ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

March 17, 2015
by Heidi Harman
4 Comments

Listening to Children’s Theories and Ideas About Our World

How do you know the wind is there?

Frequently perceptible, but often invisible, the wind can be a fascinating weather phenomena. Its mysterious nature can bring the languages of science and imagination together. When thinking about the question, ‘How do you know the wind is there?‘, the children‘s voices and illustrations were inspirational. They motivated us to explore the science of wind while relishing in the magical fantasy of it.

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We read many fictional books about the wind. A favourite was ‘Millicent and the Wind‘ by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Suzanne Duranceau. In the story the wind adopts a human persona and becomes Millicent‘s friend. We all particularly enjoyed the stories where the wind is portrayed as a living being with its own personality and thoughts, and some of the children felt motivated to create their own fantasy fictional tales and story pictures related to the wind. A strong thread, which ran through many of the children’s stories, was the power of the wind and its sometimes unforgiving nature.

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Pippa’s drawing to illustrate that the wind is there.

“Trees are windy. The leaves blow off. The tree is bending. See her hair like that? That’s the wind.“ – Pippa

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Jacob’s illustrations of how an artist may convey “twisty wind that goes round and round like a hurricane”.

To begin to learn about the power of wind, we have been experimenting and playing with wind in the classroom. We observed how the fast moving blades in electric fans generates wind and how we can produce a gentle current of air by blowing through straws. We had an amazing time trying to paint using wind from different sized fans, hairdryers and by blowing through straws. It was interesting to observe the children quickly learning how to gain a certain amount of control of these different types of wind forces either by pointing the equipment in the desired direction or by holding them closer or further away from the paint.  We also tested to see if any of these winds were strong enough to make certain objects fly across the room.

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Our experiments led to the question, “why is the strong wind from the hairdryer more successful than the strong wind from the fans when blowing the paints across the paper?“ Some theories included:

“It‘s easier to hold the hairdryer close to the paint.“Thomas

“The hairdryer is stronger. I mean the hairdryer wind is stronger.“Jack

“It‘s smaller, that‘s why it‘s better.“Wille

We now have an anemometer, which we can use to measure the speed of wind. This may help us to discover whether the wind from our hairdryers is moving faster than that from our fans.

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While continuing to consider the question, ‘how do you know the wind is there?’, we decided to construct wind chimes to hang outside in our Early Years courtyard, so that we could look and listen to observe and hear whether there is a wind causing them to move and make different sounds. Everyone brought in various re-cycled materials from home to make our wind chimes. These objects were carefully selected for their beauty and/or interesting form or for their ability to make a sound when moving or knocking against another object. Our completed beautiful outdoor wind chimes, are a perfect way to help us know whether the wind is present.

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After reading information books about the wind and the various forms it can take, we researched some more on the internet, and we particularly enjoyed listening to the range of sounds different types of wind make. We focused on the noises created by a strong wind, a hurricane, a gentle breeze and a tornado. While listening to these different sounds, we each had ideas about how the winds look and make us feel. Letizia said that, “The hurricane sounds like a dragon. It sounds like a dragon screaming. The tornado is a bit like a train.” Pippa liked the gentle breeze as, “It makes me rest.” As we concentrated on each wind noise, we made marks or drew images on paper, which we felt represented each sound. Some drawings were our ideas of how an artist may convey wind, while others were illustrations inspired by the sounds. Afterwards we each put our completed drawings together and made them into individual wind books, which depict our unique interpretations of the different wind sounds.

Building on the children’s interest and reflections about wind sounds, we took it a step further during a music session. The proposal was to create wind stories with musical instruments. Our hope was that the musical materials would provide another way for the children to express their understandings. A group was invited to explore different types of sound makers and share ideas about how the wind might tell a story. The children shared and developed their ideas with each other.

Ellen chose scarves and shared, “I’m doing ballet wind.” She then elaborated by adding, “The day the wind was really strong she pushed us away.”

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 Sharing a story about “ballet wind”.

Jacob chose a black scarf and used it to represent “a scary black wind.” He then blew into a tube and suggested this sound could be the “hurricane roaring like a dragon.”

Lily chose some triangles and told us, “That’s a gentle breeze. It’s only winding.”

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                    Exploring sounds to create musical wind stories. 

When discussing the different wind noises, opinions were mixed as to which was our favourite sound. Some preferred the calmness of the gentle breeze rustling the leaves, while others loved the excitement of the roaring tornado or the screeching hurricane. We now have a graph in our classroom to document and display which wind noise we each like the best. We have recorded each wind sound on separate recording devices, so that visitors to our room can also listen and then add their preference to our graph.

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Jacob chose to explore the science of tornado winds further and read some information books about tornadoes and how they are formed. Jacob then drew his own picture representing how a tornado is formed. After discovering that both hot air and cold air are involved when a tornado forms, Jacob wondered whether he could cause his picture to turn into a tornado! To test his theory, Jacob placed part of his drawing on the warm light of the overhead projector (in the ‘hot air’) and left the remaining part off (in the ‘cold air‘). “Look! My picture will turn into a tornado!“ Jacob cried.

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Our class inquiry into both the science and mystery of wind is still on-going. We have observed the children continuing to choose to look at wind-related books and including the idea of wind in their imaginative role play games. Unexpectedly the concept of feelings was explored fairly deeply during this project. This was particularly evident when we considered the different emotions wind sounds can evoke and when the wind assumed a character in our fictional stories.

Text and photographs by Heidi Harman and Andrea Mills.

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.

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

March 17, 2014
by Heidi Harman
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A Class Inquiry into Dinosaurs and Fossils

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Photos by Heidi Harman

 

February 23, 2014
by Rajeshree Rao
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Animals in Winter

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.
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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.

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  •  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.IMG_4906

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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