Laura Magnavacchi – Intern at Reflections Nursery & Forest School, Autumn Term 2013
In Summer 2013, Robin Duckett of Sightlines Initiative kindly suggested that we might be interested in an intern joining Reflections. He explained that Laura Magnavacchi was coming from Reggio Emilia to study and work in the UK for three months commencing September 2013 through a study programme with European Training Services, based in Cardiff.
As soon as we received Laura’s CV we contacted her immediately to express how keen we were to have her join Reflections. Laura has two degrees, one in Education and the other in the arts and has studied and worked abroad in Spain and Belgium. She had a brief internship in Sole, a pre-school in the Reggio Children network, and the remainder of her employment has been in pre-schools near her hometown of Castelnovo ne’Monti in the province of Reggio Emilia. These pre-schools are significantly influenced by proximity to the Reggio Children network of schools and share many aspects of the Reggio approach (for example, they frequently access Remida[i]), but do not form part of the network.
From Reflections’ perspective, we saw the opportunity engage in dialogue with someone who had first-hand experience of working in a Reggio Children pre-school, and someone who had a different pedagogical experience and cultural heritage to our own. Reflections Nursery & Forest School was founded in 2006 and draws much inspiration from the Reggio Approach; alongside other influences, in particular the forest nurseries of Denmark. In our short history we have received many inspiring visitors at the nursery and we recognise the value of their influence on our evolving pedagogy. We believe that the more we have the opportunity to reflect on our approach, the more we can develop staff, enhance our environments & resources and deepen our understanding of how children learn.
Laura agreed to conduct her internship with Reflections and as soon as she arrived she brought a deep natural curiosity to her work and staff and children immediately warmed to her. Laura has a gentle way of working with the children and quickly proved to be a great asset in the Atelier, working alongside Teresa Grimaldi, our Atelierista who had herself visited Reggio Emilia on study tour in 2008.
We were keen to respect the fact that Laura was in the UK to engage with our pedagogy and she joined Reflections at a time when we had planned a nursery-wide focus on sculpture. We provoked children’s interest with a visit to four sculptural heads in Worthing Town centre by Dame Elisabeth Frink, entitled The Desert Quartet. These works are walked past daily by local families who use the nursery and we saw them as a useful starting point to provoke children’s interest. This focus was led by Teresa and it was Laura’s role to support children’s investigations and alongside Teresa, co-ordinate regular pedagogical meetings with sculpture ‘representatives’ from each section in the nursery. Laura’s brought her enthusiasm for working with children and her interest in all things creative to this task; in addition her photographic skills were particularly useful in supporting our documentation of children’s work. When we had an ice sculpting demonstration in the garden for the children, it was Laura’s photography which really captured the spirit of the day.
Laura was also keen to get into the outdoors with children and attended a number of Forest School sessions (we run five forest sessions a week, every week of the year). Laura particularly enjoyed the opportunity of working with the children in the woodland and recognised the significance of outdoor learning in our approach. She was keen to point out that the ‘bridge’ in our garden (a climbing area made from a fallen tree and woodland ladders) was something she felt they would be unable to replicate in schools where she had worked in Reggio owing to legislative issues. Laura recognised too the value that forest experiences had brought to the nursery in terms of developing our understanding of how to handle risk with children.
At Reflections we run two Professional Development Days every year and Laura was keen to attend the day in October 2013 with a theme of, Forest School & Outdoor Learning. She had the opportunity to meet 85 delegates from 10 countries who were visiting the nursery and share thoughts, observations and values, and she assisted Teresa with her presentation to visitors. At this point Laura had already become an established and valued member of team and we were already trying to find ways of persuading her to stay with us after her internship.
In order to deepen our questioning with children, we asked Sara Stanley, author of Why Think? and Philosophy for Children (P4C) trainer to come to Reflections, working with staff and children for a few days’ consultancy. Laura expressly wished to share in this experience but Sara was unavailable until January 2014. However, as we had found Laura to be a real asset and someone who shared our values and high expectations when working with young children, we invited her back to work with us on a paid basis from January to April 2014. We were delighted when she accepted and Laura has taken the opportunity to extend the sculpture work with the children, a project she remains deeply involved in.
Martin Pace, Reflections Nursery Director.
[i] Remida is a creative recycling centre in the centre of Reggio Emilia and forms part of Reggio Children. Remida promotes the idea that waste materials can be resources and collects, displays, and distributes alternative and reclaimed materials obtained from the unsold stock and scrap materials of industrial production.