ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

November 7, 2016
by Andrea Mills
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Who We Are: Transdiscliplinary Explorations of Identity, Perspective and Relationship Building

As part of kindergarten’s first unit of inquiry, Who We Are, initial encounters between children and educators, as well as families, began with sharing information about ourselves, developing agreements and spending time together in the spaces of our learning community.

Through a transdisciplinary lens, we have embraced the arts as symbolic languages for children to be creative, collaborate with peers, build and demonstrate conceptual understandings as well as support unit and arts learning outcomes. The Who We Are central idea, Interactions influence our relationships, required thoughtful consideration of meaningful opportunities for children to engage with one another.

Dance, drama, music and visual arts have a long tradition of acting as outlets for personal, collective and historical narratives about different peoples in a broad social context. We felt that collaborative engagement in creative spaces had great potential to draw the kindergarten community together while supporting the concepts and lines of inquiry (People have a responsibility when interacting with others within communities, Connections with the wider community help us learn about each other, Reflection on experiences helps us to understand ourselves and others)  in this unit.

Kinesthetic Identity

Initial learning proposals focused on music and movement. Music representative of the diverse cultural experiences of the children was shared. It became clear that the group felt a strong connection to different types of music through their movements and experienced joy and connection by sharing space in a purposeful kinesthetic way. As an international community the children exchanged stories of how different musical styles were familiar to them. We invited families to share personally significant music as well as research about and listen together to rhythms relevant to the group’s global ties. Music became a way of knowing about each other and our experiences.

As a community we learned about one another’s movement preferences and then developed a word bank of collaboratively generated dance words.screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-09-37-12One parent–a professional ballerina–joined us to help explore the children’s words related to movement. Children demonstrated ways they like to move when alone as well as with friends. A shared movement space provided the opportunity to consider ways our physical interactions influence others. The children often imitated one another and demonstrated joy and respect for different dance styles. To further explore this thinking, wire was offered as another way to represent and build understanding about the diversity in movement preferences. As the children created sculptures reflecting movement preferences they consolidated thinking about the fluid, abstract movement words into a tactile visible creation.p2060798p2060792

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Playing in a Band

Building on the initial movement explorations, a group of children was particularly interested in the idea of creating a “band”. A shared understanding emerged that there were certain essential components that made a band work. The children engaged in dialogue about different roles and responsibilities.

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“If there’s only a singer or only instruments then there wouldn’t be all the things to make the sounds.” Nikita

“Like us three boys we could set up a band. It’s like lots of people singing together on the same team.” Aaron

“There’s music and if there’s somebody singing too and the people who is singing has to follow the direction of the music with their voices.” Isabella

“The boss [has a microphone]. He knows what to sing and the whole band can quickly play with him.” Kai

img_6499-2Through dialogue, drawings and interactions the children developed ideas about a band as a group where collaborations, rights and responsibilities were key. A group list of “items needed by a band”, which included but was not limited to: hair gel, cool vests, a drummer and a microphone, was compiled. From there, we aimed to create opportunities in dramatic play for the children to explore pretend band play as well as engage with various musical experiences.

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Building on the interest and success of these inquiries, the kindergarten community is currently in the planning stages for a “Design Studio”. Plans include transforming a dramatic play space into an area where children can create design plans and experiment with mixing fabrics, basic sewing and costume/ fashion design.

In the true spirit of the PYP as a framework for learning, the children’s interests and ideas are driving this inquiry in a truly transdisciplinary way, while at the same time supporting the broader conceptual understandings and learning outcomes rooted in the UOI as well as the arts.

December 17, 2015
by Rebecca Smith
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Exploring Children’s Theories About Power Through Multiple Symbolic Languages

Unit Of Inquiry: How We Express Ourselves October – December 2015

Background: Children connected strongly with teacher sharing of experiences in Iceland. With the intention of building on this interest through the lens of our UOI How We Express Ourselves, various learning proposals were explored.

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Returning to school after the break, we met for our morning meeting to share stories of the places we visited and adventures we had over the autumn holiday. Teachers modelled how to recount orally by using gestures, actions, body language and words to share an experience of visiting Iceland. We showed the children images of the dramatic landscape, and shared about a favourite experience, visiting an Icelandic Forest Kindergarten as part of a professional development experience (Images above: Iceland and (Víðivellir) Kaldársel Preschool, October 2015). The adventure included joining a group of young children on a journey across lava fields, foraging for berries and magical treasures in the moss undergrowth, as well as venturing down into dark caves and cracks formed by volcanic eruptions. These stories captivated and excited the children. From discussions, we realised that the children were very knowledgeable about volcanoes, and that they were interested to find out more about these powerful occurrences.

