ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

April 17, 2015
by Rajeshree Rao

Creating a Dinosaur Museum

As part of our trans-disciplinary unit, How We Express Ourselves, we are inquiring into how we can create and share stories in different spaces. Our Early Years Programme has a strong emphasis on child-initiated inquiries based on the belief 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.

For some days the children had been playing with toy dinosaurs, building homes for them using wooden blocks and logs. Exploring this interest through drawing his ideas, Alex shared a picture of skeletons in a museum. He then posed a question, asking if we could construct a dinosaur museum in the class. His drawing and enthusiasm inspired the children leading to a shared class curiosity to discover more about dinosaurs.IMG_9928In order to share our thinking, and to ascertain what we already knew about dinosaurs and museums, we brainstormed, coming up with some ideas as to what we would need to make a dinosaur museum.

With books from the library, we were able to explore different aspects of the life sciences such as meat eaters, plant eaters, tall dinosaurs, feathered dinosaurs, etc. and sharing our theories of extinction. The children demonstrated an understanding of perspective in our class discussions that some meat eating dinosaurs were stronger than the plant eating dinosaurs. They felt that the plant eating dinosaurs would have feared the meat eating dinosaurs. These observations came through in their stories and drawings. We also explored earth science through sharing thoughts around volcanoes, and climate changes.IMG_9942Pic_0132In order to share our understandings through many different modes of expression, children created puppets, engaged in dramatic play and used materials such as clay and paints.IMG_0015IMG_0312IMG_0340Our visit to the dinosaur museum encouraged the children to think creatively. Our guide shared with the children that no one lived at the time of the dinosaurs and that what we know are only ideas as to how these creatures looked and sounded. This knowledge excited the children and  encouraged them to undertake research in order to support their theories and make their own conclusions. Acquisition of new vocabulary was embedded in this  inquiry with children including words like “enormous”, “extinct”, “paleontologist”, “ferocious”, and “fossilized”, as well as including names of dinosaurs into their conversations.IMG_0854IMG_0999IMG_0870Through story telling with puppets and shadow puppets the children were able to understand that people listen and speak to share thoughts and feelings. They were also able to express their ideas and emotions by making story books and drawings depicting dinosaur stories.IMG_0128IMG_0125 (2)Children were fascinated when they realized how big (or how small) some of these dinosaurs were! We compared the heights of dinosaurs using uniform and non-uniform tools of measurement, such as our bodies and wooden block. We checked if our collective height was more than the tallest dinosaur, further exploring mathematical concepts such as measurement and estimation  in our inquiry.IMG_1188IMG_1494Through communication, collaboration and negotiation the children were able to explore constructing a dinosaur museum together.Our successful opening of the Dinosaur Museum was the result of a variety of activities initiated by the children in the class.IMG_0031IMG_0118IMG_1973IMG_1976IMG_1850On the Open Day, the children shared their knowledge with their families about dinosaurs. Through story telling with props and self-created shadow puppets they were able to express their ideas and emotions.IMG_1914IMG_1109IMG_2028We asked the parent community to share their thinking and reflections on the dinosaur museum:

“A fantastic opening for your dinosaur museum!”  “You are very knowledgeable about dinosaurs and shared a lot of information!” “Wow!! Amazing, well done.”  “The children were incredible. A very high level of creativity!”  “I have learned a lot about dinosaurs from you!!”  “The dinosaur museum included all the important elements a museum should have: pictures, stories, fossils, eggs, dinosaur skeletons, performances and music. The children worked very hard together.”

Reflecting on our activities leading up to the open day, the children said: “I now know the names of different dinosaurs.” “To make the museum we had to share our ideas with each other and we had to work together.” “At the dinosaur museum we got to see how the bones looked and touch the footprints and T-Rex teeth.” “We know  that the Sauroposeidon was 20 metres tall and our classroom was only 3 metres tall. “The dinosaurs were much taller than our school.” “Some dinosaurs had mouth like ducks’ and  some with feathers to keep themselves warm or cool because they lived in the desert.”

