ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

September 3, 2015
by Rebecca Smith
3 Comments

Building Communities

appleMs. Claire surprised us with an overflowing bag of apples from tree at her house. We presented the apples to the children in a basket in an inviting display. There was much interest and excitement with many children sharing that they found apples delicious to eat. Rebecca shared that she thought this type of apple was meant for baking because they were sour, but the children had another idea. ​Lance offered, “I want some bitter. I like it!”

These exchanges became a perfect connection to our Who We Are unit of inquiry as we explore the idea that by sharing experiences within our community we can learn about ourselves and others.

The teachers agreed that the children could taste the apples and decide for themselves. We feel that children should know that an exchange of viewpoints is highly valued in our context. We asked who wanted to be a taste-tester, and proposed that the children calculate how many slices would be needed. MA counted “1-2-3-4-5″ taste-testers volunteered. There was some negotiation while the teacher began to cut an apple, first in half. Jack noticed that, “We need(ed) to make them (the slices) littler,” anticipating that by cutting the apple only in half, we would not have enough slices for one for each of the taste-testers. The group agreed that five slices per apple would be enough and we cut as the children had suggested. 

The Taste-Testing

The children shared their different reactions to the tasting.

Jake: “It is yummy!”

Finlay: “Quite sour, but yummy.”

Paolo: “Yummy.”

Lance: “Can I have more because I LOVE it!” 

We noticed that some of the children’s words of praise for the sour apple taste differed from their facial expressions.

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Rebecca proposed that we might use the apples for some cooking and the children enthusiastically agreed. We wondered where we might find a recipe and we organised a trip to the library to find some cookbooks. Andrea, Lance, Finlay, Eleonore and Clara met with Ms. Jayne who gave us a tour of the library and specifically where we could find what we needed. We noticed that there were different types of pies we might bake and took a selection of books with different recipes. The children promised Ms. Jayne that we would return with a slice of pie to share with her.

We shared the recipes during meeting time. Sanela helped us to make a list in German of the needed ingredients, using German for a meaningful purpose.

Apple Pie Ingredients/Apfelkuchen Zutaten

Pastry/Teig, Apples/Äpfel, Marmalade/Konfitüre, Brown Sugar/Rohrzucker, Honey/Honig, Cinnamon/Zimt and Lemon/Zitrone

The children graphically represented the ingredients needed for the recipe.

We also read a book called Apple by Nikki McClure​, following the life of an apple and exploring the cyclical patterns in nature. We will explore these ideas further in the context of local harvest in our own community, with a visit to an apple tree in Maxi’s Opa’s garden.

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Cooking Day

Eleonore, Clara, Lance, Owen, Albert, Smilla and Mathilda met in the kitchen to prepare for baking the pie. First we used the apple peelers to prepare the apples with much discussion about safety. The children were careful to hold the peelers in the correct direction. We washed the apples and measured the ingredients. Some children helped with poking holes in the pie crust. We read to find out how long we had to wait for the pie to cook. Elena helped by setting a timer and joyfully informed us when the bell sounded.  The entire EYC enjoyed the smell of the pie baking.

We shared the final product with the children and teachers in the Early Years Centre. Here are some of their reflections:

Lance: “A bit burnt smelt pizza. Tasted good.”

Owen: “It was crunchy, tasty crunchy.”

Jake: It will taste really yummy. It did yummy.”

Maxi: “I thought it was good.”

Ellen: “It was tasty and yummy.

Kasper: “It was delicious and smelled really good.”

MA: “I like the crusty thing.”

Elena and Owen: “Apple and crusty and inside.”

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A Visit to Opa’s Garden

Maxi’s Opa maintains a beautiful plot in the local community garden. We were fortunate to be invited for a visit. We tasted tomatoes, dug for potatoes and cut lettuce and kale. The children were highly engaged with the environment, each other as well as Maxi’s grandparents. 

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Lance: “It’s a cool garden. Look at those growing things. Mine (a tomato) is tasty and juicy.”

Elena: “I saw one (a potato)! It’s there. That’s a big one.”

Paolo: “Una potato.

Zeena: “I got some fresh potato today.”

Izumi: “I found a baby potato. Someone nibbled it! The bees are sucking pollen.”

KA: “I see a green tomato. When its green it’s not ready.”

Aaron: “Those worms are good for the plants.”

gardenThese encounters represented the meaningful ways that children can drive their own learning. As we shared experiences around the apples, there were abundant opportunities for rich learning connected to our unit. Children needed to integrate mathematical thinking for a purpose as they predicted, calculated and compared during the tasting and cooking. Literacy was valued in a real life context as the children were motivated to write for a purpose. Communication skills like listening and speaking were required and valued for participation. These experiences were a beautiful platform to develop the children’s sense of themselves in our group, their place and the reasons why particular places are important to people.

Photographs by Rebecca Smith – ICS Early Years Teacher

January 29, 2015
by Rebecca Smith
2 Comments

Exploring our Senses through Play Dough

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.

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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.

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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.

P1330090 (1)P1310091When 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.”

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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.

P1380165 P1380160Photographs by Rebecca Smith (ICS Early Years Teacher)

 

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.

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Choosing flowers to decorate our dining tables.

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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.

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Preparing the fruit.

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Preparing the cheese and crackers.

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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.

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Taking food orders and serving the meals.

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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.

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The restaurant is open to our families.

 

March 31, 2014
by Rebecca Smith
0 comments

Early Years Mud Kitchen

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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.

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“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

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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.

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Herbs planted by EY2 FA.

Photographs by Rebecca Smith (EY Teacher ICS)

June 2, 2013
by Heidi Harman
0 comments

Learning About Mathematics and Science Through Cooking

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Cooking is always a popular learning experience for our Early Years students. Not only is it a fun activity where we get to eat and enjoy what we have made, but it is also a wonderful way to learn some mathematical and scientific concepts and skills.

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As we read the recipe together, we do a lot of counting out loud. We count how many people we are cooking for, how many items are on our list of ingredients and how many spoons, cups etc. of each item we need. The children are also involved in measuring out the ingredients., whether it be spooning them out or placing them on the weighing scales. We use mathematical language, such as ‘more‘ and ‘less‘, which when used in context, helps the children gain a better understanding of these terms.

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Each cooking lesson is like a science experiment. Solids sometimes become liquid if we heat them or mix them with other ingredients and vice versa. We also like to make predictions as to what we think may happen when we add or combine ingredients. We experiment and learn together. Some of our experiments work out and taste better than others, but the whole cooking experience is usually a happy one where everyone is involved.

Participating in these real life maths and science experiences helps the children to learn in a meaningful way.

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