In order to take their initial interest forward, a small group visited the library. Ms. Judith showed us how to use the catalogue and numbers to find books on a particular topic. We checked out many nonfiction books about volcanoes and Iceland, which we were able to use for research. The metaphorical eruption of interest surrounding volcanoes quickly spread through EY2. Children from other class groups came into the Language Arts Atelier to share their knowledge, to read and research the books and ask questions. We also used technology to view short National Geographic documentaries. The children found the video clips of erupting volcanoes highly engaging and exciting. 

Through our learning experiences we built a vocabulary list of keywords related to volcanoes. One keyword that we selected was ‘Lava’. We made a connection that lava has the same sounds as in our friend Lola’s name. As we continued our research we added important words to this list. In creating the word list the children have participated in modelled and shared writing experiences as well as observing teachers’ writing. The children experimented with symbols and letter writing to label diagrams, pictures and collage artworks. We talked and shared about our work to help other people to understand and enjoy them.

Through informal conversations, small group discussions, researching in nonfiction books and viewing of National Geographic videos, the teachers gathered data about the children’s prior knowledge.

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Listening to Children’s Voices and Identifying Threads of Interests: Scientific Processes, Power and Sound

The children engaged in much dialogue and exchange throughout the research. As we listened to their ideas and thinking it became clear that there were several threads of emerging interest that we wanted to explore further.

Scientific Processes

Much of the resource material we explored from the library and online included scientific phenomena as well as images of scientists investigating and making discoveries. As the dialogues below illustrate, the children were intrigued by scientific processes as well as the role/job of scientists.

Maxi: “The five people are going to put the fire out. Aaron knows they come if they stand at the volcano around the crack it and fall into the lava. Why does the lava out up?”

Izumi: “Maybe the pressure?”

Aaron: “It wants to get out of the storm and it explodes if you put water in a volcano it will then even more bad. See, I told you they can live in volcanoes (scientists at volcano footage).”

Mouza: “The volcano is erupting.”

Maxi: “You have to (be away from) the rocks to be safe.”

Finlay: “Volcanologists are doing research for volcanoes.”

Mathilda: “How does the lava come up to the volcano?”

In order to support the children’s thoughts around ways scientific theories can be developed as well as expand their thinking about scientific wonderings in real life contexts with scientists, we took several steps. First, we added a science lab to the dramatic play area with magnifying glasses, samples of volcanic rock, crystals and more. Interested children visited the ICS High School science lab to learn more. We also invited Professor Dr. Orlando Scharer to visit the EYC and share about his job and his laboratory as well as answer the children’s questions. In response to questions about how to be a scientist he shared that he felt it is very important to have curiosity about how things work and to be open to new ideas.

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Power

Another thread that came through strongly in the children’s narrations was the allure of what they perceived as “powerful.“ The children shared these impressions:

Owen: “These are the bullets that shoot out the volcanoes the white thing is the explosion.”

Jack: “The hottest thing in the whole wide world.”

Paolo: “This is lava that shoots up from the volcano and it’s really fast.” (translated from Italian)

Jack: “Very fiery!”

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As we listened to the children discussing their ideas, words connected to the bigger ideas of power became important to them.

We developed a new list of vocabulary words which we heard repeatedly from the children. 

spewing

exploding

burning

melting

hotter

disintegrating

cracking

smoke

grappling hook


The Atelier of Visual Arts: In Dialogue with Colour

It was felt there was a possibility to add another layer to the children’s thinking about power in ways that stretched and added to their scientific interest in volcanoes. The aim was to propose ways for the children to creatively express and build on their identified ideas about “power” through multiple symbolic languages/mediums.

Mixing Powerful Colours

With the goal of building on the children’s interest in and observations of the stunning colours of lava in books and video clips we planned for a variety of experiences:

One proposal in The Atelier of Visual Arts  was an exploration of “powerful colours”. The children were invited to consider if colours might convey properties of power. We set up a paint mixing experiment with opportunities to create new colours. The children used new vocabulary, well-developed language as well as scientific thinking in these interactions. There was a high level of peer engagement as the children co-constructed group understandings of what properties constitute a powerful colour.

