ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

November 7, 2013
by Andrea Mills
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Joyful Rainy Day Possibilities

Water play is an essential component of a quality Early Years program, offering interesting and dynamic opportunities for learning and interacting. At ICS, we feel strongly it is important to provide children with rich outdoor sensory experiences, in addition to those offered by the conventional classroom water table. Some may be tempted to peek out the window and view today’s rain and wind as a deterrent to the great outdoors. It was inspiring to look at the three years olds in Rebecca Smith’s class, who clearly recognise the possibilities of a rainy morning. P1110055Children develop problem solving skills as they explore concepts like floating and sinking as they build understandings about how and why thing happen.

Some wise person once said, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. We are fortunate that children in our program come prepared for outdoor learning in most weather. Rainy day outdoor water play offers countless learning opportunities without the constraints of space and worries about spills. Young children are natural scientists and explorations in the rain promote an authentic sense of wonder in a unique way that is unmatched by an indoor space. P1110062 Water is an ideal substance to learn about concepts of more/less, empty/full, before/after as well as principles of physics like water force, effects of gravity and much more. Children must utilise complex mathematical/ scientific thinking. P1110056 Water play promotes language development as children learn new vocabulary like funnel, measuring cup, sieve, moisture, etc. They are also actively using language with peers and teachers to make sense of their experience.  P1110044 These children were required to use language abundantly and develop negotiation techniques to navigate complex social situations including sharing space/materials and working together toward common goals and shared ideas. P1110065 The success of these rich, rainy day explorations is clear from the children’s engagement with the materials and each other. We teachers also feel refreshed and inspired after some joyful outdoor learning time.

Photos by Rebecca Smith (ICS EY Teacher)

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.

 

June 2, 2013
by Heidi Harman
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Learning About Mathematics and Science Through Cooking

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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.

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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.

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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.

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May 27, 2013
by Rebecca Smith
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A Provocation for Exploring Our Senses

How Do We Use Our Senses in Play?

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Upon arriving to the classroom one morning the children were presented with a provocation;

A tray filled with empty glass jars, a jug of water, coloured food dyes and metal spoons

What should we do with this?

Can I pour water in?

Whaooaa …. Look!!! Whoosshhh!!

More, more, more … now it’s your turn (to pour.)

The children began by pouring water from the jug into the jars. It was exciting to change the amount of water in each jar, they observed the rise of the water levels with their sense of sight. The children took turns to pour more and more water into each jar. When adding water to the jars, the sense of hearing was active as we listened to the water gurgle as it was poured in, mix and drops splash out.

P1030112P1030149Next we added some coloured food dye to the water in the jars. With our sense of sight we watched the drops of the coloured liquid mix and swirl to slowly spread through all of the water in each jar. The children used the metal spoons to stir the water.

The children concentrated intently, spending much time and effort to transfer the water, teaspoon by teaspoon, between the jars. This action required that the children’s sense of sight and sense of touch to work in combination together. The children observed the changing colours as they added and mixed in water from the different jars. Observing the changes in the colours and level of the water required the use of the sense of sight.P1030125P1030154

The children used their sense of hearing when stirring and tapping the jars with the metal spoons. We discovered that we could make music together by knocking the jars as they each made a different.

Throughout the play episode the teachers asked the children to identify which senses they were using.

Click this link to view a short movie of us in action exploring and experimenting by using our senses with these materials.

Password: 4eyparents

http://vimeo.com/66763199

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May 24, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
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Life Cycle of a Frog

Exploring and learning about life cycles through observation and illustration is important for children to help them respect and care for the living things around them.
Inquiring into life cycles within a context that children will understand and recognize is best done by observing and discussing the life cycles of flowers, butterflies, frogs and chickens. It allows children to understand that with growth there is change.
We in EY2 Red are observing the life cycle of a frog. IMG_6378
Before we brought the tadpoles to class we had a class discussion about frog eggs, tadpoles and frogs. The children shared their thinking and personal connections about these:
• I have never seen a frog egg or a baby frog.
• I have seen big black frogs in my grandma’s garden.
• When we are quiet we can hear the frogs singing in the pond.
We then followed up by reading the book “Oscar and the frog” and a few books about the life cycle of frogs, to deepen and challenge the children’s thinking and provoke more discussion.
We were lucky to find tadpoles in our school pond. We scooped out a bucket full of tadpoles with water from the pond and brought it to our class. Before we moved them into the tank we put some rocks, weeds and pond plants. IMG_6389IMG_6390

It was wonderful to see the excitement on the face of the children!
“Come and see it looks like a fish and swims like a fish too”.
“I wonder if they have eyes (we know that worms do not have eyes)”
“I like to see his tail wiggle. The tail is a little bit bushy”.
The children come to school every day excited to see if the tadpoles have grown. We are waiting to see the back and front legs to appear, facts discovered during the children’s research.IMG_6448 IMG_6547
They continue to observe and discuss the changes whilst referencing the books available to them. The children have shared their learning and theories with their Grade 3 reading buddies and some Grade 5 students visiting our class. IMG_6686 IMG_6841
This experience has provided opportunities for language development (learning new vocabulary) maths (numbers, size) and science (life cycle).
If we want children to respect the natural environment, we have to give them opportunities to connect and experience it.

