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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, April 14, 2012


If you look on the right-hand column of this blog, you will find a set of axioms.   Axiom #7 states that children will create activities that are tangental to the apparatus.  Before I show you such an activity, here is the apparatus to which it is tangental.

OK, now you can forget about the apparatus because the rest of the post has nothing to do with it. (If you want to read about the apparatus, it was featured in last week's post here.)

Before I can show you the activity that has nothing to do with this apparatus, it is helpful to know that there are two additional pieces of furniture in the sensory table area.  The first is a shelf in a corner on which all the articles and utensils to be used in the sensory table are displayed and open for the taking.  The second is a mirror on the wall next to the shelf.

One of the articles on the shelf to choose from in this picture is the metal pot on the right end of the third shelf.  That pot and the mirror are central to the action that is tangental to the apparatus. In the video below, a child has placed the pot on his head like a hat.  He discovers his reflection in the mirror.  Watch how he explores that reflection.

Of course, there is nothing unusual about a child putting a pot on his head like a hat.  What is unusual and utterly fantastic is what happens as he sees his reflection in the mirror and begins to reference his actions using the mirror.  As he adjusts the pot on his head, he begins to use his reflection in the mirror to try to orient his hands on the pot.  That is special because mirror images are reverse images.   If you have ever tried to direct your hand by looking in the mirror, you know what I mean. Left is right, and right is left.  What better way to explore those reverse imagines than to use a pot on your head as a basis for that exploration.  Did you notice when he uses his right hand to follow the pot handle all the way to the mirror itself?  Think about what the child must be experiencing.  His hand is moving along the handle of the pot toward the mirror.  That means that his hand and its image are moving toward each other until they meet at the face of the mirror.  How novel is that for the child?

Enough analysis.  Watch the clip again and just enjoy a totally unscripted exploration of a boy with a pot on his head looking in a mirror.  You really cannot plan for these moments, but if you leave room for them, they will naturally surface.  

For those of you in the Twin Cities, you may want to make a note of an upcoming event by the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota taking place at Hamline University on Saturday, April 28.   The title of the event is:  Enter, Encounter, Engage: A Community Dialogue about Learning.  I will be doing an installation with some documentation.  There will also be exploration of nature materials facilitated by Dodge Nature Center and exploration of sound and rhythm materials facilitated by Dianna Babcock.  Follow this link for more details and a complete listing of the day: http://www.mnreggio.org

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