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Some reflections made by the children:

Billy: “I made yellow, yellow, because of the sun ‘ton ilio’ the sun.” (translated from Greek)

Nikolai: “Maybe red, because red is like a volcano. Turn into light red. I did do it really fast. ‘Captain America Red’.”

Kasper: “Red because the red can show lava. It is powerful, it be in lava. First use red, then pink, then yellow, next white. Now this makes ‘dark weird pink’. Coconut milk drink. Could we add this white. Yummy and tasty coconut milk drink. It is super good and super tasty.”

Tuur: “‘Strong’ colour because it’s very dark. I started with orange. I could open them. I add red. I did some yellow cause it makes orange. Add, I think it is pinky red. What if I do a little bit of pink?”

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Taking it Further: Scientific Thinking and Experimentation with Potion Mixing in the Classroom Laboratory

We wanted to continue to build on the children’s interest in scientific processes and also provide opportunities to test out their theories about colour mixing in another context with an added layer. With this aim in mind, the classroom was reproposed as a laboratory to include potion making. Professor Orlando brought lab supplies like test tubes which we included in the lab space as well as glass jars, food colouring, eye droppers, water, measuring containers and clipboards with writing materials. The children were invited to collaboratively create colourful potions. This became a popular work space in The Atelier of Visual Art with frequent visits. We observed much curiosity, collaboration and creative thinking in the development of various potions. The children were innovative with their use of language in naming the potions.

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Exploration with Wire, Sculpture and 3 Dimensional Representations of Thinking

We also added wire and collage/recycled materials to the The Atelier of Visual Arts as an invitation to represent ideas connected to power with the intention of providing a space for additional perspectives with new and different resources. Interested children used wire to create powerful sculptures.

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Looking at Powerful Colours through the Lens of Light

The light table included diverse materials and textures to create and experience collaboratively. The children were invited to interact with these resources and each other. Interested children worked together to create designs.

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The Language of Sound

Another thread which was ever present for the children was the importance of sound. Throughout the encounters early on with images and videos, the children creatively vocalised their interpretation of volcanic sounds. It was  proposed that we might record these and the children were enthusiastic. After much experimentation with creating sounds and listening, a sequence of volcanic sounds created by the children was put together. The children also commented and critiqued extensively on the use of sound, sound effects and music in the video clips they viewed demonstrating an understanding that sound can convey messages and add meaning.

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The Language of Dance and Movement: Power Posing through Mining, Dance and Photography

The children were also invited to explore through the language of movement. We played a game where children mimed the act of lifting heavy and light objects. The children interpreted the task in different ways and shared their ideas about ways bodies can communicate actions and feelings with a particular focus on powerful movements. A part of one classroom was reproposed as a movement area with mirrors, a visualiser and simple black and white scarves and fabrics. It became a space for the children to freely explore interpretations of powerful movement.

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Another component to this exploration was documentation through the language of photography. Initially, the teacher acted as the photographer and documenter of children’s powerful poses and movements. The children were highly engaged with the printed images of themselves and their peers with much reflective dialogue about the power posing. After some time though, the children were invited to take an active role behind the camera lens. At “Special Someone Morning”, the children captured their families’, teachers’ and each other’s poses.

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Yoga Poses

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To extend our explorations about “power,” we proposed an experience which would incorporate the power of the mind and body; the practice of yoga. There was much background knowledge given the numerous encounters and mediums in which the children had previously accessed to explore these ideas throughout the term. To begin the yoga sessions the children were invited to listen to some tranquil music, use a mindfulness bell to settle their bodies and minds and then to explore different poses with yoga cards. The children were excited and motivated to try out different positions and many were open-minded and risk takers with embracing new ways to move their bodies. The children were dedicated to the practice and highly motivated to create their own yoga poses. There was much joy throughout this experience and children worked collaboratively in a kinesthetics mode to develop unique poses. They used new language in labelling their pose for our own version of a yoga card game.

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349 Yoga Poses for wall

In Reflection:

From our perspective, the experiences that have been proposed throughout this inquiry have profoundly supported the children’s inquiry into ways that imagination can inspire us to create. We could not have predicted that our teacher sharing of experiences in Iceland would be something the children connected with so strongly. The proposals and projects are meaningful investigations into ways we can express ourselves; our thoughts, ideas and feelings, through multiple symbolic languages including art, movement and music. We observed thoughtful interactions where collaboration and communication has been overwhelmingly abundant. The time and experiences together have invited us to learn more about each other and to grow as a group. The many encounters required extensive mathematical, scientific, artistic, physical and language skills, all of which were woven throughout the experiences. Throughout this learning, the children have been active protagonists in building their ever expanding understandings.

