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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, February 15, 2014


The same apparatus was up for two weeks. 

The first week it served as a reservoir for snow and snow play without mittens

The second week, there was snow again, but this time the children painted it.

Even though the apparatus remained the same, the children formulated different operations in the snow each week because some of the provisions changed; different tools necessarily generated different operations. 

One child's operation, however, was the same over the two weeks.  The first week, he figured out how to launch snow using a clear plastic tube on the incline.  Watch.

That first week I entered the scene after the child had already filled his clear plastic tube with snow and placed it on the incline.  He experimented with the snow sliding in and out of the tube. As he did that, the snow melted ever so slightly against the inside sides of the tube creating less and less friction.  As he experimented, his pushes became stronger until finally he gave enough of a push to send the snow shooting right out the tube. 

I cannot be at the sensory table all the time so I do not always know how a child creates such an operation.  Because I was there in time to video tape it, though, I was able to show the child the following week his previous week's operation.  Immediately after seeing it, he said he wanted to do it again so he went to work.  Watch.

This second week, his experiments with the snow in the tube expanded in scope.  He moved the clear tube up the incline so part of it was not supported by incline.  Did he think he could shoot the snow further if the tube was higher on the incline? What he found out was that as the snow moved in the tube and the weight suddenly shifted, he almost lost control of the tube---and no snow was launched.  He tried it a second time with the same result.  Finally he dropped the tube down so the entire tube was supported by the incline.  When he pushed this time, the snow launched with plenty of force and he did not loose control of the tube.  Did you hear me register my amazement at the end of the clip?

Even though the table was set up for different activities, the snow, the clear plastic tube and the incline were constants over the two weeks.  That made it possible for this child to experiment with the physics of snow and apparatus in a truly fantastic way.  Would he have done it the second week if I had not shown him the video from the week before?  Maybe he would have eventually got around to it, but the video was an immediate reference back to what he had done the week before which triggered the desire to do it again.  And the second time around, there was even more experimenting, especially with placement of the tube.

Do you know where the snow ended up?  It ended up on the floor, of course.  That was certainly a small price to pay for such a astonishing experiment.  Besides, the snow was easily scooped up with the small dust pan next to the table that could be used like a shovel.  

It is intriguing to think about how a setup helps determine the set of possibilities for the children to create their own operations.  If you compare the current post to lasts year's post on Snow Tubes, you get an idea of how operations can be influenced by the structure and the provisions. Last year there was snow and clear plastic tubes like this year.  However, this year there was an incline. The incline part of the apparatus made it possible for this child to "launch" the snow.

That makes me wonder what other variables might determine a set of possible operations for the children to author.  That's a big TBD.


  1. Hi Tom, great post as usual! Can you fix the link to last years snow tube...seems to be broken. Thanks for sharing, I really love all the wonderings your blog creates in my head!

    1. Hi Heidi, Thanks. I have tried to fix the link. Please let me know if it is not fixed. Tom