“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play”
To learn through laughter, to explore without expiration and to follow ones curiosity to wherever it may lead, these are just some facets to the methods of teaching young children through play. When a group of EY1 children spend a happy hour splashing in puddles, an observer may see it just as a play scene, however if one looked a little closer at this scene there is much learning and exploring taking place.
In EY1 the children spend every Thursday morning in the forest. On a rather rainy day when enthusiasm for rain clothes was at a particular low the children looked a little incredulous at the thought of going outside in torrents of rain we set off as a group of brightly coloured waterproofed children to the forest. The children soon began to warm to the experience of rain sliding off their jackets and the sound as it dripped onto their hats. “Its tickling my nose” said Fred, “I can drink the rain, it tastes good” Jake announced. Encouraged by their teachers, the children jumped in the puddles. For some this was a new experience and they were initially hesitant, but watching their friends they were eventually compelled to join in. They splish-splashed and waded in their wellies through the water. They felt the water on their hands and faces. Shrieking with delight they formed groups, and jumped together, curious to see if the splash would be bigger “We can make a big splash with all of us “ said Mouza. Smelling the puddles the children reflected the water smelt like old rain, flowers and mud “It smells like flowers but muddy flowers” said Lola. They made wet rain angels in the grass and delighted in the patterns they left behind “Mine is a rain horse” Nikolai decided. We then waded into stream where they felt the resistance of the running water as they tried to make their way upstream, testing how waterproof their boots really were. “I feel the water when I walk, its not letting me go” Khalid cried out. Our group of tired children made their way back to school chattering about the size of the splashes they made and the sensation of the water against their bodies.
The children in EY1 are currently inquiring into how we use our bodies and senses to learn about the world (Who We Are Unit of Inquiry). In this learning experience the children were discovering how water felt and smelled and were building this understanding through the work of play.
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.
The Early Years classes have been inquiring into different forms of transport found in our community. In PE, we have been exploring the different ways we can move our bodies and build our physical abilities. These two units provided the perfect opportunity to further our understandings with a fun-filled “Bike Day” event at school last week.
Everyone brought “wheels” to school
The children were invited to bring their “wheels” to school. Students arrived with bicycles, tricycles, scooters and other child- powered transport. We brainstormed together ways to set up our outdoor space so that we could participate joyfully and safely. We agreed that traffic should flow in the same direction and a group of EY2 students and teachers marked the bike path with sidewalk chalk. We also included a refuelling station, bike decorating table and “Bike Wash” to the space.
Adding streamers to make our bikes festive
Naturally, this was a very physical day and provided many opportunities to build gross motor ability, spatial awareness skills and to engage in a healthy and fun activity. The experience of collaborating together to make a big event like Bike Day happen successfully also enabled the children to use and develop many other skills. As children negotiated about sharing space, they were building their repertoires of social skills including concepts like working together, compromising and listening to the ideas of others. There were countless language opportunities as children engaged in rich dialogue about their experiences including specialised transport vocabulary.
Getting just the right balance
We all wore helmets for safety
Complex, meaningful opportunities to engage in multi-layered learning like the many components of Bike Day, fosters children’s social, emotional and physical development. Here are some of the students’ reflections on the experience:
Alex- “I liked racing with my friends”.
Ffion- “It was fun. I could go fast on my bike”.
Nicolas- “I could ride my bike on the gravel with my friends”.
Letizia – “The part that I liked was when I ride my bike, cleaned it and got gass”.
Oliver – “My bike I have cleaned, then again and again. I get my bike dirty”.
Pippa – “I liked that Letizia gave me her bike. I liked to ride her bike because mine was too hard. I washed Letizia’s bike”.
Charles – “On the bike Diego he play with me. He love me. Chloé hugged me. Chloé hold the scooter for me. She played with me”.
Mats – “Bike Day was the best day ever! I want to do it every day”.
Villum – “I think I will bring my bike again tomorrow. I think Mr. Moynihan will let me”.
