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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, March 3, 2011


Here is an apparatus that is characterized by the following dimensions.  The tubes are horizontal and closed and there are plenty of holes into which the children can pour. This apparatus also adds one obvious level of play: the top of the apparatus.

If you look closely, you will also find a couple of other levels.  There is the floor, which is the same as the bottom of the grey plastic container into which sand drops out of the tube. This arrangement of the tube over the edge of the table expands the area of play around the table, adds another physical level of play, and offers an interesting spacial arrangement that is attractive and allows for a different view of the sand as drops out of the tube.

A second level that is not so obvious is the level created by the tray that supports one end of the apparatus.  And the level created by the tray adds at least two more spaces to explore: the bottom of the tray itself and the space under the tray.  And if you really want to parse the spaces, there is a space formed by the area under box over the tray.

This apparatus was made with a long, narrow box and six tubes of various sizes. One tube was a clear and rippled, four were pvc pipes of two different diameters, and one was a cardboard tube.  I did not cut any of them for this apparatus.  I used them as is.  The two longer tubes were placed on the ends of the box so they could be placed over the end of the table.  The four others were placed in the middle.

I traced the the tubes on top of the box and cut out the circle with a utility knife.  I flipped the box over and repeated the same tracing and cutting.  I inserted the tubes into the box.  The two longer tubes were inserted so only one end extended beyond the box.  I then duct taped the tubes both on the top and on the bottom so they would not move.

As you can see, some of the tubes are flush with the top and some are not.  The two end tubes extend downward out of the box.  The picture above shows the setup from this year.  The box is reversed from the previous year's setup; the long white tube is now the one that extends outside the table.  And there is no tray in this variation.  That was not planned.  I thought the apparatus extended over both ends of the table.  It did not, but I had left the tray at home.  When I wanted to set it up, I had to improvise with something I had at school.  (I find myself doing that a lot---improvising, that is.)  One of the first things I found looked like a little ladder.  It fit across the table so I taped it onto the table and then the box onto it.   I fully intended to bring a tray the next day, but the ladder support introduced an airy space providing the children with a new area to explore over, under, around, and through.

Here is another version of the apparatus that actually extends beyond both ends of the table.  This was easier to attach because all I had to do was to make notches in the box on each end and set the box over the ends of the table.  The bottom of the box sits above the bottom of the table so the material can empty out of the tubes. Notice, though, that this configuration does not have the tubes that empty into a container outside of the table.

One further difference is that the space between the bottom of the box and the bottom of the table is quite a bit narrower than the one pictured first in this blog entry.  That is ok, it just means the children will figure out how to work in a different-sized space.  That is a challenge they are always up to.

It's all about spaces, levels of play, and holes.  


  1. Thanks to Teacher Tom, I have just discovered your blog which is right up my street. Cardboard, duct tape, sand and water...a heavenly combination.

    Thanks so much for writing a much-needed niche blog. Oh and for having my blog mentioned in your blog roll. That is really kind of you.

    Best wishes

  2. Thanks, Juliet. I have been following your post for awhile. Outside learning is so important. Because of how my program is structured, I have no outdoor time or space. As a consequence, I try to bring in natural elements whenever I can. It is no substitute. We do, however, encourage the parents in the program to see the value of nature learning and to get outside with their children.

  3. Like Juliet, Teacher Tom pointed me in your direction and I am so glad he did! I have read all your posts and my mind is spinning with new ideas and possibilities. I'll let you know when we try some out at preschool.

    Also like Juliet I was chuffed to see my blog in your blogroll. What a treat.

  4. jenny, thanks. Ever since I have been following your blog, I have had this hankering to go on a bushwalk. For now, I will just have to keep following your blog.