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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Before I write about the types of experimentation associated with this apparatus, I want to reiterate the first axiom of sensorimtor play in the right hand column of this blog.  CHILDREN NEED TO TRANSPORT WHATEVER IS IN THE TABLE OUT OF THE TABLE.  What does that mean?  That means even if you have a great apparatus in the table, the children will eventually want to transport the water or sand out of the table.  Consequently, you should always have a pail or a bucket or something into which the children can transport.  See a more complete explanation of this here and here

How do the children approach the large tube and funnel apparatus?  They, of course, pour water into the funnels and catch it coming out of the tube with abandon.

Children start to learn that rate of flow helps determine which container works best for catching the water.  When the flow is greater,  a bigger container will catch more water.

A smaller container, on the other hand, works very nicely when the flow is minimal.

And don't forget, in both pictures of the children catching water, the children are working on eye-to-hand coordination.  Shhh, don't tell them.

One year, I had two very young three-year-olds who discovered what happens when you put a bottle in the pipe and then pour water in the funnel.  Watch.

These two had be working at this little experiment for awhile before I started recording.  If you look at the video a couple of times, you begin to see and feel their anticipation of the bottle popping out of the tube when the water is poured into the funnel.  You can even hear one of them let out a scream of delight.  On an elemental level, this operation by these two young children is phenomenal.  They have figured out that by pouring water into the funnel the water goes into the tube which then carries the plastic bottle out of the tube.  In other words, they are gaining elemental knowledge of hydraulics.  Also, did you make note of the negotiation and cooperation these two engaged in to carry off this operation?

How about stopping the flow?

Here you can see some boys have plugged up the tube with a measuring cup.  The cup does not form a tight seal so some leaks out.  The stronger the leak, the more water behind the measuring cup.  Sometimes they will fill up the tube enough so water no longer goes down the funnels.  When they eventually pull out the measuring cup, they get a real gusher.  That all sounds like hydraulics again.

This year, one child figured out you can see the level of water in the tube because the cup is translucent.  The child discovered that if you looked straight into the cup, the water level can be seen against the inside of the cup.  Watch how the child tells another child about his discovery.

This year that same child also figured out that if the tube is full enough, it leaks out the other end, too.

Children have been plugging the tube for several years.  It started when one group of children discovered that the plastic measuring cup fit nicely into the end of the tube. Every year since, I have introduced it as a provocation for children who are new to the apparatus.  A group of children this year modified that provocation.  They decided to impede the flow with a funnel.

For the water to come out of the funnel, the water has to reach a certain level in the tube.  The higher the level, the further the water squirts out.  That is experimenting with hydraulics again.  Someone in the picture below thinks that is pretty fascinating.

The preceding post ended with a picture of nine children around the table with this apparatus.  Here is a 17 second video of the "9 in blue".   See if you can keep up with all the action.

It would take hours to unpack what is going on in this video.  Instead of unpacking, just enjoy the wonderful, productive flow of many children at work as a group and individually in a small space around this apparatus.


  1. Great post. I really like how you've been able to make the children's learning visible. I also really enjoy the different setups that you have for the water table. How inspiring.

  2. Shannon, thanks. I have been building and taking pictures of apparatus for years. For the past couple of years, though, in dialogue with a colleague who is inspired by the Reggio approach, I have begun to realize how that documentation is a window into children's learning. It is a window into my learning as well

  3. I love the learning that is happening here. Fascinating for both the children...and me :)

  4. Christie, thanks. Who would have thought that a tube with funnels would generate this kind of learning. The kids, of course.