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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.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Almost two years ago I built an apparatus I call Table Covering with Holes.  It is a sheet of plywood with holes that rests on legs inside the table and forms a surface 7 inches above the bottom of the table.

This is what it looks like from the bottom.

You can find two other posts using this apparatus here and here.

I brought the apparatus out again this year.  Instead of corn, pellets, or water, I set it up with Jurassic Sand.  Jurassic Sand is a red-orange sand that is super fine and dustless.  The bag says it is 200 million years old; it is an antique sand with an antique price, but well worth it.

Besides the usual assortment of pots, pans, and scoops, I added clear plastic tubes, funnels, and sieves.
By the way, how many engrossed children do you see around this 3' x 5' table?  Too many? Hardly.  I think there is room for a couple more.

The intersection of apparatus, medium, and loose elements makes for some unique explorations by the children that further their knowledge of how the physical world works all the while fueling their imagination.

Here is a short clip showing a child using a small stainless steel bowl to scoop and pour the sand into a sieve that is placed over one of the holes in the apparatus.  Watch the exploration with this combination.

It's as if the sand simply melts away.

What kind of exploration do you get when you combine a funnel over the sieve over a hole?
What these children discovered was that the sand flows out of the funnel in a steady stream. When the stream hits the sieve, it disperses and looks more like rain.  That is a great physics or engineering investigation.

What kind of exploration do you get when you combine a funnel and a clear tube on top of the apparatus?

It was amazing to watch this child change his focus from one pour to the next.  At first, he saw the sand as "going down" as it exited the funnel.  On his second pour, his focus shifted and he saw the sand as "going up" as it was filling the tube.  The same exact operation from two perspectives in the span of seconds.

What kind of exploration do you get when you combine a funnel, a clear tube, and a bottle on top of the apparatus?
If she gets the flow from the funnel just right, the stream of sand goes directly into the bottle. Nice trick!

But there is more because once the bottle is full, then the tube fills up, too.  Watch the excitement as these two children watch and anticipate the tube getting completely full.

As the tube filled to the top, their squeals made their anticipation palpable.  Play and exploration does not get any better than this.

There are so many more examples of the children using the apparatus, the sand, and the loose elements to breathe life into this setup.  Their explorations show focus and a surprising degree of self-regulation.  It's as if their investigations of apparatus, medium, and loose elements are boundless.  

And sometimes in the explorations, a serenity surfaces that reflects a singular beauty flowing from the process itself.  What in the world am I talking about?  Take a look at this last video and see if my words make any more sense.

That is simply sublime at the intersection of apparatus, medium, the child's actions, and the child's imagination.

(Did you see the alien?)

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