The Role of an Atelierista


The Role of an Atelierista

The atelier and atelierista are integral parts of the Reggio Emilia approach. The atelierista, a teacher with a background in the arts, works together with children in the atelier (studio). Together they will often embark on long-term projects and experiment with a variety of creative mediums. The atelier is a learning space and shared environment where children can express themselves through ‘the hundred languages’. This may be through singing, drawing, dancing, clay or natural materials. ‘The hundred languages’ represents the infinite potential where children can express their learnings, feelings and ways in which they comprehend the world.

As an atelierista, I have witnessed how effective the Reggio-inspired approach is in contrast to traditional education. Children have an innate sense of curiosity and awe and when presented with a range of resources and materials, they expand their inquisitive minds. Interestingly, artists are often trying to channel this child-like wonder, exploring with a sense of openness without the restriction of doubts and fears. Therefore, I believe in utilising this inner curiosity and creating a space where life-long learners and artists can emerge.

Rather than conforming to the role of a teacher in a traditional sense, as an atelierista I learn alongside the children whilst encouraging problem solving, expression and communication. Together we are on an exciting adventure and learning process that unfolds before our eyes. In their own time, the children begin to master techniques and familiarise themselves with different mediums. This also provides me the opportunity to understand the different ways children learn, to observe each child as a unique individual.

Observing, listening, documenting and reflecting are essential to the role of an atelierista. Significantly, being alert and aware is crucial to witness the children’s discoveries, to hear meaningful conversations or to ask thought provoking questions. Only after this process can quotes, observations and notes be written. This documentation allows for deep reflection for both the atelierista and the children, in which interests, learning and progress can be shared. For me, it also reveals subtle patterns about the children’s behaviour and can indicate which direction we might take next. Documentation also enables me to truly listen to the voice of the child and respect their learning journey.

During my time as an atelierista, I am constantly surprised and delighted with what children discover. Each day is a new opportunity for exploration and insights, often stepping back and allowing for that magic to happen takes learning to a new level. This process, rather than the final product, is ultimately the most important part of a child’s journey. I think even as adults, we would benefit from engaging in the world with curiosity and to trust the process.

Julie Lai


The Sticking Table

Much more than just loose parts and glue

Back in June, shape and structure created from loose parts became a shared interest, the children would make 2D shapes and arrangements with lolly pop sticks. Naturally this progressed into 3D shapes as the children explored the idea of building upwards with bobbins and corks added in.

We wanted to find a way of making these structures more permanent, a way of their models being able to interact with each other instead of standing alone on a shelf. From here the Sticking table was created!

An old repurposed cable reel became a platform for these structures and ideas to play out, and old objects took on new roles with the help of some glue, a lot of glue in fact.

‘Sticky sticky glue’

The glue is poured from squirty bottles from heights, or from close distance, the children watch it pour and dribble. They watch how it builds up and falls off certain surfaces onto a surface below. They practice their aiming skills and try again when the glue doesn’t land where they had in mind. Children love being able to access resources them selves, the joy and independence they get from unravelling tape and pouring glue can’t always be fulfilled at home due to mess and waste, so this was the perfect place for them to pour glue to their hearts content. We used PVA, clear glue, old pen lids destined for the bin, feathers, wool, bobbins and sticks and each week the sticking table carried through with a new story.

The sticking table has been a house, a nest, a city, and a dragon house. For now the sticking table is going though a seasonal autumnal phase as conkers and leaves are added to the mix.

Having a long term project along side other activities can be a great way to allow children to practice and repeat skills, by revisiting ideas from weeks before they are able reflect on their ideas and build confidence. Schemas are a repeated pattern of behaviour that a child will go through whilst discovering how the world works.  It is through this urge of repetition our children are given the time and opportunity to extend on their thinking and learning.

It can be hard as educators to have the chance to leave a project out, tidy up time is a necessity particularly in spaces where meal times take place. So the sticking table is the perfect place for them to come back to a scene that has not been tidied away from the last time they were in the Art Studio. The perfect opportunity for them to deepen their cognitive development. Because how else can our children reflect on their work and ideas when they return to a project that has been tidied away.

Only the children can predict where the sticking table will go next, but as each new group of creative minds come together to take ownership of it, it will, no doubt, take on a brand new adventure and identity over the coming weeks and months.


