Each week we visit the forest by our school for our Waldkinder, or ‘forest children’ explorations.
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.
Some children recalled previous experiences that we’ve had in the forest. They collected sticks and built ‘fires’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Children are naturally curious about their world. They wonder, question, discuss and make discoveries. We felt that water beads would be an ideal way to provide our little scientists with an opportunity for discovery.
We began our experiment by placing a handful of small water beads into a large bowl. We then asked the children to predict what would happen if we added water to the bowl.
We had some interesting predictions.
Walker: “They will change colour.” Nicolas: “They will stay the same.” Annabel: “They will get mashed up.” Ffion: “It will sink.” Karson: “They will just roll in the water.”
After a couple of hours the children noticed that the water level was decreasing as the size of the beads were increasing.
Edward: “I wonder what will happen to it tomorrow when we come back to school”. Alexander: “They will explode.” Wren: “No they will get bigger and bigger.”
The next morning, we placed the beads on our table for the children to explore. It was interesting to listen to them describe how the beads felt to each other.
These are some of their observations:
Noemie: “It feels squishy.” Anika: “It feels soft.” Wren: “I think it feels slimy.” Nicolas: “It feels a little bit funny and gloopy.”
Using mathematical language as they make patterns and discuss about the shape of the beads.
Handling beads helps develop fine motor skills. Using pincers to pick up the beads helps develop hand eye coordination.
Water beads promote learning and development in a number of ways: from fine motor and sensory skills to science and maths.
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.
(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.
(Networking and sharing teaching practices with colleagues at The International School of Zug and Luzern)
(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.