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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Toddlers and Projects: Some Definitions  Over the last twenty years, the field of early childhood education has seen a growing emphasis on project work, or what has become known as project-based education. Drawing on Dewey’s (1916), Montessori’s (1967), and Piaget’s (1971a) ideas that children “construct” knowledge, a generation of early childhood educators has focused on projects not just as vehicles for learning but as a curric- ulum model and learning outcome (Malaguzzi 1998; Katz and Chard 2000). The teacher’s role in project-based learning is to facilitate children’s emerging skills of inquiry and investigation. The benefits of project work include the following: •• •• •• •• •• •• It is built on children’s initiative. It focuses on fostering children’s curiosity and learning habits as opposed to focusing on specific content or academic skills. It promotes a stance and approach toward learning that is sequential, observation-based, responsive, and systematic. It accommodates different learning styles and strengths, and it teaches chil- dren with different learning styles how to work together. It encourages collaboration and negotiation. It encourages abstract reasoning, critical thinking, and initiative. Two curriculum models in particular have brought project-based education to the forefront of our field. The state-subsidized child care centers and preschools in Italy, especially those in the northern town of Reggio Emilia, first came to attention in the United States in the 1990s with their traveling exhibit, The 100 Languages of Children. It is not a coincidence that our introduction to the Reggio Emilia approach was a collection of children’s artwork. American early child- hood educators have grappled with the aims and details of Reggio Emilia since then, but no one has missed the power of their methods in helping children use art to make sense of themselves and the world and in putting children’s creative capacities at the center of the curriculum. The Project Approach, developed by Sylvia Chard and Lilian Katz, reflected an awareness of America’s preoccupation with measurable outcomes and stan- dards in education. The approach argues that play-based preschool education is important not because it is a prelude to education but because it creates a lab for learning how to learn. As Katz and Chard (2000, 38) put it, “Project work is the part of early childhood curriculum that provides contexts for children to strengthen their intellectual dispositions as well as to apply their developing aca- demic skills and to strengthen the dispositions to use them.” COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 7