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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, February 2, 2014

SNOW PARK

We have had our share of snow and cold this winter.  School was closed 5 times in January because it was so cold---in the range of -40 degrees windchill.  (At -40 the C and F temperature scales converge).  Because snow is such a big part of our experience with nature in Minnesota, I like to bring snow into the classroom once or twice during the winter.  That way the children do not need to get all dressed up to learn about the properties of snow.  Imagine playing with snow without coats or mittens.  The hands get cold for sure, but they can scoop and dig in the white stuff in the comfort of indoor temperatures.

Last year I wrote about bringing the snow into the sensory table in a post entitled Snow Tubes.  In that post the children were able to explore the snow using various kinds of tubes.

This year, besides the loose, clear plastic tubes, I set a couple of tubes---one clear and one not clear---on an incline.  Two pieces of plastic channels were taped to the tubes to create open snow slides.

I call it a Snow Park because I added people and figures to the provisions for the table.

OK, calling it a snow park may be a stretch, but there was no shortage of people and figures going down the tubes and the slides with the snow.  
The people and the figures often get stuck, but that created a challenge for the children to see if they could somehow make the figures drop down the tube.  How do children know to pound the tube to make the figures go down?

It took me a couple of tries to get the incline stable enough so the children could use it without it toppling over.  After all, children are the best testers of the integrity of an apparatus.  To get a steep enough incline, I taped two planter trays together at the ends.  A nice feature of this arrangement is that the top planter tray is open, so it creates another space to work in for the children.  
A white, wooden tray that spans the table is added which creates a platform on which the children can work above the bottom of the table.  The white tray has a dual purpose in this arrangement: it also serves as an anchor onto which the planter tray structure is taped.  With enough duct tape, there is no toppling of this structure.

If you look at the apparatus as a whole, you can see that it divides the table into several spaces with different levels.  That makes the space more complex and intriguing for the children.  In addition, the children bring their own complexity of operations to bear on the apparatus.  What does the intersection of those two complexities yield?  One of the things it yields is focused engagement in the different spaces on the different levels.
This picture is a good illustration of the many levels and spaces the children can work on and in for this particular apparatus.

Part of the complexity of the sensory table is that it is also a science table.  Children are always investigating how the physical world works.  Here is a nice example of one of those experiments with the snow in one of the loose tubes.

Ooopsie from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

How great is that!  This video also highlights the difference between experimenting with snow outside and inside.  Outside it would be hard to use the tubes without mittens and if the snow fell out of the tube on the ground it would be no big deal.  Inside, the child is able to feel the cold with his hands and comfortably watch the snow slide from one end of the tube to the other.  And if the snow falls out on the floor, there is a surprise incongruity. Thus a child's scientific term for a surprise incongruity: ooopsie.





  

2 comments:

  1. I love bringing snow indoors. When we're outside, the snow becomes a full-body experience as the children run through it, slide in it and lie down in it. That's a wonderful experience, of course. But indoors the children get to use their hands to really manipulate the snow. They can experience its properties up close in a way that they just don't do outdoors.

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    1. I agree. This year since it has been so cold, the snow is light, fluffy and not sticky. As the children play with the snow indoors, it changes as it begins to melt. It becomes more dense and stickier so the experiences and explorations change in real time.

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