ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

October 14, 2015
by katebowen
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Kindergarten Visit to Hof Narr Farm

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“Let nature be your teacher”

William Wordsworth

Our ongoing relationships with Hof Narr organic farm provides a wealth of learning opportunities for the children. Through their encounters with the animals, the orchard and the vegetable garden, the children explore big concepts such as change, growth and sustainability in an environment that is rich and engaging. As we move into the second year of our ongoing relationship, it was an exciting prospect to share this wonderful space with a new group of children. We considered what significant learning opportunities would arise from these initial encounters with the space and how this learning could be extended and taken forward as the children revisit the farm over the coming school year.

As we prepared to leave for our first visits the children buzzed with questions. This was a reminder of the significant opportunities for learning that can only be explored outside of the classroom context. The children wondered about what they would see and make connections to their current knowledge and understandings about farms.

Upon our arrival at the farm, we met with Sarah, the farmer. This was a first encounter for the children and it was important for her to share with the children about ways to keep safe when interacting with animals. The key concept she explored with the children was observation. She encouraged the children to observe the behaviours of the animals and let that guide interactions safely. By offering this responsibility to the children, she was empowering them as well as developing important skills which can be applied in different places they encounter animals. Her message to the children was clear; we have rules that I can share but I also want you to be in charge of your actions. An analogy she used to help them to connect to this understanding was to invite them to think about how they would want a visitor to come to their home.

The children shared their ideas:

“They should knock on the door.” Ellen
“Or ring the bell” Max
“They should come in slowly, not running.” Charles
The children then connected these personal feelings to the animals which guided their initial interactions.

As we visited each of the animals on the farm the children spontaneously asked questions they were curious about.

“Does the rooster wake you up every day? What time does he wake up?” Alex
“Why is Lucky the horse called Lucky?” Pippa
“Can the chickens lay eggs that make baby chickens?” Charles
“What do the pigs like to eat?” Jacob

These were all questions that the children were highly motivated to explore further. At this point, the teachers supported with questions and further development of the children’s ideas. This was an opportunity to find out what excites and interests children about the animals. What are their areas of interest? How can we provide experiences and opportunities both on the farm and back at school to help the children explore their questions further?

As we formed these basic agreements and listened for the children’s interests, we also began a process of creating a shared relationship with Sarah and a connection to a new space, the farm, which has the potential to become significant in our learning journeys.

We shared a snack prepared with ingredients harvested on the farm and then had an opportunity to explore the farm’s garden. The children were excited to encounter so many different fruits and vegetables.

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We visited the orchard and Sarah shared what fruits are ready to be harvested at this time of year. We had the opportunity to collect several types of apples and pears. We then visited the garden and observed broccoli, lettuces, squash, pumpkins and more. The children were impressed by the size of one large pumpkin. Sarah offered if we could lift it we might bring it back to school. The children embraced the challenge with the help of Max’s dad who supported us with transporting it back to school.

The children made a connection between the pear juice we had for our snack and the many pears we found at the bottom of the pear tree. It was suggested that we make our own juice back at school. Max’s dad offered to bring a juicer from home so we could explore the process the pears go through in order to be made into juice.

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On our walk back to the tram, Charles pondered what he had observed about life on a working farm.
“You know Sarah (the farmer) won’t even need to go to the shop will she? She will buy seed and then she just grows everything they eat.”

We will continue to build a relationship with the farmer, the animals and the farm as well as explore the rich opportunities for learning at the farm throughout this year.

 

September 11, 2015
by Andrea Mills
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Making Connections through the Language of Movement

It is a new school year filled with wonder, curiosity and hope.  Many children have joyfully reconnected with familiar friends and we have had many new faces join our Early Years community as well. As we embark upon our first Unit of Inquiry, Who We Are, we have carefully considered what types of experiences and environments might best support us with exploring the central idea Through Sharing Experiences in Our Community We Can Learn About Ourselves and Others.

In preparing the learning spaces for the children, we considered ways we might invite children to collaborate with the intention of exploring ideas around our classroom as a community. In the Early Years Centre, we share a strongly held belief that children have a multitude of symbolic languages with which they make meaning and demonstrate understandings. We value a kinesthetic style of learning and considered ways we might provide opportunities for the language of movement.

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An invitation to collaborate and connect through dance and movement with colourful props

In our back courtyard space, we have a sloping grassy patch where we set up some colorful fabrics attached to trees and fencing in an inviting display. We also provided some dancing scarves, music and at times different instruments with the intention of creating a whimsical space where the children could explore movement. We felt the natural environmental influences of wind, light and shadows would add another meaningful component to the learning experiences. This quickly became a popular area and we noticed the children were naturally drawn to running and dancing through the fabrics.

