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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pail #2

Here is a clip of the pail in action.  This clip was taken in the fall of 2008 early in the school year.  The two boys, Declan and Yusef, have just turned three and, before this espisode, have never played together.   I started taking the video because I was impressed with their play on many levels.

At the simpliest level, you see two boys moving sand from the table into a pail.  Yusef is using a scoop and Declan a spoon.  Yusef pours the sand high over the bucket and Declan pours it from the level of the lip of the pail.  Both are working on their fine and large motor skills by transporting the sand.  In addition, they are learning to coordinate their movements to execute their desired actions.  To me this is standard stuff for the play in and around the sensorimotor table.

The real beauty of the play becomes clearer with the audio.  The audio is a little hard to understand because it is in a small classroom where many other things are going on.  The following is a transcript of the audio:

    Declan asks:  "What is your name?"
    Yusef answers:  "Ah, Yusef."
    D. looks up at Y---probably because the name is new to him---and asks: "What?"
    Y. says: "Yusef."
    D. does not respond
    Y. repeats: "Yusef."
    D. ???
    Y. with a little emphasis: "No, Yusef."
    Y. repeats: "Yusef."
    D., as he pours sand into the bucket, announces: "My name is Declan."
    Y. declares one last time: "Yusef."

video

As seen in the video, the sensory table---with the pail---has just provided the space and opportunity for two young boys to introduce themselves in a way no lesson plan can duplicate.  The social action of getting to know each other has meaning to each of them because it is initiated by them and flows normally in the course of doing what comes naturally: transporting the sand.

At that point, I stopped videotaping.  Shorly afterword, though, I came back to find these three-year-olds had progressed in their play with the sand and pail.  I should say pails, because they incorporate a second pail into their scheme.  Take a look.
video
Because the audio is so garbled, I could not hear any of their dialogue except I can clearly hear Yusef say: "You ready?"  What I can see is two boys working at what it means to carry out a joint venture.  Especially notice how Yusef is reading the cues from Declan so he knows to move, and then near the end, he helps Declan with the pouring.  Together, they have taken the job of transporting a step further both in terms of a physical challenge(lifting and coordinating the pouring from one bucket to the other) and in terms of a social challenge(doing it together).   When I showed the mothers of these two boys the videos, they were duely impressed at how well they cooperated.  One mom even suggested it had the elements of a dance.  I could not agree more.

There is a footnote to this episode.  Look at the video one more time and pay special attention to the very end.  As the two boys execute "the pour" together, the lip of the top pail slips and causes all the sand to go on the floor---not in the pail.  This brings up an important point when there is a sensory table in the classroom. There is a corollary to axiom 1 on the top right of the blog: In the act of transporting whatever is in the table out of the table, the children will spill.  It is an integral part of the process, so we deal with it and, at times, are even able to laugh.

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