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Early Childhood Foundations at the International School of Prague


Welcome to Early Childhood Foundations at ISP 2 Our vision and values 6 Literacy and numeracy 8 Learning stories exploring COMMUNITY (ages 3 and 4) 10 Learning stories investigating LIGHT (ages 5 and 6) 18 Organisation and daily routines 26 Further information 30

‘We have gatherings in the Theatre, the whole ISP Elementary goes so we can all be together. You get to see your brother or sister - I always wave to my sister.’ Every Room has a Number: the 5 and 6 year olds’ map of ISP

Welcome to Early Childhood Foundations at ISP At ISP, beginning in Early Childhood Foundations classes, children and adults learn together. We collaborate as researchers, thinkers and communicators. We look after each other as colleagues, neighbours and friends.

Our curriculum is grounded in human values and driven by curiosity. We believe that learning should also be playful and full of connections so our inquiries cross subject borders, grow as children’s ideas emerge and build through the conversations, questions and creative practice of our educators.

We believe that each child is a unique individual, capable, curious and full of rich potential.

In their first years of school children need to feel welcomed above all. We value individual differences as much as our many connections and we build our communities daily. Learning goes hand in hand with practical life, making friends, feeling safe and secure and celebrating together.

We also believe that extraordinary things happen when children, educators and families come together to build a learning community.


‘Once children are helped to perceive themselves as authors or inventors, once they are helped to discover the pleasures of inquiry, their motivation and interest explode.’ Loris Malaguzzi / Reggio Emilia

Our vision and values Founded in 1948, the International School of Prague combines more than seventy years of history and experience with a commitment to research and futurefocused thinking about education. Our community represents over 60 nationalities from around the world. We value this diversity and draw on it to empower critical and creative thinking, compassion and inter-cultural understanding and relevant, rich learning for all. Our approach in Early Childhood Foundations is anchored in the belief that children are competent, curious and inventive. We are inspired by the experience and philosophy of schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy, as well as our own


international context and history. We value these early years of school as a unique and wonderful stage in each child’s development and we also know that by doing so we build the strongest foundations for lifelong learning. Our 3 to 6 year old children learn together in beautiful, calm spaces. We enable the formidable curiosity, investigative and creative powers of young children to flourish in many ways and places; in the classroom, outdoors, in the beautiful nature reserve that is right on our doorstep in the city that is only minutes away.

communication, mathematics, science, social studies, visual and performing arts. We have Learning Support Teachers, a School Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapists and English as an Additional Language Teachers, so that all children can develop confidently and feel valued for who they are.

Our educators are highly qualified specialists with extensive experience and expertise. We structure crosscurricular inquiries that span language and


Literacy and numeracy ISP is an English-speaking school which means that we have conversations, read, write and learn in English. Families come from all over the world and many children are learning more than one language. We meet each child at his or her level of fluency, providing expert and explicit support for those learning English as an additional language. The heart of literacy learning at ISP involves children developing skills through social interactions, enjoyment, understanding and expression. Children speak and listen, read, write, spell, build vocabulary, use language daily and in varied contexts to make meaning, ask questions and express ideas. There are structured talking times in which children discuss their reading and writing with partners, in small groups or with the whole class. Through ongoing assessments we develop the capacity of all children to communicate, understand others and feel connected through language.


In teaching numeracy our purpose is to develop mathematical thinking so that children can make sense of the world, uncover and solve authentic problems, compare and evaluate their mathematical strategies and discover the power and application of number systems. Using a variety of materials and technological tools each child develops an understanding of mathematics concepts and processes. Children share their learning orally, in writing, using pictures, diagrams, tables and mathematical symbols. We recognise multiple solutions to mathematical problem-solving and the value we place on diverse thinking is emphasised, as we support children to consider their own mathematical reasoning and the reasoning of others.



Learning stories: 3 and 4 year olds exploring Community 1 / Adventurers playing with big ideas 2 / Linguists, communicators, social scientists 3 / Forest explorers learning skills for life


Adventurers playing with big ideas Three cardboard boxes sit on one side of the classroom. Four children approach, knock on a box, nothing happens. They knock again and a tiger bursts out. The children run, checking if their wild friend is following. The tiger-boy is perfect: surprising and just scary enough. Why should three-year-old children want to meet in this game of daring? Why did tigers turn into monsters, monsters into the dark, and a six month project develop, exploring danger and power?

When children invent games together they are learning and testing what they know. They teach each other, negotiate, discover each other’s capabilities and personalities. Young children’s games explore some of our biggest human ideas: danger, safety, identity, home, transformation, love. It was not at all surprising that the tiger game grew until the whole class was involved. Danger and safety matter to everyone.