Compiled by Rebecca Smith (EY2 Teacher) and Andrea Mills (Atelierista) in collaboration with Christina Ntagkouli (EY2 Teaching Assistant)

September 11, 2015
by Andrea Mills
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Making Connections through the Language of Movement

It is a new school year filled with wonder, curiosity and hope.  Many children have joyfully reconnected with familiar friends and we have had many new faces join our Early Years community as well. As we embark upon our first Unit of Inquiry, Who We Are, we have carefully considered what types of experiences and environments might best support us with exploring the central idea Through Sharing Experiences in Our Community We Can Learn About Ourselves and Others.

In preparing the learning spaces for the children, we considered ways we might invite children to collaborate with the intention of exploring ideas around our classroom as a community. In the Early Years Centre, we share a strongly held belief that children have a multitude of symbolic languages with which they make meaning and demonstrate understandings. We value a kinesthetic style of learning and considered ways we might provide opportunities for the language of movement.

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An invitation to collaborate and connect through dance and movement with colourful props

In our back courtyard space, we have a sloping grassy patch where we set up some colorful fabrics attached to trees and fencing in an inviting display. We also provided some dancing scarves, music and at times different instruments with the intention of creating a whimsical space where the children could explore movement. We felt the natural environmental influences of wind, light and shadows would add another meaningful component to the learning experiences. This quickly became a popular area and we noticed the children were naturally drawn to running and dancing through the fabrics.

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Natural environmental influences like wind, light and shadowsadd an additional layer to children’s explorations

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The space was popular with the children who had previously established friendships as well as those new to our school. Many took great pleasure in making a game of running through the fabrics. There was much laughter, smiling and connecting. We were struck by the way a group of children who are new to our community interacted with each other in this joyful and physical way. Although there was not yet a common spoken language among several of the children, the language of movement was a way to get to know each other through a shared physical experience. The interactions in this space were poignant in that upon careful observation, we noticed that the children were moving with each other in very social ways. We wanted to explore that idea.

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We observed that there were several distinctive ways the children interacted collaboratively:

Hiding Together

One game that quickly emerged was hiding behind a piece of fabric attached to the fence. We know that children often seek out cozy, private spaces for a variety of reasons. It can feel comforting to have a secret space away from an activity hub. Even in a traditional playground space, many teachers have noted that they often find children rejecting the conventional equipment in search of a hidden leafy patch. The game that we observed began as one child experimenting with hiding behind the fabric. She was slowly joined by another and then another. The group was happy to be hidden altogether in a quiet space. They shared a physical closeness and at the same time were visibly developing a connection with each other. This same group came together in this way for the entire week.

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 Hiding together in a cozy nook

Twirling/ Dancing/ Imitating

Different materials  including dancing scarves and musical instruments were set out daily. The children quickly used the materials to twirl, dance and skip. We remarked how children’s movements often seemed like invitations to friendship. A child’s gaze toward another indicated an openness to companionship. We observed children mirroring each other’s movements as well as engaging in collaborative, orchestrated dancing. Again, we were struck by the way a shared kinesthetic experience served as a platform for relationship building. It was a way for individuals to come together and form a group in a very physical sense through the language of movement.

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Invitations to dance and move collaboratively led to an emerging sense of connectedness through meaningful encounters. These experiences support our learning goals defined in ICS’s scope and sequence by developing the idea that children should recognise the value of interacting, playing and learning with others. We want students to understand that participation in a group can require them to assume different roles and responsibilities and a willingness to cooperate. In this space, we explored these concepts in a very kinesthetic sense. Most significantly, we are reminded that there are many ways to know, to learn and to express understandings.

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred always a hundred…

From the poem “No way. The hundred is there.” by Loris Malaguzzi.

Translated by Lella Gandini

 

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.

March 23, 2014
by Andrea Mills
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Communicating Ideas and Feelings through Music

 

As part of our transdisciplinary unit, How We Express Ourselves, we have been inquiring into ways we can communicate ideas and feelings through music. The children have been building their understandings around this idea through many exciting experiences and interactions with each other.

During music, we have had many class discussions about the different ways we can express our responses to music and sounds. We wondered together how music makes us feel. The children had quite a bit of background knowledge about instrumental sounds from exploring with musical instruments. We have also spent lots of time listening and dancing to many different kind of music. Some children shared musical experiences they had from home and other settings.

