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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, May 5, 2012


Two weeks ago I wrote about Vertical Tubes in a Box and the play that emerged when the children used funnels with sand in the apparatus.  This week, the medium in the table is different; the sand has been replaced by fuel pellets.  Plus, there are two more tubes added: a tube on a slant and a tube through the apparatus on the horizontal.

The horizontal tube extends completely through the box between two of the vertical tubes.  The slanted tube rests on one of the protruding sections of the horizontal tube and empties into a smaller sensory table.

Children will still pour down the vertical tubes.

And they will still survey exactly where it went.

With the addition of the horizontal tube, the children can work on a horizontal plane through the tube.  That is a much different physical experience than pouring down the vertical tube.

Of course, that opens up new possibilities for play, even social play.  How about peek-a-boo?

These two were surprised to see each other through the tube because they cannot see over the box.  What a joyous surprise, too!

If you are taller and can see over the box, you can still make a connection through the tube. Watch as one boy passes pellets through the tube to his friend on the other side.

The boy on the right is holding his white pan under the horizontal tube.  The boy on the left grabs some pellets from the table and pushes them through the tube.  The second time the boy on the left passes pellets through the tube, the other boy's hand is also in the tube to help complete the full transfer of pellets.  Not as joyous as the exchange in the first video, but still quite lovely.

What is not apparent in the video is that the boy on the left is referencing his actions through the mirror on the wall behind the boy on the right.  He is actually watching himself pass the pellets through the tube in the mirror.  He discovered the mirror when he was scooping pellets through the horizontal tube earlier.  Watch in the video below how this same boy references his actions using the mirror on the other side of the sensory table.  He slides the scoop in slowly and, when he sees in the mirror that the scoop has exited the other side of the tube, he dumps the pellets with a twist of his wrist.

That's some of what emerged with the horizontal tube.  The tube on a slant also facilitated a different type of play and exploration; pellets poured down on incline plane behave differently than those poured down the vertical tube or those pushed through the horizontal tube.

That,  of course, leads to more connections.  Watch what happens at the other end.

The boy has stuffed his scoop into the slanted tube to catch the pellets sliding down the tube.  As he watches the pellets race down the tube into his scoop, he can't help but let out a "woh" and "woh-oh".  It turns into a screech when he removes the scoop and pellets come flooding out of the bottom of the tube.  Here, it is interesting to note the role of  the observer in this play.  The girl on his right adds to the excitement with her screech, too.  She has been watching the whole time and has picked up on the boy's excitement.  Sometimes we overlook the role of the observer when we analyze children's play.  An activity shared is more exciting and joyous.

Let me end this post with a new exploration of the vertical tubes that uses the scoops.   One group jammed a plastic scoop into the top of one of the vertical tubes.  My guess is that they were trying to plug it because they like to plug holes (Axiom #6 from the right-hand column of this blog.)  The scoop did not fit completely into the tube, leaving a slit at the top, a slit to slide pellets into.

That is inventive enough, but it did not stop there.  They took another scoop and jammed it into the bottom of the same tube.  Now they had a small slit at the bottom for the pellets to exit.  The pellets actually flew out like they were coming out of a hopper.

Because children have this innate drive to learn about the world around them and how it works, an open-ended apparatus like the Vertical Tubes in a Box gives them license to explore and experience the natural world, both physical and the social.


  1. okay, after scoring a huge bag of bird seed from costco last week, i'm finally motivated to do a multi-level sensory bin w/boxes and tubes. wish me luck! i haven't been blogging much lately, but if I end up doing it, i will try to blog about it!!!

    1. Good luck. There is no inertia without taking the first step.