On Tuesday evening, October 12, my Reggio Emilia Study Group gathered in Portland to start another year together. We have been calling ourselves the Portland Area Reggio Collaborative, or PARC for a couple of years now. We are a collection of early childhood educators in the greater Portland, Maine area who come together to deepen our understanding of the Reggio Emilia philosophy of Early Childhood Education, or what has come to be known as the “Reggio Approach.”
We also come for support and collegiality. Some people work in private schools that are Reggio-inspired and others, like me, work in traditional public schools. Three years ago at a state-wide arts education conference I learned about a new direction in art education called “TAB-Choice” or Teaching for Artistic Behavior. In this approach, children are respected as artists and the classroom becomes a studio where children may choose their medium and subject matter. While TAB-Choice is different from the Reggio Approach, which is a comprehensive approach to learning in the early years, there are many ways in which the two educational approaches are complimentary.
This is my second year of implementing a choice-based art program, also called TAB-Choice in my elementary art classroom. TAB is an acronym for “Teaching for Artistic Behavior.” My building principal has supported my decision to offer a choice based studio environment to my students in our traditional standards-based public school.
Choice-based art education is a practical way to implement a constructivist approach to materials and art-making within the public school context. My students are developing core knowledge and competencies while making choices to explore a variety of media and processes in their art-making.