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Conference presentations and workshops

Concurrent Sessions

During this presentation we will share findings from the Art & Wonder: Young Children and Contemporary Art research project, a long-term collaboration between Macquarie University and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Through multiple voices we will reflect on the strength of the pedagogical armature constructed at the connection points between thoughtfulness, wisdom and relationship that underpin our practice, and foreground children’s rights to beauty, wonder, complexity, curiosity and creativity in the diverse learning spaces of an art museum. Branching from a robust yet nimble pedagogical framework, Art & Wonder invites the weaving of multiple bodies of knowledge held by MCA artist educators, researchers, the documentation team, the artists, the gallery hosts, the early childhood teachers, the families, the children. Together we will discuss the generative nature of this truly collaborative approach to advocacy, children’s rights, pedagogy and research.


Dr Clare Britt, Wendy Shepherd, Dr Belinda Davis, Amanda Palmer

The Atelierista role and the Atelier as conceptual space

The presentation will explore the Role of the Atelierista within a South Australian educational context. Caterina Pennestri, will unpack her role as Atelierista at St Peter’s Girls Early Learners’ Centre and the dynamics of her role in connection with the Reggio Emilia Educational Project’s principles.

Focusing on the crucial importance of collaboration between the Atelierista and all the ELC educators, the presentation will make visible her role during each phase of the Progettazione and during the creation of rich learning contexts. Unpacking the project “Discovering Fungi”, the presenter will share the pedagogical documentation useful to make visible children’s curiosity and creativity and the role of the Atelierista.

The project “Discovering Fungi” is a story of a new discovery. It was with great joy and enthusiasm that the children noticed ‘mushrooms’ growing on dead wood and in the weeds covering the ground of Ferguson Park, our daily landscape next to the ELC.

What are they? Are they mushrooms? This opened a new opportunity of learning and researching alongside each other, to gain new knowledge and understanding about fungi and to think like ‘mycologists’. Through the Hundred Languages, children have been gaining scientific knowledge, understanding the research cycle of observation, interpreting data and creating and testing theories.

The documentation and the materials used in the Atelier will be set up in order for the delegates to explore the curated palettes of materials shared with the children during the project.

The presentation will finish launching a reflection regarding the nature of Atelier. What are the characteristics of the Atelier? What makes a space an Atelier? Can I work as Atelierista if my Centre doesn’t have an Atelier space?

As educators at St Peter’s Girls ELC, we believe the Atelier is a space that is not only as physical place but also a metaphysic and conceptual space transcending ordinary physical spaces, a conceptual space that can be anywhere if behind it there is intentionality. We aim to share our reflection with the participants hoping to inspire a pedagogical dialogue.


Caterina Pennestri

Curiosity in Early Childhood: unlearning behaviours of paying attention through pedagogical documentation

This workshop will address curious practices and pedagogical documentation in the form of video-poems to encounter water with children in early learning settings. Participants will be challenged to ‘unlearn’ typical early childhood teaching behaviours of paying attention to the child and their experiences and instead pay attention to water as an active participant in water-child encounters. Participants will be given time recognise the importance of pace, slowing not only video footage, but also our pace of being and noticing with water and child. Digital technologies, specifically video on a smartphone device, will play a significant role in re-encountering experiences with water; by editing to slow the pace, repeating, and reversing the footage. It will be discussed that the use of digital technology in the form of video offers more than just a visual platform to encounter water, it in fact offers another way to experience water. This supports a different kind of noticing through curious practices, noticing present absences, and fostering reciprocal relations between human and more-than-human others. Video editing also enhances these experiences by creating video-poems which will be discussed as also playing a significant part within pedagogical documentation as a process.


Claire O’Callaghan

Language without words- How 100 languages can support joyful and responsive relationships with infants

The infant brain is wired for connection and seeks a secure attachment with a trusted adult. At The Learning Terrace we have embarked on research that explores how the 100 languages of the child nourishes, supports and enriches responsive, respectful relationships between educator and infant. Often infants are overlooked and viewed as passive learners and are not offered the rich and varied opportunities that older children are given.

Our team of curious, joyful educators apply a purposeful and creative approach using the language of light and paper to delight and connect with our young learners. It is this within this trusting relationship that learning is born and flourishes. We are driven to share the engaging, curious and motivated learning that infants capable of. We will share examples of our intentional play environments and how we have planned and documented for relationship building and learning.