‘Edgar’s family spoke only Polish at home. Shirley’s spoke Italian, and my grandparents spoke to us in Yiddish, but in play we shared a language in common. On the intimate landscape of make-believe we invented community and discovered one another’s true identities.’ Vivian Gussin Paley, A Child’s Work


From their dramatic games the children turned to ‘making the dark’. They developed a fascination for grinding pigment, mixing and comparing shades of black and grey. The children talked of ‘the dark’ as a friend too, strong and powerful, often named as their favourite colour. From a simple game a subtle project grew that enabled the children to explore their own considerable powers of creativity, drama and material investigation. ‘I like black. I am strong like black. I am stronger than the dark.’ Quinten (age 3)


Linguists, communicators, Three and four year old children were observing two snails and a crayfish, the smallest members of our classroom community. We invited them to talk about what they could see: ‘The crayfish is a bit scared and shy and hides all the time. Because it doesn’t know the classroom. In a week it will stop being shy and she’ll be happy.’ Alexia The crayfish is scared because he is hiding but really he wants to touch the snail. That’s why he’s getting closer.’ Luka

The small world of the tank prompted big questions about social systems: How does friendship work? How do we know what others are feeling? How do we communicate with bodies, eyes, faces?


In the same classroom, Agnete was watching the fish and opening and closing her mouth. When we moved the fish nearer to the snails and crayfish the children opened the tank to listen and ‘mouthed’ to the fish as if speaking directly to them. Our research about how fish communicate revealed an amazing fact: many fish hear and make sounds. We watched documentary footage of fish and their soundwaves and this visual language was quickly included in the children’s drawings.

social scientists The children knew our fish by name and gave each its individual voice, drawing directly on the range of human languages in our class. Jeha’s three fish all spoke fish language but with visible variations in English, Czech and Korean.

One of the children’s parents, an Upper School science teacher, brought the school’s own soundwave machine to show us. The children were amazed as each sound they made produced an immediate visual trace. This excitement led us into a new phase of exploring sound and volume; from the classroom all the way to the forest we collected, recorded and invented sounds that got softer and softer.

‘In any natural history of the human species, language would stand out as the preeminent trait. A common language connects the members of a community into an informationsharing network with formidable collective powers.’ The Language Instinct Steven Pinker


Forest explorers, Rainboots on, jackets zipped, recording journals packed - the three and four year old mycologists meet together before heading out to the forest. They share what they hope to find today: ‘A Fly Agaric...Puffballs, I hope... spider on a mushroom...more Bedla mushrooms.’

The children have begun to use the specific names of fungi. By researching, finding, observing, drawing and modelling a variety of species, their curiosity has turned to expertise. Observational skills have become more complex as they notice and think more about the fungi we find. The children’s drawings show intricate details, discernable and beautiful differences.


learning skills for life Some mushrooms are found in the same place each week and children feel confident in this knowledge. ‘We know

that mushroom, we’ve SEEN that one already!’ Others like to check in on the mushrooms like old friends: ‘I think you’re big now!’ When the

discovery of a new mushroom is made, it can be heard like a wolf call across the forest: ‘Mmusshhhrooommm, come!’

Our study has brought us together as a community and taught life-long skills. We know how to record and add onto scientific discovery, how to notice details, how to take interest in other’s work, how to question the unknown. We feel located in the landscape around us and determined to keep exploring.

‘We cannot create observers by saying ‘observe’, but by giving them the power and the means for this observation and these means are procured through education of the senses.’ Maria Montessori



Learning stories: 5 and 6 year olds investigating Light 1 / Designers and producers of light 2 / Collaborative scientists researching and problem-solving 3 / Directors, dramatists, story-makers


Gallery of children’s photographs and experiments - investigating reflection, dispersion and the beauty of light


Designers and producers of light Our classrooms are large and bright and the children love to build on an ambitious scale. After searching for and photographing light around the school, one group decided to construct a large sculpture to capture, reflect and re-direct sunlight. Atlas called it ‘a city of light – Rainbow City’ and as it grew in size children were often surrounded by dancing light and multiple rainbows.

We adapted a 4 x 4 open shelving unit to become a light studio, in which compositions could be tested and exhibited. Designing this way gave the children simultaneously creative and scientific ways to discover first-hand the properties and aesthetics of light.

Their fascination for producing coloured light was clear in other parts of the classroom, in which prisms, glass, mirrors and water were being experimentally combined in elegant and surprising ways . How to bend a rainbow - experiment and illustration by Raiens, age 6


Collaborative scientists, The children wanted to move Luna the crayfish to a large water table so they could observe her from underneath, but the best location for this was comparatively shaded. How could they direct more light into Luna’s new home? Could they use their recent discoveries about the way light travels? Working as collaborative scientists the children asked questions, tested solutions and researched further. Over many days progress was made and a combination of natural light, electric light and mirrors was constructed.

