chapter  12
2 Pages

Blue flowers, bitter leaves

In summer in many parts of Italy, in fields and the least welcoming of places, along the sides of roads and in small pockets of arid land, there blooms a wild flower of the most startling azure blue, challenging our perceptions of the surrounding colours. This is wild radicchio, common chicory; a plant with slightly bitter leaves, which women collect in late spring in the fields and which is prepared together with other salad leaves and hard-boiled eggs. This blue summer flower is a mutation of the cultivated form and has very strong, tenacious stalks with small flowers of an intense blue colour, made even more striking by the fact that the plant spreads in a myriad of clusters to form drifts of a special blue, surrounded by an even more brilliant green; a most appropriate metaphor for summer. If these flowers are gathered and put in water, they lose their intense colour and do not last very long. Like poppies they are not flowers for picking, they are better left where they are, and their presence transforms any place into somewhere special. Like poppies, chicory flowers seem fragile, but the seed is strong and the plant is really a weed, and has the strength to invade and grow. The presence of ateliers in Reggio schools is of this nature; an intense and visible presence, but which becomes less strong and visible when the atelier is taken out of a pedagogical context to a place that cannot embrace it or use it in an instrumental way. It is not art, and does not look for infant art, but possesses a way of seeing that marvels and feels emotion on observing things. It knows how to be a robust herb but then ineluctably it becomes a blue flower, unexpected and poetic. The philosophy and experience, which have been put together over these years, represent the resilience of the atelier. Transplanted into other contexts, the more it finds terrain and environments possessing some of the elements that made its birth possible in Reggio Emilia, the more it will break new ground and be capable of carrying out its role participating in innovative education. Elements such as pedagogy that are sensitive to listening and the poetic languages; organization that is creative on a daily basis; quality in education entrusted with a cultural, social and political role.