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.
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 forest – Yodai
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.
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.
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.
The children in Early Years 1 have a strong relationship with the nearby forest as we spend weekly time exploring there. This natural ever changing setting provides countless opportunities to develop and explore theories connected to our unit of inquiry’s central idea that The Earth’s natural cycles influence the activity of living things.
The Language of Photography
With the intention of inquiring into natural cycles and patterns of behaviour in living things, we took some time to observe the children’s self-initiated interests during forest explorations. One morning, it was proposed that the children use cameras to take photographs of whatever they found compelling. In this way, the language of photography became a tool for the children to demonstrate their interests by sharing what they were drawn to through the literal lens of the camera. It quickly became clear that trees were a strong source of fascination and possible entry point for this exploration.
(Photo by Felipe Early Years 1)
Back at the classroom, we met, shared the images the children had captured as well as the children’s ideas about the trees. One child remarked that, “It looks like the branches are talking to each other.” The children were engaged with this idea and we wondered together what the trees might say if they could indeed talk. As a team of educators, we found this a powerful and significant approach to making sense of their images of winter trees. In their poetic way, the children seemed to be giving a “voice” to the trees.
Emma: “He’s saying Daddy or Mommy or baby.”
Felipe: “Maybe it’s a storm.”
Neela: “Like he says his clothes are falling down like he’s so skinny and spiky because there’s no leaves and maybe he wants to take a bath.”
(Sharing ideas about the children’s tree photographs)
Through their words, the children expressed some discoveries about ways trees are affected by winter in our local context including leafless branches and windy storms. The children were given opportunities to explore their initial ideas with diverse materials and through multiple symbolic languages. We wanted to support the children with their exploration of the concept of causation and their wonderings around “Why is it like it is”?
The Language of Clay, Sculpture and Design
Typically, journeys to the forest include bringing back some natural treasures like branches, greenery, pinecones and acorns. Back in the classroom, we proposed these materials to the children together with clay. Some children chose to recreate the forest as they experienced it. Others represented the stream with clay and yarn. The nature of the work was highly collaborative with rich discussion and interaction. Amelie shared, “It’s the water when it’s moving.”We noticed that several children incorporated sound into their narrations. The children expressed their impressions of the tree sounds with the words “swish,” “bwaaaa,” “shhhhhhh” and others. Many used shivering body language indicating they had made a connection about the cold, windy weather and how it impacts them, supporting a developmentally appropriate understanding that we live in a world of interacting systems in which the actions of any individual element affect others.
“These are the tallest trees talking and they’re connected.” Jackson
Graphic Representations of Talking Trees
(Observing, thinking, drawing and narrating about “the talking trees.”)
The children’s initial theory about talking trees was both beautiful and significant. The reproposal of this idea through graphic representation provided a way for the children to build the understanding that in art people make choices to construct meaning about the world around them. As the children drew they narrated:
Emma: “This is a storm and the tree is falling down in the storm.”
Neela: “Like a little girl was walking down the street and she heard the crunchy things and then saw the tree and the bird and she loved it.”
Felipe: “It’s falling down like that one.”
Billy: “These are all the leaves. They’re twirling only at the bottom.”
Throughout all of the proposals, the children’s narrations, work (photographs, videos, sculpture) and previous ideas were presented back to them. During meeting times and before experiences with new materials, the children were given an opportunity to remember and reflect as teachers shared the work that had happened previously. In this way, the adults supported a deepening of thinking by acting as keepers of the children’s ideasand theories always supporting with extending connections and making learning more meaningful and relevant.
The Language of Sound
The children had already identified sound as an important component of the winter forest. It was proposed that we record some sounds together that might be significant for the children. We shared the recordings back at the classroom and the children shared their reactions:
Jackson: “It’s a crunch, crunch, crunch” (walking in snow).
Felipe: “I hear the river song.”
Leila: “You can hear the snow.”
The idea that the forest has sounds particular to a season represented another way of knowing and making sense for the children.