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Natural environmental influences like wind, light and shadowsadd an additional layer to children’s explorations

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The space was popular with the children who had previously established friendships as well as those new to our school. Many took great pleasure in making a game of running through the fabrics. There was much laughter, smiling and connecting. We were struck by the way a group of children who are new to our community interacted with each other in this joyful and physical way. Although there was not yet a common spoken language among several of the children, the language of movement was a way to get to know each other through a shared physical experience. The interactions in this space were poignant in that upon careful observation, we noticed that the children were moving with each other in very social ways. We wanted to explore that idea.

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We observed that there were several distinctive ways the children interacted collaboratively:

Hiding Together

One game that quickly emerged was hiding behind a piece of fabric attached to the fence. We know that children often seek out cozy, private spaces for a variety of reasons. It can feel comforting to have a secret space away from an activity hub. Even in a traditional playground space, many teachers have noted that they often find children rejecting the conventional equipment in search of a hidden leafy patch. The game that we observed began as one child experimenting with hiding behind the fabric. She was slowly joined by another and then another. The group was happy to be hidden altogether in a quiet space. They shared a physical closeness and at the same time were visibly developing a connection with each other. This same group came together in this way for the entire week.

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 Hiding together in a cozy nook

Twirling/ Dancing/ Imitating

Different materials  including dancing scarves and musical instruments were set out daily. The children quickly used the materials to twirl, dance and skip. We remarked how children’s movements often seemed like invitations to friendship. A child’s gaze toward another indicated an openness to companionship. We observed children mirroring each other’s movements as well as engaging in collaborative, orchestrated dancing. Again, we were struck by the way a shared kinesthetic experience served as a platform for relationship building. It was a way for individuals to come together and form a group in a very physical sense through the language of movement.

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Invitations to dance and move collaboratively led to an emerging sense of connectedness through meaningful encounters. These experiences support our learning goals defined in ICS’s scope and sequence by developing the idea that children should recognise the value of interacting, playing and learning with others. We want students to understand that participation in a group can require them to assume different roles and responsibilities and a willingness to cooperate. In this space, we explored these concepts in a very kinesthetic sense. Most significantly, we are reminded that there are many ways to know, to learn and to express understandings.

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred always a hundred…

From the poem “No way. The hundred is there.” by Loris Malaguzzi.

Translated by Lella Gandini

 

October 29, 2014
by Heidi Harman
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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.

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Choosing flowers to decorate our dining tables.

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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.

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Preparing the fruit.

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Preparing the cheese and crackers.

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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.

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Taking food orders and serving the meals.

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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.

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The restaurant is open to our families.

 

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’.

 

March 17, 2014
by Heidi Harman
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A Class Inquiry into Dinosaurs and Fossils

When a child in our class (EY2HH) drew a picture of dinosaurs alongside some fossils, it sparked a new inquiry for us. As he showed his friends his drawing, some were curious about fossils and there was much interest in finding out more about them. We visited Ms. Judith in the library and she helped us to find non-fiction books about fossils (and dinosaurs).

We felt inspired to try to make our own fossils! We made some salt dough and pressed our small dinosaur/ animal/ insect figurines into the soft dough to make an imprint. We then baked the salt dough in the oven until it was hard like stone and the imprint looked like a fossil. We liked to trick visitors to our classroom into believing we had found real fossils while outside during one of our Waldkinder outdoor learning sessions!

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After doing some research and learning more about dinosaurs and how they once lived, we set up an area in our classroom to recreate dinosaur habitats.

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We thought carefully about which dinosaurs preferred to live together and which liked to be alone. We considered the various types of food the dinosaurs liked to eat and we used play dough to represent some of these foods.

We also used play dough to make dinosaur eggs, but these were too soft and kept getting squashed flat, so we discussed what other materials we could use to construct eggs, which were more life-like. We decided to use a sticky mixture of mud, salt, sand and water. We moulded the sticky mud mixture around our toy baby dinosaurs until they were completely hidden and then we let the ‘eggs‘ dry and become hard. We thought that these eggs looked quite realistic and after a few days we wanted our baby dinosaurs to hatch. Some eggs cracked open easily while others needed tools to help break them open.

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One of the children took action with her learning and continued with our inquiry at home. She bought a ‘real‘ dinosaur egg from the shops, placed it in water and, after a few days, the egg cracked and the dinosaur hatched out! We were kept updated with the egg‘s progress with photographs and the baby dinosaur was also brought to school once it had finally hatched.

