The Best of Three Worlds: Merging the Reggio Emilia, Montessori and Traditional Approaches to Education

One Hundred Leaves Preschool, a Spanish Immersion Atelier is inspired by alternative, innovative approaches to early childhood education. We draw our methods from the Reggio Emilia and Montessori philosophies, but we also include vital aspects of a traditional teaching method to ensure our children are prepared for any kindergarten they ultimately attend.

What do we love about Reggio Emilia?

This pedagogy was first developed in Reggio Emilia, Italy during the time of reconstruction after World War II. Better understood as an educational philosophy than a prescriptive curriculum, the Reggio Emilia style is based around a fundamental respect for children as knowledge-bearers.

Reggio Emilia sees:

  1. The child as a protagonist in their learning.
  2. The environment as the “Third Teacher”.
  3. Documentation as vital.
  4. The Hundred Languages (infinite ways of human expression and connection).
  5. Children as collaborators that learn through interaction and reflection.
  6. Opportunities drawn from the close relationships between children, parents, teachers, and the community as learning partners.
  7. Children and adults as researchers and co-creators.

The Reggio Emilia approach supports a powerful, evolving, and reciprocal journey of learning and open-ended exploration. It is what keeps us inspired to push our own boundaries and test our own assumptions of what's possible.

What do we love about Montessori?

Developed in Italy by physician and educator Maria Montessori in the early 1900’s, this alternative method is based on the principle that children are powerful architects of their own minds. It focuses on the development of the whole child - social, emotional, physical and intellectual - and the need for children to be allowed to explore and experience real life without undue adult interference.

Under the Montessori method, as children navigate a carefully prepared classroom environment that deeply respects them and their developmental needs, they develop self-reliance and independence. It is an experiential model of learning, with knowledge being constructed through experiences rather than direct instruction. Teachers act as guides, informed by observations of children’s innate inclinations, talents and interests.

Montessori is based on the following needs of children:

Montessori views children as powerful and with infinite possibilities to learn, choose and interact in ways that give them tools to be independent, happy adults.

“Success in life depends on a self-confidence born of a true knowledge of one’s own capacities.” - Maria Montessori

What do we love about the traditional approach to education?

Traditional western education follows a teacher-led model in which children are directly instructed in areas that adults deem to be priorities. We don’t love this model, as we feel children don’t get to learn to think for themselves and create meaningful knowledge through experience. It’s a kind of “drive-through” model of education in which teachers give children neatly packaged chunks of knowledge for them to consume without much regard to the learner’s own unique world experience.

However, we do recognize some important aspects of this approach, especially when it comes to preparing all children for kindergarten, no matter what school they choose to attend after their preschool experience at One Hundred Leaves.

From the traditional educational approach, we draw the following strengths:

Our curriculum

Inspired by the Reggio Emilia and Montessori approaches, at One Hundred Leaves we view curriculum as everything that happens during our time together with the children. Educators at One Hundred Leaves spend a great amount of time paying close attention to children’s pursuits, interests, passions, curiosities and questions, carefully reflecting in order to consciously:

Guided by a set of carefully planned educational objectives aligned to the Arizona Early Learning Standards, educators have the crucial role of researching children’s interests, development, and growth. From this we create a curriculum that is unique to each set of students, a curriculum that constantly evolves.

Our curriculum is guided by our observations and documentation, as we create unique opportunities for children to deepen their thinking, express their understandings, and welcome new perspectives. The “provocations” or projects we present to our students are opportunities for children to represent, reflect on, and think critically about what they know. In this kind of responsive curriculum, children’s enthusiasm fuels the learning process.