ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

February 21, 2017
by Rebecca Smith
6 Comments

Interpretations and Representations of Mushrooms and Fungi found at the Wald

The children visit the forest each week in our Waldkinder sessions. These encounters form the basis for building knowledge and making links to our How the World Works Unit of Inquiry. This is a yearlong unit in which we explore how ‘All living things go through a process of change’.

Through provocations, discussions and experiments we build theories and show our ideas connected to

  • Living things change over time.

  • There are factors that affect life cycles.

  • Ideas and explanations can be communicated in a variety of ways.

The children in EY2RS were fascinated with the mushrooms we found in the forest. The children had many wonderings, and we made plans to explore and learn more about mushrooms. Throughout our inquiry we worked as scientists by closely observing specimens in their natural habitat and a lab setting that we created in the classroom. We consulted many nonfiction books to research and find information to answer some of our questions. When growing our own mushrooms we used scientific and mathematical thinking to record, interpret and compare data. We were artists as we made observational drawings, visual and 3D representations of mushrooms using a range of materials. We were authors and performers when we told, retold and acted out stories about the environment and forest animals. We were architects, engineers and builders when we designed models of mushrooms using the wooden blocks and other construction materials.

Mathematical Thinking

Building experiences to create the forest storytelling light area, and prompts such as constructing 3D representations of mushrooms encouraged the children to explore and develop mathematical understandings. These included recognising that attributes of real objects can be compared and described. We practiced identifying, comparing and describing the attributes of real objects. While building the children compared the length of objects using non-standard units. The children were also encouraged to describe observations about objects in real-life situations.

When growing our own mushrooms the children were encouraged to recognise that information can be obtained in different ways. We collected data and represented this information in a variety of ways, including through pictographs and tally marks. The children described, sorted and labelled real objects by their attributes. These included real mushroom specimens, other objects found in the forest and 3D representations of mushrooms made from clay.

Observational Drawings of Mushrooms found in the forestYodai 

Scientific Thinking 

The children were encouraged to make meaning connected to the Living Things learning outcomes through a number of invitations;

Exploring in the forest during Waldkinder sessions using tools, such as magnifying glasses.

Closely observing specimens in the forest and a research setting to make observational drawings.

Ask questions, inquiring to find answers and devise theories.

By growing our own mushrooms the children were able to recognise and understand about the life cycles of a living thing. They were asked to document how living things change over time, while observing and describe how life cycles can be affected.

To watch the life cycle of the mushroom in real time we conducted an experiment to grow our own and documented the growth and changes over time. The children recognised that information can be obtained in different ways. We held group meetings to discuss our observations and about the ways we could record the data and made a system to show who would be in charge of watering the boxes each day. We created a chart to show this information. Each child made their own Mushroom Journal, which they worked on over the two week period to document, visually through drawings and with simple writing, showing the life cycle of the mushrooms.  

Language Skills

There were many occasions for the children to be readers and develop their reading skills. Opportunities such as listening to stories and reading books invited the children to explore and develop reading skills, such as understanding where one should start reading in printed text. They learned how to handle books, and show an understanding of how a book works, for example, the cover, beginning, directional movement and end.

In German sessions the children were invited to distinguish between pictures and written text. They again, explored how to handle books and revisit the different parts of books in German language. They were encouraged to locate and respond to aspects of interest in self- selected texts (pointing, examining pictures closely, commenting) and show curiosity and ask questions about pictures or text.

Through the learning experiences the children explored how people can express themselves in writing. Opportunities for drawing, identifying and labelling mushrooms encouraged skills such as using their own experience as a stimulus when drawing and “writing.” We asked the children to participate in shared writing sessions, where they were invited to observe the teacher’s writing and making suggestions.

The classroom learning experiences, materials and layout were designed to encourage the children to interact effectively with peers and adults. The children were expected to ask questions of others to learn more or to obtain simple information, to understand simple questions and to respond to these with actions or words. Through meetings and demonstrations the children practiced using gestures, actions, body language and/or words to communicate their needs and to express their ideas. Listening and responding to picture books was a daily choice in our class. The children were invited to share their perspectives by showing pleasure, and demonstrating their understanding through gestures, expression and/or words.  

The children would tell their own stories using words, gestures, and objects/ artefacts, for example, devising forest scene and forest animal stories in the light area, or with the puppets and natural materials. The children could use their mother tongue (with translation, if necessary) to express needs and explain ideas.

Arts Experiences

Throughout this Unit, the arts have been powerful symbolic languages for the children to express their developing ideas and theories. They built understandings by working with a diverse range of creative materials including drawing instruments, paints, clay, blocks, light/shadow table as well as felt and clay. Within the context of the Unit of Inquiry, the children have been supported with developing an understanding that the arts are a means of communication and expression.

October 29, 2014
by Heidi Harman
0 comments

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
0 comments

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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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.

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

April 4, 2014
by Rebecca Smith
4 Comments

Exploring Measurement in Nature

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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.

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Photographs by Rebecca Smith (EY Teacher ICS)

March 31, 2014
by Rebecca Smith
0 comments

Early Years Mud Kitchen

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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.

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“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

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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.

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Herbs planted by EY2 FA.

Photographs by Rebecca Smith (EY Teacher ICS)

December 8, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
0 comments

Exploring Water Beads

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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Using mathematical language as they make patterns and discuss about the shape of the beads.

