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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, May 19, 2011


I like to combine cardboard boxes to make an apparatus.  Boxes can be put together in any number of ways.  This year I took a big box that held patio furniture that I picked up at a big hardware store and combined it with a IMac box that was lying around the school.  What I came up with was what I call THE BRIDGE because one box bridges a larger box with the sensory table.

One end of the bridging box is supported by the lip of the sensory table.  The other end of the box is embedded in the larger, furniture box. 

The apparatus gains its character when I start to cut the holes.  I think it is important to cut holes on all levels of various sizes.  You can read more about what I think is the significance of holes here

Notice that there are holes on the top on both boxes.  Going down, there is two openings facing the camera.  Inside, you can see another window that connects the two boxes.  There are four more outside holes and one inside hole.  By the way, by taping the boxes together at the windows, I get a sturdy structure.  I also duct tape all the windows to prevent paper cuts.
Did you notice the plain cardboard patch on this side?  That used to be a window, but when the children started to pour the corn into the top of the apparatus, way too much came out that hole onto the floor.  Cardboard holes are easy to patch with cardboard and duct tape.

The fun begins when the children explore the holes.  

From the top.

To the bottom.
And everywhere inbetween.
In an apparatus like this, there are also spaces and holes to explore inside the boxes.

Below the child is moving the corn with the spoon out of the "bridge" box into the sensory table.  Pushing the corn out of the box is a much different operation than pouring corn into the box.

Below a child is transferring corn from one box to another via a small hole that connects the chambers of the two boxes.  There is a bigger hole right above it, but the smaller one is interesting because it is even with the bottom level of the bridge box so all a child has to do is push the corn in the hole.

I included a new utensil to use with this apparatus: a minnow net.  Minnow nets added a whole new dimension to transferring the corn.  Watch.

Filling the nets, which are flexible and bulge, is so much different than filling other containers with rigid sides.  In addition, trying to pour the corn out of the nets provided an extra challenge with different children figuring out different solutions to getting all the corn out of the net.

I want to leave you with a short, 8-second video that shows how one child animates his "corn machine."

First let me tell you what is not on the video.  The side of the Apple box we don't see has a picture of a computer on it.  Daniel first pushes a couple of the icons pictured on the that side of the box to start his machine.  In short order he starts his furious actions.  It was quite loud in the room, but I said nothing and just observed. What I saw was a child approaching and using this apparatus with his whole being. He absolutely threw every thing he had into his actions.  Just look at how he bends down, puts his ear next to the outside of the box, and passionately flails his scoop back and forth across the corn.  When a child can put this much of himself into an activity, he is a happy child.  When an apparatus can accommodate this much happiness, it is a good apparatus.


  1. I just got to read your post, I love what you wrote at the end... about the child and the apparatus. It is so true, and I am in awe at the intensity of all the children at play. I also love that your children have a teacher who takes the time to create an apparatus that allows for such joy!!

  2. Michelle, Thanks. Interestingly, the child at the end in the video will usually spend time at the sensory table each day, but he circulates through the room nicely. For some reason, though, this apparatus really spoke to him and what he wanted to do. I

  3. wow!! is a super idea! We love your blog. We are teacher, work in Italy. We love the sensorial activities. Ciao Ciao!