Our programme

Our programme is greatly inspired by the Pikler approach and Reggio Philosophy, which fits very comfortably within our own New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum Te Whaariki.

We focus on children’s contribution to their own learning and encourage them to share their knowledge with others.  We believe that educators are children’s partner in learning and we believe children have the ability to plan and direct their own learning, so listen, observe, interact, and learning is at the centre of our programme.

What is New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum Te Whaariki:

There are four broad principles at the centre of the New Zealand early childhood curriculum.

Empowerment: The early childhood curriculum empowers the child to learn and grow.

Holistic Development: The early childhood curriculum reflects the holistic way children learn and grow.

Family and Community: The wider world of family and community is an integral part of the early childhood curriculum.

Relationships: Children learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places, and things. 

The strands and goals of the curriculum arise from the principles. Each strand embodies an area of learning and development that is woven into the daily programme at our centre and has its own associated goals for learning. 

Five strands of Te Whaariki:

1. Well-being - Mana Atua

2. Belonging - Mana Whenua

3. Contribution - Mana Tangata

4. Communication - Mana Reo

5. Exploration - Mana Aotùroa

Strand 1: Well-being – Mana Atua

The health and well-being of the child are protected and nurtured.


Children experience an environment where: 

their health is promoted; 

their emotional well-being is nurtured; 

they are kept safe from harm. 

Strand 2: Belonging – Mana Whenua

Children and their families feel a sense of belonging.


Children and their families experience an environment where: 

connecting links with the family and the wider world are affirmed and extended;

they know that they have a place;

they feel comfortable with the routines, customs, and regular events;

they know the limits and boundaries of acceptable behaviour

Strand 3: Contribution – Mana Tangata

Opportunities for learning are equitable, and each child’s contribution is valued.


Children experience an environment where: 

there are equitable opportunities for learning, irrespective of gender, ability, age, ethnicity, or background

they are affirmed as individuals

they are encouraged to learn with and alongside others

Strand 4: Communication – Mana Reo

The languages and symbols of their own and other cultures are promoted and protected.


Children experience an environment where:

they develop non-verbal communication skills for a range of purposes

they develop verbal communication skills for a range of purposes

they experience the stories and symbols of their own and other cultures

they discover and develop different ways to be creative and expressive

Strand 5: Exploration – Mana Aotùroa

The child learns through active exploration of the environment.


Children experience an environment where:

their play is valued as meaningful learning and the importance of spontaneous play is recognised

they gain confidence in and control of their bodies

they learn strategies for active exploration, thinking, and reasoning

they develop working theories for making sense of the natural, social, physical, and material worlds

The strands and goals arise from the four principles. The whàriki is woven from these four principles and from the following five strands, or essential areas of learning and development.  The principles and strands together form the framework for the curriculum.  Each strand has several goals.  Learning outcomes have been developed for each goal in each of the strands, so that the whàriki becomes an integrated foundation for every child’s development.


What is Pikler approach?


The Pikler approach is based on a respectful relationship between an adult and infant, through choreographed tender care moments, a naturally paced motor development, free movement and uninterrupted play.

Guiding principles of Pikler Approach…

Full Attention – especially when involved in the Caring activity

This brings stillness to lives which have become overwhelmed with speed and ‘productivity’. It is much wiser for us to divide our time than our attention!

Slow Down

Creating calmness around babies is relaxing, as well as peaceful. Allows them to be in an environment where their sacred ‘unfolding’ can take place respectfully.

Communicate “with” not “to”

Building a Cooperative relationship with a baby requires you to work together on things. Pikler saw babies as active participants rather than passive recipients in their care.  All of this requires us to talk to our babies a lot more about what we would like to work with them on – and being patient, giving them time to respond.

Build Trust and your Relationship during Caring activity/time

Pikler believed that parents and caregivers need to take the time to make nappy changing, feeding, bathing and dressing, an unhurried and pleasant quality time - with the baby being an active partner.

Babies are never put into a position which they cannot get into by themselves

The reason for this is that they become trapped – and no longer free in their movement. In essence – a baby becomes a prisoner of his/her own body.

