ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

September 11, 2015
by Andrea Mills
0 comments

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.

P1710558

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.

P1710965

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

gifMill

gifMill-1
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.

P1690995

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.

P1690621

 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.

P1690999


gifMill-2

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

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

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

Translated by Lella Gandini

 

October 29, 2014
by Heidi Harman
0 comments

Fostering Children’s Passions: Setting Up A Restaurant

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.

072

Choosing flowers to decorate our dining tables.

073

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.

109

Preparing the fruit.

107

Preparing the cheese and crackers.

118

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.

144

Taking food orders and serving the meals.

147

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.

083

The restaurant is open to our families.

 

October 20, 2014
by Rajeshree Rao
0 comments

Developing Language and Mathematical Skills using Stories

IMG_2857

As a class we read and enjoyed Julia Donaldson’s picture book ‘Stick Man.’ The rhyme within the text is simple and repetitive, allowing the children to join in with the ‘reading’ and predict and identify rhyming words within the story. The fact that the story begins in autumn and finishes in winter is represented by the eye-catching illustrations.  These allow the children to make connections between elements of the illustrations and the seasons of the year. It also helped to form understandings related to our year long Unit of Inquiry,  ‘How the World Works’, in which the children are exploring  how changing seasons affect the environment.

After we read the book several times, the children drew their own ‘stick man’ from their perception and understanding of the story.

The children planned to make these drawings come to life, and to collect natural materials to create their own ‘stick man’. Before heading off to the forest, there was a class discussion about the kinds of things that would be needed.

These were some of the children’s ideas:

‘We need long sticks to make the daddy, small sticks for the children and middle size sticks for the mummy’

‘We need a big stick to make a family home’.

After a successful time in the forest gathering all they needed, the children then made their own individual members of the stick family, adding detail such as eyes, hair and hats.

These explorations not only helped children to develop their language and communication skills, but also evolved into mathematical thinking, as the children counted and compared the lengths of the sticks as needed.

IMG_1483  IMG_1457  IMG_0949  IMG_1545  IMG_1560  IMG_2016

IMG_1948  IMG_1868  IMG_1930  IMG_2052  IMG_1533  IMG_2038

May 12, 2014
by Rajeshree Rao
2 Comments

Exploring Wood Work with Early Years Children

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.

083

raj8

132

The children’s ideas were amazing. They varied from helicopters to tables, chairs and many more wonderful three dimensional creations.

003

090

005

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.

102   112

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

183        166

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

165           201

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

November 4, 2013
by Heidi Harman
0 comments

Mathematics in the Early Years – Data Handling

In Early Years 2 we are learning that data can be recorded, organised, represented and summarised in a variety of ways to highlight similarities, differences and trends.

After children from the Kindergarten classes visited us to ask us some survey questions, the children in EY2HH felt inspired to create their own surveys. At first our surveys were about favourite foods, just as the Kindergarten surveys had been. Then, after some discussion, we decided to create our own survey relevant to our current Unit of Inquiry, Who We Are. Within this unit we are inquiring into cooperation, fair play, team work and our interactions with others both within our class community and the Early Years community as a whole. We agreed to design a survey about what we like to do with our friends and we chose 4 activities; holding hands with our friends, playing games together, reading books together and fighting / arguing with them We hoped that nobody would say that they liked to fight with their friends! We had a wonderful time visiting the EY1, EY2 and Kindergarten classes to ask them our survey questions. In fact we enjoyed it so much we decided to walk around the whole school and ask whether other teachers and older students would like to complete our survey.

034

031

024

023

Back in our classroom we looked at our recorded survey results to see which were the most popular answers and which were the least popular. Thankfully fighting with friends was the least popular answer! Reading with friends was the most popular. We then thought it would be a good idea to ask each other the same questions to see how our class results compared with the others. We discovered our most popular and least popular answers were the same! We then made a graph to represent our results and displayed it on the wall.

085

020

 

 

October 10, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
0 comments

Block Play in Early Childhood Development

In our class blocks have been a hotspot of inspiration and learning. Playing with blocks keeps children very engaged and interested. Using blocks creates challenges and repeated use inspires children to be more creative and work on more complex structures.