Drew- “I liked sharing bikes with William”.
Amanda- “Me and Gushi went really fast on our scooters”.
Kirsty- “I liked it when Lilly cycled on Clara’s two wheeler even though she thought she couldn’t”.
Lining up at the petrol station
EY1 students at the Bike Wash
Bike Day was a special event to share with friends
Moving our bodies makes us feel joyful and healthy
As part of our transdisciplinary unit, How We Express Ourselves, we have been inquiring into ways we can communicate our ideas and feelings through play. The children have been building their understanding, through many exciting experiences and interactions with each other.
In EY2 RR the children enjoy construction activities and can be engaged in this for long periods of time. For the last few weeks the children have been working with wood, which has enabled them to communicate their ideas and enhance their creativity.
We initially set out pre-cut wood shapes, glue and toy tools as provocation for the children to discover what each tool could be used for and how they could manipulate them. The children visited the school’s tool room where the caretakers explained the safe use of the tools and let them have some pre-cut wood pieces.
The children’s ideas were amazing. They varied from helicopters to tables, chairs and many more wonderful three dimensional creations.
Once the children were comfortable using these toy tools, we brought in real tools such as a hammer, nails, a drill, a screw driver and some balsam wood. The children were able to explore these with adult supervision.
After the children had explored the tools, these were their comments:
Walker: “I liked using the real tools because it was fun. When I used the drill I could see it made a hole and I liked pulling the nails out with the pliers.”
Wren: “I liked using the real screwdriver. I got to twist with it and I like twisting. I liked listening to the sound the real instruments make.”
Nicolas: “It was more fun using the real tools. It made me feel like a big boy. I liked using the drill because it made holes and I could put a screw in and then use the screw driver”.
Amy: “I liked banging the nails and using the drill to make holes. With the toy tools we had to use the glue to stick the wood together but now we used nails and screws”.
Annabel: “I liked the real drill because I could turn it round and round and it made a hole in the wood. With the pliers we could pull out the nails”.
Ffion: “With the drill we could make holes in the wood and with the screw driver we could make the screws tight in the holes. I liked to hammer the nails into the wood”.
Noemie: “I liked to make holes and put nails in”.
Woodwork provided a unique learning experience which the children really enjoyed. This activity required their full engagement and concentration over a period of time. It helped in developing their creative thinking, maths skills, hand-eye coordination, language and vocabulary.
“Superworm is super-long, Superworm is super-strong. Watch him wiggle! See him squirm Hip, hip hooray for SUPERWORM!”
Superworm, by Julia Donaldson
One crisp Spring morning as the children were putting on their outdoor clothes to go and do some weeding in the communal EY2 garden patch we let them know that instead of weeding we would be collecting underground superheroes for our outside plant pots as the flowers were looking as if they needed saving.
The children’s attention was immediately piqued and as their interest grew questions flew as to whether it would be Spiderman or Batman who was going to swoop in and rescue our flailing flowers.
We explained that the superheroes that we would be collecting would be worms. These champions spend all their time busily underground tunneling through the earth making channels for water and roots to pass through as well as cleaning the soil.
Off we set with our magnifying jars to the garden. There the children spent a blissful time digging through the earth with their trowels and their hands putting their faces to the soil to see if they could get a closer look for the elusive worms. As they dug deeper into the earth and their excitement heightened the worms obliged and wriggled one by one to the surface to a chorus of delight. Each one was examined in the magnifying jars. “They have no mouths” said Amanda. “Where are their eyes, how do they see in the dark?” asked Drew. The children had so many questions. “This one is the biggest superhero, he will make the flowers really good” said William. “It’s their poo that cleans the soil” said a very well informed Joao.
The children collected many worms popping each into their magnifying jars whilst marveling and comparing the diversity of each worm that squirmed and twisted out of the ground. “How many worms are there in the ground?” asked Sophie. “I have a whole family of worms all different shapes and sizes” said Lilly.