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Sharing books about instruments and experimenting with making different sounds.

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Ms. Curnow shared her guitar and we all had a turn strumming.

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Many children had strong background knowledge about instruments and sounds from our regular explorations during music sessions.

During group meetings, classes reflected on how the different sounds made them feel. Here are some of their words:

Nicky- “The fast music make me feel like dancing like crazy, like crazy, like so fast”

Letizia- “Sometimes the music at night makes you want to go to sleep. What’s that called”? Teacher- “A lullaby”? Letizia- “Yes. like that you can put the babies to sleep”.

Zane- “If I was mad it would hit the drum so hard”.

Ffion- “It makes me want to dance”.

We also thought about how objects make sounds and wondered if we could create our own instruments. The children drew their plans and ideas for this project. We used recycled materials collected from home and experimented with these objects to create different kind of sounds and handmade instruments.

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The children first drew their ideas about instrument making.

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Children worked collaboratively and experimented with different materials to create different sounds. William shared his observation with Wille that the rice and pasta sounded different inside the bottle.

We will share our learning and use our newly created instruments to express our joy through some spirited singing at the Early Years/ Kindergarten assembly next week.

November 5, 2013
by Andrea Mills
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Valuing Home Languages and Cultures in the Early Years Classroom

Last Friday morning, Early Years families joined us  for some shared classroom time, community singing and a presentation about our program. As members of an international school community,  we have the unique experience of learning together with children and teachers from all over the globe. As an educator, I have found this to be one of the most rewarding aspects of this work, mostly because of the countless opportunities to share in other cultural traditions and make meaningful connections with families from diverse backgrounds.

P1100816Getting to know families by sharing experiences together builds relationships and home- school connections.

For children who attend our school, cultural and linguistic diversity becomes a normal part of school and community life. At ICS, we actively cultivate a respect for each child’s home language and culture by seeking to learn about families, inviting them to participate in school life and encouraging children to share their home languages and cultures with us.

IMG_0158Bom Dia! These friends come from different places but share a common language, Portuguese.

In my role integrating music into the Early Year program, there are many opportunities to share and collaboratively create different global sounds and rhythms. At our Early Years Open Morning, the children sang “Good Morning” greetings to their families in seventeen languages. Amazingly, each of these languages is represented by one or more children in the Early Years program. The children’s pride in sharing their own language as well as demonstrating knowledge of friends’ greetings was evident in the joyful singing. Smiles from the audience of families were abundant, and at the end, one parent excitedly shared that she was a native Irish speaker. Of course, we were thrilled to add a new greeting to our repertoire.

imageGreeting families in nineteen different languages.

October 9, 2013
by Andrea Mills
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Collaboration in Music Making

These last few months, the children have spent time joyfully exploring sounds, songs, fingerplays and rhythms as  part of our inquiry into ways we can create music and have musical experiences collectively.  One of the many advantages of  integrated specialist classes like music is that the concepts we explore during our weekly sessions can be extended and supported back in the classroom with the class teacher, specialist teacher as well as peers. It is a frequent occurrence that a child or group of children further their understanding through song, dance and rhythm outside of the designated music session.

Music enriches our lives in countless ways and we believe that the creative process in music involves joining in, exploring and taking risks. We have been wondering about ways we can create music and have musical experiences collectively. As the teacher, I strive to offer a diverse variety of rich, interesting songs and experiences with a balance of teacher and  child-directed  ideas.

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(Dorian, Maebh, Anna, Villum and Lin acting out Five Little Monkey Jumping on the Bed)

We enjoy experimenting with musical instruments, marching in a parade, dancing with scarves and exploring different sound patterns with rhythm sticks. These open-ended experiences allow children to develop their cooperation skills as they must negotiate which instrument to use, who will be the parade leader, how to share space, take turns and much more.

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(EY2 HH experimenting with different clapping rhythms)

The Early Years groups are always eager to learn new songs, particularly those we can act out. These types of musical experiences encourage problem solving and negotiating. We need to speak, sing and listen at the appropriate time to make the song make sense. Often, the children must negotiate for a turn to play their favorite part, like monkey, doctor or pumpkin, in tunes like ‘Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed’, ‘Sleeping Bunnies’, ‘Five Little Pumpkins’ and many more. It can be challenging to wait for a turn to be the monkey or doctor but as children negotiate with one another and the teacher, they are learning that collaboration is valuable and the song is more fun and works better when everyone plays their role.

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(EY1 children working together to explore sounds with a drum)

 

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