That is the extent of the apparatus: the sensory table, sand, a wooden tray as a bridge, and lots of sticks and stones. (Notice I have not included any implements such as shovels and containers.) Finding rocks and wood is as easy as going to the river or woods for a hike. I have collected most of the rocks I use on walks along the Mississippi River here in Minnesota. Some of the driftwood and sticks also come from the river. Some of the branches, including a nice piece of bark, come from a dead maple tree we had to cut down last year. What I have, then, is a little collection of natural elements for the children explore and manipulate.
What can you do with sticks and stones?
You can bury them in the sand. Or you can look for the ones others have buried in the sand.
You can roll the wood pieces in the sand to see the interesting imprints made by the bark.
You can build with wood pieces of different sizes, shapes and textures.
You can stack rocks on a branch. But how many? Do they all have to be flat?
A piece of bark becomes an substitute shovel for digging and moving the sand.
That same piece of bark in someone else's hands becomes a slide for the rocks.
You can transport as many rocks as you can onto the tray. And as you add to the pile, can you get them to balance?
You can sprinkle the rocks with sand. (What a wonderful juxtaposition of actions and sound. Moving the hard rocks onto the tray and then lightly sprinkling them with fine sand.)
Maybe you just want to carry a stick around until you figure out what you will do with it.
What kind of imagination do you have? What could you do with these natural elements? Chances are a child's imagination trumps yours. Can you guess what this boy made?
It is a microphone. He took a stick and propped it up in the table. Next, he took a knot from a tree and put it on the stick through the hole in the knot. Viola, he has a microphone.
In my blog reading, I have not found anyone writing about bringing sticks indoors into the sensory table. I have, however, found bloggers who write about sticks as important outdoor learning tools for children. One is Juliet from Scotland with a blog entitled: I'm a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here! Two posts in particular to read are: Sticks in School and Making skeletons (using sticks). Another blogger is Jenny from Australia who has a blog called: let the children play. Two posts in particular to read are: ideas for adding natural elements and celebrating loose parts. And one other post that was just penned earlier today is from teacher tom in Seattle called Bumps and Bruises. Check them out.