ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hiding Together

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

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 Hiding together in a cozy nook

Twirling/ Dancing/ Imitating

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

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

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

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

Translated by Lella Gandini

 

November 26, 2013
by Heidi Harman
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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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:

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November 11, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
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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:
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September 27, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
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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.

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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
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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
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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

May 7, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
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Inspiring Interest in Growing Plants

Throughout the year, as part of our inquiry into the ways seasons affect life, we have been observing weather based changes. We thought springtime would be a perfect opportunity to explore plants in the classroom. We hope that involving children in growing plants provides a chance to experience the lifecycle process as well as develop a beginning understanding of where food comes from.

As a provocation, the teacher put out a bowl containing beans. The children shared their thoughts together as a class.  We had some interesting ideas including worm eggs, dinosaur eggs, bird eggs, sunflower seeds, nuts, but a few knew that these were beans that could be cooked and eaten.

We then read “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Jasper’s Beanstalk”, books about beans seeds and growing to stir our imaginations further. We used the children’s observations to begin our experiment. They wondered if we planted a bean, would it grow as tall as the one in the story?  We planted the bean, not in the soil like Jasper, but in a zip lock bag so that we could watch it grow. The children were intrigued when they found out that the bean could grow without any soil nor in a pot.

We wet a tissue, placed a bean in it and put it into the bag. We hung it on the window to allow ample sunlight. After the weekend, the children were excited to see that the beans were bigger and within days, they noticed that some of the beans had roots, shoots and a leaf.

The children have been recording their observations  in plant growth journals, documenting the bean’s development as the experiment progresses. We also planted  beans in glass jars, marigolds and dahlias in compost to observe the different ways plants grow.

Children learn through hands- on experiences. For example,observing actual plant parts and exploring similarities and differences between plants such as colours, shapes, size and textures will enable the children to build their understanding of the plant lifecyle.  They will also observe the effects environmental elements like  light, water and temperature have on the growing process.

Soon we will transfer the bean plants into soil. Then we will be able to see how tall they grow. We are excited about the many maths opportunities as well. We will measure the plants, count the leaves and observe the changes that happen. At some point in time, the children will take the plants home to share learning with their families.

These experiences support the children in building the knowledge of the world around them, raising their sense of inquiry. With their drawings and presentations, they learn to communicate their findings to others. They also listen to other children and realize that others too have different points of view. And they learn to care about the plants.

I am looking forward to sharing more about these exciting learning experiences.

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