About Me

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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.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Swamp

The is an activity that uses the wooden tray mentioned in the previous post. With the tray crossing the middle of the table, I have put fall leaves and water in the table. I call it a swamp because the mixture of dead leaves and water make a swampy brew. I add sticks, pine cones and such, too.  For the children to handle the brew, I put tongs, little pails, spoons and various containers including such things as an old plastic water bottle and an old pan.

Though I plan the general parameters of the activity, I never really know in which direction the children will take the activity.  I am continually surprised and amazed.  Let me show you an example of what children can do with this simple, open-ended set-up.  Look and listen to the following clip:

The boys found the holes in the side of the tray. Gavin (#1) and Micah are pouring water into the tray. They have placed a pot and a plastic water bottle to catch the water underneath the holes that are leaking. They talk about how they are filling the containers which, by the way, is one step removed from simply filling the tray with water. They have figured out that by filling the tray, they will fill the containers for what Gavin (#1) calls a "big, big overflow." Micah was checking the recovery process and says with confidence "we're catching it all."  Finn has taken particular interest in the leaky hole and the pot catching the leak. Off camera he tells me: "This is how apple juice is made of."  At first I thought he was saying that this is "what" juice is made of.  After listening and watching several times, I think he really meant "how" juice is made.  And in fact, the color of the water is quite similar to apple juice. And the water trickling from the hole looks a lot like the process of juice squeezed from a press. So he is not simply observing, but making associations from previous experiences and attempting to cognitively map this new one with those previous experiences.  There is a fourth child, Gavin (#2). He is the consumate observer.  I do not know what he is thinking, but I still feel he is an important part of the activity. Why?  I think of it as a scene in a play and it would not be complete without his part.

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