ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

September 3, 2015
by Rebecca Smith

Building Communities

appleMs. Claire surprised us with an overflowing bag of apples from tree at her house. We presented the apples to the children in a basket in an inviting display. There was much interest and excitement with many children sharing that they found apples delicious to eat. Rebecca shared that she thought this type of apple was meant for baking because they were sour, but the children had another idea. ​Lance offered, “I want some bitter. I like it!”

These exchanges became a perfect connection to our Who We Are unit of inquiry as we explore the idea that by sharing experiences within our community we can learn about ourselves and others.

The teachers agreed that the children could taste the apples and decide for themselves. We feel that children should know that an exchange of viewpoints is highly valued in our context. We asked who wanted to be a taste-tester, and proposed that the children calculate how many slices would be needed. MA counted “1-2-3-4-5″ taste-testers volunteered. There was some negotiation while the teacher began to cut an apple, first in half. Jack noticed that, “We need(ed) to make them (the slices) littler,” anticipating that by cutting the apple only in half, we would not have enough slices for one for each of the taste-testers. The group agreed that five slices per apple would be enough and we cut as the children had suggested. 

The Taste-Testing

The children shared their different reactions to the tasting.

Jake: “It is yummy!”

Finlay: “Quite sour, but yummy.”

Paolo: “Yummy.”

Lance: “Can I have more because I LOVE it!” 

We noticed that some of the children’s words of praise for the sour apple taste differed from their facial expressions.


Rebecca proposed that we might use the apples for some cooking and the children enthusiastically agreed. We wondered where we might find a recipe and we organised a trip to the library to find some cookbooks. Andrea, Lance, Finlay, Eleonore and Clara met with Ms. Jayne who gave us a tour of the library and specifically where we could find what we needed. We noticed that there were different types of pies we might bake and took a selection of books with different recipes. The children promised Ms. Jayne that we would return with a slice of pie to share with her.

We shared the recipes during meeting time. Sanela helped us to make a list in German of the needed ingredients, using German for a meaningful purpose.

Apple Pie Ingredients/Apfelkuchen Zutaten

Pastry/Teig, Apples/Äpfel, Marmalade/Konfitüre, Brown Sugar/Rohrzucker, Honey/Honig, Cinnamon/Zimt and Lemon/Zitrone

The children graphically represented the ingredients needed for the recipe.

We also read a book called Apple by Nikki McClure​, following the life of an apple and exploring the cyclical patterns in nature. We will explore these ideas further in the context of local harvest in our own community, with a visit to an apple tree in Maxi’s Opa’s garden.


Cooking Day

Eleonore, Clara, Lance, Owen, Albert, Smilla and Mathilda met in the kitchen to prepare for baking the pie. First we used the apple peelers to prepare the apples with much discussion about safety. The children were careful to hold the peelers in the correct direction. We washed the apples and measured the ingredients. Some children helped with poking holes in the pie crust. We read to find out how long we had to wait for the pie to cook. Elena helped by setting a timer and joyfully informed us when the bell sounded.  The entire EYC enjoyed the smell of the pie baking.

We shared the final product with the children and teachers in the Early Years Centre. Here are some of their reflections:

Lance: “A bit burnt smelt pizza. Tasted good.”

Owen: “It was crunchy, tasty crunchy.”

Jake: It will taste really yummy. It did yummy.”

Maxi: “I thought it was good.”

Ellen: “It was tasty and yummy.

Kasper: “It was delicious and smelled really good.”

MA: “I like the crusty thing.”

Elena and Owen: “Apple and crusty and inside.”


A Visit to Opa’s Garden

Maxi’s Opa maintains a beautiful plot in the local community garden. We were fortunate to be invited for a visit. We tasted tomatoes, dug for potatoes and cut lettuce and kale. The children were highly engaged with the environment, each other as well as Maxi’s grandparents. 


Lance: “It’s a cool garden. Look at those growing things. Mine (a tomato) is tasty and juicy.”

Elena: “I saw one (a potato)! It’s there. That’s a big one.”

Paolo: “Una potato.

Zeena: “I got some fresh potato today.”

Izumi: “I found a baby potato. Someone nibbled it! The bees are sucking pollen.”

KA: “I see a green tomato. When its green it’s not ready.”

Aaron: “Those worms are good for the plants.”

gardenThese encounters represented the meaningful ways that children can drive their own learning. As we shared experiences around the apples, there were abundant opportunities for rich learning connected to our unit. Children needed to integrate mathematical thinking for a purpose as they predicted, calculated and compared during the tasting and cooking. Literacy was valued in a real life context as the children were motivated to write for a purpose. Communication skills like listening and speaking were required and valued for participation. These experiences were a beautiful platform to develop the children’s sense of themselves in our group, their place and the reasons why particular places are important to people.

Photographs by Rebecca Smith – ICS Early Years Teacher

October 29, 2013
by Rebecca Smith

A Field Trip to the Jucker Farm


The Early Years children along with their teachers and some parent volunteers visited the Jucker Farm on a field trip. Each year the farm displays sculptures made from pumpkins. This year the exhibition’s theme was “Fairytales”. The children were delighted to see some pumpkin sculptures of kings, queens, knights on horseback and a giant frog prince wearing a golden crown.


On display were some impressively carved pumpkins which made funny and scary faces, and some HUGE pumpkins that were almost as big as we were in size.