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This personal inquiry has tied in perfectly with our year-long unit of inquiry, Sharing the Planet, where we are learning about animals, habitats, relationships, characteristics, need and interactions.

Photos by Heidi Harman

 

September 15, 2013
by Heidi Harman
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Fostering language development in the Early Years

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In the Early Years we have many learning outcomes related to the four language strands of reading, writing, listening and speaking, and viewing and presenting (some outcomes addressed in this experience are listed below). Our class recently engaged in a wonderful learning experience, which helped to facilitate the development of some of these goals in all the four language strands. Together we read the lift-the-flap book, ‘There‘s a Dragon at my School’ by Philip Hawthorn and Jenny Tyler, which Ms. Judith in the library had ordered specially for us. During this shared story time, the students were encouraged to participate as active listeners. They also had the opportunity to help with the story-telling by taking turns to come and lift the flaps in the book and talk about what was happening in these hidden pictures. The story has repetitive phrases running through it, which while helping to develop language for all children, is particularly helpful for children learning English as an additional language (EAL). It wasn‘t long before everyone was joining in with these familiar phrases and we were all reading aloud together. We all agreed that we wouldn‘t want this dragon at our school, as he was always breaking the school rules! The children were encouraged to draw their own picture of a dragon at school and everyone was incredibly enthusiastic to make their dragon as naughty as possible! The children showed a real desire to draw and write and were keen to dictate the meaning of their picture stories. We put all of our drawings together to make one story book and we even made it into a lift-the-flap book! Everyone was so excited to share and present the page they had contributed to our re-told dragon book and it has been delightful to see the children imitating adult demonstrated reading behaviours as they share it together. Our book has now become part of our classroom library and is a very popular read!

Here is the link to a video of some of the children reading the book:

The password to view the video is: icsz

Language learning outcomes

Speaking and Listening

Look at the speaker when they are listening in a pair, small group or large group

Participate as speakers and listeners in group activities

Retell or tell a story with regard to sequence of events

 

Reading

Understand that both illustration and text carry the message, but that the reader is reading the words

Demonstrate conventional book handling skills   eg. Turning pages carefully, pointing to text, understanding left to right directionality

 

Writing

Continue to convey meaning through drawing which may then be described in dictated text where an adult scribes

Respond to correct pencil grip (when drawing)

 

Viewing

View and listen to media

April 23, 2013
by Fiona Affleck
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Student-led Conferences and the Importance of Reflection

As a PYP school, we encourage students to become reflective learners as part of our curriculum and the IB learner profile:

“Students give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development”  International Baccalaureate Organisation

The student led conferences provided an opportunity for shared reflections. We are delighted that so many of you have participated. The teachers have all commented on how proud the children were to share their work and it was rewarding to observe the children’s developing language and enthusiasm towards their learning. We hope that by sharing their experiences and reflecting together with parents that the children’s understandings are deepened and become more meaningful.  We believe in the power of connecting learning and by sharing our portfolios in this way we are able to further connect with parents and families and strengthen experiences by revisiting the children’s ideas.  As the children get used to talking about their achievements like this they become interested, excited and motivated about their discoveries. This in turn helps them to take responsibility and become more independent in their learning. Thinking about our experiences together also allows children to verbalise their thoughts and further inspire their inquiries by sharing ideas with a wider audience.  Whilst the teachers have used the portfolios to document the children’s progress, some of the work in the portfolios was selected by the children and I know that some children were even able to justify these choices. The children feel extremely proud to be able to lead you through their portfolios and are still asking if they can look at their ‘special books’ and share them with their friends. We are looking forward to documenting the children’s learning for the remainder of the year.

February 25, 2013
by emmahorsey
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The children own the learning

As a team of Early Childhood Educators we regularly discuss and understand the value of the children’s role in their learning.  Education looks different today than it has in the past.  We know more about how a child’s brain develops and how children learn, this in turn allows us to adjust teaching styles.  To talk about the role of the child in learning requires us to look at the role of the teacher.

Today’s classrooms, and definitely our Early Years classes at ICS are no longer a place where the teacher being the the ‘all knowing source of information’ is there to instruct the child and provide feedback as to whether their answers are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.  We view the class as a learning community. A place where children support and listen to each other, where all theories and ideas and considered, debated, valued and discussed.  Children interests are followed their contributions respected.  Teachers regularly model learning and are a part of learning community.   We know this can have great effects of a child’s motivation to engage and learn.

Children having more control of their own learning is at the heart of  John Dewey’s (American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer) concept of learning by doing.

This week children took the lead once more to share their learning with parents in our Student Led Conferences.

 

 

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