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.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Over two years ago I wrote about an apparatus that is called---for lack of a better or catchier term---Large Plastic Tube with Funnels.  It is an apparatus that I have used once a year for more than 20 years.

This apparatus was created from a three foot piece of discarded pipe I found at a construction site.  It is a 4" diameter PVC pipe fabricated with a set of holes on two sides.

Since I did not want water to flow through the holes on the bottom, I put duct tape over the holes that I designated as the bottom (pictured on the right).

If you look back at the original apparatus on the top of the post, you will see that it required a lot of duct tape to secure the funnels into the holes of the pipe.  Because the children are so good at testing the integrity of an apparatus, the children usually found a way to dislodge the funnels.  I wanted to figure out a way to make the funnels more secure without using copious amounts of duct tape.  I went to the hardware store and bought 1" fittings that could screw together through the holes.  I did have to enlarge some of the holes to accommodate the fittings, but I was able to do it with a utility knife.  It was not precise, but the fittings and washers cover the hole anyway.

I placed the female fitting on the outside of the pipe and the male on the inside.  I also added a cap to one end of the large pipe because I wanted the water to only flow out of one end.

This year's version looks almost the same as the earlier version but with less duct tape.  The funnels, though, sit deeper into the fittings and are supported by the fittings so they are more stable.

I have used this simple contraption every year because it is so engaging for the children.  There is something about pouring water in one of the funnels and then watching it spill out the end of the pipe into the tub.  What it is, I am not sure.

A more important reason I set it up every year is the type of play and exploration that emerges as the children operate on the apparatus.  You can see some of the earlier examples of play that is unique to this apparatus here.  As far as unique play goes, this year was no exception.

Some of the unique play was the direct result of a couple of new utensils that were included with the cups and bottles.  The two new utensils were a baster and a big plastic syringe.  Let's look at the baster first.  Below you can see a two-year-old explore with the baster.

He places the baster in the hole without a funnel to see it protrude through the pipe on the left.  He then puts the baster through the funnel to see if the baster still protrudes.  It did not. Here you have a little scientist hypothesizing, experimenting and evaluating the outcome.

What can a child discover with a syringe?  One child discovered that if you put the syringe in one of the funnels, it plugs the funnel.  What is so unique about that?  The child still continues pouring into the syringe which still empties through the funnel.  In other words, it is a selective plug because it lets water through the syringe itself but not through the larger funnel.  What a unique way to experience volume.

In the video below, the child has discovered what I call a "bubble machine."  It is not really a bubble machine, but by placing the bottle upside down into the syringe which is in one of the funnels, he can see individual bubbles rise through the bottle.  Why? Because the syringe has such a small opening at its bottom that water slowly drops from the bottom making the bubbles rise slowly and one at a time.  I was impressed and I got a chance to ask them where they thought the bubbles come from.  Listen to their answers.

Where do the bubbles come from? from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

One child went so far as to create his own tool by combining the baster with the syringe.  The child found out that the baster fits tightly into the syringe.  Because the opening at the bottom of the syringe is so small, it takes a lot more work to fill up the baster.  For that same reason, when he goes to empty the baster, it is harder to squeeze.  He has created a tool to change the flow both in and out of the baster.

Baster and Syringe: Creating a New Tool from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The newer version of this apparatus still cannot be considered elegant; it is, after all, a piece of junk from a construction site.  If you have read this blog long enough, though, you know I subvert the elegant for the functional. By functional, I mean that children can and want to explore and operate on the apparatus.  This apparatus passes the test every year.