Move, Act, Play and Sing (MAPS): Exploring early childhood arts teaching and learning strategies and concepts through community arts interventions in Reggio Emilia centres

Funding year: 
2 years
Auckland UniServices
ECE sector
Project start date: 
January 2012
Project end date: 
June 2014
Principal investigator(s): 
Dr. David Lines, Dr. Chris Naughton and John Roder
Research team members: 
Heather Durham, Helensville Montessori Early Childhood Centre; Michelle Johnston, St.Andrews Epsom Early Childhood Centre; Karen Liley, Te Puna Kohungahunga
Research partners: 
The University of Auckland and The New Zealand Tertiary College

Project Description

The project will be working with three early childhood education centres who have adopted the Reggio Emilia philosophy of educational practice. Each centre works with children and parents in close collaboration and all the staff and centre management are committed to the project.


To work with each centre in developing performing arts experiences devised by children with support from community artists specialising in dance, drama and music. In particular the project seeks to develop an understanding of:

  • the process whereby children’s ideas can be developed through active engagement with centre staff  and specialist community artists
  • what particular pedagogical processes and outcomes can be identified through the Reggio approach in a community arts setting 
  • what changes occur for staff involved in a project of this kind in relation to their teaching and approach to the performing arts 

Reggio inspired centres have rapidly grown in number in New Zealand as parents and teachers have seen the advances made through adopting this pedagogical approach to learning. The research aims to examine how Reggio pedagogy might be adopted in a performing arts initiative. Currently there is little research on this work or how staff might benefit from working alongside community artists. The criteria for success in this project will be in tracking children’s engagement in the making and performance of their ideas and the ability of the selected centres to create their own work and take that out into the community at large.

Why is this research important?

While there has been much progress in developing Reggio pedagogy and practice around many aspects of the curriculum the performing arts have not been developed sufficiently. The practice as a whole in performing arts education in the early childhood sector can easily be reduced to performative outcomes that often lack meaning for the centre. Hence the need to create ‘pathways’ whereby ideas of young children combined with the teachers interest can be seen to lead to worthwhile artistic engagement.

What we plan to do

The project research team will be working with three community artists who will be specialists in dance, drama and music and three early childhood centres. All the staff at the centres will be involved. The community artists will be working with each centre for a term at a time, working with the children and staff to see what ideas are emerging from the children that they would like to develop. One community artist will be assigned to assist the centre in supporting and advising - but not leading - their work with the children.


Each stage of the project will be documented on film and staff recording incidents as they arise in the centres. Staff will engage in dialogue across centres in online discussion cluster groups and reflections with the community artist will be recorded each week.


The analysis of the film data, staff recordings, online dialogues and reflections will be transcribed where necessary and analysed according to qualitative thematic enquiry. This includes the use of software tools to develop an interpretive analysis on a case by case basis of film and audio texts.


Project Contact

Dr.David Lines,
Associate Head of School
School of Music
University of Auckland


Dr Chris Naughton
New Zealand Tertiary College