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
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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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October 14, 2014
by Andrea Mills
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Listening and Wondering on a Sound Walk

Music is a source of great joy, inspiration and learning opportunity in the Early Years. Integrated music enables our students to experience  music as an integral component of many aspects of our program. We have been learning new songs, engaging in rhythm games and exploring the different sounds instruments can make.

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During a class meeting, we wondered together if we could hear sounds better if we made our ears larger.

Recently, we have been inquiring into the sounds the children may encounter as part of daily life as well as reflecting on the many places we experience music. During a group meeting, children shared ideas and music memories.

Aaron “I heard music at a parade. It had these funny like armies. They had mud over their clothes. They were like funny music”.

Melvin“At my house we got a CD players with songs from Cars”.

Lola “When Mommy vacuums, she turns on music to clean my room”.

Izumi“At the circus! The beat was like stop and on”.

Aaron remembered, “at the other campus there was music. When I went downstairs I could hear the beat of music”.

Charli“I saw music in the city and there was a guy waving a big flag and doing tricks. He did it around his back”.

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We listened carefully and shared our ideas.

It became clear that the children had a strong sense of where and how they experienced music outside of school. Many spoke of performances, movies or soundtracks from beloved movies. Children from each class also spoke about sounds they heard outside.

Owen“Airplanes flying are making a noise in the airport like music”.

Thomas“I heard music at a festival in England and there were tents and wooden houses and there was music and other noises”.

The children were asked to consider if all sounds are music. There were many different ideas and as the teacher, I proposed we take a “Sound Walk” to the forest. The children were enthusiastic and we set off to discover the sounds of the outdoors. We discussed what might help us to hear better, including closing our eyes to focus on the sounds and making our ears “bigger” by adding a hand to extend size. In the EY1 Sound Walk, Izumi kindly reminded her friends that “if we all just calm down we’ll hear stuff”.

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We set off to the forest to focus on the sounds we hear outdoors.

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We sat together, closed our eyes and noticed that we hear more when we don’t see.

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We all listened for the sounds of the pond.

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Everyone shared his/her ideas about sounds with a friend.

We were astonished to discover how many sounds we heard including funny airplanes, a tractor with a car, cowbells, birds, foxes, a telephone, an airplane, kids, frogs, cars, kling klong sounds, grass, trees, a stream, water, leaves moving, swooshing, rain, dinosaur, bears, foxes and much more. In both groups, there were discussions about real sounds and sounds from our imaginations.

The Sound Walk was a joyful, multi- sensory way to bring our music learning outdoors. As the children focused on forest sounds, they developed listening skills in an environment that naturally cultivates a sense of curiosity and wonder.  Many used sophisticated language as they shared their ideas with friends and teachers. Over the next weeks, the children will be making more connections to our Who We Are Unit of Inquiry with a focus on ways we use our bodies to learn about the world.

June 23, 2014
by Andrea Mills
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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.

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

March 17, 2014
by Heidi Harman
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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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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