ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

June 25, 2015
by Andrea Mills
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Arts Fest: Exploring our Group Identity, Creating and Exploring with Found Natural Materials


The forest is a special place which has become deeply rooted in the identity of the Early Years Centre learning community. Each class spends weekly time dedicated to exploring the outdoor environment where children are able to learn with and through nature.

The focus of the school wide Arts Fest this year, “Collabor-Art” was an opportunity to work together across the Early Years Centre with children, teachers, as well as the grade eleven students who supported us with the documentation of these experiences.

Our aim was to explore the sharing of thinking that the children have around the time that they spend in the forest. We took time to listen and to identify their emotions, as well as observe their explorations while engaged in outdoor experiences. There was much dialogue during forest encounters as well as connections made through reflections back at the classroom.


Some children reflected on how they might feel in the forest while others considered the types of sounds they might experience.

Masha: “I heard birds, maybe little birds”

Jake: “Peeping and clacking”.

Naomika: “Sounds like different kinds of birds. Yeah, I hear, one goes, cheep, cheep, one goes cheap tweet tweet. Like a blackbird, a crow, a woodpecker”.

Eleonore: “We could make a nest for the birds. They’re chirping”.

Izumi: “I feel happy (in the forest) because it’s dark and we can play there”.


The auditory component of the forest environment emerged as an important theme for many of the children. Some groups visited the forest in different types of weather to observe and experience how rain, wind and other natural forces might effect the way the forest sounds. The grade eleven students recorded and videoed these observations.

Children also reflected on how they like to spend time in the forest.

Alex: “Building dinosaur dens with my friends and also balancing on the big log and jumping from the log. I also liked when we built a bridge on the stream”.

Adeline: “I like building little tents so we can have our snacks inside it. It’s so fun to carry the big heavy sticks to build the big tent”.

Oliver: “I like building a tent and also a bridge on the stream. I like to make a rainbow with sticks in the forest”.

The children’s comments expressed their clear ideas about how they like to make choices about spending time in the forest. They demonstrated strong understandings of opportunities in the forest setting as well as a sense of personal agency.


The multi-sensory and beautiful woodland setting inspires a sense of wonder and creativity. During our visits leading up to the arts days, we listened for the rich dialogue, meaning making and theory building of the children.

Charles: “My boots can stick on the surface (of the wet, squelchy mud)”.

Wille: “There is a baby goat near my home. I’ll feed him with these flowers (indicating the dandelions and buttercups he has picked)”.

Lily: “These flowers are for my clay forest. The purple are the most beautiful ones because they love the sun. They love everything. Can we bring clay to the forest? I want to make my clay forest now. Look how many flowers I have! It’s going to be a true forest”.


As a teaching team, we spent time considering our observations and discussing how we could re-propose what we had seen in the forest back to the children upon their return to school.  We had noticed previously how the children enjoyed bringing  items back from the forest and placing them in the courtyard.  Taking this interest in mind, wooden boxes were provided, and we invited the children to leave their forest treasures with the growing collection of natural materials following each forest visit. Soon we had abundant pinecones, grasses, rocks and sticks of all shapes and sizes.

Creating Day

The re-proposing of the interests that the children had demonstrated in the forest provided an opportunity for the creation of art installations reflecting our connection with the forest. The Early Years Centre classes collaborated with some Grade 11 students, who documented the process with technology, including stop motion video of two installations, a slide show of a photo compilation and a film.



Password: ArtsFest

Key Points of Interest

In the forest, we observed that some key points of interest emerged. The children engaged in wrapping, threading, creating designs/structures and noticing details in different ways. The invitations to revisit these themes in a different context back at school provided the children with opportunities to build on their ideas and create deeper shared understandings. There was a sense of synergy as the group collectively worked toward larger creative goals connected to our group identity.


Celebrating our Work and Identity with Families

After the Creating Days, the children were highly motivated to share about their experiences. We invited families to a special evening of forest inspired installations as well as a walking visit to our forest space. The classes prepared delicious snacks including guacamole, homemade bread, fruit kebabs and more. We noticed a pride and commitment to describing the project and the ways the art and forest were present throughout the Early Years Centre.  The children eagerly showed their families around our shared spaces and it was a beautiful evening of shared connection built around the children’s work and our identity as a community.


Text by Andrea Mills

Photos by Rebecca Smith, The Early Years Centre team and ICS Grade 11 students

Videos by ICS Grade 11 students

October 25, 2013
by tanyafink
1 Comment

Nurturing friendships across the Kindergarten community

The mysterious arrival of a bag of dress up clothes sparked many questions and conversations in KTF. Where did the clothes come from and how did they get here? The children were excited by the newfound treasures and quickly began integrating the costumes into their imaginative play. Kings, queens, princes and princesses were a popular focus that inspired Morgan’s idea of having a royal ball. Her excitement and commitment to the “Royal Ball” created an infectious buzz and excitement in the classroom.


The experience of working collaboratively to plan a ball was a natural fit to build on our inquiry into how ‘friendships enrich our lives and require nurturing to develop’. As a class, we brainstormed how we could share the experience with others. We decided to invite all of our kindergarten friends to the ball, and with teacher support with this literacy component, set to work writing invitations.


Morgan shared a special book from home about manners, ‘Tea for Ruby’ by Sarah Ferguson.  In the story, a little girl is invited to have tea with the ‘Queen’. This helped us build understandings about the impact of positive behaviour and the importance of using our best manners to make the ball an enjoyable experience for both ourselves and our friends.

tea for ruby

No party would be complete without a tasty treat. In small groups, students followed a recipe to create delicious cookies and cupcakes. This experience was designed to build mathematics skills such as counting, using one-to-one correspondence, number recognition and measurement.


The children also worked hard to make the classroom a welcoming space by designing ring chains in simple patterns and hanging child- made artwork.




Finally the special day arrived! We emptied the dress-up box and put on our finest costumes. The ball began with nervous excitement as we nibbled on cupcakes and greeted our friends.  After the music began though, the kindergartners showed off their best dancing skills and smiles filled the room. The dancing finished with a game of musical chairs that focused on cooperation and friendship.  In the spirit of the celebration, we embraced a twist on the conventional game rules and asked that in order to remain in the game, children had to share their chairs. Everyone was eager to work together and more often than not, empty chairs remained as the students creatively found ways to add more friends to a single chair.



The ball concluded with a short song which was written and performed by Morgan, in which she thanked her friends for attending. The song was another example of connecting our learning back to the importance of friendship. The success of this project was a testament to the power of child- directed learning. What began with the addition of some interesting dress-up clothes, ended up providing a unique opportunity for an individual student to take on a leadership role in organizing a multi-class event which integrated countless opportunities for transdisciplinary learning.


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