The trip was an opportunity for the children to explore and participate in a Swiss community activity. It also helped for the children to form understandings related to our ‘Who We Are’ Unit of Inquiry, in which the children are exploring about how we can learn about ourselves through shared experiences with others.

The children had a wonderful time climbing hay bales, pretending to drive the tractor and visiting the goats in the animal petting area.


We shared a snack of fresh apples, cider and roasted pumpkin seeds from the farm, while taking in the beautiful view of the lake and mountains.


After our snack each child chose a small pumpkin to take back to school. This was not an easy task as there were so many pumpkins to choose from all differing in shape, size, colour and texture. As a group we chose one large pumpkin to turn into a Jack-o-Lantern for our Halloween celebrations for the coming week.


Above photos by Rebecca Smith (ICS EY Teacher)

photo ey2 3 photo ey2 farm                                 055


May 29, 2013
by Andrea Mills

A Trip to the Zoo, Using our Senses to Learn about the World

Spotting colourful animals using our sense of sight!

Spotting colourful animals using our sense of sight!

We have been exploring the five senses as part of our PYP unit of inquiry, ‘Who We Are’. We have been thinking about the Central Idea, “We use our bodies to learn about the world”.  As a learning community, we have been inquiring into how our senses help us to learn.  We wanted to take our ideas about how our senses and bodies work beyond the classroom and out into the real world of the Zurich Zoo (http://www.zoo.ch/.)

The children had a lot of background knowledge about the five senses before our trip.  Our inquiries have already led to many discoveries through learning experiences in the classroom like creating a Senses Courtyard Garden, Taste Testing, Sensory Explorations and much more. Many children had also been to the zoo previously with their families and friends. We wondered what new connections the children would make in the context of our unit.

Looking for animals at the zoo (sense of sight.)

Looking for animals at the zoo (sense of sight.)

Observing and listening at the Orangutan Enclosure.

Observing and listening at the Orangutan Enclosure.

Vera listening to the otters communicating with each other (sense of hearing.)

Vera listening to the otters communicating with each other (sense of hearing.)

A station to listen (sense of hearing) to the different roars of lions.

A station to listen (sense of hearing) to the different roars of lions.

Sense of touch was active when petting the baby goats.

Sense of touch was active when petting the baby goats.

The children were asked to consider how their senses helped them to learn about the animals and other experiences at the zoo. These are some of the children’s reflections:

Vera- “I did hear the penguin. I heard him in the water. Bloop Bloop Bloop. Like that”.

Hugo- “I heared (point to ear) the elephants before see them”.

Natalia- “I saw the zebras with my eyes. I smelled the poo of the goats but I heared them and I liked the way they felt, soft”.

Zara- “When I saw some elephants, I learned they looked funny, especially their bottoms. I used my eyes to learn that because I had to look at them”.

Noa- “I liked the orang-utans. (They used their) hands and sense of touch to hang. They taste and (were) eating tomatoes and grass from the tree.” 

Maya – “I liked it when we had ice cream and we were using (our) sense of taste.”

Tommaso – “I liked it when we pat the goat and gave them food. We used our sense of touch.”

Maxi V B – “I liked when we saw the monkeys. They were using their hands and feet. They were using sense of touch.”

We were lucky with a beautiful sunny day for our journey and the weather surely contributed to the already sensory- rich excursion. We were happy to share this experience with parent helpers, who actively engaged with the children by using  vocabulary connected to our Senses Unit and supporting their learning with rich conversations about the animals, playgrounds and other learning opportunities at the zoo.

We look forward to sharing ways we will build on the children’s understandings from this trip back in the classroom.

Elephants are loud and smelly!! (Senses of hearing and smell were active.)

Elephants are loud and smelly!! (Senses of hearing and smell were active.)

At the Hippo Enclosure we could touch to feel replicated skin samples.

At the Hippo Enclosure we could touch to feel replicated skin samples.


Enjoying the taste of an ice cream at the end of the day at the zoo.

Enjoying the taste of an ice cream at the end of the day at the zoo.

This experience was documented with photos in collaboration with my teaching partner Rebecca Smith.

March 8, 2013
by Andrea Mills

A Trip to the Theatre

As part of our Unit Of Inquiry, “How We Express Ourselves”, EY2 is exploring stories. We had a wonderful opportunity to take the learning outside of the classroom and experience a live performance in a theatre.

On a chilly February day, we ventured out to the Forchbahn for the journey to Hechtplatz in Zurich for a performance of “Pippi in Takka Tukka Land”.  As we left school, the children excitedly told everyone we met, “We’re going to the theatre”! Each child came with different background knowledge about what a stage performance might be like. For some, it was a unique experience and for others a more familiar one. The children shared their expectations and thoughts.

The entire experience was exciting and significant, from waiting in line with our tickets, sitting in our seats with programs and waiting for the lights to dim. The performance was in Swiss German dialect yet most had no trouble following the plot. Back in the classroom the next day, we drew our reflections from the show. It was interesting to note what was memorable for different children.

As we hoped, this trip was a successful addition to our unit. The children visibly built their understanding of another medium to tell a story through dramatization. Perhaps equally meaningful was the shared experience of this special event beyond the classroom walls. Sharing the journey and the performance as an EY2 group meant that the children could benefit from conversations and interactions with each other, which helped to construct more sophisticated understandings. The children and their teachers will have memories of a beautiful afternoon spent together sharing a meaningful experience, which ultimately enriches our learning community.

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