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Early childhood education has been my life for over 40 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 31, 2014


In June I will be traveling for three weeks to the UK and the Netherlands to do several presentations on sand and water play.  At this point in time, I am making preparations for that trip.  Because it takes me so long to do an original post, I am revisiting some earlier posts.  The post I would like to revisit this week is from January 26, 2011.  It directly follows last week's post that described how to make Closed Chutes.  This post includes one of my favorite pictures. It is the second picture from the end of the post in which a child has placed a funnel in a hole in one of the chutes and watches the sand flow he has created.  Why is it a favorite?  Because it shows that a simple action on an apparatus by a child changes his view of the physical world and how it works.  And the thing is, you do not even need to see the child's face to get a sense of his focus.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Experimentation with closed chutes in some ways looks like the experimentation with open chutes.  For that description look at the post from December 2nd of last year here.

However, experimentation, discovery and play take different forms with the closed design.  That is because there are more defined spaces.  With the open chute, it is more like one continuum, whereas the closed chutes have several intersecting planes that crisply demarcate spaces.  Look at the apparatus below.

First, there is top of the chute.

And then there is the bottom of the chute.
Both spaces are well defined because the support box divides the chute into a top and bottom.
What is interesting is that the child catching at the bottom does not see when the person on the top is pouring so he has to rely on his aural sense to know when something is coming down the chute.  The other option is surprise.

Of course, a child could hedge her bets by covering both chutes.  That way, whichever chute the other child decides to pour into, the child whose hands are at the bottom will be sure to catch it. That looks like a nice little game these children have created.

There is also the tube in this particular apparatus which has two different levels: there is the top which is over the tub and there is the bottom which reaches into the table.

If you notice in the picture above, the child is slowly pouring sand into an opening that has been cut in the tube near the bottom.  As she pours, two things happen.  The first is that the sand slides only a short distance and the second is that it mixes with the sand being poured from the top of the tube.  What must she be thinking and feeling when she watches the sand she pours only slide a few inches and then get swept away with the sand from the top?  Maybe she doesn't care about either of those things.  Maybe she is just enthralled with how the sand falls as she pours it ever so slowly.  Do you have any other guesses?

There is another space that offers children another level on which to operate.  That is the top of the divider box.  It is a place to find stray pellets to sweep with your hand or....

a place to stack all the pellets you can collect in whatever container you can find.

For some children this apparatus provides an opportunity to simply pour into holes.

For others, it offers opportunities to observe what happens as one works with the different materials and objects provided with the apparatus.
This child decided to put a funnel in the hole on the top of one of the chutes.  He pours sand, which is quite fine, into the funnel and then looks down the chute to see the result.
What is the result?  Is he only focusing on the flow of sand created by the funnel?  Does he also notice how the sand hits the bottom of the chute?  Does he notice how it piles up and even backs up a bit before bounding down the chute? Does he notice how the grains of sand bounce down the chute?  In any case, it is a nice example of how an apparatus---or part of an apparatus---can sharpen a child's focus on how the physical world works.

In the previous picture, you can clearly see the child's focus even though you cannot see his face.
Let's take a look at what his face tells us.
You can still see his focus, but there may also be a hint of happy wonderment.

This is the children's table to experiment with as they see fit.  Observing the children has taught me to expect the unexpected and appreciate their inventiveness.

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