ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

March 26, 2014
by Heidi Harman

Outdoor Artists


Painting is something we do on a very regular basis in our Early Years classes. Most children of all ages love to paint and we, the Early Years educators, believe that they should be given many opportunities to do so using a variety of painting tools, materials and techniques. Not only is painting fun, but it also helps to develop children’s fine motor skills, promotes creativity and is a wonderful way to express thoughts, feelings and ideas.

Last week the Spring weather was glorious and we felt motivated to enjoy our learning experiences outside. We thought it may be fun, interesting and inspiring to paint outdoors for a change. Being outside in the natural sunlight in our local environment appeared to further stimulate our artistic creativity!

We invited the children to paint whatever they found fascinating, appealing or thought-provoking. They had the freedom to roam and observe the outdoor environment as a huge artist’s canvas! The children were excited to be painting outside and many felt enthused to do more than one painting. The outdoor experience certainly appeared to help foster the children’s passion for painting.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Pablo Picasso




Photos by Heidi Harman

March 17, 2014
by Heidi Harman

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.



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


October 4, 2013
by Rebecca Smith

A Self Portrait


Piven, Hanoch. My Dog Is as Smelly as Dirty Socks, Schwartz & Wade, 2007. Print

We read the book, ‘My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks’, written by Hanoch Piven. In the picture book the character creates portraits of her family members using found objects. After reading the book the teachers suggested that we could also try to recreate our own faces using materials.

You can read the story here at http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/:


(©2010 WGBH Educational Foundation and Sirius Thinking, Ltd. All Rights Reserved. My Dog Is as Smelly as Dirty Socks by Hanoch Piven, used with permission. Text ©2007 by Hanoch Piven. All Rights Reserved.)

Hanoch Piven’s Website:




Creating a self portrait is an opportunity for a child to express how they see themselves. The teachers created an inviting display of natural materials, pretty jewels and recycled items. The children were offered a mirror and asked to look at their reflection, most children enjoyed making connections between their face and their reflection. The teachers might have pointed out their eyes, nose and mouth or asked the child to identify their own features. The children were encouraged to share the names of these body parts in their mother tongue or make the connection with the English vocabulary.



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The children will revisit this task again later in the year as an opportunity to make reflections on both their physical and personal growth.

Photos by Rebecca Smith (ICS EY Teacher)

June 19, 2013
by Rebecca Smith

Sound Wall

sound wall

We had a meeting about our Senses Garden, the space in the courtyard we have beautified by adding sensory elements like flowers, plants and herbs. The children shared their understandings of the senses we use in the garden. Many noted we need our sense of sight to look at the flowers. We could smell the herbs and flowers. We can touch the leaves of the plants. Some of the herbs are edible so we can use our sense of taste. Ms. Smith asked the children to wonder about how we might use a sense of hearing. The children offered some suggestions about sounds we could hear. Butterflies ‘te-te-teee’ Every time they fly. Birds, Sparrows and blue tits, ‘chhhrr’ – Sumedha. ‘Cheep cheep’ bell ringing ‘…zizzzzznng’, motorbike ‘drowwwmmmm’, bird flying pick, pick, pick’– Dayou. ‘Arkkhh-arkkhh’ birds and bell ‘dinnnnnggggg’ – Tommaso. People ‘yah yah’  and cars ‘brmmm broommmm’ – Noa.  Outside noise, rain ‘tap, tap, tap’ – Arjun. ‘Quark quark’, butterflies and ducks – David. School bell – Marc-Philippe. Rain ‘zizz -zizzz- zizzzz’ and lightning ‘buowff – boff’– Maxi G. The teachers suggested we add more sound in the form of a “Sound Wall” to the garden as well.


We had read about other schools and environments where recycled materials had been used to create “Sound/Music/Banging Walls”. We thought this could be an exciting and relevant experience for our Who We Are Unit, exploring the ways we learn through our senses. We asked families to contribute any recyclable materials like old pots/pans, coffee tins, broken silverware, loose parts, etc. Dayou shared his contributions and the children thought about ways these items could be used to make sound/ music.

We shared some images of Sound Walls with the children and asked the children to consider how we might create our own in the courtyard. We took a walk in the courtyard and determined where might be a good place. The children drew their ideas for what the project might look like.





Finally, we gathered altogether on a sunny afternoon for a final check in before constructing the sound wall. The children were excited about the many different objects we would integrate into our project. Ms. Johnson, our music teacher, joined us and helped with the wire required to fasten our sound makers.  As the wall grew, children experimented with the sound of wooden spoons against the many items on the wall. Some children impressed us with their rhythm as they kept the beat. Others found new ways to make different sounds. This collaborative project was extremely successful as evidenced by the children’s enthusiasm in sharing their knowledge about the sense of sound with other members of our school community. We invited other classes, teachers and administrators to visit our Sound Wall and the children articulately shared about the experience.




P1040530Words by Ms Andrea Mills

Photographs by Miss Rebecca Smith


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