Discovery at Nazareth: A journey of wonder and awe




At Nazareth, we view the child as capable and competent.  We value an educational environment which empowers the child to thrive with the ability to achieve multiple learning outcomes in a variety of contexts. This means as a learning community, we ask lots of questions, continually probe thinking and do a lot of talking as we grapple with new knowledge within our own existing worldview. The focus is on the process of learning which is situated in the child’s particular place and time. This approach enables the child to contribute at his or her point of interest and need, developing theories about how they see things.


This learning and teaching approach happens across the day for students, but is of intense focus during Discovery. These sessions happen everyday across Years Foundation and 1/2 and engage the child through provocations and personal projects. This is based around two key world renowned educational approaches; play-based learning and the Reggio Emilia approach.  These ideas are not new in education globally, but do look different across different settings.  There is also a strong link to the sciences, technologies, the arts and geography as well as literacy (both English and Italian), mathematics and religious education.

What are the fundamental ideas behind these approaches?

Play-based learning is all about using deliberate play experiences to engage the child.  We believe that the child should have many opportunities to experience the world in a safe environment to help them learn and practise the ethical and learning capabilities outlined in the Victorian Curriculum.  Through experiential learning, students use a multitude of different intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to apply thinking and knowledge through processes such as trial and error, design and technology and mathematical thinking.  The idea of ‘play’ as a method of learning simply means ‘experience’.  This can look different depending on the thinking of the child, the focus for discovery, the discussion and provocation uncovered and the time of day.  We believe not only that all play is valuable but that it also helps to build and form new learning.


The Reggio Emilia approach was established in Reggio Emilia, Italy after the second world war.  It was in response to the community wanting to develop critical thinking in their young citizens so that they learn from the past rather than forget their experiences.  It is rooted in democracy and the view of the child as a citizen from the moment of conception rather than from a given adult age.  Using this approach as a lens we understand that we can learn from the child just as they can learn from each other.  The child has much to offer the community and this can take a myriad of forms.  This is particularly understood as the hundred languages and is used in educational facilities across the world today.  This involves an emphasis on understanding the materials we use to express and communicate our thinking (such as clay or paint) and how these can impart a different meaning for the child in his context.  This approach also sees the environment as the third teacher, meaning that a rich, authentic environment for learning is crucial for the development of the child.


Why has Nazareth begun investigating and applying some of these ideas for learning?

As a society, our mission is great.  We need to ensure we are developing critical thinkers who are both entrepreneurial and flexible.  Education needs to continue to adapt and change to the needs of the world around us.  This means we must encourage the child to think outside of the box and to experience success and challenges in a psychologically safe environment which fosters taking risks and making mistakes.  We need to be open to the child, to learn from the child, and ensure learning is authentic and situated in his or her own context.  We need the child to experience learning that is connected to him or her. These ideas have not been adapted as a program, but worked together with the knowledge and strength of all staff to develop a Nazareth approach to learning.


We also have a number of staff who have worked across different settings to investigate and implement this thinking from local schools to universities, early learning centres and even Reggio Emilia itself.  The staff are passionate about meeting the needs of the child and recognise this as their core mission.


Where do other areas of the curriculum fit?

All areas of the curriculum can be found in this model of learning.  Staff and students work together to develop thinking which sees the child applying and learning new knowledge which is not bound by a particular learning block.  While we certainly value this Discovery time, the child still engages in timetabled explicit Literacy, Maths, Religious Education and Italian learning across the school day.  This has not changed and is still an extremely important element of what we do as an educational community.  Our approach to Discovery enhances these sessions as we can draw clear throughlines into and from these different learning times.


What can I do if I want to find out more?

You are always welcome to ask questions and come and see this in action for yourself.  You may even like to volunteer as a Parent Helper during these times to help support the child in her learning.  These sessions happen across all year levels each morning.


If you have any questions, please free to contact Adam at


Further reading

If you would like to know read more please follow the links below:

Nenbery, B. (2021). Supporting teachers in adopting a more play-based approach

Noble, K. (2019). Children learn through play - it shouldn't stop at preschool. 

Reggio Children

Rinaldi, C. (2012).  Introduction to Reggio Emilia

Robertson, N., Morrissey, A. & Rouse, E. (2018).  Play-based learning can set your child up for success at school and beyond