(Exploring the sounds of the stream in winter)
Consolidating Ideas through the Language of Dance and Movement
Throughout these experiences there seemed to be several threads that emerged for the children. The ideas of storms and wind were strongly represented in the children’s drawings, narrations and sculptures which may reflect the children’s own experiences with winter in Switzerland. Sounds of the winter forest, particularly the sound of snow, as well as the “voice” of the trees were other points of interest and exploration. It was proposed that the children might explore these ideas with dance and movement. With a particular focus on the children’s observations about sound as well as the “voice” they had given to the trees, we wondered together how the winter forest might move or dance.
Amelie: “We would have to be really high” (demonstrating with her arms and tippy toes).
Leila: “We would go fast.”
Ridley: “The snow might be quiet.”
(Using movement to represent understandings about the winter forest)
The children joyfully used their bodies to dance and move as they perceived the trees might with many stretching high, creating a storm by gracefully shaking the dancing ribbons and making blowing movements. Their discoveries about sound and movement to express creative ideas were pathways for the children to make sense and communicate understandings in a kinesthetic way. The children gave each other feedback when we viewed video footage of these experiences. One child commented that her friend “was storming very fast”.
The Arts as Symbolic Languages to Build Understandings
Throughout this inquiry the children used the arts as symbolic languages to build understandings about the natural cycle of the winter forest. The children’s strong relationship with the forest was key to supporting their theories about natural phenomena in a relevant way. As they were given opportunities to express ideas with clay, drawing, sound and dance, they were inquirers and their ideas evolved in a transdisciplinary manner.
Through listening, speaking and sharing their thoughts, observational skills developed. The children had a sense of agency as they were empowered to make choices about their work and interactions supporting the understanding that art has meaning as well as potential to support with making sense of ideas. The arts became a powerful vehicle to explore scientific concepts. The understanding that art has meaning as well as potential to support with making sense of ideas was very present in this exploration of natural phenomena. The theories, ideas and discoveries that came from the children will be explored further as we transition into spring supporting the children with developing an understanding that the earth’s natural cycles influence living things.
“We are – and we must be convinced of this – inside an ecosystem: our earthly journey is a journey we make along with the environment, nature, the universe. Our organism, our morality, our culture, our knowledge, our feelings are connected with the environment, with the universe, with the world. And here we can find the spider web of our life.”
– Loris Malaguzzi
This project was collaboratively supported by Andrea Mills, Early Years Atelierista, Aisling Broderick, EY1 Teacher, and Lisa Rosado Darham, EY1 Teaching Assistant
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.
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 NationalGeographic videos, the teachers gathered data about the children’s prior knowledge.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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 ofbuilding 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 Artswas 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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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 wasproposed 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Connecting Threads of Learning in Different Spaces
As our class groups develop a growing sense of community, we intentionally plan learning provocations based on children’s interests which promote connections among our environments both indoor and outdoor. We aim to have threads of learning which are expanded upon in multiple spaces offering opportunities to scaffold and consolidate ideas.
In the past weeks, there has been an emerging interest among a group of children around den building in the classroom as well as the courtyard space. The children have used large building blocks, fabrics, clothes pins and tape to work together to create a wide range of dens, tents and houses. We observed several components to this work.
First, there was the challenge of the actual construction of the structures. One group worked together to brainstorm and problem solve around the best way to build their den in a way that would be stable. A short exchange of dialogue and viewpoints illustrates the importance of the social context in which these children built understandings.
Izumi: The pegs won’t work! They just won’t work. You have to get something else.
Aaron: Maybe those long sharp ones that you put in like this. (hammering gesture)
Aaron: Yes, nails
Teacher: Hmmm, nails might not be ok for this floor. I wonder if there’s something else we could use?
Nikita: Cello tape?
Aaron: Yeah, cello tape and pegs.
Teacher: Should I get you some
Izumi: We can use the pegs for these like because it’s small enough but the tape for parts it won’t fit.
The children used scientific thinking to collaboratively find a solution. Like engineers, they problem solved to figure out ways to successfully achieve their goal. They worked together to support the fabrics among the blocks to create a structure that was agreed upon by all. When they were successful, there was a sense of teamwork and group achievement. The child-driven nature of this collaboration added a heightened sense of investment. This particular experience was motivated by a small group. Yet, as other children passed by they offered help, suggestions and feedback, becoming part of the collective experience.
