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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.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


In February of last year, I wrote two posts about Things Frozen in Ice here and here.  I thought I would change it up this year.  Instead of just using a wooden tray, I wanted to connect two tables with plastic chutes.  My thinking was that the children would experiment with the ice sliding down the chutes. Here is what the apparatus looked like.

There was no sliding the ice down the chutes to speak of.  When a child would free a marble or a ball from the ice, she would roll it down the chute, but rarely the ice.  Otherwise the chutes were just used to hold the things the children extracted from the ice.  Thinking back on it, if I really wanted children to use the chutes for the ice, I should have given them more of a slant.

Since I can't talk about ice sliding down the chutes, let me talk about the use of knives to get things out of ice.  The knife is a good implement for attempting to pry the ice out of the containers.
Notice how this child has set the container with ice on the ground and hovers over it.  Whether he knows it or not, that gives him much more leverage to wedge and pry.  If he doesn't know it cognitively, he is learning it motorically.

Knives are also good for chopping.  The child in the video below chops the ice with an overhand motion of the knife.  She is able to rest the container on a section of the table that is raised and to steady the container with her left hand.  Watch how she chops, checks her progress, and then gets her knife stuck in the ice.  Can you guess what will happen?

When her knife gets stuck, she tries to pull it out.  As she pulls, she also starts to pry the ice with the knife.  All of a sudden, out pops the ice!  She declares: "Got it!"  Though she is surprised with the outcome, she also communicates pride in her effort with a hint of a smile as she gets back to her work.  Her stare into the camera after extracting the ice is priceless; it is also a request for my acknowledgment of a job well done.  I sure hope I smiled back at her.

The child in the video below has a more precise way of chopping the ice with the knife.  He is more precise because he uses a hammer to hit the knife.  That allows him to direct the knife exactly where he wants to chip the ice.  Watch as he is tries to remove the ice that is frozen inside a dinosaur cookie cutter.

The first two times he starts pounding the knife with the hammer, he takes a quick read to make sure the hammer hits the knife.  20 seconds into the video, though, he no longer needs to check the contact point of the hammer on the knife.  He is able to switch his entire focus onto where he wants the point of the knife to chip the ice.  That is impressive because if you watch, the knife is always moving as part of the hammering process.

There are definitely degrees to chopping.  The child in the next video invests more of his whole body into dislodging the ice from a truck with the knife.  He begins with vigorous overhand chops to the ice with the knife.  He then tries to use the knife as a small pry bar to dislodge the ice.  He finally goes back to the vigorous overhand chopping.   Watch.

He uses his left hand to steady the truck.  His left hand ends up to be very close to the chopping. At the same time, you can see him adjusting that left hand to make sure it out of the way of the chopping.  That is a nice example of strength and coordination.

A couple parents commented on the use of knives.  One said that they don't allow the use of knives at home.  She had no trouble, though, in letting her child use the knife in this set up.  When another parent saw the knives, she wondered out loud if that was safe.  She did notice and remark at the care and precision that the children were using with the knives and was satisfied.

The question: "Is it safe?" and this whole post will serve as a segue to my nest post:  "Is That Allowed?" Ask yourself the same question as you work with your children for the next week---and stay tuned.

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