ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

October 29, 2014
by Heidi Harman
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Fostering Children’s Passions: Setting Up A Restaurant

After observing the children engaging in ‘restaurant role play‘ over a period of a few weeks, it was clear that this was yet another wonderful opportunity to encourage and foster their interest and embark on a class inquiry into restaurants. Following some whole class discussions we decided to plan and set up our own ‘real‘ restaurant. There was much interest in how restaurants function and what would need to be done to set one up. We began our planning by talking about and making a list of what was required and the many jobs to be done before we could open it to customers. Here are some of our suggestions, proposals and independent actions:

Christopher drew a picture of a sunflower to decorate a dining table.

Wille made a drinks menu and said that we needed lots of pictures of food to show what was in the restaurant.

Jeremy thought we should hang up balloons and have policemen standing at the doors in case there were any naughty people.

Pippa wanted to make golden stars as decorations, which would hang down on string. Lily thought that this sounded like a good idea and said she would add paper hearts onto the string, while Nicky thought that red paper circles should also be added.

Thomas said that it was important to have a book area for the young children while they wait for the older children to finish eating.

Before we set to work on our planned tasks, we talked about who we should invite to our restaurant. It was decided to send invitations to our friends in EY2RR first of all and then we would invite our families for the second opening of the restaurant. We wrote our invitations and personally delivered the them to our friends, who seemed really excited about coming to our restaurant.

We spent the next few days hanging up the decorations we had made and completing our preparation work. Then we visited the local supermarket to buy the food, plates, cups and cutlery. We were very lucky, as Pippa had taken action and brought in many of these items from her home for us. Our visit to the supermarket was a success and we bought every item on our shopping list.

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Choosing flowers to decorate our dining tables.

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Selecting fruit to serve at the restaurant.

The day of the restaurant opening finally arrived and we were all so excited. Thomas began the morning with a surprise for us all; he had spent the previous evening making a colourful and extremely long paper chain to hang up as an additional decorative feature. He had also made some blue paper shapes to hang on string. We were all grateful to Thomas and pleased that he took the initiative and the time to do this for us all. Now it was time to prepare the food before the restaurant opened at 9:45. Once that was done, we trimmed and arranged our cut flowers for each dining table. Our last job was to set the tables beautifully. We ensured each place setting had a hand-made placemat, which was decorated with drawings of different foods and drinks, and we also laid the crockery and cutlery neatly on the table. Then we placed cut-out drawings of different foods as a final adornment to each dining table.

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Preparing the fruit.

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Preparing the cheese and crackers.

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Setting the dining tables.

The waiters were ready with their clipboards and note pads and the chefs were ready in the kitchen. We just had to wait for our guests to arrive.

At 9:45 our friends arrived at the restaurant. We handed them menus to peruse before seating them at their tables. Once they were seated, the waiters came to take their orders and the restaurant suddenly became very busy. The waiters were giving the orders to the chefs, who quickly prepared the plates and handed them to the waiters for service. The diners seemed very satisfied with their meals and continued to order quite a lot of food. Once everyone was full and satiated, it was time for our guests to pay for their meals. Thankfully our friends had brought (hand-made paper) money with them to pay with at the cash register.

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Taking food orders and serving the meals.

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Our busy restaurant.

Once our customers had left and we had cleared the tables, we took a moment to reflect on the huge success of our restaurant. We agreed that we had collaborated and worked together extremely well with the planning and the final implementation of our restaurant. There was much passion and fascination throughout this inquiry, and the children clearly enjoyed learning more about the workings of a restaurant. In our everyday lives we delight in being the diners in restaurants and it was interesting to compare the differences in roles between organising and working in a restaurant and enjoying the leisure time of a diner. Examining these different roles led to some interesting questions related to why we have restaurants.

Our restaurant success was repeated a week later when our families came to visit. This inquiry ties in perfectly with our current unit, Who We Are, which has a focus on how our senses help us to learn.

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The restaurant is open to our families.

 

October 20, 2014
by Rajeshree Rao
0 comments

Developing Language and Mathematical Skills using Stories

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As a class we read and enjoyed Julia Donaldson’s picture book ‘Stick Man.’ The rhyme within the text is simple and repetitive, allowing the children to join in with the ‘reading’ and predict and identify rhyming words within the story. The fact that the story begins in autumn and finishes in winter is represented by the eye-catching illustrations.  These allow the children to make connections between elements of the illustrations and the seasons of the year. It also helped to form understandings related to our year long Unit of Inquiry,  ‘How the World Works’, in which the children are exploring  how changing seasons affect the environment.

After we read the book several times, the children drew their own ‘stick man’ from their perception and understanding of the story.

