ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

November 26, 2013
by Heidi Harman

Creating Homes for Forest Animals…in the Classroom!

Within our year-long unit of inquiry, Sharing the Planet, we are inquiring into the different animals in our lives and our responsibility in caring for living things and the environment.

Last week the children were given some recycling materials and they began to use them to create homes, nests and dens for our toy forest animals. We decided to use our nature corner of the classroom to set up this project. The children’s enthusiasm and excitement was both infectious and inspirational and they devoted the whole morning to their project. In fact, they were so engrossed that they didn’t even want to break for snack time!



It was delightful to observe the collaboration taking place while everyone worked together, shared resources and helped each other. As the children created, constructed and built, they spoke about caring for the animals and all the things which the animals would need and want and how they would go about making these things for them.

Tomy said, “The animals need a bed and something to play with. The hedgehog wants a picture on the wall. A drink and food.” Tomy then proceeded to draw a picture to hang on the wall of the hedgehog’s nest and he drew ‘a photograph’ of the hedgehog to hang up too. He completed the nest by making a sign reading ‘Hedgehog’s Home’.

Mats, Tyler and Matilde used cardboard to make lots of owls to sit in our big tree and keep guard over the animals sleeping below.


Some children drew pictures of trees to create a ‘forest feel’ and Matilde wrote ‘sh’ to remind us to be quiet when playing near the animals.


Many children felt that the homes needed windows to create light and they even added cardboard tubes to serve as ‘look-out’ holes so that the animals can look out and find their lunch without having to go outside!


The children realised that we needed lots and lots of leaves to make soft beds and also to create a true forest floor in our classroom, so we quickly put shoes and coats on and went outside to gather leaves.



Our collaborative project is still ongoing. Masha brought in a toy from home for the animals to play with and she also made a book for the animals to read. Maebh collects acorns from the playground each day for the animals to eat and Nicky, Villum and Mats made a small trough using foam bricks to store the acorn food. We are continuing to make more elaborate nests and dens and we are using air dry clay to make mice, birds and hedgehogs:





November 11, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao

Integrating the IB Learner Profiles through Stories

Last week in EY2RR, we read the book, ‘Owl Babies’, by Martin Waddell. This delightful story tells the tale of three baby owls who wake up one night to find their mother gone from the family’s nest. This well-written and beautifully illustrated book has many relevant themes as well as opportunities to build understandings about language.

Bill’s repetition of ‘I want my mummy’!, is a familiar sentiment with which most young children can identify. The class eagerly predicted what Bill would say and joined in with the story. The book covers a range of themes such as separation, relationships, fear and anxiety. It was clear from the children’s engagement that they were able to make many meaningful connections. Some of those connections were related to the Learner Profile. We noticed the owls wereThinkers’ as the text tells us, “Owls think a lot”. We brainstormed about what the owls might be thinking. Here are our ideas:

Ffion: They were thinking and missing their mummy.
Annabel: The mummy has gone to look for food.
Karson: Mummy could have gone too far and got lost
Alexander: Mummy could have been eaten by a bad fox.
Zane : A bad owl ate her

Could the owls be ‘Risk- Takers’?

Nicolas: Even though they were frightened, they still waited outside their homes for their mummy.

The owls were ‘Caring’.
Walker: Sarah looked after Percy and Bill when their mother was away.
Amy: Sarah shared her branch with Percy and Bill.

After reading the story, we created a class book. The children were inspired by the life-like illustrations in the book. All were eager to take part and the teachers transcribed the children’s texts. Here is some of our work:

November 5, 2013
by Andrea Mills

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.

November 4, 2013
by Heidi Harman

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.





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.





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.


September 27, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao

Stories Help Us In Building Our Community

A new school year means reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. We are working on building new friendships and discussing our roles within our community. We have started working on our first Unit of Inquiry, ‘Who We Are’, the Central Idea being ‘Through sharing experiences within our community we can learn about ourselves’.

To support the children’s social and emotional development, we have been reading books about building friendships and sharing. Reading the same book a several times helps develop a sense of confidence and competence in children. They are able to point at and label pictures, discuss the story, predict what will happen next, learn new vocabulary, talk about their own experiences in relation to the story and even create their own story.

EY2 RR have been inspired by a number of books including, ‘The Giving Tree’, ‘There is a dragon in my school’ and ‘The Rainbow Fish’. The common theme across these books were friendship. The connections made were, school as a community, and sharing. ‘The Giving Tree’ inspired us to make our own friendship tree. ‘The dragon in my school’ inspired us make our own class story book.

‘The Rainbow Fish’ is a beautiful book with an important message. When the other fish asks to share his special sparkly scales, the Rainbow Fish realizes that making friends is important and sharing is a good feeling. This book has been a great way to discuss making new friends, caring about each other’s feelings, sharing and playing together in a group. rainbow-fish
After reading the story, the children discussed the occasions when they didn’t feel like sharing. To provoke thought and discussion, we asked the children how they would feel if they were the Rainbow Fish. Would they want to share their pretty scales with their friends? What if they were the Rainbow Fish’s friends? How would they feel if the Rainbow Fish didn’t want to share his scales with them?

