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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, May 11, 2013


Back in April, I wrote about a Big Box Incline with a wardrobe box.  I took a wardrobe box I acquired from an recent move and set it on an incline over the sensory table.

This was such a good box that I decided to use it again for a second week.  Since I am not content to leave the apparatus the same from week to week, I decided to give it a different orientation.  I changed the orientation in two ways.  I set the box over the table with a horizontal orientation.  In addition, I set the box crossways over the table so both ends extend over the table on the sides.

There are a couple of important features to point out.  Two planter trays serve as extra crosswise support for the box.  In addition, the trays also create other spaces to move the corn into and out of. Another feature is the large hole cut in the bottom of the box over the table between the trays.

In the picture below, a three-year-old uses a dump truck to dump the corn into what he called the "quarry."  He knew that word from his construction books and with this apparatus he could physically represent what he had only seen in books.  I think you can notch that up to a higher order thinking skill.

Another feature is a hole cut in one of the ends of the box that hangs over the side of the table.  A tub is placed underneath the hole to catch the corn falling through the hole.
It is interesting to note that these two inside holes empty onto two different levels.  The hole inside table empties into the bottom of the table.  The hole outside the table empties into the tub which is the same level as the floor.  What do you think that means for how the children explore the spaces created by this box?

The other end of the box that extends beyond the table serves as a small platform inside the box for the children to carry out their various operations.  A child can end up both inside and outside the box at the same time.  What do you think that means for how the children explore the spaces created by this box?
One of the things that happens is that the enclosed space boosts his focus on his operations.

There is one more feature of note.  I took a long, narrow box and set it on top of the wardrobe box.

I then embedded it into the top of the wardrobe box to form a channel in the top of the box.  A hole was cut in one end of the channel to allow the corn to drop into the wardrobe box.

So how do the children explore the spaces created by this box and its new orientation?  There just happens to be a video to give you an idea just how children explore the spaces.  It is short, but shows four different children all exploring in their own unique way.  The most novel of which is at the end of the video.  A child has fitted a clear plastic tube on his arm and is using it to scoop corn from the table and then pour it into the box.  Watch.

Here is a second video which shows how the children explore the channel embedded in the top of the box.  I did not realize when I was taking the video that I was taping two children working together: one is sweeping the corn out of the channel on the top of the box and the other is catching the corn with his pot from inside the box.  Coordination and cooperation; I like that. Watch.

If you look at the column on the right-hand side of this blog, orientation is the first of the dimensions and elements listed.  By thinking in terms of orientation, the same box becomes a completely different apparatus offering the children a whole new set of invitations to explore the corresponding spaces.  

I only arranged the wardrobe box on two orientations; I did not orient it vertically.  What would that have looked like?  Maybe next year.

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