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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, January 18, 2014


First there was The Table Embedded in a Box.

And now comes Addition #2 to the Table Embedded in a Box.

Here is a view from the table side of the second addition with one of the tubes exiting the box and emptying back into the table.
It is clear from this picture that the second addition has created a more enclosed space between itself and the big box.  You can see the second addition is almost like a wall at the end of the table.  Though it is not nearly as enclosed as the space inside the big box, it is still a desirable space in which to operate for the children.

Here is a side view of the entire apparatus in full operation.
Wouldn't you like to play here?

When I was thinking about embedding the tubes, I could have embedded them in the top of the box, but I wanted to create a reservoir around the holes to catch and hold the pellets.

To do that, I created a false bottom a coupled of inches below the top of the box. I took a piece of cardboard that was larger than the opening of the top of the box because I needed to make flaps to hold the false bottom in place.  To make the flaps, I first measured the top of the box and drew the rectangular opening on the piece of cardboard.   I shaded areas around the corners and cut those shaded areas out to make the flaps.
I scored the flaps with a utility knife so they would bend easily when I inserted them into slits cut in the box.  The slits are the length of the flaps and the thickness of the piece of cardboard.   
It is important to put the tube through the false bottom and out of the box before lowering the false bottom and inserting the flaps in the slits.  Since the tube is flexible, it is doable.

Once the false bottom is in place, I taped the flaps on all sides around the box and taped the edges where the false bottom meets the box.
To be sure, the children found many ways to probe the different features of this apparatus.  Let me show you a video, though, that demonstrates how one child combines several features in one fell swoop.  The child starts by scooping pellets from the table and pours them into a tube that empties into a measuring cup.  He then grabs the measuring cup and steps onto an adjacent stool to empty the cup into a hole in another box.  After pouring pellets down that hole, he drops to the floor to reach into the box to scape the pellets he just poured down the tube into the bottom of the box.

This child has created his own script using the whole apparatus to move pellets from one end of the table to the other.  Talk about intention and industry; this guy has it in spades.

I cannot leave this apparatus without showing you one more video.  I call it Close Encounters because of how close the children are playing together.  Two boys are standing on one stool, one in back of other, pouring pellets down a tube.  At one point, one of the boy's elbow is actually in the other boy's face.

What is astonishing about this video is how close these two boys are in their play.  It is not parallel play and neither is it cooperative; one boy seems to be conducting and the other contributing.  All done without a hint of discord. 

How close were they exactly?  Take a look.

I am left with the question: What makes it possible for these two boys to play so closely together sans conflict?  Is it the children themselves?  Is it something about the apparatus?  Is it something about the operation they configure?  Maybe it is because there is no rule that only one child is allowed on the stool at a time so they are able in a real context to accommodate and negotiate physically using their own bodies.  

What do you think?


  1. As always, I am in awe of your amazing mind and ability to physically construct what is in your head! I would so love to get my hands and whole body and play in that construction! Your query about the closeness of the two boys, who by the way almost look conjoined, lol, is interesting. My guess is that the fascination with the whole process, along with the sensory experience, (sound, feel and motion of the pellets) create a unity and the boys intuitively want to be a part of that, so almost move as one. Thanks as always for sharing! Eileen

    1. Thanks Eileen. I really appreciate your thoughts on the boys. And when I see them so focused on the process, I think you are on to something. Wow, I especially like the part about creating a unity that the boys want to be a part of. I must remember that.