ICS Early Years Center Blog

Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland

May 29, 2013
by Andrea Mills
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A Trip to the Zoo, Using our Senses to Learn about the World

Spotting colourful animals using our sense of sight!

Spotting colourful animals using our sense of sight!

We have been exploring the five senses as part of our PYP unit of inquiry, ‘Who We Are’. We have been thinking about the Central Idea, “We use our bodies to learn about the world”.  As a learning community, we have been inquiring into how our senses help us to learn.  We wanted to take our ideas about how our senses and bodies work beyond the classroom and out into the real world of the Zurich Zoo (http://www.zoo.ch/.)

The children had a lot of background knowledge about the five senses before our trip.  Our inquiries have already led to many discoveries through learning experiences in the classroom like creating a Senses Courtyard Garden, Taste Testing, Sensory Explorations and much more. Many children had also been to the zoo previously with their families and friends. We wondered what new connections the children would make in the context of our unit.

Looking for animals at the zoo (sense of sight.)

Looking for animals at the zoo (sense of sight.)

Observing and listening at the Orangutan Enclosure.

Observing and listening at the Orangutan Enclosure.

Vera listening to the otters communicating with each other (sense of hearing.)

Vera listening to the otters communicating with each other (sense of hearing.)

A station to listen (sense of hearing) to the different roars of lions.

A station to listen (sense of hearing) to the different roars of lions.

Sense of touch was active when petting the baby goats.

Sense of touch was active when petting the baby goats.

The children were asked to consider how their senses helped them to learn about the animals and other experiences at the zoo. These are some of the children’s reflections:

Vera- “I did hear the penguin. I heard him in the water. Bloop Bloop Bloop. Like that”.

Hugo- “I heared (point to ear) the elephants before see them”.

Natalia- “I saw the zebras with my eyes. I smelled the poo of the goats but I heared them and I liked the way they felt, soft”.

Zara- “When I saw some elephants, I learned they looked funny, especially their bottoms. I used my eyes to learn that because I had to look at them”.

Noa- “I liked the orang-utans. (They used their) hands and sense of touch to hang. They taste and (were) eating tomatoes and grass from the tree.” 

Maya – “I liked it when we had ice cream and we were using (our) sense of taste.”

Tommaso – “I liked it when we pat the goat and gave them food. We used our sense of touch.”

Maxi V B – “I liked when we saw the monkeys. They were using their hands and feet. They were using sense of touch.”

We were lucky with a beautiful sunny day for our journey and the weather surely contributed to the already sensory- rich excursion. We were happy to share this experience with parent helpers, who actively engaged with the children by using  vocabulary connected to our Senses Unit and supporting their learning with rich conversations about the animals, playgrounds and other learning opportunities at the zoo.

We look forward to sharing ways we will build on the children’s understandings from this trip back in the classroom.

Elephants are loud and smelly!! (Senses of hearing and smell were active.)

Elephants are loud and smelly!! (Senses of hearing and smell were active.)

At the Hippo Enclosure we could touch to feel replicated skin samples.

At the Hippo Enclosure we could touch to feel replicated skin samples.

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Enjoying the taste of an ice cream at the end of the day at the zoo.

Enjoying the taste of an ice cream at the end of the day at the zoo.

This experience was documented with photos in collaboration with my teaching partner Rebecca Smith.

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