Walking back to the school the children cautiously carried their superheroes, they eagerly dug holes in their outside flower pots and amid some gasps they dropped the worms in the pots and covered them over in soil.
Our children have become captivated by worms and their super powers which has led us down a whole new path of inquiry. In a world where children are bombarded by plastic superheroes with unrealistic powers it is a reminder to us all that one of the greatest natural superheroes is constantly wriggling beneath our feet.
“As children observe, reflect, record, and share nature’s patterns and rhythms, they are participating in a process that promotes scientific and ecological awareness, problem solving, and creativity.”
Deb Matthews Hensley, Early Childhood Consultant
Eagerly we had been watching the weather and waiting for the slightest hint that winter was on the turn. We decided the time was right to start talking to the children about our new impending season and all its wonderful attributes. Spring had not yet sprung but was slowly opening one eye and deliberating whether or not to turn over and have one last nap, buds had begun poking up from the ground, worms were wriggling to the surface and snails had commenced slithering across the leaves.
In EY2 we had decided that we were going to become gardeners this spring and summer. This was a collective decision that was originally initiated by William one very cold and snowy Wednesday in January. We were walking past the school’s garden which was covered in a thick layer of snow and he asked if we could grow strawberries as they were his favourite thing to eat and he never got them when it was winter. The children then started a discussion about what they would like to grow which included Sophie who wanted to grow Broccoli and Amanda who wanted to grow pineapples.
The children were given a choice of vegetables that we could grow and would be ready before the end of the school year, they chose broccoli and lettuce. In small groups the children worked together to put some soil in their propagation pots. They gently placed their seeds questioning when they would begin to grow and how long it would take before we would be eating the broccoli. They covered the seeds with soil and patted them down, Ansh said “Goodnight seeds”. Gustavo looked at the sky and asked the sun to help the seeds grow. The children took turns to water their pots and then we put them in our window. Our children being so naturally inquisitive checked the pots hourly but it was a whole three days before eagle eyed Joao shrieked in delight at the discovery of some shoots in our propagation pots. This was the commencement of the children’s journey into the magical world of plants, what joy there was in our classroom as we gathered round to look and gasp in amazement at these green shoots in their tiny pots. The children are learning through experience they are sharing their planet with many living and growing things.
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.
In our Early Years Programme there is a strong emphasis on child-initiated inquiries as we believe that children learn best when their interests are acknowledged as worthy of investigation. Children’s thinking is not only valued but supported and extendedthrough the class community.
Walker, in our class, brought in a picture of a nest he had built with his family. This photograph inspired the children and they were curious to discover more about nests. Walker’s enthusiasm and experience, as well as books Ms Judith gave us from the library, raised the children’s interest in nest building.
As a class, we discussed the reasons birds need nests and building materials.
Walker: Birds build nests to protect their eggs.
Alex: They need a home to lay their eggs.
Ffion: Eggs stay warm.
Nicolas: To hide the eggs from bad animals and birds.
Amy: To feed them.
Wren: To take care of the babies till they grow.
Walker / Alex: Sticks and bark at the bottom to make the nest strong.
Edward: Leaves to keep the nest soft.
Annabel / Ffion: Dry grass and moss to cover the eggs to keep warm.
We used our Waldkinder exploration to collect materials, which the children had decided they would need. We were very fortunate to spot a little nest being built on a tree on our way to Waldkinder. This helped them to closely observe the materials used and the shape of the nest.
The children engaged in collaborative dialogue to agree on how to use the materials. They were observed not only expressing their ideas, but in addition being receptive to the ideas of others. They built nests and decided together where within the school grounds they would like to place them. From their learn they are keen to take some action; by taking care of the birds by regularly putting out bird feed or bread for them.
This child initiated inquiry helped in connecting the children with nature. This experience is part of our yearlong Unit of Inquiry ‘Sharing the Planet’.
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.
Sharing books about instruments and experimenting with making different sounds.
Ms. Curnow shared her guitar and we all had a turn strumming.
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.
The children first drew their ideas about instrument making.
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.
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.