Through block play children learn:

block_play_diagram

(Image sourced from: http://www.stevenscoop.org/news/article/index.aspx?linkid=60&moduleid=39) 

IMG_1584

Ffion, Alex, Walker and Nicolas decided to draw a plan on how to use the blocks to build a train, plane and a castle. In order to put their plan into action, there was a lot of sharing of and building on ideas.

When building with blocks the children are not only using their imagination but are also able to describe and narrate their story.

Here are some of their descriptions:

“A very tall tower for all of us to live in and hide from the baddies.” Karson and Walker
“A scary dinosaur castle and the dinosaurs are looking for children to eat.” Edward
“A castle with wheels.” Alexander
“We can do a train and also a bridge.” Edward, Walker and Nicolas
“A garage for the trains.” Ffion, Anika, Edward

IMG_8919

IMG_8929

IMG_9534

The range of math skills the children are exploring are: counting, measuring, comparing length and width, names of shapes, and how to combine some geometric shapes to make other shapes. They are even learning the basics of addition when they discover that two short blocks will be the same length as big block.

IMG_1458IMG_1459

“Look Mrs. Rao, if I put two small blocks they are the same as the big one.” Karson

“Two small rectangle blocks are the same as the big rectangle one.” Walker

IMG_1475

“We have 13 blocks and you have more.” Edward.

“I am taller than this tower.” Zane
“I am taller than the tower, but shorter than Zane.” Amy
“I am shorter than the tower. I cannot see Zane.” Annabel

IMG_1478

“Thank you for sharing the blocks with us.” Nicolas

IMG_8913

Children experiment with science concepts such as forces, when they learn how to balance the blocks to avoid their constructions from falling.

IMG_1450

They learn the use of simple machines such as ramps and slides through their buildings.

Here the children are experimenting to discover:

How many blocks until it topples over?

What can we do to make it balance?

What will slide down easily and what will not move when we put it on the ramp?

IMG_1489

Block play encourages healthy social development among children. When groups of children play with blocks together, they learn how to share, cooperate and build on each others ideas.

June 20, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
0 comments

Exploring our Sense of Touch

Unit of Inquiry Who We Are: ‘We use our bodies to learn about the world’.

The children in EY2 Red have been exploring touching different materials and objects in the classroom, school and at Waldkinder.

One morning when the children came to school, they found various provocations – trays with different material like soil, bubble wrap, hay, plastic chains, playdoh, rocks, cotton, bark of a tree, and a blind fold. IMG_8017
The children showed they were good communicators when they discussed with their friends what they observed and how the objects felt.IMG_8022 IMG_8025

After observing (Sense of sight) and exploring the objects (Sense of touch) with her friends, Morgan came up to me and said “Mrs. Rao, can we touch and feel things with our feet too. Maybe we could try it? Could we use the blind fold?” A few other children joined in this conversation:
Ana: “We could try this new experiment”.
James: “Mrs. Rao can hold us so we do not fall and hurt ourselves.”
Lily: “I do not think we can feel with our feet like our hands”.
Vincent: “We have skin in our body and I know we can feel even in our feet”.
Mariana M: “When we get an ouchi in our body we can feel it because it hurts”.

This activity promotes exploration, investigation and language for thinking.IMG_7499IMG_7478

We encouraged the children to feel the objects with their feet and talk about what they thought they were stepping on and how it felt:
Vincent: “It feels hard and pokey is it the chains we play with for measuring things”
Mariana E. “It feels soft: It is what we used for our winter trees.”
Oliver: “It feels ticklish; it is hay we used it to make the little pigs house.”
Lenny: “It feels little soft and hard. It is playdoh.”
Gabby: “It is the soil we used for planting our bean plants”.
Vinicius: “It is bubbly; I like to pop it”.IMG_7464IMG_7431

The children enjoyed this experience through play. They were able not only to identify the objects, but could also connect them to the time they had used the objects in class. Through this activity the children realized that one could feel an object not only with one’s hands but also with the feet and other parts of the body.IMG_7722
The five senses lend themselves to science activities that require children to make observations with their eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. Further more, they are able to communicate their observations (hot/cold, prickly/soft/sticky, etc.) to others.

May 7, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
0 comments

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.

Skip to toolbar