Elia, a five-year-old boy living in Milan, can't wait to turn six so he can graduate from scuola materna (combined preschool/kindergarten) and start elementary school. Filled with enthusiasm when he enters first grade, he quickly becomes disillusioned. While the scuola materna teachers were nurturing, the first grade teachers are rigid and strict-concerned above all with discipline and order. Elia soon begins to hate school and his self-esteem collapses. Halfway into the school year, his life suddenly changes when his father accepts a job in Germany and Elia transfers to an international school, which uses an utterly different approach. After the change, Elia becomes happy, enthusiastic, and eager to learn.