ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

June 25, 2015
by Andrea Mills
1 Comment

Arts Fest: Exploring our Group Identity, Creating and Exploring with Found Natural Materials

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The forest is a special place which has become deeply rooted in the identity of the Early Years Centre learning community. Each class spends weekly time dedicated to exploring the outdoor environment where children are able to learn with and through nature.

The focus of the school wide Arts Fest this year, “Collabor-Art” was an opportunity to work together across the Early Years Centre with children, teachers, as well as the grade eleven students who supported us with the documentation of these experiences.

Our aim was to explore the sharing of thinking that the children have around the time that they spend in the forest. We took time to listen and to identify their emotions, as well as observe their explorations while engaged in outdoor experiences. There was much dialogue during forest encounters as well as connections made through reflections back at the classroom.

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Some children reflected on how they might feel in the forest while others considered the types of sounds they might experience.

Masha: “I heard birds, maybe little birds”

Jake: “Peeping and clacking”.

Naomika: “Sounds like different kinds of birds. Yeah, I hear, one goes, cheep, cheep, one goes cheap tweet tweet. Like a blackbird, a crow, a woodpecker”.

Eleonore: “We could make a nest for the birds. They’re chirping”.

Izumi: “I feel happy (in the forest) because it’s dark and we can play there”.

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The auditory component of the forest environment emerged as an important theme for many of the children. Some groups visited the forest in different types of weather to observe and experience how rain, wind and other natural forces might effect the way the forest sounds. The grade eleven students recorded and videoed these observations.

Children also reflected on how they like to spend time in the forest.

Alex: “Building dinosaur dens with my friends and also balancing on the big log and jumping from the log. I also liked when we built a bridge on the stream”.

Adeline: “I like building little tents so we can have our snacks inside it. It’s so fun to carry the big heavy sticks to build the big tent”.

Oliver: “I like building a tent and also a bridge on the stream. I like to make a rainbow with sticks in the forest”.

The children’s comments expressed their clear ideas about how they like to make choices about spending time in the forest. They demonstrated strong understandings of opportunities in the forest setting as well as a sense of personal agency.

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The multi-sensory and beautiful woodland setting inspires a sense of wonder and creativity. During our visits leading up to the arts days, we listened for the rich dialogue, meaning making and theory building of the children.

Charles: “My boots can stick on the surface (of the wet, squelchy mud)”.

Wille: “There is a baby goat near my home. I’ll feed him with these flowers (indicating the dandelions and buttercups he has picked)”.

Lily: “These flowers are for my clay forest. The purple are the most beautiful ones because they love the sun. They love everything. Can we bring clay to the forest? I want to make my clay forest now. Look how many flowers I have! It’s going to be a true forest”.

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As a teaching team, we spent time considering our observations and discussing how we could re-propose what we had seen in the forest back to the children upon their return to school.  We had noticed previously how the children enjoyed bringing  items back from the forest and placing them in the courtyard.  Taking this interest in mind, wooden boxes were provided, and we invited the children to leave their forest treasures with the growing collection of natural materials following each forest visit. Soon we had abundant pinecones, grasses, rocks and sticks of all shapes and sizes.

Creating Day

The re-proposing of the interests that the children had demonstrated in the forest provided an opportunity for the creation of art installations reflecting our connection with the forest. The Early Years Centre classes collaborated with some Grade 11 students, who documented the process with technology, including stop motion video of two installations, a slide show of a photo compilation and a film.

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https://vimeo.com/131404930

Password: ArtsFest

Key Points of Interest

In the forest, we observed that some key points of interest emerged. The children engaged in wrapping, threading, creating designs/structures and noticing details in different ways. The invitations to revisit these themes in a different context back at school provided the children with opportunities to build on their ideas and create deeper shared understandings. There was a sense of synergy as the group collectively worked toward larger creative goals connected to our group identity.

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Celebrating our Work and Identity with Families

After the Creating Days, the children were highly motivated to share about their experiences. We invited families to a special evening of forest inspired installations as well as a walking visit to our forest space. The classes prepared delicious snacks including guacamole, homemade bread, fruit kebabs and more. We noticed a pride and commitment to describing the project and the ways the art and forest were present throughout the Early Years Centre.  The children eagerly showed their families around our shared spaces and it was a beautiful evening of shared connection built around the children’s work and our identity as a community.

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Text by Andrea Mills

Photos by Rebecca Smith, The Early Years Centre team and ICS Grade 11 students

Videos by ICS Grade 11 students

October 20, 2014
by Rajeshree Rao
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Developing Language and Mathematical Skills using Stories

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As a class we read and enjoyed Julia Donaldson’s picture book ‘Stick Man.’ The rhyme within the text is simple and repetitive, allowing the children to join in with the ‘reading’ and predict and identify rhyming words within the story. The fact that the story begins in autumn and finishes in winter is represented by the eye-catching illustrations.  These allow the children to make connections between elements of the illustrations and the seasons of the year. It also helped to form understandings related to our year long Unit of Inquiry,  ‘How the World Works’, in which the children are exploring  how changing seasons affect the environment.

After we read the book several times, the children drew their own ‘stick man’ from their perception and understanding of the story.

The children planned to make these drawings come to life, and to collect natural materials to create their own ‘stick man’. Before heading off to the forest, there was a class discussion about the kinds of things that would be needed.

These were some of the children’s ideas:

‘We need long sticks to make the daddy, small sticks for the children and middle size sticks for the mummy’

‘We need a big stick to make a family home’.

After a successful time in the forest gathering all they needed, the children then made their own individual members of the stick family, adding detail such as eyes, hair and hats.

These explorations not only helped children to develop their language and communication skills, but also evolved into mathematical thinking, as the children counted and compared the lengths of the sticks as needed.

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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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April 17, 2013
by Heidi Harman
1 Comment

Beauty in Nature: Flower Petal Window Hangings

In our year-long unit of inquiry, ‘How the World Works‘, we are inquiring into how life is affected by the seasons. We set up a learning experience for the children connected to this unit, which was to make window hangings which will begin to transform the ‘forest area‘ of our classroom from Winter to Spring.

The children separated petals from flowers, which were beginning to wilt and die and sorted them according to colour.

  

    

As the children separated the petals, they were closely examining the form of each flower and making comparisons between them. They then stuck the separated petals onto transparent contact paper in patterns and designs of their choice.

    

    

It was interesting to observe how each child chose to create their flower composition. Some were intentional with clear patterns, lines and forms and others were casual and random, but ALL were beautiful.

    

This was a new way for us to see and think about flowers and to create something extraordinary using natural materials.

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.

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