ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

March 27, 2014
by Rajeshree Rao
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Child Initiated Inquiry: Building Bird Nests.

In our Early Years Programme there is a strong emphasis on child-initiated inquiries as we believe that children learn best when their interests are acknowledged as worthy of investigation. Children’s thinking is not only valued but supported and extended through the class community.

Walker, in our class, brought in a picture of a nest he had built with his family. This photograph inspired the children and they were curious to discover more about nests. Walker’s enthusiasm and experience, as well as books Ms Judith gave us from the library, raised the children’s interest in nest building.

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As a class, we discussed the reasons birds need nests and building materials.

  • Walker: Birds build nests to protect their eggs.
  • Alex:      They need a home to lay their eggs.
  • Ffion:     Eggs stay warm.
  • Nicolas: To hide the eggs from bad animals and birds.
  • Amy:      To feed them.
  • Wren:    To take care of the babies till they grow.

Materials used:

  • Walker / Alex:      Sticks and bark at the bottom to make the nest strong.
  • Edward:                  Leaves to keep the nest soft.
  • Annabel / Ffion:  Dry grass and moss to cover the eggs to keep warm.

We used our Waldkinder exploration to collect materials, which the children had decided they would need. We were very fortunate to spot a little nest being built on a tree on our way to Waldkinder. This helped them to closely observe the materials used and the shape of the nest.

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The children engaged in collaborative dialogue to agree on how to use the materials.  They were observed not only expressing their ideas, but in addition being receptive to the ideas of others. They built nests and decided together where within the school grounds they would like to place them.  From their learn they are keen to take some action; by taking care of the birds by regularly putting out bird feed or bread for them.

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This child initiated inquiry helped in connecting the children with nature. This experience is part of our yearlong Unit of Inquiry ‘Sharing the Planet’.

 

November 26, 2013
by Heidi Harman
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Creating Homes for Forest Animals…in the Classroom!

Within our year-long unit of inquiry, Sharing the Planet, we are inquiring into the different animals in our lives and our responsibility in caring for living things and the environment.

Last week the children were given some recycling materials and they began to use them to create homes, nests and dens for our toy forest animals. We decided to use our nature corner of the classroom to set up this project. The children’s enthusiasm and excitement was both infectious and inspirational and they devoted the whole morning to their project. In fact, they were so engrossed that they didn’t even want to break for snack time!

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It was delightful to observe the collaboration taking place while everyone worked together, shared resources and helped each other. As the children created, constructed and built, they spoke about caring for the animals and all the things which the animals would need and want and how they would go about making these things for them.

Tomy said, “The animals need a bed and something to play with. The hedgehog wants a picture on the wall. A drink and food.” Tomy then proceeded to draw a picture to hang on the wall of the hedgehog’s nest and he drew ‘a photograph’ of the hedgehog to hang up too. He completed the nest by making a sign reading ‘Hedgehog’s Home’.

Mats, Tyler and Matilde used cardboard to make lots of owls to sit in our big tree and keep guard over the animals sleeping below.

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Some children drew pictures of trees to create a ‘forest feel’ and Matilde wrote ‘sh’ to remind us to be quiet when playing near the animals.

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Many children felt that the homes needed windows to create light and they even added cardboard tubes to serve as ‘look-out’ holes so that the animals can look out and find their lunch without having to go outside!

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The children realised that we needed lots and lots of leaves to make soft beds and also to create a true forest floor in our classroom, so we quickly put shoes and coats on and went outside to gather leaves.

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Our collaborative project is still ongoing. Masha brought in a toy from home for the animals to play with and she also made a book for the animals to read. Maebh collects acorns from the playground each day for the animals to eat and Nicky, Villum and Mats made a small trough using foam bricks to store the acorn food. We are continuing to make more elaborate nests and dens and we are using air dry clay to make mice, birds and hedgehogs:

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September 27, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
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Stories Help Us In Building Our Community

A new school year means reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. We are working on building new friendships and discussing our roles within our community. We have started working on our first Unit of Inquiry, ‘Who We Are’, the Central Idea being ‘Through sharing experiences within our community we can learn about ourselves’.