‘Maybe we could get mirrors and reflect.’ Margaret

‘Let’s try.’ Livi ‘Light goes in a straight line so maybe I should put these like this...’ Margaret ‘We have to bounce it inside.’ Maya ‘Yes, yes, there!’ Sola


researching and problem-solving

Around the classroom other questions were being investigated through experimental design: How can I make coloured light? Can I bend a rainbow? How can I make rainbow water? Each child recorded one experiment using scientific method: summarising the question, listing materials and drawing diagrams so the experiment could be replicated. Parents and visitors were invited to a Light Conference and Performance, to share and to celebrate the children’s luminous discoveries.


Directors, dramatists, story-makers As humans we have a strong desire for stories; autobiographical, fantastical, traditional, historical. Our inquiry into the physics of light provided a new angle from which to explore how stories can be told without words. The technicalities of shadow theatre depend on understanding how light behaves when projected and interrupted. With one of our groups of 5 and 6 year olds we worked with a large screen, whole body shadows, paper cutouts and a light source.

As the children translated their stories into silhouettes, they worked out the reverse imagery of the overhead projector and how to manipulate size and scale by altering distance from the screen. They learnt that for details to become visible on the cut-outs they had to be removed. Finally they were able to put all together to tell their stories, acting as light technicians, prop-makers, dramatists and authentic audience for each other.

How to make shadows and the beginning of a story: ‘The car came to the castle on the bridge. Under the bridge was a bat and owl.’ Kyra, age 5


Playing with perspective - one child’s hand on the overhead projector becomes a giant mouth that opens and closes over another child’s head. The children worked together to make dramatic stories without words from bold graphics and actions.


Organisation and daily routines Early Childhood Foundation classes are for children aged 3 - 6 years. We offer full-time education in small groups with a maximum ratio of 1:8 adults to children. Aftercare is available at no additional cost for all children Monday to Friday. Our mornings are dedicated to Reggioinspired inquiries alongside literacy and numeracy learning. In the afternoons Specialist teachers provide music, art, and PE lessons several times per week. Support for children learning English as an Additional Language runs throughout the day. Children also go to the library each week and use manual and digital technologies to develop their capacities for inventing, making and researching.


Children play outside for at least 30 minutes twice a day and once a week we take our learning into the neighbouring Divoká Šárka nature reserve. Lunch is provided though parents are also welcome to send home-packed lunches. Parents provide individual snacks for their children and bring fruit and vegetables to share in the afternoon. Families are a vital part of our community. ‘Morning Mixers’ invite you to spend time with your children in their classrooms and outdoors, sharing explorations and experiences first-hand.

‘You walk to the part where there are bushes. Sometimes you see or hear a dog barking on the right side. You cross the road again and you walk down the hill on the path and turn right. Then you cross the road and you go over a little bridge. The path curves to the right and you hike up the leafy, snowy, or grassy hill. You go all the way, up, up, up and up straight to the top of the hill.’ Gijs and Orla (age 6)


‘You have to know which day it is on the six day schedule because you need to know which Special you have so you can get ready. If you have Library you have to bring your books back in your bag so you can check out more.’ Every Room has a Number: the 5 and 6 year olds’ map of ISP

Further information The International School of Prague is a nonprofit independent school for students age 3 - 18 years old. We are accredited by the Council of International Schools and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. ISP is also authorized by the Czech Ministry of Education to educate foreign nationals and Czech citizens. For further information and to make an application please visit our website or contact the school directly. www.isp.cz www.isp.cz/admissions/ International School of Prague NebuĹĄickĂĄ 700 164 04 Prague 6 Czech Republic



‘Learning stories’ Educators and Teaching aides / pages 10 - 25 Samira Bello, Allison Bryan, Kerry Craig, Susan Erni, Katy Hawkins, Nikki Hume, Tracy Rops, Camilla Bonetti, Jana Chládková, Vladimíra Herberová, Mariamma Klepetko, Míša Kožíšková, Elsie Pinard

With thanks to Early Years Foundations specialist support teachers Pedagogical Advisor / Deb Wilenski Graphic design / Deb Wilenski & Laura Whitlock Inside cover illustrations / from ‘The Fishtank of Friendship’ 4 year old children exploring Community

‘The children´s enthusiasm and involvement are truly inspiring and the energy in class is so refreshing. We can honestly say that ISP Foundations represents another level in children´s education.’ Early Childhood Foundations parent

Profile for International School of Prague

Early Childhood Foundations at the International School of Prague  

Welcome to Early Childhood Foundations at ISP. Beginning in Early Childhood Foundations classes, children and adults learn together. We col...

Early Childhood Foundations at the International School of Prague  

Welcome to Early Childhood Foundations at ISP. Beginning in Early Childhood Foundations classes, children and adults learn together. We col...