ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

March 31, 2014
by Rebecca Smith
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Early Years Mud Kitchen

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With the Spring weather having arrived here in Switzerland, we’ve finally had a chance to get dirty in the Early Years Mud Kitchen.

We collected donated pots, pans and crockery to stock our kitchen. Our School Caretakers helped us attach the wall racks for hanging equipment on and to arrange the wooden benches to make lots of spaces for us to work in.

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“I cooking ice cream. I take chocolate and sand to (make) chocolate ice cream.” Wille

I cooking. Chocolate cookies. So many. So yucky! Then yum yum yum (pretended to eat). ” Diego

I’m making cupcakes.” Molly

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Our next job is to plant herbs in the surrounding gardens and in pots. We hope that the herbs will arouse our senses further and enhance our potion concoctions and muddy cupcake, chocolate cookie and ice cream mixes.

For more information about creating a Mud Kitchen visit Muddy Faces here.

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Herbs planted by EY2 FA.

Photographs by Rebecca Smith (EY Teacher ICS)

March 27, 2014
by Rajeshree Rao
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Child Initiated Inquiry: Building Bird Nests.

In our Early Years Programme there is a strong emphasis on child-initiated inquiries as we believe that children learn best when their interests are acknowledged as worthy of investigation. Children’s thinking is not only valued but supported and extended through the class community.

Walker, in our class, brought in a picture of a nest he had built with his family. This photograph inspired the children and they were curious to discover more about nests. Walker’s enthusiasm and experience, as well as books Ms Judith gave us from the library, raised the children’s interest in nest building.

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As a class, we discussed the reasons birds need nests and building materials.

  • Walker: Birds build nests to protect their eggs.
  • Alex:      They need a home to lay their eggs.
  • Ffion:     Eggs stay warm.
  • Nicolas: To hide the eggs from bad animals and birds.
  • Amy:      To feed them.
  • Wren:    To take care of the babies till they grow.

Materials used:

  • Walker / Alex:      Sticks and bark at the bottom to make the nest strong.
  • Edward:                  Leaves to keep the nest soft.
  • Annabel / Ffion:  Dry grass and moss to cover the eggs to keep warm.

We used our Waldkinder exploration to collect materials, which the children had decided they would need. We were very fortunate to spot a little nest being built on a tree on our way to Waldkinder. This helped them to closely observe the materials used and the shape of the nest.

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The children engaged in collaborative dialogue to agree on how to use the materials.  They were observed not only expressing their ideas, but in addition being receptive to the ideas of others. They built nests and decided together where within the school grounds they would like to place them.  From their learn they are keen to take some action; by taking care of the birds by regularly putting out bird feed or bread for them.

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This child initiated inquiry helped in connecting the children with nature. This experience is part of our yearlong Unit of Inquiry ‘Sharing the Planet’.

 

March 26, 2014
by Heidi Harman
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Outdoor Artists

 

Painting is something we do on a very regular basis in our Early Years classes. Most children of all ages love to paint and we, the Early Years educators, believe that they should be given many opportunities to do so using a variety of painting tools, materials and techniques. Not only is painting fun, but it also helps to develop children’s fine motor skills, promotes creativity and is a wonderful way to express thoughts, feelings and ideas.

Last week the Spring weather was glorious and we felt motivated to enjoy our learning experiences outside. We thought it may be fun, interesting and inspiring to paint outdoors for a change. Being outside in the natural sunlight in our local environment appeared to further stimulate our artistic creativity!

We invited the children to paint whatever they found fascinating, appealing or thought-provoking. They had the freedom to roam and observe the outdoor environment as a huge artist’s canvas! The children were excited to be painting outside and many felt enthused to do more than one painting. The outdoor experience certainly appeared to help foster the children’s passion for painting.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Pablo Picasso

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Photos by Heidi Harman

February 23, 2014
by Rajeshree Rao
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Animals in Winter

In our year-long Unit of Inquiry ‘Sharing the Planet’ we, in EY2 RR, have been researching animals that hibernate and those that live in the Arctic. We have also been looking at the relationship between animals and people.

We compared and discussed how we, as people, stay warm in winter and the ways in which animals, in the Arctic, stay warm.

These are the questions that helped us start our discussions and thinking:

How do we keep warm in winter outside and at home?

