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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, July 21, 2011

BIG BOX INCLINE

Many times the cardboard apparatus I build for the sensory table is determined by the size and shape of the box.  For the longest time, I had been saving a large, rectangular box trying to figure out what to do with it.  I settled on a design that put it on an incline over the table.


I used a planter tray turned upside down to support the box and give it its incline. The end of the box was set over the lip of the table so when the children poured the sand or corn into the inclined box, it would drop into a tub next to the table. The box was very sturdy, so there was no need to reinforce the structure.  This is essentially a large, enclosed chute.

Because the box was so large and sturdy, I was able to cut out big holes in the side for access to the chute at different levels.


If you look at the above picture, you might think that the corn or sand is blocked at the bottom of the chute by a cardboard piece.  There is actually a slit cut in the bottom of the box before the cardboard piece that allows the sand or corn to drop into the tub next to the table.  If you look at the picture below, you can see the slit just below the girl's arm.


In other versions, the chute is completely open.




Often times, the focal point of play with this apparatus is the top hole.  Children have to reach up to pour the corn down the chute.











There are various large muscle challenges to doing this depending on how tall you are or what implements you might use.  If you use a shovel as opposed to a spoon, how much can you get in the chute?









Take a look at this video to see some of the large muscle challenges to pouring corn down the big box incline.



The girl wants to pour the corn down the chute.  She is at the side of the table.  She has already gathered the corn in her little pail.  As the video begins, she is deciding how to hold the little pail.  She holds it on the bottom with her right hand.  She thinks about grabbing the handle, but decides to balance it in her right hand because she needs her left hand to balance herself as she shifts her weight to pour the corn.  She reaches to grab the end of the box, puts her foot on the lip of the table and shifts her weight to pour.  If you watch her, she is quite stable with three points of support: one foot on a stool, one foot on the lip of the table, and a hand on the box.   With the physical extension and balance required to complete this task, it becomes so much more than just pouring the corn.


Another focal point of play is the bottom of the giant chute.  That is true whether you are trying to catch the corn coming down...








or whether you want to climb right into the bottom of the box to push the corn up with your bulldozer.  By the way, do you see that the boy has also climbed into the tub---his leg is visible in the tub---to be able to reach into the box.  Hey, it sounds like more stretching and balancing work with this apparatus.






With the holes on the sides, there are many more focal points for play.


Or from another perspective.


And there are spaces to be explored under the big box incline.


One of the things I like to do with this apparatus is add mirrors inside across the openings cut on the side of the box.  Even if a child doesn't see himself, others get an interesting perspective.


This picture above shows one of the mirrors.

In addition, this picture also shows that this apparatus offers a wonderful area for focused play and exploration.  This picture captures a sense of space that is made for a child.  It is a space that a child can be both in and out of at the same time. Imagine what that must feel like.

2 comments:

  1. This is a really cool idea. I especially like the inclusion of the mirrors in the chute ... nice touch!
    Donna :) :)

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  2. Donna, thanks. Yes, a child can even play peek-a-boo with himself. Most of the children, though, are pretty intent on experimenting with things going down.

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