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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, October 13, 2012


Last week I wrote about Clear Plastic Tubes and Funnels.  I kept that apparatus up for a second week, but I added another component: a 5.5 liter laundry detergent jug with a push valve.
A crate is taped to the small water table.  The jug is taped securely to the crate.  A firm, clear plastic tube is taped to the handle of the jug and empties into the tray forming the base of the tubes and funnels apparatus.  A funnel is taped to the jug and is connected to a tube that is threaded through the crate to empty into the blue table.

Here is a view from the other side.  You can see that a hole is cut in the laundry jug for filling.

Pushing the button on the laundry jug is not as simple as it may look.  Why?  Because it takes a certain amount of force to get the button to push down.  In fact, you have to use an index finger on the lip of the button mechanism to create enough opposing force for the thumb to push down. Once it is down, it is easy to hold down and fill a cup.

Some children were able to master the operation by themselves.  Some were not.  That was OK, because getting water out of the jug then became a two or three person operation.  We often take these operations for granted, but they do take a certain amount of communication, coordination and cooperation.  And don't forget the active observer taking it all in so he can contribute later on.

In reviewing pictures for this post, I ran across the picture below.  A child is filling the jug through the hole.  That was expected.  What was not expected was the other child watching the operation through the small cap hole on the end.

Of course, the child pouring had to check the water level himself.

Here is a little insight into on how this component originated.  Last year a colleague gave me the laundry detergent jug.   She said when the jug was empty, she immediately thought of me.  If anyone could do anything with it, she thought, I could---and probably in the sensory table.  I took it not really knowing how I would use it.  In fact, I did not do anything with it all year last year. Instead, I left it in the housekeeping area as a prop, which the children generously appropriated for their own purposes.  It was easy to carry around because of the handle and they enjoyed the challenge of pushing the red button.  I would revisit using it as part of an apparatus every once in awhile, but none of the ideas seem to gain any traction.  I could have left it in the housekeeping area this year, too, but using it to extend the tube and funnel apparatus was as likely place to start as any.   The challenge was to have the jug above the table out of the water oriented in such a way as to allow the children to operate the button.  I also wanted the jug to be within reach but the button still had to be over the table so when it was pressed the water would empty into the table and not onto the floor.  I brought in a crate and tried two different orientations.  Once I was satisfied with the orientation, I taped the crate to the table and then the jug to the create. Once the jug was in place, I added the other components to make it more interesting. 

Sometimes it just takes a willingness to play with objects---almost like a child---to see a idea become a reality.   By the way, I joked with the parents that this component originating from adult world of washing clothes allows the children to work on the "life skill" of pushing the button of a laundry detergent jug. 

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