Allow babies uninterrupted time for play

parents don't need to entertain their babies because given a nurturing environment and freedom to explore,  babies are quite capable of entertaining themselves.

Babies send us cues all the time

Tune in with what your child is trying to communicate with you and respectful what they are trying to say.


What is Reggio Emilia Approach:

The Reggio Approach derives its name from its place of origin, Reggio Emilia, a city located in Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy. The Reggio Emilia philosophy is an approach to teaching, learning and advocacy for children. In its most basic form, it is a way of observing what children know, are curious about and what challenges them. Teachers record these observations to reflect on developmentally appropriate ways to help children expand their academic and social potentials. Long term projects connect core academic areas in and out of the classroom.

The following principles guide the practice and decisions made at the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center and are borrowed from Foundations of the Reggio Emilia Approach by Lella Gandini.

Image of the Child

Children are viewed as competent, curious, full of knowledge, potential, and interested in connecting to the world around them. Teachers are deeply aware of children’s potentials and construct all of their work and environment of the children’s experience to respond appropriately.

Collaboration and Interaction

Collaboration and cooperation are intentional in a school inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to education. The entire system is designed to be connected and in relationship. Nothing is left to sit in isolation. Everything is alive and connected. Children, teachers and families join together to continually improve the system that supports our school community.

The Environment

The space within the school or the environment is considered the third teacher. Teachers intentionally organize, support and plan for various spaces for children. The daily schedules are planned to ensure that there is a balance between individual, small and large group activities, child directed and teacher initiated activity and inside as well as outside experiences.

The Three Subjects of Education: Children, Families and Teachers

For children to learn, their well-being has to be guaranteed; such well-being is connected with the well-being of parents and teachers. Children, parents and teachers have rights; the right to safety, care and welfare, the right to be involved and the right to grow professionally.

The Power of Documentation

Documentation is a means to collect information, observations and learning. It can be in the form of observations, photography, video, conversation transcripts and/or visual mediums like paint, wire, clay or drawing materials. Teachers use documentation to identify strengths, ideas, and next steps to support learning.

Emergent Curriculum

Emergent Curriculum is a way of teaching and learning that requires teachers to observe and listen to the children. Teachers ask questions and listen for the children’s ideas, hypotheses and theories. After observing children in action, the teachers compare, discuss, and interpret their observations. Teachers plan activities, studies and long term projects in the classroom based on their observations. Teacher’s partner with children and the exchange of theories are referred to as the Cycle of Inquiry. Teachers use their interpretations, intentions and goals (social, emotional and academic) to make choices that they share with children. Learning is seen not as a linear process but as a spiraling progression.

The Hundred Languages of Children

The Studio teacher (or Atelierista) works closely with other teachers and the children through the Studio, an intentional space containing materials and tools to pursue thinking and concepts. In addition to the larger Studio, Mini-studios are found in every Discovery. What is done with the materials is not art per se, because in the view of Reggio educators the children’s use of media is not a separate part of the curriculum but an integral part of the whole cognitive symbolic expression process of learning.

The Role of the Teacher

The image of the child shapes the role of the teacher and involves four major components. Teachers are:

Co-constructors: partners, guides, nurtures, solves problems, learns, hypothesizes

Researchers: learns, observes, revisits

Documenters: listens, records, displays, revisits

Advocates for children: involved in the community, politics relating to children, speaks for children and presents work to other educators and community members.

The Role of Parents

Parents are an essential component of the school. They are an active part of their children’s learning experiences and help to ensure the welfare of all the children in the school. All families are members of the Family Team

The Role of Time and the Importance of Continuity

Time is influenced by the interests and activities that the children bring to life within the school. This in turn impacts schedules, groupings and routines. Teachers get to know children (strengths, needs and personality) because children stay with the same teacher and the same peer group for two years.


Projects provide the backbone of the children’s and teachers’ learning experiences. They are based on the strong convictions that learning by doing is of great importance and that to discuss in group and to revisit ideas and experiences is the premier way of learning. Project ideas come from experiences of the children and teachers, a chance event or problem posed. They can last from a few days to several months.