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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.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

WOODEN TRAY AND ROCKS

I like to include natural elements in my sensory table.   This past week, I put rocks in the table with water.  Ever since my own children were little, I have walked along the Mississippi in the Twin Cities collecting rocks.  They are all shapes, sizes, colors and textures.  Along with the rocks, I set out containers, spoons and tongs.  One child, a four-year-old, arranged the rocks in an old metal jello mold.  He used tongs to meticulously arrange them to make sure he filled the jello mold.  He purposefully used rocks that were very close in size to match the width of the jello mold.  As I look at it, I would call it a work of art.


One child, a two-year-old, really experimented with feeling the rocks.  First he rubbed and rolled a very smooth rock in his hand.  Next, he took a rock almost the same size and shape and rubbed and rolled it in his hand.  The second rock, though, was quite rough.  

Here is a clip that incorporates the wooden tray with the rocks.   The tray allows the children to work above the table at a very comfortable level up and out of the water.  It also allows the children to transport from the table to the pot on the tray.  As the clip begins, the two-year-olds have been putting rocks in the copper pot.  The boy in the middle, Emiliano, puts a rock in the pot.  The other boy, Teddy, also adds a rock.  The girl, Elise, adds a little water using a spoon.




video

There is a lot to see in this short video.  Two-year-olds are sharing an activity, but at the same time, doing their own thing.  At times they are shoulder to shoulder.  Elise is attempting to transport water with a big spoon.  After she is able to put some in the communal pot, she lifts the spoon and succeeds in spilling the water out of the spoon.  My first thought was: if this was an adult trying to master a new skill, exactly how much frustration and how many expletives would have been recorded.    For Elise, though, it was a discovery process.  She was simply going to keep working at transporting the water with the spoon.  Emiliano after adding to the pot, finds a small rock and works at putting it into one of the small metal bowls in the table.  Both Elise and Emiliano respond by showing me a rock when I ask: "What did you find?"  The question was directed at Teddy, but children listen and respond even though they do not look like they are listening.

When I was filming this short episode, I was actually more focused on Teddy.  The filling of the pot with rocks seemed to be his activity.  There are a some interesting actions to note.  After putting a rock in the pot, he puts in several helpings of water.  Each time, he seems to check the level in the pot.  As he fills the pot with rocks, I encourage him and ask if it is full, yet.  He responds by putting on yet another rock, a big white one.  As he places the rock on top, he slowly pulls his hand away in an effort to make sure the rock is balanced on the other rocks.  It stays and he tries another rock.  Notice how he puts it in the little container and then pours it from the small container on top of the other rocks in the pot.  This last rock does not stay and falls next to the pot.  He might have been able to balance another rock on top of the pile, but he chose instead to transfer the rock to the cup by hand and then pour the rock on top of the pile.   I never presume to guess what the children are thinking.  Their actions are their thoughts which become the mapping in the brain that lays the groundwork for later manipulation of objects inside their head.

I really appreciate the industriousness of the children's play.  Here, they are experiencing natural elements that have shape, texture, weight and color.  They are operating on and with these elements to discover such things as volume in a way that is unique: filling a pot with rocks is different than filling the pot with water.  For instance, you can fill the pot high above the rim by balancing the rocks on top of one another; you can't fill the pot that full with water.   



3 comments:

  1. Tom -
    I just want to remind you again of what a fantastic teacher you are and how lucky we consider ourselves to have had you in Jesse's life.

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  2. As a quality Support Educator I find your site very inspiring - look forward to encouraging our team to visit your page and implement more natural environments within our services!
    Thank-you :)

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