As reflective and passionate professionals, we have used this exploration of 100 languages to further deepen and clarify our image of the child and evolve our pedagogical frameworks.


Clare Comedoy, Kate Symington, Rachael Falcioni

Through the looking glass of diversity Varied glass materials create curiosities and perspectives when examining diversity and how this concept transfers to many different contexts and situations. Delving into concepts instead of ‘covering curriculum’. Concepts uncover curriculums instead of school ‘systems’ that cover.

We invite people to join us at the table to experience the concept of diversity through texture, sound, light and all senses. Through dialogue with our atelierista we provoke curiosities and cultivate creativity. Our narrator’s role around the experience will be noticing and labelling the pedagogy of listening and potential relaunches of concepts and curriculum making connections to our world in many ways.

Our experience creates an insight into how learning is cultivated in Primary schools and how documentation is seen as visible listening through traces that are left and connected to further learning experiences.

From this:

Sharing in the pre-design work through an unpacking process.

How do we create such provocations and why?

Where does this encounter sit within learning and the curriculum?

The concepts connected to curriculum will be discussed – this supports our pedagogical meetings that occur prior to the beginning of a project. The theories we capture and document will influence our reflections as educators. These insights will inform our conversations about relaunches and future provocations.


Gemma Goodyear, Lauren Davis, Chevon Lopez

Exploring progettazione in a primary school context: Creating learning environments and experiences that inspire creativity in children

This presentation provides a snapshot of progettazione within a Foundation learning environment and reflects upon how creativity was embedded and enabled in this context. A primary intention of the project work, titled Look Closer, was to understand the Foundation children more deeply through discovering and inspiring their creativity. Children were encouraged to consider detail; to go beyond what is initially visible, or possible and to think and act in innovative ways. Creativity was approached both formally and informally, through time spent in workshops in an atelier space, engaging in collaborative thinking routines and in open-ended exploration time.

This presentation seeks to uncover relationships between how the learning environment, time and movement were organised and how children interacted with the concept and act of creativity. These interactions were discovered through collaboration with well-known designer, Mary Featherston, as the time, space and people were mapped through a typical day in Foundation. Participants are invited to reflect on their own learning environments, to explore links and potentialities between spatial organisation and structures, a strong pedagogy of listening and relationship, and creativity.


Jana Mollison

Radical Relationalities: Reconceptualising material(ities) as pedagogical contact zones

A foundational concept of the Reggio Emilia Approach is the ‘environment as the third teacher’. This presentation challenges the sometimes purely aesthetic ‘take up’ of this theory and the broader Reggio approach in Australian early childhood education. By attending to the complexities of our situated contexts, we rethink the aesthetic function of environments and turn towards material(ities) as radically relational strategies to think-with. In doing so, we respond to the ethical/political tensions and pedagogical demands of the Reggio Emilia educational project. Dwelling in these rich spaces of tension and possibility, we draw on scholar Donna Haraway’s notion of ‘contact zones’ (2013, see also Land et al., 2020) and Reggio’s ‘The 100 Languages’ as salient entry points for a refiguring of the ‘environment’ as a site of deeply relational learning practices. In this way, the 100 languages-as-strategy is co-productive of theory, practice and knowledges –not done in a vacuum (solely the classroom/kindergarten ‘environment’), rather with/in complex, entangled and interrelated learning ecologies.

What is our pedagogical commitment when we take up ‘doing Reggio’ in our classrooms? Conference delegates participating in this session will gather ideas for reconceptualising the ‘environment as third teacher’, and pedagogical strategies for cultivating radically relational learning opportunities in dialogue with materials, place, and more-than-human others as participants and protagonists with us on/in the journey (Pacini-Ketchabaw et al., 2016). 

References: Haraway, D. J. (2013). When species meet (Vol. 3). U of Minnesota Press.

Land, N., Hamm, C., Yazbeck, S. L., Danis, I., Brown, M., & Nelson, N. (2020). Facetiming common worlds: Exchanging digital place stories and crafting pedagogical contact zones. Children’s Geographies, 18(1), 30-43. Pacini-Ketchabaw, V., Kind, S., & Kocher, L. L. (2016). Encounters with materials in early childhood education. Routledge


Kelly Boucher

What are you curious about now? Participating in an emergent arts-based research inquiry

This workshop will be emergent and experiential. Participants will inquire into a “curiosity” that is “alive” for them in the present ; that has emerged for them as a “wonder” through their participation at the conference. They will be asked “what are you curious about” and then with guidance, employ a range of creative processes and procedures (languages) to come to know more about “their curiosity”, that is, they will co-research. This workshop will give the participants the chance to experience many ways of coming to know – through representation, movement and words: the poetic and the lyrical. Participants will be given the space and opportunity to co create, collaborate, and consider. The aim is to be reflective, joyful, playful, and curious. No prior experience is needed, this is a workshop for everybody.