The children sought out spaces for den play in the back courtyard as well, indicating to us that this was an idea the children were invested in and worthy of further exploration. Some common threads emerged as considerations for the children in their constructions. The ideas that seemed important to them included:
protecting (babies, robbers)
making spaces for activities like eating together and sleeping
The themes of the children’s narratives around what is valued in theconstructions give us a lens into the children’s thinking.Play is a way for children to make sense of their world. As such, play enables a sense of empowermentto explore emotions, fears, theories and ideas in a world where children are working out their place. We saw this clearly in the den projects.
Building on this interest, we reproposed the idea of structure building during a visit to the forest. Spending dedicated time learning in nature is an intentional decision in the Early Years. The encounters and interactions with each other and the environment become rooted in our EYC identity as the children and teachers form strong connections to this space. As such, it was a natural choice for a reproposal ofthese interests. We wondered if these same themes would emerge and how children might work together and build on their thinking in the forest context.
Upon arrival at the forest, we met altogether and shared materials including fabrics, chicken wire, rope and strings, clothes pegs and more that we brought along for the day. The children were asked about their ideas for using the materials and shared thoughts:
Lance: Make the top of the den
Mouza: We could use it to hide with
Lola: We could use it as a roof
Again, we noticed the narratives around safety, hiding and protection.
Fred: To do on the top of the sticks… a net
Finlay: You could use it if you see a bear, you could use it like a net
Owen: You could catch dinosaurs. You can put dinosaurs in the net
Jake: That’s not a net!
Rope and String
Khalid: I see cotton
Lance: Climbing mountain rope
Jack: A rope
Using the materials and their ideas the children began constructing. Mouza asked for teacher help with placing the materials higher to create a bed to climb up. The children were required to problem solve as the materials began to move. Smilla and Mathilda thought the rope would be useful. They found a “rainbow branch” and Smilla, who is learning English, showed us by using her arm in a circular movement that she wanted it tied up. The teachers secured a knot so it was safe.Mathilda felt the rope was too long for a swing when she saw Khalid use it. Giulia had an idea with the orange string. She began to knot the rope and together they worked to secure it. Izumi intervened by bringing strings and offered to climb a tree to stop it from falling. This was an opportunity for the children to explore ideas around structural integrity in the context of construction. They listened and cooperated around a shared goal.
The children demonstrated sophisticated communication skills, accessing multiple verbal languages within the group to reach a shared goal around how to tie the string so that it is attached securely.
Elena: Was ist deine Idee? (What is your idea)
Eleonore: Das ist nicht schwierig (It’s not hard)
Elena: Das ist nicht zu haben (You shouldn’t use this)
Elena: Machst du das Giulia? We need a tighter knot, a very tight knot. What do the ties do?
Nikita: This is a really tight and close so the knot doesn’t come undone.
There was also some dialogue around friendships and power structures.
Jake: We are chiefs from Giulia (Jake and Aaron)
Aaron: Yeah; we are searching for our friends from other countries.
Lance: We found a white special rock, because it looks like a diamond.
Finlay: I found something that is quite strange! Come, we found a new house. It’s a lot of sticks in here!
Lance: I will close the gate. I have security guards.
The reproposal of den building with new materials in the forest was an opportunity to revisit play themes that were important to the children. As the children engaged in tying knots, manipulating yarn around branches and constructing with diverse materials, they were actively building their fine motor skills in a self motivated way. Physical activities requiring gross motor competencies like climbing, jumping, walking and running are promoted naturally in the forest environment. The ongoing den project illustrates why we are committed to offering children diverse opportunities to consolidate and expand their ideas, thinking and theories. We look forward to building on these interests and experiences in familiar and new contexts over the next weeks and months.
“The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer the experiences. We must widen the range of topics and goals, the types of situations we offer and their degree of structure, the kinds of combinations of resources and materials, and the possible interactions with things, peers and adults”.
– Loris Malaguzzi
Photographs by Rebecca Smith – ICS Early Years Teacher
When investigating into our unit of inquiry ‘Who We Are ‘, we explored about ourselves through the Central Idea, “We use our bodies to learn about the world.” The children were invited to participate in a variety of learning experiences that encouraged them to wonder, explore and build understandings related to the different parts of the body, the five senses and how we can learn through using our senses.