May 7, 2013
by Rajeshree Rao
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Inspiring Interest in Growing Plants

Throughout the year, as part of our inquiry into the ways seasons affect life, we have been observing weather based changes. We thought springtime would be a perfect opportunity to explore plants in the classroom. We hope that involving children in growing plants provides a chance to experience the lifecycle process as well as develop a beginning understanding of where food comes from.

As a provocation, the teacher put out a bowl containing beans. The children shared their thoughts together as a class.  We had some interesting ideas including worm eggs, dinosaur eggs, bird eggs, sunflower seeds, nuts, but a few knew that these were beans that could be cooked and eaten.

We then read “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Jasper’s Beanstalk”, books about beans seeds and growing to stir our imaginations further. We used the children’s observations to begin our experiment. They wondered if we planted a bean, would it grow as tall as the one in the story?  We planted the bean, not in the soil like Jasper, but in a zip lock bag so that we could watch it grow. The children were intrigued when they found out that the bean could grow without any soil nor in a pot.

We wet a tissue, placed a bean in it and put it into the bag. We hung it on the window to allow ample sunlight. After the weekend, the children were excited to see that the beans were bigger and within days, they noticed that some of the beans had roots, shoots and a leaf.

The children have been recording their observations  in plant growth journals, documenting the bean’s development as the experiment progresses. We also planted  beans in glass jars, marigolds and dahlias in compost to observe the different ways plants grow.

Children learn through hands- on experiences. For example,observing actual plant parts and exploring similarities and differences between plants such as colours, shapes, size and textures will enable the children to build their understanding of the plant lifecyle.  They will also observe the effects environmental elements like  light, water and temperature have on the growing process.

Soon we will transfer the bean plants into soil. Then we will be able to see how tall they grow. We are excited about the many maths opportunities as well. We will measure the plants, count the leaves and observe the changes that happen. At some point in time, the children will take the plants home to share learning with their families.

These experiences support the children in building the knowledge of the world around them, raising their sense of inquiry. With their drawings and presentations, they learn to communicate their findings to others. They also listen to other children and realize that others too have different points of view. And they learn to care about the plants.

I am looking forward to sharing more about these exciting learning experiences.

May 6, 2013
by Heidi Harman
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Encouraging and Supporting Children’s Individual Inquiries

Supporting Our Personal Inquiries and Wonderings — Cracks in the mud inquiry

In the Primary Years Programme, we believe that optimal learning takes place when it is genuinely connected to the world around an individual student. Acquisition of both knowledge and skills and the search for meaning and understanding are most successful when done in relevant contexts.

Edward, Karson, Daniel, Villum and William found some cracks in the ground and wondered how they got there.

 

Karson, “there must be some pipes under the ground, and they’re getting bigger, so the ground is opening up”.

Edward, “no, there is something bad under there and it wants us to fall in”.

Daniel, “I think someone has been digging. Come, look. There is mud under the cracks. Maybe someone used their nails”.

Mrs. Harman is wondering if the ground is dry and that is why the cracks are there. Maybe if it had rained, the cracks wouldn’t be there? Karson has the idea to put water on the cracks to see if they stay or go away. Karson and Villum went to fetch the jugs of water while Edward, Daniel and William guarded the cracks in the earth. Karson and Villum poured water onto the cracks and we all noticed the cracks begin to disappear!

We could make the cracks disappear even faster by rubbing our fingers over them.

Edward began digging with his stick once the earth became wet mud and decided to dig for treasure.

He says he will continue to keep digging every day until he finds the treasure.

Edward, “we need to put lights on our hats so we can see when we go down”.

Karson, “when we see an X on a treasure map, that is where the treasure is”.

The children  felt inspired  to create treasure maps to help them find the ‘Diamond Castle’ under the cracks.

 

The cracks remain a source of inquiry to us. Why are they only located in this part of the playground at the top of the slope under a tree and nowhere else in the playground? This led to discussions about shelter from the rain and where rain water goes.

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.

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