The Special Box


The ‘Special Box’ is a possession of the E2 class, a box which the children take turns taking it home to fill with treasures from home to show and share with the class during the week. One day, Ms Jacquie visited the ELC during our Special Box session and she asked the children if they would like her to cover the box. The children thought that this would be a good idea. Last week, Ms Jacquie came to show us how the box can be covered. The following slideshow shows some images from this experience. The covering of the box has inspired us to cover old boxes for our up-coming RE-invention Day on February 3rd, a day when we think about re-cycling, re-using and re-ducing waste items to turn them into beautiful creations.

Covering the Special Box with Ms. Jacquie from YIS ELC on Vimeo.

Pattern Blocks


Pattern blocks are a type of mathematical manipulatives that allow children to see how shapes can be decomposed into other shapes. As the various shapes fit so nicely together in different ways, the blocks seem to be appealing for the children to not only create patterns, but also designs and pictures, stimulating an occasion for building narratives around their constructions.

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During Free Exploration, the blocks are often used by the E1 children as ‘food’ such as chocolates or pizzas baked and served to the teachers and friends. We wondered how the children’s explorations with the blocks can be elevated and decided to pair up an E1 child with an E2 child to explore the blocks together and to co-construct a design/story.

Here are the narratives born from the constructions:

“A Christmas Tree”

“Mt. Fuji and Penguin-san”

“A Castle”

“A Den” – “A Castle’s Garden” – There are some weeds, a tunnel and then some flowers, a castle.

“Obake” (A Ghost)

“Strawberry Sandwich”

“I make me”

“Nagare-boshi” (A shooting star)

“Youkai Watchi”

“It is a pathway, you go all the way around to get to the castle”

Please enjoy the slideshow below which shares the many varied and creative explorations, decomposing mathematical shapes to compose images and stories.


Pattern Blocks-Medium from YIS ELC on Vimeo.

How we express ourselves


Our second semester brings forth an exciting inquiry on the transdisciplinary theme of How We Express Ourselves, delving into questions and meanings on the metaphor of ‘the hundred languages of children’ as defined by the Reggio educators and philosophy. At our ELC we attempt to create many contexts to demonstrate the pleasure and necessity of communication through multiple languages, ‘a hundred languages’ of children, a powerful message and metaphor, and a declaration, which gives value to all modes of communication equally. In our work with the children, the children teach us that the expressive languages (and not necessarily limited to the verbal language) are really an everyday thing. When we speak of expressive languages, we are specifically thinking of symbolic, graphic and poetic representations, such as painting, drawing, dancing, singing, constructing, modelling and sculpting clay, creating collages, and many more. We observe the children shifting into and out of different spaces of communicative strategies and events, weaving together emotions and empathy, heightening sensitivity for ‘languages’ with intellectual curiosity.

As such, it can seem somewhat ironic that a single unit of inquiry with limited time be devoted to our everyday experiences. We have consciously listened to the children’s many ways of expression from the beginning of the school year. Thus, this semester, we are curious and wonder if there may be a more specific language which each child is interested and attracted to delver deeper into. We have framed the inquiry with an initial question: “What is it like?” to elicit the children’s thoughts, theories and ideas to begin our dialogue. As we embark upon this project with some uncertainty, one aspect which we are certain about is that it will generate more questions, not necessarily to answer, but to listen as an invitation and occasion for growth for adults as well as for the children. The slideshow below shares some of the ‘languages’ explored by the children.  The photos are taken by Ms Jacqueline Pender.

Expressive Languages from YIS ELC on Vimeo.

The Spirit of Tea


“If tea, like the moon at its clearest, could promote a beautiful state of mind in people throughout the world, it would surely make a great contribution to world peace.” (Sen Shositsu XV, in the “Spirit of Tea”)

Such was the experience the children and the host shared through the Way of Tea. The culture of tea is a culture of hospitality, not only in Japan, but in many different cultures. Tea is a means for establishing and maintaining good relations among each other, being in the moment together of welcoming and accepting. The tea spirit, through the Way of Tea, as it is appreciated in Japan, is thought to be not only confined to the tearoom. It is thought of as a spirit essential for people living together in the world of nature with many other living beings. As the children sipped their tea from the delicate tea cups, they could not help but smile. What a wonderful culture, bringing smiles upon faces, to continue living in the moment together with mutual recognition of and respect for others. The message of the host written on the scroll in the alcove was ‘kokoro’, meaning ‘heart’. How often are we able to listen to our hearts, to listen to the heart of others, our environment? How are we able to possess a gentle heart that can help to sprout a harmonious heart?


