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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, May 10, 2014

FUNNELS AND CLEAR PLASTIC TUBING - 2014

Simply said, The Funnels and Clear Plastic Tubing apparatus is a favorite in the water table because of the breadth and depth of play fostered by the apparatus.  Funnels are taped to one end of clear plastic tubing and then the tubing is threaded through a crate.  The tubes vary in length and empty back into the table at various points or into a tub on the side of the water table.  The crate is taped to a wooden tray that spans the table and holds the apparatus above the water table.

The exploration usually begins with the question: "If I pour water in this funnel, where does it come out?"  That is not so easy because the water has to flow through the maze of tubing in the crate.
If more than one child is pouring at the same time and the water is coming out of multiple tubes, the children are treated to a worthwhile perceptual challenge. 

Once the children have figured out where a tube empties, there is no end to their explorations. The child in the video below has figured out that the black funnel empties into the tub through the black hose.  As the video clip begins, he has found a bottle that fits perfectly over the end of the hose. Listen to his reaction as he watches the bottle fill after he has poured water into the funnel.


This child had already figured out that if he pours water into the black funnel, the water comes out the black hose.  Why is he surprised that he was able to fill the bottle when he placed it over the hose and poured water into the funnel?  Has he changed the apparatus enough by adding the bottle to the end of the hose that he has to test the new configuration to see if it works according to his plan?  He is certainly pleased with his work.

He does not stop there.  He pulls the bottle off the hose and examines the bottle closely.
What is so intriguing about this bottle filled with green water?  Is it the color?  Or has he noticed that the green water in the bottle provides a different lens through which to see the rest of the classroom?

One of the changes in the setup from previous years, is that there were some loose parts available to the children as part of the provisions.  The loose parts added a new dimension to the play and exploration.  

Let me show you one one example of how a child used one of the loose parts for her own purposes.  The child has taken a funnel and tube that is loose and not part of the apparatus.  She uses it to pour water into a measuring cup resting on a little stand in the water table.  She does an amazing job of balancing the tube and funnel all the while keeping it in the measuring cup.  That is not an easy task because every moves she makes has an effect; she constantly has to make adjustments to pull off this supposedly simple operation.  
Loose parts - funnel and tube from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

After all the adjustments, she is able to get water into her cup.  She lifts up the cup and proudly states: "I poured some water from there into here."  Without missing a beat, she lifts up the measuring cup to eye level and---like the scientist she is---asks: "How much water is there?"

As adults, we often overlook these types of accomplishments made by children.  Of course, the water will flow into the bottle.  Of course, you can pour water from there into here.   The significance of these accomplishments has more to do with process of exploration rather than an actual outcome.  The children set up their own challenges; they try out different procedures or operations; and they evaluate the results.  No wonder some people think children embody the spirit of a true scientist.


P.S.  If you are interested in other posts about the funnel and tube apparatus, there are two that explain different setups here and here.  There is also another one that highlights other types of exploration at the apparatus here.



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