ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

December 8, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
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Exploring Water Beads

Children are naturally curious about their world. They wonder, question, discuss and make discoveries. We felt that water beads would be an ideal way to provide our little scientists with an opportunity for discovery.

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We began our experiment by placing a handful of small water beads into a large bowl. We then asked the children to predict what would happen if we added water to the bowl.

We had some interesting predictions.

Walker: “They will change colour.
Nicolas: “They will stay the same.”
Annabel: “They will get mashed up.”
Ffion: “It will sink.”
Karson: “They will just roll in the water.”

After a couple of hours the children noticed that the water level was decreasing as the size of the beads were increasing.

Edward: “I wonder what will happen to it tomorrow when we come back to school”.
Alexander: “They will explode.”
Wren: “No they will get bigger and bigger.”

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The next morning, we placed the beads on our table for the children to explore. It was interesting to listen to them describe how the beads felt to each other.

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These are some of their observations:

Noemie: “It feels squishy.”
Anika: “It feels soft.”
Wren: “I think it feels slimy.”
Nicolas: “It feels a little bit funny and gloopy.”

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Using mathematical language as they make patterns and discuss about the shape of the beads.

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Handling beads helps develop fine motor skills. Using pincers to pick up the beads helps develop hand eye coordination.

Water beads promote learning and development in a number of ways: from fine motor and sensory skills to science and maths.

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October 10, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
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Block Play in Early Childhood Development

In our class blocks have been a hotspot of inspiration and learning. Playing with blocks keeps children very engaged and interested. Using blocks creates challenges and repeated use inspires children to be more creative and work on more complex structures.

Through block play children learn:

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(Image sourced from: http://www.stevenscoop.org/news/article/index.aspx?linkid=60&moduleid=39) 

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Ffion, Alex, Walker and Nicolas decided to draw a plan on how to use the blocks to build a train, plane and a castle. In order to put their plan into action, there was a lot of sharing of and building on ideas.

When building with blocks the children are not only using their imagination but are also able to describe and narrate their story.

Here are some of their descriptions:

“A very tall tower for all of us to live in and hide from the baddies.” Karson and Walker
“A scary dinosaur castle and the dinosaurs are looking for children to eat.” Edward
“A castle with wheels.” Alexander
“We can do a train and also a bridge.” Edward, Walker and Nicolas
“A garage for the trains.” Ffion, Anika, Edward

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The range of math skills the children are exploring are: counting, measuring, comparing length and width, names of shapes, and how to combine some geometric shapes to make other shapes. They are even learning the basics of addition when they discover that two short blocks will be the same length as big block.

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“Look Mrs. Rao, if I put two small blocks they are the same as the big one.” Karson

“Two small rectangle blocks are the same as the big rectangle one.” Walker

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“We have 13 blocks and you have more.” Edward.

“I am taller than this tower.” Zane
“I am taller than the tower, but shorter than Zane.” Amy
“I am shorter than the tower. I cannot see Zane.” Annabel

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“Thank you for sharing the blocks with us.” Nicolas

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Children experiment with science concepts such as forces, when they learn how to balance the blocks to avoid their constructions from falling.

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They learn the use of simple machines such as ramps and slides through their buildings.

Here the children are experimenting to discover:

How many blocks until it topples over?

What can we do to make it balance?

What will slide down easily and what will not move when we put it on the ramp?

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Block play encourages healthy social development among children. When groups of children play with blocks together, they learn how to share, cooperate and build on each others ideas.

October 3, 2013
by Heidi Harman
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Supporting students’ personal inquiries and curiosity

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

March 24, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
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Maths and Science Provocation

As a teacher at times you have a plan, an intention. On this occasion my intention was a maths experience. I used snow, weighing scales, funnels and measuring jars as a provocation, to spark an interest in the children. After preparing the materials, I then stood back and watched how the children would use them. The children started by weighing the snow, making connections between the scale going up and down and the weight of the snow. The children came up with the conclusion, if the snow is heavy, the scale goes down. As they were doing this there were measuring volume, seeing how much snow they could put into the scale, balance was the goal!
One child began to put snow into the funnel, the question was asked, ‘Why doesn’t the snow come down the funnel?’ The children persisted in their efforts to get the snow through the funnel, until eventually the snow started melting. A ha! A discovery! The children were excited to report to the teachers that ‘If it is water it will come through, but it is something hard it won’t come through the funnel!’
I am continually impressed by the ability of my students to experiment and come up with their own theories. In this case the maths intention turned into additional learning about science concepts. Solids, liquids, theories and experiments all in a morning in EY2 Red.

Collaborative Problem Solving – Water Play

March 18, 2013 by Heidi Harman | 0 comments

Water play is a daily learning experience available to our EY1 students. It fosters creative learning in all areas of their development and, because it is such an open-ended activity, it provides opportunities for extended learning. Providing a variety of materials with the water encourages the children to try out new ideas and find solutions to problems.

    

We posed a challenge for the children, which was to transfer the coloured water from the water tray in the upstairs classroom to a large bucket located down on the stairs. As the children began to manipulate the water play materials, they quickly started to problem-solve and work out how best to transfer the water. The children were incredibly creative with their ideas about how to move the water. They communicated well and worked together to achieve their goal. Their encouragement of each other was truly inspirational! The children were experimenting with mathematical concepts throughout this learning experience and were using mathematical language such as more, less, empty, full etc. New vocabulary was also quickly learnt and it was wonderful to hear words such as funnel, syringe and tubing being used so confidently.

It was delightful to see our students further developing their social skills as they played cooperatively, negotiated together and shared space and materials!

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