The children planned to make these drawings come to life, and to collect natural materials to create their own ‘stick man’. Before heading off to the forest, there was a class discussion about the kinds of things that would be needed.

These were some of the children’s ideas:

‘We need long sticks to make the daddy, small sticks for the children and middle size sticks for the mummy’

‘We need a big stick to make a family home’.

After a successful time in the forest gathering all they needed, the children then made their own individual members of the stick family, adding detail such as eyes, hair and hats.

These explorations not only helped children to develop their language and communication skills, but also evolved into mathematical thinking, as the children counted and compared the lengths of the sticks as needed.

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June 23, 2014
by Andrea Mills
2 Comments

Early Years Bike Day

 

The Early Years classes have been inquiring into different forms of transport found in our community. In PE, we have been exploring the different ways we can move our bodies and build our physical abilities. These two units provided the perfect opportunity to further our understandings with a fun-filled “Bike Day” event at school last week.

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Everyone brought “wheels” to school

The children were invited to bring their “wheels” to school. Students arrived with bicycles, tricycles, scooters and other child- powered transport. We brainstormed together ways to set up our outdoor space so that we could participate joyfully and safely. We agreed that traffic should flow in the same direction and a group of EY2 students and teachers marked the bike path with sidewalk chalk. We also included a refuelling station, bike decorating table and “Bike Wash” to the space.

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Adding streamers to make our bikes festive

Naturally, this was a very physical day and provided many opportunities to build gross motor ability, spatial awareness skills and to engage in a healthy and fun activity. The experience of collaborating together to make a big event like Bike Day happen successfully also enabled the children to use and develop many other skills. As children negotiated about sharing space, they were building their repertoires of social skills including concepts like working together, compromising and listening to the ideas of others. There were countless language opportunities as children engaged in rich dialogue about their experiences including specialised transport vocabulary.

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Getting just the right balance

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We all wore helmets for safety

Complex, meaningful opportunities to engage in multi-layered learning like the many components of Bike Day,  fosters children’s social, emotional and physical development. Here are some of the students’ reflections on the experience:

Alex- “I liked racing with my friends”.

Ffion- “It was fun. I could go fast on my bike”.

Nicolas- “I could ride my bike on the gravel with my friends”.

Letizia – “The part that I liked was when I ride my bike, cleaned it and got gass”.

Oliver – “My bike I have cleaned, then again and again. I get my bike dirty”.

Pippa – “I liked that Letizia gave me her bike. I liked to ride her bike because mine was too hard. I washed Letizia’s bike”.

Charles – “On the bike Diego he play with me. He love me. Chloé hugged me. Chloé hold the scooter for me. She played with me”.

Mats – “Bike Day was the best day ever! I want to do it every day”.

Villum – “I think I will bring my bike again tomorrow. I think Mr. Moynihan will let me”.

Drew- “I liked sharing bikes with William”.

Amanda- “Me and Gushi went really fast on our scooters”.

Kirsty- “I liked it when Lilly cycled on Clara’s two wheeler even though she thought she couldn’t”.

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P1240137EY1 students at the Bike Wash

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Bike Day was a special event to share with friends

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Moving our bodies makes us feel joyful and healthy 

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Preparing  to ride

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Enjoying our bikes together with teachers

Photographs by the ICS EY Teachers

June 4, 2014
by Andrea Mills
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EY2 and Grade 10 Share Outdoor Learning Experiences

The Early Years classes have been exploring the different ways our bodies can move with the central idea that, “Through a range of physical activities we are able to explore our body’s capacity for movement”.

The children have been involved in many different movement activities including sliding down both snowy and grassy hills, balancing activities, animal charades, scooters and much more.

Recently, Mr. Febrey and the grade 10 students supported our inquiry by inviting some EY2 students to participate in a series of outdoor obstacle course activities. This multi-age collaboration proved to be a delightful and enriching experience for the whole community. The older students patiently and carefully explained and supported the Early Years children as they were invited to climb through hoops, balance across ropes, navigate a path with a blindfold and play jungle animal games.

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Finding the way with a blindfold

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The older students patiently explained the activities to eager EY children.

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Climbing through hoops was a fun challenge.

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We all took a turn.

The older students, younger children as well as the teachers have enjoyed spending time learning from and with each other. We are fortunate to have such a bucolic natural learning space easily accessible to school. Our forest provides endless opportunities for children to develop physical capabilities as well as instill a sense of wonder.

May 6, 2014
by aislingabroderick
1 Comment

The Underground Hero

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“Superworm is super-long,
Superworm is super-strong.
Watch him wiggle! See him squirm
Hip, hip hooray for SUPERWORM!”

