There is a cabinet on the right, a wall in the back, and a sink and counter on the left. The reason the sensory table was enclosed was to help contain the mess that accompanies most play at the sensory table.
The space was not big; it was 8' X 6.5'. Even though that was not big a big space, it still accommodated plenty of children.
In September, we moved into a new space. The classroom is twice the size of the old one. When I went to set up the sensory table in the new classroom, I did not take my own advice. See below.
The space is larger; the mats under the table mark off an area of 12' x 6'. If you notice, though, the space is not enclosed. Only one side, the side facing the wall, is a closed side. The right side is slightly enclosed, but not by much. There is a cabinet, but it is a small barrier.
Here's what happens when the sensory table is not enclosed.
All the spaces around the table become part of the sensory play. Children actually brought the pellets out onto the open linoleum floor and played with them there.
I am very tolerant of messes, but this was too much for even me. As I looked around the room, I needed to find a more enclosed space for the sensory table. I settled on a space on the opposite wall.
In the new space, the table is enclosed. There is a counter on the right, a wall in back and cabinets on the left. There is also a table in the foreground which also helps contain the play and exploration at the table.
Is there a difference? As we say in Minnesota, "You betcha."
So why didn't I start out with this configuration? I set up the room to be functional at the start of school year. As the children interacted with the spaces, I watched and evaluated how the spaces were being used. From my observations of how the children used the spaces, I made changes. I have moved four of six main areas just after six weeks of school. I am still not completely satisfied, but it will be an ongoing process of evaluating how the children use the spaces. Since taking my own advice about enclosing the sensory table, though, I think I will keep the sand and water table in its current space. After all, what good is my own advice if I don't even follow it?