I first wrote about the Giant Sponge here. In that post, I wrote about where I first found a giant sponge and how the children played with it. I followed up that post with a post on more activities that emerged around the Giant Sponge, things like science activities, role playing, and even an unexpected act of kindness.
Before I relate some of the play that emerged this year, let me take care of one housekeeping matter in relation to the sponge. Every day after class, I prop up the sponge in the table so it drains.
That is important because I do not want water staying on the bottom of the sponge for sanitary reasons. Each day, I start with clean water on an almost dry sponge. I always make sure the sponge is completely dry when I put it in storage.
In the very first post, I wrote about the physical properties of the sponge that allowed children to leave their hand prints on the sponge.
The handprints on the sponge have a beauty all their own even though they are fleeting.
Because the children can make impressions on the sponge, they can also use the utensils provided to make imprints. In the video below, the girl is able to make imprints of a circle by using a stainless steel bowl.
This year for the first time the children started to use the surface of the Giant Sponge to draw things with their fingers.
In the video, the boy in the middle is drawing on the sponge. The girl to his left tells him he is in her space. He subsequently begins to poke and prod the sponge in the space directly in front of him. The girl in the meantime is making marks on the sponge with her finger and quickly encroaches on his space. He seems to pay it no mind and the girl retreats back to her space. The girl on the boy's right starts to draw a face on the sponge with her finger. The boy quickly follows suit with a smaller version. I really liked that the children discovered drawing on the sponge with their fingers. What impresses me even more, though, is the give-and-take; the negotiation and appropriation of space for an activity; and the contagion of an activity---all done in the span of 12 seconds with no real conflict.
I always add smaller sponges to the mix of items I offer with the Giant sponge. This year I added a couple of foam balls that I appropriated from the large muscle area in my room. They are sponges after all. Now watch two children vigorously smash the foam balls into the Giant Sponge. Can you guess where it will lead? I sure did not.
So how does a child get from flattening the foam ball on the Giant Sponge to making a pizza? After he flattens the ball, he lifts it off the sponge and says something to indicate it is a pizza. He throws it up in the air and it just happens to land in the bowl. First of all, has he seen a pizza maker toss pizza dough? And second, how fortuitous that it landed in the bowl. By landing in the bowl, he is able to continue his role play by swirling it in the bowl. He then says it is time to cook and puts it in the water and makes a sizzling sound. He takes it out of the water and says it is all cooked and offers it to me. Yeah, right, that's exactly how I planned this activity.
Of course it makes perfect sense if you buy into axiom #7 in the right hand column of this blog: Children will always devise new and novel activities and explorations with the materials presented that are tangental to the apparatus.
Speaking of axioms, when I reviewed the documentation on this apparatus this year, I ran across a picture that got me thinking about the possibility of adding an eighth axiom. Namely: Children will fill any and all containers with the medium or materials provided. Here is the picture that got me thinking.
The girl is emptying her container of the water. When I looked at the picture, I saw she had not only filled up the container with water, but she had also filled up the container with the small sponges. This picture beautifully illustrates that filling is an important operation for children. Likewise, it also illustrates an important corollary to the axiom: children need to empty any and all containers.