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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.

Friday, October 22, 2010

BOX TOWER

Orientation of an apparatus offers the children foundational experiences with space. A long fan box placed upright produces a very nice vertical tower.  And a box tower is as simple as it gets.  All you have to do is find a long rectangular box, cut some holes, and tape it in the sensory table. You now have a dynamic apparatus with a vertical orientation for children to explore and make their own.


To make this apparatus more stable, I embedded it in another box.  Holes are cut in the bottom sides of the fan box and the base box so when the children put sand in the holes on an upper level it comes out the bottom.  When cutting the holes on the bottom sides of the boxes, I make three cuts, one across and two down.  I leave the bottom uncut so I have a flap that I can fold down and tape to the bottom of the table.  That increases the stability of the box tower, otherwise, the children pulling on the top---and they will---dislodge the apparatus easily.

So why is the box tower so dynamic?  It is dynamic because it is open-ended.   For the youngest children, it is a pouring activity; young children feel compelled to put things in holes.  For them, it is an opportunity to work on fine and large motor developmental tasks.  For the older children---who still feel compelled to put things in holes---it becomes a machine to animate.

On the wall next to the box tower, a piece of paper is stapled for recording what the children say as they use the box tower. 


There are several things to note.  1) Children are imaginative in the realm of what could be real:  "It's a pancake factory.  It makes pancakes softer."  2) Children are imaginative in the realm of what is not real: "milk berries" and "oint, a special kind of sugar."  3) Children take expressions from life and make them their own: In making the chocolate pie, one child decided to have three secret ingredients.  4) Any activity can be a writing activity: Owen gets a sheet of paper and signs it(bottom left in orange) because he wants to lay claim to his recipe in the myriad of recipes.  

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