The exploration of play dough by the children in EY1RS was an experience that the children came back to re-visit many times throughout the inquiry. In order to support and develop the interest and wonderment about this material, changes to the play dough were considered as a provocation to further exploration. Engaging the sense of smell, the play dough began to yield different aromas of essences, scents, herbs and spices. Our sense of sight was stimulated through the addition of natural colours and dyes, with sensory exploration also being awakened through the addition of olive oil and jelly crystals. This slowly changing and transforming material, simple in its initial form, repeatedly engaged the children’s senses through play.
Making play dough engaged all of our senses
Sense of Sight
The children used their sense of sight to gather the equipment and and measure out the ingredients. It was also required to observe changes in the mixture as the recipe was followed.
Sense of Hearing
It was important to listen to the directions to be able to follow the recipe. The children used their sense of hearing to listen to the questions and ideas of both their peers and teachers as they worked together to make and play with the play dough.
Sense of Smell
The children used their sense of smell to test and compare the various flavours or scents that we added to the play dough, these included citrus fruit juices, jelly crystals, olive oil, herbs and spices.
When working with the cinnamon flavoured play dough the children were inspired to cook a variety of “cakes”, “cookies” and other edible delights. These treats often required baking in the Home Corner oven.
Tuur explained that we added the spice “to make mine smell yummy.” He encouraged other children to use their sense of smell to test smell of the dough. While shaping her baking items Izumi remarked, “its cinnamon. I love cinnamon.” She and Tuur agreed that the cinnamon play dough smelt “yummy.” As did Maximilian who shared, “Yeah, mine smell(s) yummy too.”
Sense of Taste
While we of course did not suggest that the children taste the play dough, some children did like to test the taste of the ingredients we used, from the flour, salt, lemon juice and the spices of nutmeg and cinnamon.
Sense of Touch
Play dough invites you to use your hands to feel and shape the dough into endless ideas. Through the use of our sense of touch we discovered that while different ingredients could change the colour and scent of the dough, often they also changed the texture. Adding lots of salt makes the dough feel grainy and by adding cornflour it produces a softer and smoother consistency.
We experimented by adding too much water to one dough mixture. This made the texture ooey-gooey and slimy. Owen excitedly suggested that we add even “more water!” The children played with the mix using their hands. Izumi commented, “It feels dry (before adding the water.) It feels funny. It feels too sticky. Look at my hands! It’s so slimy.” Many of the second language learners (with little or no English) made facial expressions that showed that the texture was sticky and felt interesting to them. Maximilian exclaimed, “Look at my hands!” Melvin commented, “It feels like flour. (Add) more water! Look at my hands!” Nikita added, “The flour feels very soft.” After adding lots of water, Nikita thought that it felt “goopy!”
We needed to add hot water from the kettle to make a play dough mixture. Aaron explained how he could use his senses to observe the steam rising from the hot water. We tested his theory that we could tell the water was hot by holding our hand over the jug. Aaron shared his understanding that if we touched the hot water it would hurt us. Aaron made connections between how we can use our senses to recognise danger to keep ourselves safe.
By engaging with these provocations, exploring teacher-guided questions and participating in small or whole class discussions, the children were able to exchange ideas and build new understandings related to how “We use our bodies to learn about the world.”
This is our favourite Play Dough Recipe
3 Cups Plain Flour
3 Cups Hot Water
2 TBSP Salt
2 TBSP Cream of Tartar
2 TBSP Cooking Oil
1 Packet of Jelly Crystals or a few drops of food colouring
Mix all of the dry ingredients and oil together in a bowl and stir.
Add jelly crystals or food colour to the hot water.
Add the liquid to bowl and stir.
Let cool. If the mixture is sticky add extra flour.
When you are finished playing, store in an airtight container. It should keep for a few weeks.
Photographs by Rebecca Smith (ICS Early Years Teacher)
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.
Choosing flowers to decorate our dining tables.
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.
Preparing the fruit.
Preparing the cheese and crackers.