To support the children’s social and emotional development, we have been reading books about building friendships and sharing. Reading the same book a several times helps develop a sense of confidence and competence in children. They are able to point at and label pictures, discuss the story, predict what will happen next, learn new vocabulary, talk about their own experiences in relation to the story and even create their own story.

EY2 RR have been inspired by a number of books including, ‘The Giving Tree’, ‘There is a dragon in my school’ and ‘The Rainbow Fish’. The common theme across these books were friendship. The connections made were, school as a community, and sharing. ‘The Giving Tree’ inspired us to make our own friendship tree. ‘The dragon in my school’ inspired us make our own class story book.

‘The Rainbow Fish’ is a beautiful book with an important message. When the other fish asks to share his special sparkly scales, the Rainbow Fish realizes that making friends is important and sharing is a good feeling. This book has been a great way to discuss making new friends, caring about each other’s feelings, sharing and playing together in a group. rainbow-fish
After reading the story, the children discussed the occasions when they didn’t feel like sharing. To provoke thought and discussion, we asked the children how they would feel if they were the Rainbow Fish. Would they want to share their pretty scales with their friends? What if they were the Rainbow Fish’s friends? How would they feel if the Rainbow Fish didn’t want to share his scales with them?

The children came up with some thoughtful responses:
“If I had a lot I would share.”
“It is nice to share and be kind.”
“I let Walker take it home to play and give it back the next day.”
“Maybe I would let them have it for some time and then when they had enough they could give it back to me.”
“If it is a new toy then I would like to play with it for some time.”

The stories and our discussions have made the children aware of the consequences of their actions in relation to other children in the class. The stories have also provided opportunities for developing an understanding of language and maths concepts.

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Reading and discussing the stories give children the opportunity to both tell and hear stories. It encourages them to develop active speaking and listening skills. Storytelling fuels the imagination and allows children to develop their own mental images of the story.

As part of a maths experience, the children counted the number of scales on the rainbow fish and discussed as to how many fish he could share his shiny scales with.
– “If he did not have enough then maybe he could share with the others later”.
– “The little fish could have it for 5 minutes and then give to the other fishes”.

While making our Friendship Tree, the children counted the number of fingers on the hand prints and also the number of hand prints put up as leaves on the tree. IMG_0286
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The Rainbow Fish display has been a collaborative project. The children came up with an idea of painting the ocean. We provided them different brushes and art materials to help them think and depict how they visualised the ocean. Further, they made their own little fish by painting bubble wraps. Lastly, each child added to the ocean scene with drawings of weeds, rocks, caves, octopus and starfish..IMG_0342
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Our learning experiences in the first month of school have helped the children to realize the impact of their actions on others, the concept of sharing and friendship, collaborative playing and improve their language skills. We will continue with this Unit of Inquiry throughout the school year. IMG_0360< IMG_0419 IMG_0509

March 8, 2013
by Andrea Mills
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A Trip to the Theatre

As part of our Unit Of Inquiry, “How We Express Ourselves”, EY2 is exploring stories. We had a wonderful opportunity to take the learning outside of the classroom and experience a live performance in a theatre.

On a chilly February day, we ventured out to the Forchbahn for the journey to Hechtplatz in Zurich for a performance of “Pippi in Takka Tukka Land”.  As we left school, the children excitedly told everyone we met, “We’re going to the theatre”! Each child came with different background knowledge about what a stage performance might be like. For some, it was a unique experience and for others a more familiar one. The children shared their expectations and thoughts.

The entire experience was exciting and significant, from waiting in line with our tickets, sitting in our seats with programs and waiting for the lights to dim. The performance was in Swiss German dialect yet most had no trouble following the plot. Back in the classroom the next day, we drew our reflections from the show. It was interesting to note what was memorable for different children.

As we hoped, this trip was a successful addition to our unit. The children visibly built their understanding of another medium to tell a story through dramatization. Perhaps equally meaningful was the shared experience of this special event beyond the classroom walls. Sharing the journey and the performance as an EY2 group meant that the children could benefit from conversations and interactions with each other, which helped to construct more sophisticated understandings. The children and their teachers will have memories of a beautiful afternoon spent together sharing a meaningful experience, which ultimately enriches our learning community.

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