As students move through our Early Years programme, Kindergarten is a vital stage in their development as learners. Our Assistant Principal for Grades EY-2, Sarah Osborne, explains the deep thinking at the heart of International School of Zug Luzern’s Kindergarten programme.
Diverse Kindergarten Experiences
Take a peek into any classroom of five and six year-olds across the world and you will see a very different Kindergarten experience across countries and contexts. Indeed, for many children of this age there may not even be a traditional school building or even a classroom with walls. Other possibilities such as Forest Kindergarten (Waldkindergarten) offer a completely different learning experience that places an emphasis on being outside and learning in and with nature. What is special about Kindergarten is that you can see so much about the values of the institution by how they are teaching their five and six year-olds. You can see what they believe to be important. Look at a Kindergarten, in any setting, and you will see the educational priorities of that country or institution. The Kindergarten at ISZL is no different.
The ISZL Kindergarten Experience
At ISZL, we know that children are curious and capable learners, rich in potential. They are creative, natural inquirers and critical thinkers. This belief shapes the decisions we make for our Kindergarten programme. Guided by our whole school learning principles, our Kindergarten experience is centred on the learner. Our children come to school with a wealth of prior knowledge of the world, gained through their social interactions and experiences. We draw on these as a starting point for learning. Our highly qualified and passionate early childhood educators observe and listen to children. They respect their thinking and wonderings and carefully document the children’s learning. Framed by the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP), the children at ISZL engage with meaningful and challenging inquiries that encourage children to turn their learning into action.
As children engage in inquiry, they are guided to represent and express their understanding through drawing, writing, sculpture, mathematics, music, dramatic play, movement and technology. Developing these expressive languages nurtures cognitive, social and communication skills, and provides a solid foundation for learning in Kindergarten and beyond.
The Early Years Programme at ISZL places great value on relationships, play and the provision of a flexible, resource-rich learning environment both indoors and outdoors. Building on this, play in Kindergarten continues to be a way for children to explore and make sense of the world around them. The daily schedule for Kindergarten is carefully considered to include uninterrupted time for children to immerse themselves deeply in their inquiries and great care is taken to balance opportunities for adult supported, freely chosen play and adult-led, small group activities.
We understand the vital role of literacy for learning and recognise that children entering Kindergarten are curious about exploring the relationship between letter sounds and symbols. Through weekly reading and writing workshops, teachers support the children in developing a positive view of themselves as readers and writers. Small group sessions provide a differentiated approach that focuses on childrens’ individual needs and literacy skills. Kindergarten children have access to our library with a collection of over 48,000 books and an extensive collection of levelled reading books that support their early reading journey.
Expressive Language Learning
As a school with a focus on developing international-mindedness, we value and support multilingualism. The German programme in the Early Years Programme is focused on developing oral language through authentic experiences within a range of contexts. In Kindergarten, there are scheduled German lessons three times a week, and children regularly engage in a writer’s workshop as a dual language session (taught in both English and German). All children are invited to practise their German language through experiences such as baking, community singing, outdoor learning and German-focused visits to the forest. Swiss and German cultures and traditions feature strongly in our Kindergarten curriculum throughout the year, fostering our links with our local community.
Play and Learning Environment
We see children as creative thinkers, exploring ideas and identifying and solving problems. A special space that our Kindergarten children have access to is the workshop studio. The studio contains space for cooking and construction, close to the Kindergarten homerooms. We know that our children are growing up in an ever-changing world and that the future requires adaptive, critical and creative thinkers. In the workshop studio, children have access to opportunities and materials to undertake personal research, to problem solve and nurture their creative thinking.
Outdoor learning is firmly established in the Early Years Programme at ISZL. It is well-documented that for children, spending time outdoors is important for health and well-being. Therefore, our Kindergarten children spend an extended amount of time in the outdoor environment every day. They have direct access to a purpose-built playground and a nature area that includes a gated pond, vegetable garden, apple orchard and mud kitchen. Drawing on the natural beauty of Switzerland, the Kindergarten children also spend half days in the forest. Access to these rich outdoor spaces creates opportunities for both social interaction and learning as well as the space to move over different terrains, developing gross motor control and strength. We also know that direct experience of the natural world can develop an appreciation of the environment. As a school that places an emphasis on turning learning into action, it is our hope that these early experiences will foster a life-long respect for and appreciation of the natural world.
Community and Collaboration
The early experiences offered at ISZL are exceptional, but what makes our Early Years and Kindergarten a truly special place is our welcoming and caring community. Seeing parents as partners in their child’s education, we value collaboration between teachers, parents and children and by nurturing positive relationships, we aim to foster a sense of wellbeing and belonging for all our ISZL families.
About the International School of Zug and Luzern
ISZL is an award-winning co-educational day school in Central Switzerland, founded in 1961. As a non-profit International Baccalaureate® world school for students aged 3 to 18, we offer a comprehensive and rigorous academic programme that connects students to the world around them. We help students turn their learning into action by stretching them further to achieve more than they believe possible. Our vibrant, multicultural and caring community fosters a deep sense of well-being.