  • Walker:     We cover ourselves with a blanket.
  • Anika:        We need a scarf, hats and gloves.
  • Zane:          Snow boots.
  • Wren:         Neck warmers and warm clothes.
  • Annabel:    At home we have a fire to keep us warm

How do animals stay warm in winter?

  • Nicolas:     They have hot skin.
  • Alex:           They have fur.
  • Walker:     Some have a special skin to keep them warm.
  • Amy:          They have special oil in their skin, which keeps them warm.

After these discussions, which demonstrated what the children already knew about the topic, we concluded it would be fun to do a science experiment to discover how it would feel to be an Arctic animal swimming in icy water. This experience would not only help in the children’s understanding but also give a practical hands-on experience, which they would love.
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First, each child put their bare hands in a tray of ice. We counted to see how long they could hold it in there. Some could keep their hands in the ice until we counted to 75 and we had to stop them.

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  •  Zane:             It is really, really very cold.
  • Ffion:             It is slippery and cold.
  • Annabel:        It is freezing

Next, we put on thin rubber gloves for the children and covered the gloves with fat. The children, then, put their hands into the icy water. The fat protected their hand from the cold water.IMG_4906

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  • Ffion:          It is not cold now. I can keep my hand in here for a long time.
  • Edward:     I like it now. My hands are not freezing. Mrs. Rao, do the animals have the sticky thing (fat) on their body?
  • Walker:      Yes, animals that live in the cold places have special skin and also fat to keep them warm.
  • Edward:     The cream we have on our gloves, I think, helps the cold to just fall down.
  • Mrs.Rao:   What do you mean?
  • Edward:     I think now, that the cream protects them from the cold.

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The children agreed that their bare hands felt very cold but with fat it felt warm.
This experiment helped the children to become scientists, make predictions, observations and understand how the layer of fat, that some animals have, keep them warm in winter.

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February 11, 2014
by Rebecca Smith
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Invitations to Play that Encourage Cooperation

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Early Years Teachers give much thought about how to arrange materials, when preparing the classroom environment. Our desire is to present invitations to play that engage children in thinking and encourage them to explore. I have recently been reading about the idea of the ‘aesthetic dimension’.

‘Aesthetic dimension’ is described by Vea Vecchi (Atelierista of the Diana School, Reggio Emilia, for 30 years) as “a process of empathy relating the Self to things and things to each other…it is an aspiration to quality that makes us choose one word over another, a color or shade, a certain piece of music, a mathematical formula or the taste of food… It is an attitude of care and attention for the things we do, a desire for meaning;  it is curiosity and wonder;  it is the opposite of indifference and carelessness, of conformity, of absence of participation and feeling…”

Vea Vecchi, Art and Creativity in Reggio Emilia, 2010: 5

Exploring the ideas related to the ‘aesthetic dimension’ has made me focus on our learning spaces and experiences in EY1. As a result, I have been more mindful when preparing the environment. I have hoped to create a welcoming atmosphere that inspires meaningful connections and conversations between members of the learning community.

Last week, we offered the children a number of invitations to play, including water play in trays with flower petals, herbal teabags with warm water, cups, spoons and teapots, to playdough with aromatic spices. While observing the children at play (‘play’ being the technical term for ‘the work’ of the three and four year-olds), I was most struck by the instances of joyful cooperation and delight the children found in the collaboration. I observed the steady ease of the ways in which the children were able to achieve their desired goals with the assistance of their peers. I believe that the thought and care that was put into the preparing the environment allowed and supported the children in their interactions, by creating spaces where the children can work together to share materials and exchange and build upon ideas.

Learning experiences such as the invitations to play highlighted here allow for the teachers and children to explore and build understandings related to our PSE (Physical, Social and Emotional) curriculum goals;

PSE- Interactions: Phase 1 Outcome  Learners interact, play and engage with others, sharing ideas, cooperating and communicating feelings in developmentally appropriate ways. They are aware that their behaviour affects others and identify when their actions have had an impact.

ICS Scope and Sequence Curriculum Document

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Photographs by Rebecca Smith EY1 Teacher

Reference:

Vecchi, V. (2010) Art and Creativity in Reggio Emilia: Exploring the role and potential of ateliers in early childhood education. Routledge: Oxon

November 28, 2013
by Rebecca Smith
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Fathers Day Breakfast: An Opportunity for Sharing

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In preparation for the Fathers Day Breakfast in EY1, we read the book ‘My Dad’ written and illustrated by Anthony Browne. After reading the book we were inspired to share thoughts about our own dads. We worked in small groups and the teachers transcribed the children’s ideas.

