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.

Friday, November 26, 2010

CARDBOARD CHUTES - 1

A nice thing happens when someone takes note of the apparatus I build in the sensory table.  A few years ago, a mom brought in pieces of cardboard that were long and v-shaped.  The cardboard pieces were the packing corners for a new refrigerator that was delivered to her house.   She asked me if I could use them.  I did not know immediately what I would use them for, but they looked promising.  Two of the v-shaped pieces eventually became the twin chutes pictured below.   I taped them together with duct tape and set them on an incline.  (This is one of the most expensive apparatus I have ever built because someone first had to buy the refrigerator.)  My point is simple: When people see what you are doing, they will think of you when the opportunity presents itself.  By the way, people also includes children.



The cardboard for these packing corners is so sturdy that this apparatus has lasted eight years.  I have duct taped the entire length of the chute because tearing the duct tape off each time I took the apparatus down ripped off some of the top layer of cardboard of the chute.  It also makes a more slippery surface for material to slide down.

If you look at the right column at the DIMENSIONS to think about when building apparatus for the sensory table, you will note that this apparatus is an incline and that it is open.  Under the AXIOMS for the sensorimotor play, you will note that apparatus adheres to the axiom  that children are naturally drawn to pouring, rolling  and sliding materials and objects down ramps, chutes and tubes.









After using the apparatus for a couple of years, I felt the need to attach it more securely to the tray and the table.  I  made notches with a utility knife in the bottom of the chutes to line up with the tray and the table.  See the crude diagram below.


Here is what it looks like in the room.  This picture also gives you an idea of the amount of tape and crossing patterns of the tape that hold it tight to the table and the tray.  Since it is not store-bought, it is not pretty.  It is, however, quite attractive to children and facilitates many kinds of play and experimentation. 













That play and experimentation takes place at the top.


















At the middle.






















At the bottom.
And every place in between. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

BEYOND THE GIANT SPONGE

The giant sponge, like almost any other apparatus in the sensory table, is not simply about the senses.  It is about science, too.  Children explore and experiment using their senses to discover how the physical world works.  Depending on the apparatus, the children discover different physical laws pertaining to the apparatus.

In addition, any apparatus has the potential to encompass other areas of development and learning.

For instance, the sponge was used by two children as a springboard for working with two simple geometric concepts: a circle and a square. They started by each making their own impressions on the sponge; one was making a circle and the other was making a square. Spontaneously, they started putting each of their impressions on top of the other's impression.
As the boy put down the circle, the girl would place her square over it.   In doing so, the circle disappeared.  The boy would then put his circle  over the square and the square would disappear. The children did not know they were doing math, but the concepts of a circle and a square were being consolidated for them in their play in a very unique way.

Not only were these children learning math concepts, but they were also displaying social and emotional learning.   These two children had not played together before, but still  they were able to create their own game that had a simple rule (take turns) and that was very playful (making the other's impression disappear).   










Often times, an apparatus in the sensory table is a rich venue for role play.  A good example of this is when the sponge became the birthday cake and the suds became the frosting. There was lots of spreading the suds on the sponge; singing of the happy birthday song; and cutting of the cake---and not just once.






One of thebehaviors that is often overlooked when children are playing together is social grace and accommodation.  Again, an example from the sensory table containing the sponge can be seen in the following clip:


Three children are playing with the sponge.  Nahum is pouring water and suds over the pie tin that contains Duplo train cars.  His sister, Delina, is playing across from him.   Nahum and his sister speak a language other than English.  Clementine is watching them.  Nahum scoops water and suds from the side of of the sponge and pours it over the pie tin again.  Clementine simply says: "I need some more."  Nahum stops what he is doing, cocks he head endearingly, and looks right at Clementine and repeats: "Some more?"  He then scoops up some water and suds from the side of the sponge and pours it into Clementine's pot.  

Social grace is often overlooked because we are expend a lot of energy on the problems of managing classrooms.  This 18-second clip is a perfect example of an act of social grace in which a child is kind and generous to another.  This is an important area of learning because when it self-replicates, the classroom is a good place to be. 

Clearly, the sensory table encompasses many areas development.  This is true for the giant sponge and all other apparatus used in the sensory table. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

GIANT SPONGE

Children like to use sponges.  They especially like to squeeze them.   With that in mind, why not have a giant sponge in the sensory table so they can squeeze to their hearts content?


Where does one find a giant sponge?  The first one I used was a cushion from an old couch.  I simply took off the cover and I had the giant sponge I was looking for.   To make sure it was clean, I put it out on the deck at home and squirted it with dish soap.  I gave my children---who were in their swimsuits---the hose to clean it anyway they saw fit.  They got the cushion clean by spraying it, squeezing it, jumping on it, hugging it and other permutations thereof.  In the end, they were head-to-toe in suds and the cushion wash soooooooo very clean.

To set up the giant sponge, squirt some liquid dish soap on the cushion.  You do not need too much.  The more soap you use, the more suds and bubbles you will get.  Put only a couple of inches of water in the table.  If you put in more water, the cushion will float and there will be more splashing.   Add smaller sponges, containers and spoons.

What can you do with a giant sponge?  You can squeeze it, poke it, rub it, punch it, pinch it, and push it down as hard as you can.  All those actions help make suds.



Of course the more you poke, squeeze and press down, the more suds you get.

I guess it is time to wash the Duplo train in the pie tin.  Or is it a bubble -train pie?













One of the unique aspects of this apparatus is the physical characteristics of the sponge.  When you push down on the sponge, you leave an impression.  Here you see impressions made by different containers the children use to press into the cushion.

When the children press their hands down on the sponge, too, they leave a fading handprint on the sponge.

And, when you pour water on top of the sponge, where does the water go?












Another unique aspect of this apparatus is the physical characteristics of the suds created by the sponge.   For instance, suds stick to things---like your hand.














Also, suds have substance but have very little weight.  You can fill a container to overflowing and it is still not much heavier than the container itself.

And if you expect the suds to pour from a measuring cup the same as water, you find suds do not pour.  Rather, you need a spoon to help get the suds out.








The sensory table is not simply about the senses.  It is clearly a science table, too, in which the children explore, experiment and learn about physical laws governing their world.