Superworm, by Julia Donaldson

One crisp Spring morning as the children were putting on their outdoor clothes to go and do some weeding in the communal EY2 garden patch we let them know that instead of weeding we would be collecting underground superheroes for our outside plant pots as the flowers were looking as if they needed saving.
The children’s attention was immediately piqued and as their interest grew questions flew as to whether it would be Spiderman or Batman who was going to swoop in and rescue our flailing flowers.
We explained that the superheroes that we would be collecting would be worms. These champions spend all their time busily underground tunneling through the earth making channels for water and roots to pass through as well as cleaning the soil.
Off we set with our magnifying jars to the garden. There the children spent a blissful time digging through the earth with their trowels and their hands putting their faces to the soil to see if they could get a closer look for the elusive worms. As they dug deeper into the earth and their excitement heightened the worms obliged and wriggled one by one to the surface to a chorus of delight. Each one was examined in the magnifying jars. “They have no mouths” said Amanda. “Where are their eyes, how do they see in the dark?” asked Drew. The children had so many questions. “This one is the biggest superhero, he will make the flowers really good” said William. “It’s their poo that cleans the soil” said a very well informed Joao.
The children collected many worms popping each into their magnifying jars whilst marveling and comparing the diversity of each worm that squirmed and twisted out of the ground. “How many worms are there in the ground?” asked Sophie. “I have a whole family of worms all different shapes and sizes” said Lilly.
Walking back to the school the children cautiously carried their superheroes, they eagerly dug holes in their outside flower pots and amid some gasps they dropped the worms in the pots and covered them over in soil.
Our children have become captivated by worms and their super powers which has led us down a whole new path of inquiry. In a world where children are bombarded by plastic superheroes with unrealistic powers it is a reminder to us all that one of the greatest natural superheroes is constantly wriggling beneath our feet.

A Tiny Shoot of Joy

May 1, 2014 by aislingabroderick | 0 comments

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“As children observe, reflect, record, and share nature’s patterns and rhythms, they are participating in a process that promotes scientific and ecological awareness, problem solving, and creativity.”
Deb Matthews Hensley, Early Childhood Consultant

Eagerly we had been watching the weather and waiting for the slightest hint that winter was on the turn. We decided the time was right to start talking to the children about our new impending season and all its wonderful attributes. Spring had not yet sprung but was slowly opening one eye and deliberating whether or not to turn over and have one last nap, buds had begun poking up from the ground, worms were wriggling to the surface and snails had commenced slithering across the leaves.

In EY2 we had decided that we were going to become gardeners this spring and summer. This was a collective decision that was originally initiated by William one very cold and snowy Wednesday in January. We were walking past the school’s garden which was covered in a thick layer of snow and he asked if we could grow strawberries as they were his favourite thing to eat and he never got them when it was winter. The children then started a discussion about what they would like to grow which included Sophie who wanted to grow Broccoli and Amanda who wanted to grow pineapples.

The children were given a choice of vegetables that we could grow and would be ready before the end of the school year, they chose broccoli and lettuce. In small groups the children worked together to put some soil in their propagation pots. They gently placed their seeds questioning when they would begin to grow and how long it would take before we would be eating the broccoli. They covered the seeds with soil and patted them down, Ansh said “Goodnight seeds”. Gustavo looked at the sky and asked the sun to help the seeds grow. The children took turns to water their pots and then we put them in our window.  Our children being so naturally inquisitive checked the pots hourly but it was a whole three days before eagle eyed Joao shrieked in delight at the discovery of some shoots in our propagation pots. This was the commencement of the children’s journey into the magical world of plants, what joy there was in our classroom as we gathered round to look and gasp in amazement at these green shoots in their tiny pots.  The children are learning through experience they are sharing their planet with many living and growing things.

 

March 3, 2014
by Rebecca Smith
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Waldkinder: Explorations in the Forest

 

Each week we visit the forest by our school for our Waldkinder, or ‘forest children’ explorations.

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This week it felt as if the winter had melted away. We spent a perfect morning exploring an area of the forest that we had not visited before. There were tall trees and a rushing stream. The children experimented with ‘force’ by floating leaves and holding sticks in the flowing water. We collected big sticks and worked together to carry them. We dragged the sticks through the squelchy mud to make marks. 

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Some children recalled previous experiences that we’ve had in the forest. They collected sticks and built ‘fires’.

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In our ‘Sharing The Planet’ Unit of Inquiry we are wondering about how animals and humans interact. On this day we searched for animals and insects in the forest. We found some earthworms in the soil by the stream. We are now planning to research to find out more about worms.

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Photographs by Rebecca Smith (ICS EY1 Teacher)

 

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

Wald photos for blog post

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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
0 comments

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 14, 2013
by Rebecca Smith
0 comments

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)

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