About Me

My photo
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, June 2, 2012

BOXES IN BOXES - DESIGN FLAW

In the preceding post, I introduced the apparatus Boxes in Boxes.  

What I did not tell you is that there is a design flaw.  Look at the surface formed by the top of the large box in the foreground.  It is a nice, flat service on which the children can put the implements of play.  I did figure as much when I first set it up.  What I did not anticipate is that the children would use the surface for piling corn and animating corn.

Watch what happens in the video below.  The two children start by carefully pouring the corn on top of the box.  They seem very careful to keep it on top and not spill.  All of a sudden, the boy starts to slap the corn on top of the box.  


Yes, corn is flying all over.  That is not what I envisioned for play at this apparatus. 

I videotaped this little episode because I knew I made a mistake in the construction of this particular apparatus.  The child does what he does naturally: explore all aspects of the apparatus and the medium.  In other words, he is doing what he is suppose to do.  And oh what fun!  He must be saying to himself: "Look what I can do!  I can make noise and I can propel the corn in interesting ways.  I can really have an impact on my physical world."

So what do I do if I do not want corn all over the place.  I change the apparatus.
You can see in the picture above that I taped another box on top of the large box.  (I actually embedded the box and cut a hole in one corner so the corn falls into the box below.)  That pretty much eliminated the large flat surface.

"How did that work?" you ask.  Watch.


As you can see, instead of pouring corn on top of the box, the child now pours it in a box.  The child does not slap the corn, but he does churn the corn vigorously.  He must be saying to himself: "Look what I can do!  I can make noise and I can propel the corn in interesting ways.  I can really have an impact on my physical world." 

Children at this age do not misbehave.  (I actually never use that word or say a child is bad.)   Rather, they are in the process of exploring what is acceptable and what is not.  So much of what is acceptable and what is not is determined by the environment.   When I plan an activity, I do not blame the children for not doing what I expect.  Rather, I observe and take joy in their exploration. If I have to modify the activity so I am comfortable with their exploration, I do so readily.  Children are absolutely the best explorers, and by following their cue, I discover quite quickly when an apparatus has a design flaw. 

2 comments: