Transforming Education—October 2017

Mattone Su Mattone (Italian)

Brick by Brick:
Learning from the past as we look to the future of the College of Education

The story of the preschool, XXV Aprile (April 25), in the Villa Cella is an important part of the history of early childhood education in Reggio Emilia, Italy. In Villa Cella after World War II, the village was left with a German tank, a few horses, and a truck abandoned due to the quick departure of the Nazis. In only a few weeks after Italy was liberated, the citizens of Villa Cella sold these items and began to gather the ruble left of the many buildings that had been shattered by bombs. They gathered bricks (mattone) and took them to the river, knocking off the mortar, and gathered sand to begin construction of a preschool for the children. Renzo Barazzoni, author of Mattone Su Mattone wrote: 

“The people of Villa Cella had seen the war up close and had experienced all of its horrors. They could easily have been infected by the repeated barbarities of the long fascist domination. Instead, immediately after the Liberation, not only were they relieved of the weight of a nightmare and lightened by returning hope, they were especially united by the memory of shared suffering and by a spirit of solidarity which had been tested through and through... Everyone wondered how to erase every trace of this dark past from our conscience and from our institutions; the answer was democracy, to be built from the ground up, along with the houses and the demolished cities, with the families, which were split up and mutilated.  The period after the war, therefore, was one of the sunniest moments in our history.

I had the good fortune of visiting April 25, and it was an inspiring symbol of rebirth and hope after one of the most horrific periods of history. I was in awe of the structure knowing that bricks had been placed so many decades ago as they built a future for their children and their country.  The democratic principles that permeate the practices in the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy are alive and well, and the history of fascism has no place in the present or future.

So in the spirit of the Reggio practice of offering questions as a means to provoke dialogue, I offer the following:

  • With the tragedies in our society (mass shootings, natural disasters, etc.), how are we practicing and teaching democratic principles so that our students know about history and understand their roles as citizens in a democratic society?
  • Have you read, or will you re-read, John Dewey’s profound and prophetic work Democracy and Education?
  • How do you respond to what often feels like a never-ending attack on the education system in our country? Can you think of it, like the citizens of Villa Cella, as being tested but creating a spirit of solidarity in realizing that as an educator, YOU are laying one brick at a time for the future of your students?

I am pleased to share with you that the College of Education will be undertaking our own Mattone Su Mattone as we move into a new home in summer 2018. We will move into the beautiful Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) building located on the west side of the Butler campus. As we work with Schmidt Associates in the redesign of several spaces, including the building of a new walkway and patio, we will be selling bricks that celebrate being an alum, honoring a family member, a teacher, a professor, or the memory of a loved one. As we create our own “brick by brick” story, we will be paving the way to a new future for the College of Education by understanding and honoring our past, but looking to a future that is filled with hope and opportunity; renewed with the understanding that education is the foundation to a strong and healthy society where all its members can thrive.

Photo credit:

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education

Study Abroad Trip to Reggio Emilia, Italy

reggio emilia

Interested in studying abroad?  WE WANT YOU to travel Infant Toddler Centers of Reggio Emilia. Because of their reputation, and because demand is high, the opportunity to visit these schools is rare. Don’t miss your chance to explore these internationally acclaimed schools, meet with world-renowned teachers, and interact with educators from around the globe!

DATES: October 15-22, 2016

PARTICIPATION FEE: $2,850 or $3,150 Cost includes the program fee to Reggio Children, hotel accommodations for 7 nights. The per person amount is based on hotel accommodations in shared double rooms at 3 or 4 star hotels. Single room supplement is $300 (see registration form).  North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA) members receive a $100 discount. For membership information please visit:

Fee to Reggio Children S.r.l.:
• The organization and presentation of the study group program for the week
• An informational folder for each participant with materials about the town of Reggio
Emilia, its municipal infant toddler centers and preschools, Reggio Children and the Loris Malaguzzi International Center
• Private bus transportation to and from the centers in Reggio Emilia when required by the program
• Professional interpreters when required by the program
• Refreshments during coffee breaks each day
• Lunch Mon through Friday at Pause Restaurant and a farewell reception Services provided by Angela Ferrario, U.S. Liaison for Study Groups to Reggio Emilia and by International Study Tours, LLC:
• Introductory meeting and welcome lunch on Sunday, October 16, 2016

HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS:  Accommodations for 7 nights are included from check-in on Saturday, October 15 to check-out on Saturday, October 22.  To accommodate our group, blocks of rooms have seen reserved at three and four star hotels within 10 to 20-minute walking distance of the Loris Malaguzzi International Center. Rates for accompanying non-participants and for additional nights are available upon request. Every effort will be made to honor hotel preferences while the priority is to keep groups from the same school/organization together.

AIRFARE: Participants must arrange their own flights and cover the entire travel expense. Expedia shows an airfare of approximately $1,200 (Round Trip – Indianapolis-Bologna). Bologna Marconi is the most convenient airport to reach Reggio Emilia. Alternatively, you could fly to Milan Malpensa or Milan Linate. Participants should arrange to fly on Friday, October 14, arriving in Reggio Emilia on Saturday, October 15 (departure from the U.S. is one day prior to arrival in Italy). Our first group gathering in Reggio Emilia is the introductory meeting and welcome lunch on Sunday, October 16 at 12 noon. The Program begins Monday morning and ends on Friday, October 21 at approximately 6:30 p.m. Hotel check-out is Saturday, October 22 by 11 a.m.

FARE FROM ARRIVAL AIRPORT TO AND FROM REGGIO: Please plan for transportation from the airport to Reggio Emilia and back. The cost will vary depending on type of transportation (bus, train, etc.).

PASSPORT: You must have a current, valid passport. Cost is approximately $135.

ADDITIONAL MEALS AND PERSONAL EXPENSES: Varies by participant and length of stay.

PHOTOGRAPY & VIDEOTAPE POLICY: For privacy issues, participants are not allowed to photograph or videotape inside the infant/toddler centers and preschools, inside the Exhibition area and the Ateliers at the Loris Malaguzzi International Center, as well as during the presentations. Reggio Children’s policy allows the possibility to audio record the presentations.

REGISTRATION: A $500 deposit is required to reserve a space. Please mail check deposit made payable to Butler University and Registration Form on following page to:

Susan Adamson
Butler University College of Education
4600 Sunset Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46208-3485.

Confirmation and Invoice for Balance Due will be sent by email. Payment Balance is due upon receipt of invoice but no later than September 12, 2016.

Download the Reggio Emilia Study Tour Flyer