Carla Rinaldi
Adelaide's latest Thinker in Residence wants us to question how we raise and educate our children, reports Linda Wyrill.

Our image of children and childhood, and the way children learn and grow, are key themes addressed by Adelaide's latest Thinker in Residence, Italian early-learning educator and advocate Professor Carla Rinaldi (pictured).

The first lecture from Rinaldi's program, Re-imagining Childhood, was delivered in March 2012, and she will be speaking in Adelaide again in August and in November. Rinaldi is president of Reggio Children, in Reggio Emilia, Italy, and Professor of Pedagogy at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. During her residency Rinaldi will work with educators, children, families and communities on the challenges of child education and development, while also contributing to the South Australian Government's early-childhood priorities.

Former Premier Mike Rann established the Adelaide Thinkers in Residence program in 2003. It was designed to help the State face challenges such as climate change, health, homelessness, transport, road safety and child development by "bringing a global perspective to local issues," according to program director Gabrielle Kelly.

The thinkers are leaders in their fields who live and work in Adelaide for about 12 weeks, focusing on a particular community issue or challenge. There have been 24 thinkers since the program's inception, however the Government will not be funding the program beyond June 2013. Don Frater, executive director of State Development, says the program has delivered, "outstanding innovation to South Australian society and its economy," and ways to continue the program beyond Government involvement will be explored.

The Rinaldi residency involves a range of partners including the Department for Education and Child Development, Catholic Education SA, the Association of Independent Schools of South Australia and Goodstart Early Learning.

An essential Reggio Children principle Rinaldi addresses is that each child is a competent learner, able to discover learning for themselves. She will also look at applying the Reggio concept of the environment as teacher, in which play and discovery in natural spaces is pivotal for children.

According to Gabrielle Kelly, the residency "gives us the opportunity to examine the essence of learning, experiences of childhood, our role as parents and teachers, and the role society in general plays in caring for and educating children".

Kelly says partners in the Rinaldi residency are starting to implement ideas and talk in new ways to the educators and parents in their organisations. She says Rinaldi's work will affect the ways we structure early-learning places and experiences in the future. "The involvement of these partners ensures that the principles will be learned, tested and applied in schools throughout the State."

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This article was first published in the July 2012 edition of Adelaide's Child.

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