ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

October 3, 2013
by Heidi Harman

Supporting students’ personal inquiries and curiosity


Villum  was excited when his family found an old bee hive and honeycomb at his home and he decided to bring these interesting objects into school to share them with us all. There was much interest and curiosity in both the items, but everyone appeared particularly fascinated by the honeycomb. The children spent much time examining the objects and began talking to each other about what they could see and what they believed the objects‘ functions to be. It was delightful to see the children sharing their ideas and their wonderings and it was clear that we needed to do some research and investigating to satisfy our curiosity and to discover and learn more about these objects.


We visited Ms. Judith in the library and she helped us to find factual books about bees and wasps. The children couldn’t wait to look at the books and they remained a great source of interest to us for quite a few days. Some children felt inspired to draw and paint pictures of bees and it was decided to cut out the bee pictures and hang them up near Villum‘s bee hive and honeycomb and also near our Sunflower paintings, as we had learnt that bees need flowers for all the jobs they have to do.





We were intrigued by the hexagon shapes of the honeycomb and how the hexagons tessellated together and so we began looking for hexagon shapes in our environment. We had fun making our own honeycombs by drawing around wooden hexagon shapes and by painting bubble wrap and printing the painted bubble wrap onto paper.



We were amazed to learn how bees make wax to construct their honeycombs and how they make honey and what the honey is used for. We also enjoyed tasting some honey in the classroom!

It was wonderful to see the great learning taking place throughout our inquiry. The children’s search for knowledge, meaning and understanding were profound, particularly as the inquiry was both relevant and genuinely connected to the world around us. Here are some of the children’s comments about bees:

“The Queen Bee lays eggs and the other bees build new cells. They make honey. I like honey sandwiches.” – Nicky

“Bees make honey and they like flowers. They make honey in their home so bears don’t see it, because bears like to eat honey.” – Masha

“Bees can sting sometimes. When the bees come back they put the honey in there (honeycomb) and the eggs are in there too.” – Lin

“I saw in the book from Ms. Judith that the stinger goes in the honeycomb. I’ve never seen a bee stinger before. At the flowers the bees take it all up and then it is honey.” – Villum

Bees and wasps remain a source of inquiry to us and we continue to be intrigued by them whenever we see them outside. Our year-long unit of inquiry, Sharing the Planet, where we are learning about how sharing and taking care of living things and the environment impacts experiences and quality of lives, will provide more opportunities to progress further with this inquiry.


June 20, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao

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 27, 2013
by Rebecca Smith

A Provocation for Exploring Our Senses

How Do We Use Our Senses in Play?


Upon arriving to the classroom one morning the children were presented with a provocation;

A tray filled with empty glass jars, a jug of water, coloured food dyes and metal spoons

What should we do with this?

Can I pour water in?

Whaooaa …. Look!!! Whoosshhh!!

More, more, more … now it’s your turn (to pour.)

The children began by pouring water from the jug into the jars. It was exciting to change the amount of water in each jar, they observed the rise of the water levels with their sense of sight. The children took turns to pour more and more water into each jar. When adding water to the jars, the sense of hearing was active as we listened to the water gurgle as it was poured in, mix and drops splash out.

P1030112P1030149Next we added some coloured food dye to the water in the jars. With our sense of sight we watched the drops of the coloured liquid mix and swirl to slowly spread through all of the water in each jar. The children used the metal spoons to stir the water.

The children concentrated intently, spending much time and effort to transfer the water, teaspoon by teaspoon, between the jars. This action required that the children’s sense of sight and sense of touch to work in combination together. The children observed the changing colours as they added and mixed in water from the different jars. Observing the changes in the colours and level of the water required the use of the sense of sight.P1030125P1030154

The children used their sense of hearing when stirring and tapping the jars with the metal spoons. We discovered that we could make music together by knocking the jars as they each made a different.

Throughout the play episode the teachers asked the children to identify which senses they were using.

Click this link to view a short movie of us in action exploring and experimenting by using our senses with these materials.