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Our Daddies

He likes to always like to do funny stuff and it makes me laugh. Letizia

My daddy is so funny when he talks he says funny things. Aditi

When I’m in the pool my daddy throws me up and then he catches me in the air, he doesn’t let me in the water. Charli

My daddy is big. Wille

My daddy is a nice guy. My daddy is funny. He likes monkeys. Eleonore

My daddy is funny. Molly

My daddy goes to work. He likes to eat sausages, fried chicken and apples. Soichi

My daddy likes chocolate. Oliver

My daddy is big. Chloé

My daddy likes mummy. Muso

My daddy like(s) chocolate and big. Ron

My daddy likes cars and play dough. He likes to eat lunch, but he is not allowed to eat play dough.  Charles

My daddy is big. Titouan

My daddy is strong. My daddy like(s) Mano (football player). Diego

It was a lovely experience for the children to share this morning with the visiting fathers.  We truly value our partnership with families and the contributions made. We extend an open invitation for any families members to join us in the classroom to be an active part of the learning process. Additionally we are interested in your perspective of this experience and feedback of the morning. Perhaps you’d like to leave us a comment about your experience of visiting and spending time in EY1.

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Photos by Rebecca Smith (ICS EY Teacher)

November 26, 2013
by Heidi Harman
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Creating Homes for Forest Animals…in the Classroom!

Within our year-long unit of inquiry, Sharing the Planet, we are inquiring into the different animals in our lives and our responsibility in caring for living things and the environment.

Last week the children were given some recycling materials and they began to use them to create homes, nests and dens for our toy forest animals. We decided to use our nature corner of the classroom to set up this project. The children’s enthusiasm and excitement was both infectious and inspirational and they devoted the whole morning to their project. In fact, they were so engrossed that they didn’t even want to break for snack time!

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It was delightful to observe the collaboration taking place while everyone worked together, shared resources and helped each other. As the children created, constructed and built, they spoke about caring for the animals and all the things which the animals would need and want and how they would go about making these things for them.

Tomy said, “The animals need a bed and something to play with. The hedgehog wants a picture on the wall. A drink and food.” Tomy then proceeded to draw a picture to hang on the wall of the hedgehog’s nest and he drew ‘a photograph’ of the hedgehog to hang up too. He completed the nest by making a sign reading ‘Hedgehog’s Home’.

Mats, Tyler and Matilde used cardboard to make lots of owls to sit in our big tree and keep guard over the animals sleeping below.

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Some children drew pictures of trees to create a ‘forest feel’ and Matilde wrote ‘sh’ to remind us to be quiet when playing near the animals.

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Many children felt that the homes needed windows to create light and they even added cardboard tubes to serve as ‘look-out’ holes so that the animals can look out and find their lunch without having to go outside!

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The children realised that we needed lots and lots of leaves to make soft beds and also to create a true forest floor in our classroom, so we quickly put shoes and coats on and went outside to gather leaves.

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Our collaborative project is still ongoing. Masha brought in a toy from home for the animals to play with and she also made a book for the animals to read. Maebh collects acorns from the playground each day for the animals to eat and Nicky, Villum and Mats made a small trough using foam bricks to store the acorn food. We are continuing to make more elaborate nests and dens and we are using air dry clay to make mice, birds and hedgehogs:

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November 14, 2013
by Rebecca Smith
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A Community Event: A Forest Lantern Walk

P1110424In Early November we held the annual Early Years & Kindergarten Families Lantern Walk. This community event provides an opportunity for children to build their understandings of this German autumnal tradition, interpreted in our unique way. It provides an opportunity for the EY children to explore ideas related to our Who We Are Unit of Inquiry, examining how ‘Through sharing experiences within our community we can learn about ourselves’.

In preparation for the Lantern Walk, the children were involved in a number of experiences and projects in collaboration with different teachers and classes in the Primary School.

In EY1 we talked about fire safety. We read stories and non-fiction books about fire, camping and the forest. We set up a pretend fire and camping area in our classroom to encourage dramatic role play. The children spent much time watching and tending to the (pretend) fire, using flashlights, and experimenting with new vocabulary to warn and remind their peers about how to be safe near the fire.

