About Me

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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.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Last week I wrote about the most recent version of a Horizontal Channels apparatus.  I left the channels up for a second week, but added a dome.  Well it is not exactly a dome.  It is a box over part of the channel apparatus, but I am taking a little poetic license.

I want to use this post to give you an idea of my thought processes in adding the dome.  First of all, when I made the Horizontal Channels, I did not measure correctly the width of apparatus, so instead of covering the whole table, I was left with a little ledge on each side of the table.

There was also a larger area in the back of the apparatus that was left uncovered because in setting up the ramp, the apparatus had to be pulled six inches further down the table leaving a bare space on the end opposite the ramp.

Those measuring mistakes gnawed at my brain.  I began to wonder if I could extend the channels. I could have added a separate channel on the back perpendicular to the others.  As I thought about it more, though, I realized the ledges could offer strong support for a box placed over the channels.   The question was: Do I cover all or some of the channels?  I decided I only wanted to cover part of the channels because I wanted to keep a certain amount of the lateral play that this apparatus seems to fostered.

The next question was: Can I find a big enough box to span the channels and cover the back ledge, but not the whole table?   My question was answered the next morning---literally.  When I came into work, I saw a very nice box that looked like the right size sitting in the front hallway of the school.  I asked the custodian why was there a box in the front hallway.  He told me he had set it aside for me.  The custodian really had no idea I was looking for a box with just the right dimensions for the dome.  He is in my room every day, though, so he knows I appreciate a sturdy box.  How is that for luck?

Once I had the box, a decision had to be made about where to position it over the channels. There was one overriding factor that determined the placement of the box.  I wanted to attach a vertical chute that would empty into a tub off the end of the table.  That meant the box had to stick out far enough over the table to accommodate the vertical chute and the tub into which it emptied .

Below is a picture of the vertical chute seen from the inside of the box.
(By the way, the vertical chute was another offering from a coworker earlier in the month.  I had been saving it for just the right apparatus ;-)

Once the position of the box was established, I had to decide on the placement and size of the holes.  The holes on three sides were easy.  I wanted the holes to be big enough so the children could reach inside, not just with their hands, but also with their body.  I also wanted the holes to act like windows so children could interact through them.

The hole on the top of the box was also an easy decision.  I knew I needed one on top because children will work on all levels of any apparatus (Axiom # 3 on the right-hand column of the blog). Without a hole, corn would collect on top and then be brushed off onto the floor.  Providing a hole on the top created an outlet for the need to work with corn on the highest level. In the picture below, the child is watching his own action of pouring corn through the hole on top.

But I did not want the top hole to be too big because the top itself offers another valuable space for children's play.

The hardest decision for me was the shape of the holes in front.  I could have done one big hole like I did with the other three sides, but for stability I wanted some of the holes resting on the channels.  I decided to cut a big hole over the large channel.  I decided to cut the holes over the narrow channels the height of the channels themselves.  That gave the dome stability and also created obstacles for moving the corn or vehicles through the narrow channels under the dome.

So there you have it.  First, there was a mistake in measuring the original apparatus so it did not completely cover the table.  Second, there was the mulling over ideas for covering the exposed space which led to the idea of placing a box over the exposed space and part of the apparatus itself.  Third, there was the custodian setting aside and offering me just the right box without knowing I needed it.  Fourth, there was the decision to add a vertical chute to the dome which in turn determined where to place the dome over the table and apparatus.  Fifth, there were multiple decisions made about the size and placement of holes.  Viola!  The Horizontal Channels with a Dome was born.

As you can see, there was some intentionality in building this apparatus.  You should also see that there is a fair amount of serendipity.  Often times, I may have a general idea of what I want to build, but in the building of the apparatus, things necessarily change.  The idea only takes final form in the act of building.  If I find myself trying to figure out every detail before I start to build, I become paralyzed and unable to start a project.  It takes a certain amount of momentum to finish any project so this is my mantra: the only way to get momentum is to start.

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