Exploring Pattern in the Art Studio

This week in the Art Studio has had a child led focus on pattern, but how did we get there? Last month we found a butterfly on the decking that was no longer alive. The children shared ideas on what might have happened? 'It got stung by a wasp!' 'It was eaten by a fox!'

Whilst they came to their own conclusions we brought the butterfly into the Art Studio for a close examination. Out came all the research books as we identified it as a 'Speckled Wood'. The butterfly inspired some drawings, which lead onto paintings with particular focus on the wing patterns and colours.

This naturally lead onto art work and printing techniques by folding the paper to make prints of butterfly wings as we learnt a new word 'Symmetrical'. Their symmetrical patterns progressed and this interest strayed away from the butterfly and lead onto pattern within art using various techniques.

This week we took our pattern painting onto a large scale with the added media of light and shadow as a kaleidoscope was projected onto the wall. We also used clay to create pattern by imprinting beads and various other loose parts.

The Art Studio as well as being a Reggio Inspired place to explore project based learning is also a space for our children to explore new surroundings and new friendships in smaller groups. For some it is their space to build with the magnets, notice new books, experiment with different art materials and explore shadows on the projector. It is a space that can be quiet, a space that can be loud, where we play instruments and sing with the ukulele, and a space with provocations, a space that is rearranged whenever new interests emerge. With between 6 and 8 children in each session it can be the perfect opportunity to hear the children's voices which guides our planning.

Here's some of this weeks photos from the Art Studio.


Seekers of Meaning

New Video

Over the last few weeks I have been filming the children as they explore the Art Studio. To read more about our Art studio you can go back to last weeks blog.

The children's current shared interest is construction and building houses from clay, bricks, sticks and blocks. Some of that is captured in our brand new video that you can watch here-


Inside the Art Studio

The Art Studio

Every morning and afternoon our Pre-Schoolers choose where they want to spend their time, between the Yurt/Outdoor Classroom, Forest School or the Art Studio. There is a quaint pebbled path that leads us behind the Yurt, past the new pond and up to this purpose built creative space, but this isn't just any art classroom, we do things a little differently here.

Why do we have an Art Studio?

Of course creativity is woven throughout every aspect of our learning at Inspirations, there are mark making tools, paints and clay accessible in all areas, so why do we need an additional separate creative space? The Art Studio, (referred to as an Atelier in the Reggio culture) is so much more than just an Art Room. It is its own separate space for the children to own, re-purpose and re-visit week after week, and is set out to foster self discovery.

100 Languages of Learning

It is a space for smaller groups of children to branch off, be heard, share ideas, and develop the confidence to be leaders of their own research and learning. It is an environment that plays host to books, materials and tools that support the 100 ways of learning with the support of myself as the Atelierista. It is a space where children proceed through their inquiry to reach their hypothesis though guided experiments, mixed media, play, music, light and shadow, sculpture and dramatic play. A space for them to give meaning to, give identity to, and in turn put them selves and their ideas into context within the world they live in.

The walls of the Art Studio are a canvas, a projector screen, an art exhibition and a metaphorical mirror reflecting the evolving learning journey of our children. Through photos and quotes of the children's voice on the wall the children can see where their ideas started,  where they are now, and by reading back the children's own words they see that their inputs are recorded, valued and remembered.

It's also important to note that the Atelierista is not an art teacher, rather, an Artist who knows the potential of art materials and children, and the limitless possibilities when these are combined.

Beautiful Mistakes

In the Art Studio the children are not afraid  to try new things, because fear of failure doesn't exist. How can it exist in a place where mistakes are simply learning opportunities. A fallen glue pot can become an art project in its self, and a drawing gone wrong can inspire new ideas. One project that stands out began when a child wiped up spilt watercolour paint from the floor with a baby wipe and watched as the colours soaked through the wipe. He then decided to add baby wipes to a canvas, the 'dirty' baby wipes themselves then becoming the art.

Seekers of Meaning

As constant seekers of meaning, our children are making sense of the world around them with everything they do, and our Art studio is one section of our pre-school that fosters this.

This week we will be filming inside the Art Studio to see their explorations brought to life, this short film will be shared on You Tube next week.

- Nathalie