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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.

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November 7, 2013
by Andrea Mills
0 comments

Joyful Rainy Day Possibilities

Water play is an essential component of a quality Early Years program, offering interesting and dynamic opportunities for learning and interacting. At ICS, we feel strongly it is important to provide children with rich outdoor sensory experiences, in addition to those offered by the conventional classroom water table. Some may be tempted to peek out the window and view today’s rain and wind as a deterrent to the great outdoors. It was inspiring to look at the three years olds in Rebecca Smith’s class, who clearly recognise the possibilities of a rainy morning. P1110055Children develop problem solving skills as they explore concepts like floating and sinking as they build understandings about how and why thing happen.

Some wise person once said, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. We are fortunate that children in our program come prepared for outdoor learning in most weather. Rainy day outdoor water play offers countless learning opportunities without the constraints of space and worries about spills. Young children are natural scientists and explorations in the rain promote an authentic sense of wonder in a unique way that is unmatched by an indoor space. P1110062 Water is an ideal substance to learn about concepts of more/less, empty/full, before/after as well as principles of physics like water force, effects of gravity and much more. Children must utilise complex mathematical/ scientific thinking. P1110056 Water play promotes language development as children learn new vocabulary like funnel, measuring cup, sieve, moisture, etc. They are also actively using language with peers and teachers to make sense of their experience.  P1110044 These children were required to use language abundantly and develop negotiation techniques to navigate complex social situations including sharing space/materials and working together toward common goals and shared ideas. P1110065 The success of these rich, rainy day explorations is clear from the children’s engagement with the materials and each other. We teachers also feel refreshed and inspired after some joyful outdoor learning time.

Photos by Rebecca Smith (ICS EY Teacher)

November 4, 2013
by Heidi Harman
0 comments

Mathematics in the Early Years – Data Handling

In Early Years 2 we are learning that data can be recorded, organised, represented and summarised in a variety of ways to highlight similarities, differences and trends.

After children from the Kindergarten classes visited us to ask us some survey questions, the children in EY2HH felt inspired to create their own surveys. At first our surveys were about favourite foods, just as the Kindergarten surveys had been. Then, after some discussion, we decided to create our own survey relevant to our current Unit of Inquiry, Who We Are. Within this unit we are inquiring into cooperation, fair play, team work and our interactions with others both within our class community and the Early Years community as a whole. We agreed to design a survey about what we like to do with our friends and we chose 4 activities; holding hands with our friends, playing games together, reading books together and fighting / arguing with them We hoped that nobody would say that they liked to fight with their friends! We had a wonderful time visiting the EY1, EY2 and Kindergarten classes to ask them our survey questions. In fact we enjoyed it so much we decided to walk around the whole school and ask whether other teachers and older students would like to complete our survey.

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Back in our classroom we looked at our recorded survey results to see which were the most popular answers and which were the least popular. Thankfully fighting with friends was the least popular answer! Reading with friends was the most popular. We then thought it would be a good idea to ask each other the same questions to see how our class results compared with the others. We discovered our most popular and least popular answers were the same! We then made a graph to represent our results and displayed it on the wall.

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October 10, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
0 comments

Block Play in Early Childhood Development

In our class blocks have been a hotspot of inspiration and learning. Playing with blocks keeps children very engaged and interested. Using blocks creates challenges and repeated use inspires children to be more creative and work on more complex structures.

Through block play children learn:

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(Image sourced from: http://www.stevenscoop.org/news/article/index.aspx?linkid=60&moduleid=39) 

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Ffion, Alex, Walker and Nicolas decided to draw a plan on how to use the blocks to build a train, plane and a castle. In order to put their plan into action, there was a lot of sharing of and building on ideas.

When building with blocks the children are not only using their imagination but are also able to describe and narrate their story.

Here are some of their descriptions:

“A very tall tower for all of us to live in and hide from the baddies.” Karson and Walker
“A scary dinosaur castle and the dinosaurs are looking for children to eat.” Edward
“A castle with wheels.” Alexander
“We can do a train and also a bridge.” Edward, Walker and Nicolas
“A garage for the trains.” Ffion, Anika, Edward

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The range of math skills the children are exploring are: counting, measuring, comparing length and width, names of shapes, and how to combine some geometric shapes to make other shapes. They are even learning the basics of addition when they discover that two short blocks will be the same length as big block.

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“Look Mrs. Rao, if I put two small blocks they are the same as the big one.” Karson

“Two small rectangle blocks are the same as the big rectangle one.” Walker

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“We have 13 blocks and you have more.” Edward.

“I am taller than this tower.” Zane
“I am taller than the tower, but shorter than Zane.” Amy
“I am shorter than the tower. I cannot see Zane.” Annabel

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“Thank you for sharing the blocks with us.” Nicolas

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Children experiment with science concepts such as forces, when they learn how to balance the blocks to avoid their constructions from falling.

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They learn the use of simple machines such as ramps and slides through their buildings.

Here the children are experimenting to discover:

How many blocks until it topples over?

What can we do to make it balance?

What will slide down easily and what will not move when we put it on the ramp?

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Block play encourages healthy social development among children. When groups of children play with blocks together, they learn how to share, cooperate and build on each others ideas.

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