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During their weekly German lesson with Frau Skender, the children learnt and sang songs about Autumn time and the Lantern Walk in German. We practiced singing these songs with friends from Kindergarten (KJM).

The EY2 and Kindergarten children explored and practised through hands-on tasks the German vocabulary appropriate for talking about Autumn weather, the colours we can find in nature during this season and the clothing we wear during the different seasons.

All of the children worked to create paper lanterns to carry to light our way during the Lantern Walk. In EY1 the lanterns were decorated with a marbled effect made with marbles and paint. Stamped leaves decorated the EY2 lanterns and Kindergarten made gorgeous pin-punched owl designed lanterns.

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The children from all EY classes prepared dough to turn into bread rolls. The EY1 children joined with friends from KJM to knead and shape the dough. We sang German songs and played together with our friends while we took turns at making the bread rolls. Sharing this task with the Kindergarten children was a lovely occasion. We observed that many children from across the classes who share the same home language worked and played together. We also watched as many new friendships were formed through the interactions and shared task. We proudly enjoyed the baked bread rolls with our friends and family members at the fire in the forest on the Lantern Walk evening.

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The Lantern Walk was a beautiful event. We paraded with our friends and families to the forest arriving at a beautiful fire built by some Kindergarten fathers for us. We sang both English and German songs together around the fire. It was a wonderful opportunity to build and share community spirit.

Watch a short video of the event below:

Password is: Lantern Walk

Lantern Walk from ICS Early Years on Vimeo.

 http://vimeo.com/79323616

The event required collaboration between the Early Years and Kindergarten classes along with the German Department. This collaboration reflects the value we place on interdisciplinary learning and community-building.

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 Photos by Rebecca Smith (ICS EY Teacher)

November 14, 2013
by Rebecca Smith
1 Comment

Sharing a Community Cultural Event: Diwali

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In early November the EY1 class celebrated Diwali: ‘The Festival of Lights’. Rohini, Aditi’s mother, visited our class to share about this Hindu celebration with us. We listened to some information and viewed pictures of this traditional celebration. We watched a cartoon version of the Diwali story. The underlying message of the story is the victory of good over evil. It was about a man, Rama, who with the help from a very strong monkey called Hanuman, searched for and found his wife, Sita. After a very long time away they returned to their village. There was a joyous celebration in which the land was illuminated with diyas (clay oil lamps) and bursting fire crackers.

You can view the cartoon story here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pp59n0So

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We learned about the diya, the clay oil lamp, that people use during Diwali to decorate their homes and offices. We held our own exciting and joyous celebration by lighting sparklers. It’s interesting that festivals of light can be found all over the world and in many cultures.

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We each received a Happy Diwali gift from Aditi and her family. It included a chocolate treat and our very own diya, so we can share our encounter of this celebration with our families at home. This experience is an example of how we can explore ideas connected to our Who We Are Unit of Inquiry,‘Through sharing experiences within our community we can learn about ourselves’.

Photos by Rebecca Smith (ICS Early Years Teacher)

November 5, 2013
by Andrea Mills
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Valuing Home Languages and Cultures in the Early Years Classroom

Last Friday morning, Early Years families joined us  for some shared classroom time, community singing and a presentation about our program. As members of an international school community,  we have the unique experience of learning together with children and teachers from all over the globe. As an educator, I have found this to be one of the most rewarding aspects of this work, mostly because of the countless opportunities to share in other cultural traditions and make meaningful connections with families from diverse backgrounds.

P1100816Getting to know families by sharing experiences together builds relationships and home- school connections.

For children who attend our school, cultural and linguistic diversity becomes a normal part of school and community life. At ICS, we actively cultivate a respect for each child’s home language and culture by seeking to learn about families, inviting them to participate in school life and encouraging children to share their home languages and cultures with us.

IMG_0158Bom Dia! These friends come from different places but share a common language, Portuguese.

In my role integrating music into the Early Year program, there are many opportunities to share and collaboratively create different global sounds and rhythms. At our Early Years Open Morning, the children sang “Good Morning” greetings to their families in seventeen languages. Amazingly, each of these languages is represented by one or more children in the Early Years program. The children’s pride in sharing their own language as well as demonstrating knowledge of friends’ greetings was evident in the joyful singing. Smiles from the audience of families were abundant, and at the end, one parent excitedly shared that she was a native Irish speaker. Of course, we were thrilled to add a new greeting to our repertoire.

imageGreeting families in nineteen different languages.

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