ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

October 20, 2014
by Rajeshree Rao
0 comments

Developing Language and Mathematical Skills using Stories

IMG_2857

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.

IMG_1483  IMG_1457  IMG_0949  IMG_1545  IMG_1560  IMG_2016

IMG_1948  IMG_1868  IMG_1930  IMG_2052  IMG_1533  IMG_2038

August 29, 2014
by Rebecca Smith
1 Comment

A Special and Safe Space

We are now in our second week together for the school year. The first few mornings in EYRS1 have been full of excitement, trepidation, joy and fun!

It can also feel a little daunting for the children as they find themselves in unfamiliar environments, encountering different materials, interacting with new classmates and learning about new routines. The teachers are focused on helping the children through this period of transition so that they may settle happily into EY1 life.

We have observed the EY1 children finding their own special items and safe places within these new spaces.

P1260102 P1260103

A special item from home, such as mummy’s scarf, encourages children feel safe and helps them to settle in. 

P1260108 P1260125P1260136 P1260148P1260210

Feeling hidden behind a (see through) barrier can be a comfort.P1260101P1260097

A safe place can be on someone’s lap or sitting snuggled in next to friends.

Examples of special and safe spaces for play and learning in the outdoor environment

P1220260

Forts can provide a cozy respite from the busy activity and routine of life in the Early Years.

P1220252 P1220258 P1220262

As teachers, we spend a lot of time thinking about and developing optimal learning environments. In a continuous effort to respond to children’s social, emotional and cognitive needs, we strive to actively create safe, inspirational and thoughtful spaces. We look forward to getting to know this group of learners and collaboratively developing spaces that support both individual and group needs for this unique learning community.

(Fort images from last years EY1 class, 2013-14)

Photographs by Rebecca Smith, ICS Early Years Teacher

May 12, 2014
by Rajeshree Rao
2 Comments

Exploring Wood Work with Early Years Children

As part of our transdisciplinary unit, How We Express Ourselves, we have been inquiring into ways we can communicate our ideas and feelings through play. The children have been building their understanding, through many exciting experiences and interactions with each other.

In EY2 RR the children enjoy construction activities and can be engaged in this for long periods of time. For the last few weeks the children have been working with wood, which has enabled them to communicate their ideas and enhance their creativity.

We initially set out pre-cut wood shapes, glue and toy tools as provocation for the children to discover what each tool could be used for and how they could manipulate them. The children visited the school’s tool room where the caretakers explained the safe use of the tools and let them have some pre-cut wood pieces.

083

raj8

132

The children’s ideas were amazing. They varied from helicopters to tables, chairs and many more wonderful three dimensional creations.

003

090

005

Once the children were comfortable using these toy tools, we brought in real tools such as a hammer, nails, a drill, a screw driver and some balsam wood. The children were able to explore these with adult supervision.

102   112

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

183        166

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

165           201

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the children had explored the tools, these were their comments:

  • Walker: “I liked using the real tools because it was fun. When I used the drill I could see it made a hole and I liked pulling the nails out with the pliers.”
  • Wren: “I liked using the real screwdriver. I got to twist with it and I like twisting. I liked listening to the sound the real instruments make.”
  • Nicolas: “It was more fun using the real tools. It made me feel like a big boy. I liked using the drill because it made holes and I could put a screw in and then use the screw driver”.
  • Amy: “I liked banging the nails and using the drill to make holes. With the toy tools we had to use the glue to stick the wood together but now we used nails and screws”.
  • Annabel: “I liked the real drill because I could turn it round and round and it made a hole in the wood. With the pliers we could pull out the nails”.
  • Ffion: “With the drill we could make holes in the wood and with the screw driver we could make the screws tight in the holes. I liked to hammer the nails into the wood”.
  • Noemie: “I liked to make holes and put nails in”.

Woodwork provided a unique learning experience which the children really enjoyed. This activity required their full engagement and concentration over a period of time. It helped in developing their creative thinking, maths skills, hand-eye coordination, language and vocabulary.

 

 

A Tiny Shoot of Joy

May 1, 2014 by aislingabroderick | 0 comments

image

“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.

 

April 4, 2014
by Rebecca Smith
4 Comments

Exploring Measurement in Nature

sticks 1Stick 3 2

Collecting and playing with sticks is invariably a favourite pastime for the children in EY. The teacher used this natural curiosity and affinity to invite the children to explore and explain their understandings related to the mathematical concept of ‘Measurement’.

During a Waldkinder session the teacher invited the EY1 children to each collect a stick. A challenge was then posed:

‘Can we arrange the sticks in order from longest to shortest?’

This task offered the children the opportunity to identify items that can be measured. They were able to listen to the ideas of others and develop their own understanding of how measurement involves the comparison and ordering of objects. We observed as the children worked with excited enthusiasm collaborating with each other to identify, compare and describe attributes of these real objects to complete the challenge.

