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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, November 3, 2011

TAKING MY OWN ADVICE

In my very first post when I started this blog in July, 2010, I wrote about the space for the sensory table in my classroom.  I said the table was enclosed on three sides.   See below.


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?

4 comments:

  1. Ahhhh... how true about the surrounding area becoming part of the sensory table experience :) I have had everything from the sensory table make its way to every center in the playroom, to the bathroom sink (totally different room) and even on the sill under the coffee table. I think I am going to reconfigure our sensory space too... now just to find the time :)
    Thanks for all your great advice and ideas!!!

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  2. Michelle, at first the sensory table was set up near the dramatic play area and so not only did everything go on the floor, but it also traveled to the play stove and and sink. Finally, I just made time to change the areas. Good luck.

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  3. Tom, where did yoi find your great mats under the table? We have been searchig but cant find anything. Love the blog!
    Heidi

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  4. Heidi, I bought the mats at a big hardware store. It was called a vinyl runner. I could buy it by the foot so the store cut it to the length I wanted. It was in the carpet section where they had carpet runners. Tom

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