Password: 4eyparents



May 24, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao

Life Cycle of a Frog

Exploring and learning about life cycles through observation and illustration is important for children to help them respect and care for the living things around them.
Inquiring into life cycles within a context that children will understand and recognize is best done by observing and discussing the life cycles of flowers, butterflies, frogs and chickens. It allows children to understand that with growth there is change.
We in EY2 Red are observing the life cycle of a frog. IMG_6378
Before we brought the tadpoles to class we had a class discussion about frog eggs, tadpoles and frogs. The children shared their thinking and personal connections about these:
• I have never seen a frog egg or a baby frog.
• I have seen big black frogs in my grandma’s garden.
• When we are quiet we can hear the frogs singing in the pond.
We then followed up by reading the book “Oscar and the frog” and a few books about the life cycle of frogs, to deepen and challenge the children’s thinking and provoke more discussion.
We were lucky to find tadpoles in our school pond. We scooped out a bucket full of tadpoles with water from the pond and brought it to our class. Before we moved them into the tank we put some rocks, weeds and pond plants. IMG_6389IMG_6390

It was wonderful to see the excitement on the face of the children!
“Come and see it looks like a fish and swims like a fish too”.
“I wonder if they have eyes (we know that worms do not have eyes)”
“I like to see his tail wiggle. The tail is a little bit bushy”.
The children come to school every day excited to see if the tadpoles have grown. We are waiting to see the back and front legs to appear, facts discovered during the children’s research.IMG_6448 IMG_6547
They continue to observe and discuss the changes whilst referencing the books available to them. The children have shared their learning and theories with their Grade 3 reading buddies and some Grade 5 students visiting our class. IMG_6686 IMG_6841
This experience has provided opportunities for language development (learning new vocabulary) maths (numbers, size) and science (life cycle).
If we want children to respect the natural environment, we have to give them opportunities to connect and experience it.

May 6, 2013
by Heidi Harman

Encouraging and Supporting Children’s Individual Inquiries

Supporting Our Personal Inquiries and Wonderings — Cracks in the mud inquiry

In the Primary Years Programme, we believe that optimal learning takes place when it is genuinely connected to the world around an individual student. Acquisition of both knowledge and skills and the search for meaning and understanding are most successful when done in relevant contexts.

Edward, Karson, Daniel, Villum and William found some cracks in the ground and wondered how they got there.


Karson, “there must be some pipes under the ground, and they’re getting bigger, so the ground is opening up”.

Edward, “no, there is something bad under there and it wants us to fall in”.

Daniel, “I think someone has been digging. Come, look. There is mud under the cracks. Maybe someone used their nails”.

Mrs. Harman is wondering if the ground is dry and that is why the cracks are there. Maybe if it had rained, the cracks wouldn’t be there? Karson has the idea to put water on the cracks to see if they stay or go away. Karson and Villum went to fetch the jugs of water while Edward, Daniel and William guarded the cracks in the earth. Karson and Villum poured water onto the cracks and we all noticed the cracks begin to disappear!

We could make the cracks disappear even faster by rubbing our fingers over them.

Edward began digging with his stick once the earth became wet mud and decided to dig for treasure.

He says he will continue to keep digging every day until he finds the treasure.

Edward, “we need to put lights on our hats so we can see when we go down”.

Karson, “when we see an X on a treasure map, that is where the treasure is”.

The children  felt inspired  to create treasure maps to help them find the ‘Diamond Castle’ under the cracks.


The cracks remain a source of inquiry to us. Why are they only located in this part of the playground at the top of the slope under a tree and nowhere else in the playground? This led to discussions about shelter from the rain and where rain water goes.