Session outcomes:

Delegates will experience researching into a topic using different modes. With the experience of this as a genuine way to come to know about something, it is hoped delegates will embrace this way of working with children and attempt it in their contexts. For those who are already familiar with this way of working it will be an opportunity to take some time to reflect on the emerging content of the conference and inquire into their curiosities and consider what they will do with what they now know.


Karen Szydlik (Schaller)

Playing with Paper – Creating a community of learners

This presentation follows the learning journey of a team of teachers as they worked alongside a group of three-year olds to create a play-based inquiry grounded in paper.  What started as exploration of a material quickly became a project of connection and community-making as together we embraced a process of creative and imaginative storytelling.  As teachers, confronted with the issues of sustainability and notions of “waste”, we learnt how to sit with our discomfort in order to allow the learning to unfold.  This shift in our pedagogical thinking was part of a broader reframing of how play can sit at the center of inquiry-learning.

The creative and emergent nature of our collaborative story-telling provided children with multiple points of engagement and expression, which ultimately allowed us to engage in an in-depth exploration of what it means to be in relationships with others.  Our understanding of relationship and community was built through both the processes of play, as well as in the themes unpacked in our play narratives.


Lisa Layton, Bianca Peyra, Georgina (Georgie) Bishop

An encounter with brave pedagogy

A centre’s journey of practice research and educational design, transforming teaching and learning whilst leveraging professional capacity. The Centre for Early Education (CEEd) is a long day care setting on the grounds of Ballarat Grammar, an Independent School in regional Victoria. Offering care and education for 110 children each day from six months of age through to school entry. Three core philosophical pillars, Reggio Emilia Educational Project, Nature Pedagogy and Positive Psychology, are embedded in service operations and underpin all aspects of educational design and pedagogy, daily rhythms and organisational decision-making. Over the past 18 months, our overarching theme of authentic inclusivity took our team of early childhood educators on a journey of teacher as researcher. This journey enhanced educators understanding of the principles of Reggio Emilia Educational Project, in particular Progettazione, Professional Development, and Educational Research.

This workshop will share the process taken and the data collected, including the following:

  • Synergies between progettazione, existing planning cycles and the new EYLF.
  • Development of Teacher as Researcher
  • Practitioner inquiry as a vehicle for professional learning
  • Contexts and concepts for learning
  • Intentional teaching
  • Building professional capacity, curiosity and creativity

Participants will be invited to engage in Q&A and group discussion as a method of experiential learning.


Koren Naylor, Tamara Abbott

A Tapestry of Place

What gifts and traces can children offer to a place? What is it about these exchanges that build ‘placeness’? How do these interactions generate meaning/learning? This presentation – A Tapestry of Place weaves together the Omilea class group’s exploration of Taroona Beach over the course of a year. The children’s initial interactions through transient art, collections and exchanges informed the way in which they were able to represent their relationship to ‘place through the Hundred Languages’. Their increased awareness of natural and temporal dimensions opens up deeper understandings and experiences. As the children became more sensitive to the subtle tones of the rocks, sand, water, sky and foliage it provoked them to stop and take notice of the assemblage of tones and feelings that constitute a place. The dialogue between children and place flows both ways and I will aim to share with participants the endless speculative potential of children’s storytelling and history in found objects and structures, and demonstrate how they ‘give back’ to us in the form of creative works and wonderings.


Lou Kirkwood

River’s Choir; An interactive workshop inspired by making kin

This workshop explores five threads of a collaborative research project co-led by Dr. Stefania Giamminuti (Curtin University) in collaboration with the team at MLC Kindle. Throughout the project, Murrundindi, Ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri people, was a co-researcher, generously sharing his knowledge of ancestors and country in the classroom context, while engaging in pedagogical discussions with the team. Through the intersection of Indigenous knowledges and the arts, we researched ‘making kin’ (Haraway, 2016) with the more-than-human world.

