The article explores the connection between Loris Malaguzzi’s educational philosophy of the Reggio Emilia schools and Simon Nicholson’s theory of Loose Parts. Both thinkers view creativity and curiosity as fundamental to children’s learning, and how materials and “variables” can be used innovatively to support this discovery.
The article also explores the use of waste materials and the REMIDA project as a concrete example of how these educational principles can be put into practice.
Nicholson, a British architect and designer, introduced the term “Loose Parts” in a 1971 essay, where he emphasized the importance of offering open-ended materials to children, such as natural or recycled materials, but also considering “variables” such as music, gravity, words, concepts, and ideas. The Loose Parts theory was very positively received in the following years, not immediately in the educational field, but primarily in the design and outdoor space planning fields.
Malaguzzi also believed in the creativity of all children and their curiosity about the surrounding world, and believed that they needed a suitable environment to express this curiosity. The use of recycled materials in Reggio Emilia schools was developed through REMIDA, a cultural project born in the mid-1990s, which aims to promote sustainability, creativity, and research on waste materials.
Here too, materials are considered as containers of intelligences and possibilities, which can be modified and transformed by children’s ideas and their combination with other materials and phenomena.
The connection between Nicholson and Malaguzzi’s theories lies in their common attention to children’s creativity and curiosity, as well as their need for a suitable environment to experiment, explore, and learn. Both thinkers view materials as tools for children’s critical and creative thinking development, and support the importance of offering them a wide range of materials and “variables” to explore and discover the world around them.