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.
Taking food orders and serving the meals.
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.
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.
“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
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.
When a child in our class (EY2HH) drew a picture of dinosaurs alongside some fossils, it sparked a new inquiry for us. As he showed his friends his drawing, some were curious about fossils and there was much interest in finding out more about them. We visited Ms. Judith in the library and she helped us to find non-fiction books about fossils (and dinosaurs).
We felt inspired to try to make our own fossils! We made some salt dough and pressed our small dinosaur/ animal/ insect figurines into the soft dough to make an imprint. We then baked the salt dough in the oven until it was hard like stone and the imprint looked like a fossil. We liked to trick visitors to our classroom into believing we had found real fossils while outside during one of our Waldkinder outdoor learning sessions!
After doing some research and learning more about dinosaurs and how they once lived, we set up an area in our classroom to recreate dinosaur habitats.
We thought carefully about which dinosaurs preferred to live together and which liked to be alone. We considered the various types of food the dinosaurs liked to eat and we used play dough to represent some of these foods.
We also used play dough to make dinosaur eggs, but these were too soft and kept getting squashed flat, so we discussed what other materials we could use to construct eggs, which were more life-like. We decided to use a sticky mixture of mud, salt, sand and water. We moulded the sticky mud mixture around our toy baby dinosaurs until they were completely hidden and then we let the ‘eggs‘ dry and become hard. We thought that these eggs looked quite realistic and after a few days we wanted our baby dinosaurs to hatch. Some eggs cracked open easily while others needed tools to help break them open.
One of the children took action with her learning and continued with our inquiry at home. She bought a ‘real‘ dinosaur egg from the shops, placed it in water and, after a few days, the egg cracked and the dinosaur hatched out! We were kept updated with the egg‘s progress with photographs and the baby dinosaur was also brought to school once it had finally hatched.
This personal inquiry has tied in perfectly with our year-long unit of inquiry, Sharing the Planet, where we are learning about animals, habitats, relationships, characteristics, need and interactions.
In our year-long Unit of Inquiry ‘Sharing the Planet’ we, in EY2 RR, have been researching animals that hibernate and those that live in the Arctic. We have also been looking at the relationship between animals and people.
We compared and discussed how we, as people, stay warm in winter and the ways in which animals, in the Arctic, stay warm.
These are the questions that helped us start our discussions and thinking:
How do we keep warm in winter outside and at home?
Walker: We cover ourselves with a blanket.
Anika: We need a scarf, hats and gloves.
Zane: Snow boots.
Wren: Neck warmers and warm clothes.
Annabel:At home we have a fire to keep us warm
How do animals stay warm in winter?
Nicolas: They have hot skin.
Alex: They have fur.
Walker: Some have a special skin to keep them warm.
Amy: They have special oil in their skin, which keeps them warm.
After these discussions, which demonstrated what the children already knew about the topic, we concluded it would be fun to do a science experiment to discover how it would feel to be an Arctic animal swimming in icy water. This experience would not only help in the children’s understanding but also give a practical hands-on experience, which they would love.
First, each child put their bare hands in a tray of ice. We counted to see how long they could hold it in there. Some could keep their hands in the ice until we counted to 75 and we had to stop them.
Zane: It is really, really very cold.
Ffion: It is slippery and cold.
Annabel: It is freezing
Next, we put on thin rubber gloves for the children and covered the gloves with fat. The children, then, put their hands into the icy water. The fat protected their hand from the cold water.
Ffion: It is not cold now. I can keep my hand in here for a long time.
Edward: I like it now. My hands are not freezing. Mrs. Rao, do the animals have the sticky thing (fat) on their body?
Walker: Yes, animals that live in the cold places have special skin and also fat to keep them warm.
Edward: The cream we have on our gloves, I think, helps the cold to just fall down.
Mrs.Rao: What do you mean?
Edward: I think now, that the cream protects them from the cold.
The children agreed that their bare hands felt very cold but with fat it felt warm. This experiment helped the children to become scientists, make predictions, observations and understand how the layer of fat, that some animals have, keep them warm in winter.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
Using mathematical language as they make patterns and discuss about the shape of the beads.
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.