Way of Tea -Large from YIS ELC on Vimeo.

How our choices and actions affect others


After our friends went home, we discussed how nice it was for our Baby Home friends to bring a present for us.  In an attempt to help the children understand that they can make choices to make a difference in the lives of others, we asked the class if they would all like to make a Christmas present for the children from the home, that may bring joy to them at Christmas time.  This suggestion was met with much enthusiasm and excitement and the children had many ideas about what to give. Here are their ideas:

Jesse: Christmas tree and wreath

Natalie: Give a TV for Christmas

Masaichi: DVD

Luca: TV

Chloe: Give them a special book

Saleh:  Santa

Oliver: Racing car

Kaito, Shoma, Lerah, Martina, Ashley, Yuri, Jina: Christmas tree

Erica: Elsa

Aoi: Drawing

Akihiko: Letter, origami

Scarlett: A Frozen plate

Danny: A picture of Santa on a roof

Rain: Balloons

As a group we decided that our gift to the children at the home would be a Christmas Tree with decorations made from clay, incorporating all the ideas of each of the children such as a racing car, Santa, TV, DVD, balloons, a book, a wreath, Frozen.

The teachers bought a live Christmas Tree and then the children worked with their parents to make the decorations with clay on our Craft Luncheon Day.  This was a delightful and rewarding experience for the children, parents and teachers.  We all enjoyed working together as a group to make our collaborative present for the children at the home.  We were very touched that the children were able to spend so much time and thought creating the decorations knowing that they were not going to keep them, but that they were making them as a gift for the children at the home.

We will walk over to deliver the gifts to the children’s home in the coming week, keeping our promise to see each again.

Please enjoy viewing the slideshow from our morning:

ELC Craft-Luncheon from YIS ELC on Vimeo.



A morning with our friends from the Baby Home


Fifteen years ago, we established a connection with The Lady of Lourdes Baby Home
(Seibo Aijien) in Yamate. The Home is for children ages 2-18 years of age, with 24
children between the ages of 3 and 6. These children all have at least one parent,
but for various reasons cannot live with their parents. We invited three of the younger children to visit the ELC on November 28th.

Within this meaningful context the inquiries of the children are inter-connected and lent themselves to both our Who We Are and Sharing the Planet Units of Inquiry.
The children considered the circumstances of their own home situations, being part of a family group, compared with the children from the home who are not able to live with their parents. Before they came to visit Mrs. Cancemi explained to the class that the children living in the home did not live with their parents but lived in a big house with adults to look after them.
One child offers: “That is their family”
The children thought of ways they could welcome our friends:
“We can play with them, share our toys”
“Maybe we can play with all the kids upstairs with Ms Bridge and we can play with all the kids outside and we also can be nice with them”
“We have to be nice to babies”
“Be kind”
“Give a hug to keep them warm”

Our three friends, together with two of their teachers arrive at the ELC. They came with gifts for us, three beautiful handmade wreaths! Eating fruit snack together seemed to ease the tension and shyness. Danny and Masaichi offered to take one of the children to the atelier, and Scarlett, Erica, Natalie and Akihiko showed our home corner and building room to the two other children. Then we all played outside, until it was time to say goodbye. Danny presented the children and their teachers with his homemade biscuits he made with his mom. Scarlett, Chloe, Martina and Oliver gave their cards to our friends which they made in the morning. The morning passed by all too quickly, but we promised each other that we will see each other again, soon.