2021 saw children and educators ‘making kin’ with Magpies, Oak Tree and Water. In 2022 the research was relaunched to consider not only human relationships with the more than human world, but indeed “inter-creature relationships” (Bird Rose, 2022, p. 13) and the concepts of care and responsibility. As we explored these relations, River’s community was re-imagined as “a choir” (Harry, 4 years old). This interactive presentation welcomes active participation of delegates as they engage with materials to recreate ‘River’s Choir’, a world of inter-creature relationships. A short verbal presentation and five large documentation panels outlining individual project threads (children aged 6 weeks – 5 years) will further support delegates’ creative engagement with a myriad of materials such as clay, wire, felt, paper, and digital technology to create a collective installation.


Sally-Anne Polson, Dr Stefania Giamminuti, Kristen Myers- Tapim, Natalie Jones

Preparing creative and curious leaders: possibilities of practice

Leadership as a concept is contested, and whilst traditional notions of leadership are arguably limiting, more contemporary understandings offer the importance of relationships, connections and culture. Over the past two years 100 early childhood educators across Australia, including remote and regional areas, have come together online to be part of the From the Ground Up experience. They have explored ideas about leadership and how this infuses centre growth through operations, pedagogies and practice. Adopting the philosophy of teachers as researchers, educators worked in pairs to create action-research projects. The program and projects transformed teaching and learning by positioning early childhood centres as learning contexts.

This presentation provides insights into From the Ground Up, with possibilities of practice shared through one centre’s journey to reimagine “leadership” – roles and responsibilities – with curiosity. We are not the first to challenge powerful discourses generated by the terms leader, leadership, follower and led. The educational project of Loris Malaguzzi’s design, with democracy at the core, was organised through ‘Pedagogical Co-ordination’ (REAIE, 2021).  During the presentation educators will share how through this research their centre created a new way of thinking about leadership that has transformed their practices and ways of working, igniting curiosity and wonder.


Megan Gibson, Renee Mitchell, Marie White, Kaitlyn Johnson

(Re)conceptualising the studio: “Dancing with water and sky” - attuning to invisible entanglements with/between children and living landscapes

A dance choreographed with Silvergull: as young children respond to the rhythms of tidal oceans bare feet gently twist through sandy soils, ancient stories of Pipi unfold and whisper through the wind. Their dance began long before – an entwined relationship that continues with each rising tide. We are curious – what will these mutual encounters teach us?

This presentation will explore children’s experiences of movement(ing) with Country as an entanglement of the creative process. As young children’s lives interweave with and among Sky and Water Country we pay close attention to the creative event emerging between children and matter. We listen carefully and attune to children’s poetic choreographies, as landscapes invite children to contemplate relatedness and connections storied in the making. These are the invisible entanglements with/between children and living landscapes.

How will the stories of this place move us? What will soundscapes set in motion? How will landscapes invite young children into becoming with the world? How will these dialogues continue to provoke new thinking and reinvent studio spaces when returning to the classroom?


Sarah Gardiner, Carley Rawle

Troubles, enchantments, and ethical responsibilities in inter-creature relationships: Children and adults welcoming indigenous knowledges and care through expressive and performative languages

Stefania Giamminuti (Curtin University), Sally Polson (MLC Kindle), and Natalie Jones (MLC Kindle) present insights from a research project during which children aged 0-6 years experienced enchanting relations with more-than human kin. In co-researching “inter-creature relationship” (Bird Rose, 2022, p. 13) teachers ignited children’s curiosity through expressive and performative languages. Children and adults grappled with wonder and ethical issues such as: the intelligence of Worm who, from below, dangerously encounters Magpie above; enchantment experienced in the ephemeral encounter with “rain jewels” discovered on banksias on cold winter mornings; deep knowledge of River and its “choir” (Harrison, 4 years old), or River’s community, of trees, rocks, and sand, leading to a collective ‘pledge’ to ensure “river is safe forever”.

The presentation, rich in visual data, narrates “multispecies research” (Bird Rose, 2022), with a particular focus on “troubles” (Haraway, 2016) that emerged as the research team welcomed indigenous knowledges, co-researching with Murrundindi (Ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri people) and attending to concepts like care and ethical responsibility. The presenters illustrate the “collective experimentation” (Manning, 2016) inherent in working with documentation, a research approach that is open, inclusive and wide-ranging, inviting adults and children to “cultivate arts of attentiveness” (Bird Rose, 2022, p. 12).


Sally-Anne Polson, Dr Stefania Giamminuti, Natalie Jones