Our exploration leading to creating the dinosaur museum and the open day covered a wide spectrum of skills. The children collaborated to suggest ideas for the museum; they researched dinosaurs by referring to library books and asking the museum guide; involved maths by comparing the height of  dinosaurs with the combined height of the children and used uniform and non-uniform tools of measurement; they enhanced their vocabulary with new words; they could express their ideas through drawings, puppets and self-created stories; giving flight to their imagination – a hotel near the museum would help the visitors to spend more time at the museum, without having to drive. A simple idea to build a dinosaur museum initiated by a child resulted in a major exploration for the whole class which was appreciated by colleagues and parents.

October 29, 2014
by Heidi Harman

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.


Choosing flowers to decorate our dining tables.


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.


Preparing the fruit.


Preparing the cheese and crackers.


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.


Taking food orders and serving the meals.


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.


The restaurant is open to our families.


November 4, 2013
by Heidi Harman

Mathematics in the Early Years – Data Handling

In Early Years 2 we are learning that data can be recorded, organised, represented and summarised in a variety of ways to highlight similarities, differences and trends.

After children from the Kindergarten classes visited us to ask us some survey questions, the children in EY2HH felt inspired to create their own surveys. At first our surveys were about favourite foods, just as the Kindergarten surveys had been. Then, after some discussion, we decided to create our own survey relevant to our current Unit of Inquiry, Who We Are. Within this unit we are inquiring into cooperation, fair play, team work and our interactions with others both within our class community and the Early Years community as a whole. We agreed to design a survey about what we like to do with our friends and we chose 4 activities; holding hands with our friends, playing games together, reading books together and fighting / arguing with them We hoped that nobody would say that they liked to fight with their friends! We had a wonderful time visiting the EY1, EY2 and Kindergarten classes to ask them our survey questions. In fact we enjoyed it so much we decided to walk around the whole school and ask whether other teachers and older students would like to complete our survey.





Back in our classroom we looked at our recorded survey results to see which were the most popular answers and which were the least popular. Thankfully fighting with friends was the least popular answer! Reading with friends was the most popular. We then thought it would be a good idea to ask each other the same questions to see how our class results compared with the others. We discovered our most popular and least popular answers were the same! We then made a graph to represent our results and displayed it on the wall.





June 2, 2013
by Heidi Harman

Learning About Mathematics and Science Through Cooking


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.



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.


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.


April 23, 2013
by Rebecca Smith

Following and Building on Childrens Interests and Ideas

The teachers came across a large empty cardboard box. Without a defined plan we presented it to the children and watched how they chose to use it. At first a number of children decided to paint the box with the painting materials (these are always available for the children to use as they please.) The cardboard box became a collaborative canvas, as they took turns to add their own marks offering a surface for expression and shared storytelling. The children showed true ownership and pride of this shared artwork/object. Once the box was dry it became a fixture in other play episodes for over a week. It was transformed to be a variety of things from transport vehicles to a Chinese Takeaway Shop.

The teachers observed the children playing ‘shops’, the box was a tiny space overflowing with objects (heaped with as many toys as could be grabbed and contained in the space), at times it also included two or more small bodies depending on how many customers wished to visit the shop. Everyone wanted a turn, but the space was just too small. The teachers chose to present an idea to the children, ‘Would they like to make a bigger shop in our classroom?’ The children responded enthusiastically to this idea and working on this project. At a class meeting we talked about the items we’d need to make our shop – an apron for the shopkeeper, things to buy, money and cash register. The children were asked to share our idea at home. This was a lovely opportunity to talk about the learning happening in the classroom with our families and to ask for their involvement by helping us to collect food packaging to stock our shop.

Building and playing in the shop has offered the children the opportunity to develop and strengthen their skills in a variety of areas:

Mathematical – counting out money, giving prices to products, counting objects, recognising number numerals (number fans, 100’s charts and 200’s charts), sorting and ordering objects by attribute, taking turns using the sand timer (5 minute blocks)

Literacy – writing signs, writing numerical prices, listening to and reading books (independently, in pairs, small groups and whole class) about shops and shopping experiences

Social Skills – taking turns to carry out different roles – being the shopkeeper or a customer, and learning how to work together to make our shop successful and fun.

Some of our favourite stories about shopping:

Don’t Forget the Bacon

Sheep in a Shop

Fairy Shopping

Ten Dogs in the Window

To Market, to Market

These books can be borrowed from the ICS Library.

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