A day with the Danish gymnasts


What is a gymnast? was a question we wondered before we set out on our experience to spend time with the National Danish Performance Team in the morning.  The children and teachers set off on our experience not knowing what was awaiting us.  As we entered the gymnasium, we were greeted by Mr. Claydon, and then the friendly gymnasts, who put the children at ease with a fun warm-up routine involving music and stretches.  The children then had an opportunity to learn a song about swimming, play a new tag game and explore on the mats with the gymnasts guiding their forward rolls, jumps and pencil rolls.  The afternoon involved watching the gymnasts perform.  The children were mesmerized by this performance, as the gymnasts performed their skills requiring physical strength, flexibility, power, agility, coordination, grace, balance and control. The men’s team demonstrated their acrobatic twists and turns on the mats while the ladies’ team performed elegant dances with balls and hula hoops. The following are the reflections from the children:

“I really, really, really liked it, when they were bouncing off and doing those round things, that was weird”

 “I liked how they were running”

“I like girls is dancing”

” I like the guys jumping”

“I like go like that” (headstand)

“I like the flipping”

“I like everything, all the things they did”

“I was fast”

“I like rolling”

“How were they able to run and make that flip?”

“Maybe they have muscles”

“I like the part where they look like they were fighting”

” I like the girl sitting on top of the two guys”

 We hope you will enjoy viewing the slideshow from this day.

National Danish Performance Team with the ELC children from YIS ELC on Vimeo.






On Wednesday November 12, we celebrated Shichi-Go-San at the ELC. Shichi-Go-San, or
7-5-3, is a celebration to mark the growth of children as boys turn five years old, and as girls turn three and seven.

Families celebrate with a visit to a temple or shrine to pray for the child’s health and good fortune. Little girls are dressed in kimono. At three years of age the girls will also wear a padded vest (hifu). At seven years of age they often wear 3 or 4 layers of underwear, 6 sashes and a special obi, which looks like a butterfly’ to tie the kimono. They will wear Japanese socks (tabi), sandals (zori) and carry a matching bag.

Boys look like little samurai in their traditional outfits, of haori jackets and hakama trousers.

Girls also carry lucky charms, usually a fan (suehiro). When it is held open it looks like the Japanese number eight (hachi), which is a lucky number. The fans are often decorated with cranes and turtles – two animals that traditionally symbolize longevity in Japan.

To celebrate formal photographs are usually taken and the family may go out for a special meal or hold a party at home. The children are given chitose-ame, which is a long, thin, red and white candy. Chitose-ame means ‘thousand-year candy.’ It comes in a long bag decorated with illustrations of elderly people with grey hair, trees such as pine, bamboo and plums. The candy and the bag are both expressions of parents’ wish that their children lead long and prosperous lives.

We wish all the E1 and E2 children a Happy Shichi-Go-San this year!


Who We Are


We wish to include our ELC parental body as active participants in our unit on Who We Are inquiring into how “everyday people learn about who they are with and through others.” With this in mind, at the beginning of the year, we held a meeting with our parents to discuss how they can contribute to this inquiry by sharing their passions, knowledge and expertise with us to construct a book together, a book that narrates the stories of each parent. We believe the stories are invaluable to help us build upon the identity of each child, as we make deeper connections between school, home and family.

Neil, who is Oliver’s dad, came in to share with us his passion and knowledge of karate, which he has been studying and training for over 30 years. The children and teachers were mesmerized by the beauty and strength of his demonstration. We learned with and through Neil that ‘Kara-te’ means ‘empty hand’ translated to mean that one uses the ‘bare hand’ for self defense; but perhaps a deeper understanding of the art can connote a meaning of purging oneself of selfish thoughts, for only with a clear mind and conscience can the practitioner understand the knowledge he receives. We experienced how one can be inwardly humble and outwardly gentle with fortitude through Neil’s demonstration of ‘kata’ (form) and ‘kiai’(spiritual shout). This experience has contributed to the first page of our Parent Identity Book which we hope the children and families will visit and revisit as our memory of our year at the ELC.







Creations from August to October


Reflecting upon this half semester from the hot days in August to the cooler weather in October, we have observed how the minds and hands of the children have been actively involved in creating – creating many thoughts and ideas through their many and varied expressive languages.  Young children see and seek beauty in their surroundings in many different ways. Through their creations, we feel fortunate to also sense and share in the beauty around us through the fresh lens of the children.

Aug 25, 2014-Medium from YIS ELC on Vimeo.