A full program of lessons, games and educational activities was prepared for the students by CO.AS.IT.’s learning services manager and acting principal, Sara Villella.

From July 26 to August 16, Villella was extremely busy organising the student exchange project, which will see Australian students depart for the Convitto Nazionale Paolo Diacono di Cividale on September 30, where they will be hosted for three weeks.

The Italian students who visited Sydney participated in museum tours and trips around the city, expanding their cultural horizons and making their Australian experience about more than just language.

The students were aged between 10 and 14.

On Thursday, August 8, both Australian and Italian students took part in one of their most important engagements yet: a meeting with Fiorenzo Galli, director of the Museo Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci in Milan.

In the weeks leading up to the meeting, Galli had been busy participating in celebrations for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death.

During his Australian tour, in which he paid a visit to both Melbourne and Canberra, he was accompanied by Filippo Lonardo of the Italian Embassy in Canberra.

Lonardo passed on special greetings from the Italian government to the young students, explaining how these types of events are imperative for the promotion of Italian culture in Australia, and highlighting the vital work of the IBS and CO.AS.IT. in the community.

The Italian and Australian national anthems were sung by around 80 students plus teachers and guests, including CO.AS.IT. president Lorenzo Fazzini and general manager Thomas Camporeale, before Galli’s talk commenced.

Assisted by multimedia prompts and the enthusiastic students who asked questions, made comments and offered unique perspectives on the art and science of the Florentine master, the figure of Leonardo gradually emerged in all his glory.

“In life, it’s important to be curious, especially at your age,” Galli said to the students.

“Just like Leonardo, who looked at the world around him, at the buildings, nature and people, and recorded it all in a small notebook.

“So be curious and experiment!”

The professor then concluded his speech, referring to what he believes are Leonardo’s greatest life lessons which should guide the way for all of humanity.

“Leonardo loved nature so much that he would buy birds in cages at the market, just to set them free,” Galli said.

“And he respected the work of others.

“Curiosity, love, attentiveness to nature and respect for others – these are the most important lessons which the great Leonardo left us.”

The speech received a round of applause which echoed throughout the school’s auditorium.

Italian professor Carlo Calligaris, who believes that bilingual teaching represents a valuable opportunity for students, has embraced the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) teaching method which “envisages integrated learning of the disciplines in a vehicular foreign language”.

In this method, learning is strengthened by studying subjects that are part of the curriculum, like maths or science, in a foreign language.

“It’s easier for students to learn a language if they use it in practical activities such as physical education,” Calligaris said.

And, of course, he believes in experiences like the exchange program.

“We are hoping to organise a similar program soon,” Calligaris added.

“It’s not always easy to meet people like Sara Villella, who are passionate about exchange programs.

“Personally, I believe that bringing together Australian and Italian students helps them improve their linguistic abilities.

“The Italians improve their English, and the Australians improve their Italian.”