The children came up with some thoughtful responses:
“If I had a lot I would share.”
“It is nice to share and be kind.”
“I let Walker take it home to play and give it back the next day.”
“Maybe I would let them have it for some time and then when they had enough they could give it back to me.”
“If it is a new toy then I would like to play with it for some time.”

The stories and our discussions have made the children aware of the consequences of their actions in relation to other children in the class. The stories have also provided opportunities for developing an understanding of language and maths concepts.

IMG_9984 IMG_9989
Reading and discussing the stories give children the opportunity to both tell and hear stories. It encourages them to develop active speaking and listening skills. Storytelling fuels the imagination and allows children to develop their own mental images of the story.

As part of a maths experience, the children counted the number of scales on the rainbow fish and discussed as to how many fish he could share his shiny scales with.
– “If he did not have enough then maybe he could share with the others later”.
– “The little fish could have it for 5 minutes and then give to the other fishes”.

While making our Friendship Tree, the children counted the number of fingers on the hand prints and also the number of hand prints put up as leaves on the tree. IMG_0286
The Rainbow Fish display has been a collaborative project. The children came up with an idea of painting the ocean. We provided them different brushes and art materials to help them think and depict how they visualised the ocean. Further, they made their own little fish by painting bubble wraps. Lastly, each child added to the ocean scene with drawings of weeds, rocks, caves, octopus and starfish..IMG_0342
Our learning experiences in the first month of school have helped the children to realize the impact of their actions on others, the concept of sharing and friendship, collaborative playing and improve their language skills. We will continue with this Unit of Inquiry throughout the school year. IMG_0360< IMG_0419 IMG_0509

September 18, 2013
by Rebecca Smith

A Favourite Picture Book in EY1


Vere, Ed. Banana, United Kingdom: Penguin, 2008. Print

Last week we read the book ‘Banana’ written by Ed Vere. It is a story of Two Monkeys and One Banana. The book uses only 2 words – ‘Banana’ and ‘Please’. It’s bright, clear and animated illustrations make it easy to understand and imagine the drama unfolding in the story. It follows the interaction between the monkeys who are unable to share at the beginning of the story, but then the magic word ‘Please’ is used and we see the glorious sharing of the banana. This is a fantastic book which can help to address the social, emotional and language development of young children through exploring and developing an understanding of manners, kindness and sharing.


Vere, Ed. Banana, United Kingdom: Penguin, 2008. Print

Throughout the week we observed children using the magic word ‘Please’ during their interactions. Some children noticed and made connections when they or a peer, particularly those who are learning English, used a ‘magic word’. Letizia remarked, “He (Soichi) said ‘Thank you’ because I gave him a marble, because he’s playing with the marbles.”


Later in the week the children were invited to help in a group to make playdough. The children did a wonderful job of waiting to take a turn to add an ingredient or to mix with the wooden spoon. We practiced using words such as, ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’ and the phrase ‘Can I please have a turn’. As a group we decided to make the playdough yellow in colour. Once it was ready to use we observed the children rolling the playdough to make their very own bananas. It seems that the children were inspired by the ‘Banana’ book. We noticed that the children (even those for whom English is a second language) talking with their peers using the vocabulary from the book as they shaped the playdough and acted out the story. It was a joy to watch the shared hilarity as the children made connections with their actions and the familiar story.

P1070474 P1070481 P1070501 P1070505 P1070503 P1070554

June 26, 2013
by emmahorsey

Reflections of Our Year and Looking Forward

When we reflect on the achievements this year, there is much to celebrate! The learning communities of the Early Years have shared a wonderful year of learning and growing.  Through many purposefully planned and recognized incidental learning experiences teachers, students and families together have shared in a tremendously successful year.  We have been pleased to launch the Early Years blog you are reading now, to share our learning and vision with families and those interested. We believe this has played a role in helping us achieve our goal to strengthen community and communication.

There is also much excitement about the year to come. With Kindergarten joining the Early Years team and our Early Years 1 classes located at the main campus in Zumikon, we look forward to many wonderful opportunities. Recently during an EY1 transition morning in the EY2 classrooms, we had an insight into the hugely beneficial cross-aged learning opportunities that we know all being on the one campus next year will promote.

During this morning many of the children of EY2 took on the role of leader to share their knowledge and experience of being ‘at the big school’ with the children of EY1. The EY1 children were risk takers and inquirers as they sought to find out more about their new environment and all that EY2 has in store for them.

We were also pleased to host a coffee morning for families with children enrolled in the Early Years during 2013/2014 school year. The students and staff of the current EY team went to great efforts to show their learning through beautifully presented documentation in the courtyard.  We welcome new families and returning families as we shared our philosophy and excitement for all that is to come next year.

P1040543 P1040535 I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members of our community; staff, children and parents, for their contribution to this successful year and wish you all a safe and enjoyable Summer break.

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.

May 22, 2013
by emmahorsey



At this time of the year it’s possible to hear parents and teachers conversing about readiness.  Readiness to move to Kindergarten, readiness for the next school year.

We know research is continually telling us that children learn through play, we also know that learning their ‘A, B, C’s’ is not considered essential for EY students to know in order to transition to the Kindergarten year successfully. So how do we know children are ready for the next stage in their learning journey? How can we, teachers and parents together, support children?

The following article from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), written by Dr Dan Gartrell talks about relationships and a ‘healthy state of mind’.

A thought provoking read for parents and teachers!


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