April 28, 2013
by Andrea Mills

Worms, Wet Weather and Wonderings: How Waldkinder Supports the Learner Profile

As part of our PYP Unit, How the World Works, we are exploring how each season affects people, animal, and plant life.  A rainy spring morning provided the perfect opportunity to observe ways wet weather impact worms. In previous Waldkinder sessions, the children noticed there was less snow. After wondering all winter what was happening underneath the snow, we finally had a chance to find out.  A group of children found some worms near puddles on the path to the forest. We all enjoyed observing, carefully handling the wiggly creatures and worms became the focus of many conversations as well as integrated into play.

Another teacher thoughtfully remembered our interest in worms and shared one of her favorite stories, ‘Yucky Worms’ written by  Vivian French.  The story allowed the children to build on their knowledge of worms and to generate more questions; Why do worms like it when it’s wet? Why are worms slimy?  Some children were particularly interested in the ways worms help soil to become healthier.  These questions came from the children and as the teacher, I was able to help make connections about ways springtime, warm and wet weather affect the ways worms live. We shared a beautiful, wet morning with our friends in EY2 Yellow making discoveries about the worms. The children’s interest didn’t end in the forest. Even back in the classroom, worms continued to be a topic of interest. Some children created a community of “worm families” from clay.

It was serendipitous that the children’s natural interest in the worms supported our inquiry into the impact of weather although not surprising. Time spent in nature enables children to develop a sense of wonder in an authentic and beautiful environment.  We often find that the outdoors is the ideal setting for child-driven questions with abundant opportunity for children to find answers in a multi-sensory, independent way.

The Worm Inquiry also enabled children to demonstrate and develop some Learner Profile attributes.

Knowledgeable: Children expanded their understanding of worms and weather. Through their own observations, the worm story and discussions with teachers/ peers, we built our understandings of characteristics of worms as well as the impact of wet weather.

Risk Taker: Some children were initially squeamish about picking up slimy worms. The teachers reassured children it was alright to just observe. Still, it was clear several children felt proud when they took a risk and chose to handle the worms.

Principled: We talked about how it’s alright to handle the worms carefully for observation but that it is important to return them to their home safely. Naturally, some children wanted to bring the worms back into the classroom and others reminded them of our discussions about what worms need as well as how important they are for making healthy soil. Many children took the principled action and returned the worms to the soil.

Creative exploration and investigation of natural and beautiful materials

April 11, 2013 by Fiona Affleck | 0 comments

To invite close exploration, investigation and imagination we invited the children to look at some natural materials and beautiful sensory jewels.  It was wonderful to observe the creativity and creative expression when the children worked together,  representing their ideas with the objects provided on a large mirror.

Natasha: I’m making an island, a big island.

Mats: I’m making a pattern.

Inga: A red heart and a green heart, there you go Natasha. This one is so pretty, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, …. Do you need this?

Natasha: Yes I do, I like that one. There is much room here on my island, look I’m making a big island.

The children became inspired by such intriguing objects and it was fascinating to observe how they used their developing language skills to communicate and work together to share ideas and solve problems.

For Joao this was a valuable opportunity to count the objects in English and to sort them according to various attributes.  The children used mathematical language in their play like ‘big’, ‘small’ and ‘pattern’.

Natasha, Inga and Mats were able to tell their own stories about the objects and what they might represent in their imagination, providing them with a rich language experience.

This gallery contains 9 photos

February 28, 2013
by Rebecca Smith

Snow Ice Cream Restaurant

We believe in the importance of bringing the beauty and wonders of nature from the outside environment into our indoor learning spaces. This week EY2 Yellow were presented with an icy scene of snow and winter creatures. The initial play centered around the strength of the different species, their abilities to live and provide for their animal families and friends and how they made discoveries in the snowy environment. With the introduction of some new tools, a large plastic strainer, two smaller metal strainers and funnels of varying sizes, the direction of the play changed. The children explored how to use the tools with the ice and snow. They discovered by rubbing the strainers over the icy surface they could ‘shred’ or ‘grate’ the snow. The station soon became a ‘Snow Ice Cream Restaurant’. With the funnels acting as the cones for the ice creams. Perhaps we could explore further to use the same methods to try to make our own edible snow cones…

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