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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.

Friday, September 21, 2012

SENSORY APPARATUS PART III

I was asked last spring by another early childhood professional why do I build apparatus for the sensory table.  That question was a lot more thought provoking than I had anticipated.  I have been mulling over the answer here and here.  In the the first post, I said that early in my career children demonstrated their need to transport any medium out of the sensory table.  I began to build apparatus so children could continue to find ways to constructively transport.  An added benefit was that the children, given the chance to work constructively, demonstrated an ability to regulate their own behavior.  In the second post, I said that children created and recreated operations such as digging and collecting that harken back to a time when our survival depended on such operations. Those fundamental/primal operations are in our DNA and need to be expressed.

This summer, I started to participate in a book study through the  Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota.  The book study used the Reggio publication entitled: dialogues with places.  The book examines how the children use all their senses and their whole bodies to investigate space and reflects on how children subsequently make meaning of a place through those investigations. Because their investigations were always new and fresh, it was not unusual for them to pick up on features such as holes in the ceiling or cracks in the floor that adults simply ignore. For the children, though, those were important features to animate.  Those were important features that were "invitations" for the children to enter into a dialogue with the place and to ultimately create meaning.

For me, the sensory table is such a place.  It is a place in which children enter into a dialogue with the apparatus.  It is a place in which children find those "cracks" and "holes" for which they create meaning.  It is a place in which they use all their senses and their whole body to investigate.

They investigate spaces with their eyes.
  
 With their hands

With their arms

Even if the child cannot see the space to be explored

And even through barriers

They investigate spaces with their heads

With their heads and torsos

With their whole body by climbing on

Or into

Or even lying next to

And they will always find the space that an adult would never notice

In the Reggio book, places have "form, energy, and rhythm."  At the sensory table, each apparatus has the same.  The form, energy, and rhythm that emerge will look different as each child---alone and with others---creates a dialogue with the apparatus.  That is exciting and creates multiple opportunities to make meaning out of space. Since children are master explorers, there is no end to the process.  So I continue to build apparatus for the children to investigate and make meaning out of new and intriguing spaces.

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