Let’s Find Out: Discovery-Driven Learning in Action

Two children playing with magnifying glasses

Discovery Driven Learning, Bright Horizons’ proprietary learning framework, offers so much for teachers and children. It’s about wonder, connection, and exploration. It’s about sparking ideas, embracing questions, and trying solutions.

Wondering how our proven instructional method works in a classroom? One teacher’s real-life experiences offer a glimpse of the possibilities. At Bright Horizons Child Care Center at Comcast NBC Universal in Los Angeles, California, a young preschooler asked a simple question:


“Is a coconut a nut?”

“Hmm,” responded the teacher, Gabby Valdivia, “I don’t know. Let’s find out.” Gabby, now a health and safety director at The Launching Pad, brought in a coconut and the children spent several weeks exploring it.

The project started with a seedpod the children found outdoors. They spent several weeks trying different ways to open the seedpod. They hammered it, drilled it with a hand drill, and even dropped it from a play structure. Eventually they moved on to exploring other seeds and finally asked for a coconut.

Some projects need more planning and materials, but Discovery Driven Learning can be very simple. In this project, the children needed nothing more than a question, some curiosity, ample time to explore, and a coconut. Short- and long-term projects are times of connection, playful learning, and exploration.

All along the way, Gabby taught the children by listening, reflecting on what each child said, making notes, providing materials for children to explore, and most important of all, encouraging children to express their thinking by asking open-ended questions or simply saying, “Tell me more,” or “What do you think?”

Gabby provided a coconut and supported the children’s independence by nurturing their learning versus directing it. After several failed attempts, one child suggested a hand drill. The children drilled a hole and discovered liquid. They declared, “A coconut is not a nut because there is not a ball inside” (their established criteria for a nut).

Gabby says of her experience, “To make this project a success, we had to really respect and listen to the children. We didn’t jump in with easy answers but encouraged the children to find the answers. The families in the program understand our approach and were enthusiastic about the project too.”


Discovery Driven Learning is rooted in the science of learning; through play, experimenting with possibilities, problem-solving, and project work, we are confident children are getting the very best early learning experiences possible.

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

April 14, 2022

About The Bright Horizons Education Team

Teacher reading to a toddler boy and girl

Whether you’re looking for parenting advice, or trying to figure out how to bring learning from the classroom to the family room, let Bright Horizons early education experts be your trusted, knowledgeable resource. Get our weekly newsletter for all things early child development—from the benefits of pretend play to at-home STEM activities, and teaching kindness—along with encouragement for every stage of your parenting journey.