and discover connections and meanings, they use many media to express and communicate their discoveries. In Reggio Emilia, Italy, the educators refer to these as the "hundred languages of children." At Fort Hill, specialists in visual arts and music support the teachers and children in using many languages. The specialists work with all the children in the school- infants, toddlers and preschoolers.


When we designed the Fort Hill building in 2005 we had the opportunity to include a studio space.  The inclusion of the studio space was inspired by the ateliers of the schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy.  The studio was intentionally located in the front and center of the school, open to the Common, the foyer and one of the smaller classrooms.  We chose a design that would emphasize the community of the space and would encourage interactions; the studio is visible to all who pass by- there are windows to the outside, to two halls and double glass doors to the classroom and the common areas. 

As in Reggio Emilia, each of the Fort Hill classrooms has a mini-studio that provides opportunities for children to work on extended projects and have more possibilities to explore many "languages" to learn and to express themselves.  The mini-studios are maintained by the classroom teachers in consultation with the studio teacher.  For the past four years we have been reflecting on ideas from Reggio Emilia and the role of the studio and studio teacher in our context at Fort Hill.

Our thinking and practices have evolved with our experience and the way the studio is integrated into the program has changed to reflect our thinking.  The visual arts studio teacher is a full-time supervising teacher, working in the studio in the morning and in a classroom in the afternoon. The main studio offers children with a wide variety of materials, some of which are small, and is open to preschool-age children. The infant/toddler wing has a mini-studio, which offers materials appropriate for children younger than three-years old.

In the schools in Reggio Emilia, the studio teacher is referred to as the atelierista and has complex roles; among them to support children and teachers in their encounters with materials and the many languages of expression.  The atelierista promotes collaboration among teachers, maintains the studio space, and collaborates with teachers and children on their projects.  There is also a very important position known as the pedagogista who works closely with teachers.  The pedagogista supports the preschools or the infant toddler centers by participating in teachers' meetings and discussing a variety of educational issues concerning children, where the ultimate goal is always to promote teachers' professional growth and autonomy (personal communication with Lella Gandini, 2009)

In defining the responsibilities of the Fort Hill studio teacher, we considered the roles of both the atelierista and the pedagogista. The Fort Hill studio teacher consults with all the teachers in the school.  She attends classroom team meetings and discusses documentation and experiences, the materials in the mini-studios, and the children and families.  She works directly in classrooms, and in the studio, with the preschool-age children and contributes to assessments by completing a portfolio page for each preschooler.  She supports infant/toddler and preschool teachers in the development of the mini-studios.














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