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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, June 16, 2012


Every year I set up baby washing in my classroom.  Several years ago, I decided to incorporate a clothesline right over the table so the children could also wash and hang clothes.

The original setup is described here.

This year I added a new component to the apparatus.  I added another rope and looped it around two pulleys: a moving clothesline.  (The new rope is pictured in the middle below.)  This year I also added another small table. The moving clothesline traverses both tables so the children can send clothes from one table to the other.

To make the rope a loop, I cut a piece of rope twice as long as the distance between the two poles and duct taped the two ends together.  That way the duct tape would not impede the rope from moving around the pulley; the only time the rope would get stuck is when clothes or a clothespin would hit the pulley.

Watch how it works.

There are at three things to note from the video.  First, as soon as the boy has finished hanging the pants, the pants spring back to the pulley end.  That is because the boy at the blue table---who has taken a keen interest in the moving clothesline---is pulling on the rope so the pants spring back as soon as the boy hanging the pants lets go.  Second, when the boy who hung the pants tries to move the pants, he  pulls the rope the wrong way so the pants do not move.  Almost immediately her realizes the situation and adjusts his actions to send the pants over to the other table.  Third, the girl on the right is a avid observer of the whole operation.  That is important because we often dismiss the role of observers both in terms of support given to those performing any given operation and in terms of the their own learning by active observation.  

One group this year engaged in a entirely new pursuit: they brought the animals over from the block area to join the washing fun and then decided to hang them on the new clothesline.
As you can see, most are just balanced by their ankles on the rope, but one is actually attached with a clothespin.  

The moving clothesline added a new element to washing babies and clothes.  And it never fails, the children take that new element and make it their own and give it their own twist.


  1. So cool Tom - love this idea.
    I've set up a drying rack beside the tub before but hanging over top and movable is genius. I think I have a couple of little pulleys in a box at school that might work. Hmm an idea for the fall.

    1. Thanks Maureen. It reminds me of the clotheslines I saw when I lived Europe many years ago that I thought were so cool.