Stick 4 (2nd)P1170913Stick 5 (2nd) P1170916

Photographs by Rebecca Smith (EY Teacher ICS)

March 31, 2014
by Rebecca Smith
0 comments

Early Years Mud Kitchen

P1180313

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.

P1180223 P1180260

“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

P1180174P1180138 P1180249 P1180265

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.

1908287_10152047895945897_2036531371_n

 

Herbs planted by EY2 FA.

Photographs by Rebecca Smith (EY Teacher ICS)

March 26, 2014
by Heidi Harman
0 comments

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

031

008

029

Photos by Heidi Harman

March 17, 2014
by Heidi Harman
0 comments

A Class Inquiry into Dinosaurs and Fossils

When a child in our class (EY2HH) drew a picture of dinosaurs alongside some fossils, it sparked a new inquiry for us. As he showed his friends his drawing, some were curious about fossils and there was much interest in finding out more about them. We visited Ms. Judith in the library and she helped us to find non-fiction books about fossils (and dinosaurs).

We felt inspired to try to make our own fossils! We made some salt dough and pressed our small dinosaur/ animal/ insect figurines into the soft dough to make an imprint. We then baked the salt dough in the oven until it was hard like stone and the imprint looked like a fossil. We liked to trick visitors to our classroom into believing we had found real fossils while outside during one of our Waldkinder outdoor learning sessions!

019  044

After doing some research and learning more about dinosaurs and how they once lived, we set up an area in our classroom to recreate dinosaur habitats.

008 049

050 043

We thought carefully about which dinosaurs preferred to live together and which liked to be alone. We considered the various types of food the dinosaurs liked to eat and we used play dough to represent some of these foods.

We also used play dough to make dinosaur eggs, but these were too soft and kept getting squashed flat, so we discussed what other materials we could use to construct eggs, which were more life-like. We decided to use a sticky mixture of mud, salt, sand and water. We moulded the sticky mud mixture around our toy baby dinosaurs until they were completely hidden and then we let the ‘eggs‘ dry and become hard. We thought that these eggs looked quite realistic and after a few days we wanted our baby dinosaurs to hatch. Some eggs cracked open easily while others needed tools to help break them open.

053 064

048 061

One of the children took action with her learning and continued with our inquiry at home. She bought a ‘real‘ dinosaur egg from the shops, placed it in water and, after a few days, the egg cracked and the dinosaur hatched out! We were kept updated with the egg‘s progress with photographs and the baby dinosaur was also brought to school once it had finally hatched.

 017

033

This personal inquiry has tied in perfectly with our year-long unit of inquiry, Sharing the Planet, where we are learning about animals, habitats, relationships, characteristics, need and interactions.

Photos by Heidi Harman

 

February 11, 2014
by Rebecca Smith
0 comments

Invitations to Play that Encourage Cooperation

playdough for blog

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

tea party blog

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

December 3, 2013
by Andrea Mills
0 comments

Teachers as Learners

Recently, two of our Early Years teachers spent time learning, exploring and inquiring into our teaching and learning practices with Kath Murdoch in London. Kath is an international presenter and expert in inquiry -based learning and integrative curriculum. (More about Kath here: http://kathmurdoch.com.au/index.php?id=22)

‘Pedagogy should, at its best, be about what teachers do that not only helps students to learn but actively strengthens their capacity to learn.’

David Hargreaves, Learning for Life, 2004

It was impossible to spend time in her presence without feeling inspired and motivated to reflect on our teaching practices and consider the powerful role inquiry plays in learning.IMG_0582

(Inquiry Based Learning with Kath Murdoch)

Professional learning for staff at ICS takes many forms, including formal courses and workshops or online classes, school visits and partnerships with other nearby international schools, staff meetings, readings and professional dialogues. All teachers in the Early Years team make time to invest in this kind of professional development. Just as the children in our care are on a learning journey, we teachers strive to keep an open mind, reflecting consistently on our practice and building our understandings of teaching and learning.

In the past year, several teachers spent time in the Italian town of Reggio Emilia, learning about their world-renowned approach to early learning. Others have attended PYP courses and a workshop about outdoor learning led by an expert in the field.  Additionally, we have ongoing in-house professional development where we share with each other on a variety of topics.

image-2

(Networking and sharing teaching practices with colleagues at The International School of Zug and Luzern)

387370_10150384066220897_1861652932_n

(All of the Early Years teachers have had the exciting and rewarding opportunity to participate in Study Groups at the world- renowned preschools and kindergartens of Reggio Emilia)

Opportunities to dedicate time and space to professional learning and reflecting as teacher learners are invaluable to improving our practices as well as strengthening our learning communities. Life- long learning is a model we embrace and whatever the professional development opportunity, we invariably return back to the classroom motivated to integrate new ideas and build on current practices.

Skip to toolbar