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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, August 30, 2014


In the right-hand column of this blog under Axioms of Sensorimotor Play, axiom #5 talks about holes.  It states that children are compelled to put things in holes.  There is also a corollary to this axiom, namely that the children will find every hole no matter how big or how small.  I would like to add a second corollary to axiom #5, namely that children will modify the holes whenever possible. The Platform and Flexible Gutter Tube apparatus offers a nice example of this corollary.

A child approaches this apparatus by first pouring water into the top hole to see where it goes.
Once a child figures out the water comes out of the bottom hole, he may try to fill containers remotely. As you can see in the photo above, the child has figured out how to fill containers at the end of the tube in the smaller water table.  Remote filling, how is that for a concept?

If a friend is nearby, he can even fill her container remotely.
I guess with remote filling you get remote cooperation.

Up to this point, the children have only utilized the existing holes.  So what are some of the ways they modify holes?

One of the ways is to augment the holes.  That can be done by putting a tube in the hole and then pouring down the tube (on the left).  Or that can be done by putting a funnel in the hole and then pouring down the funnel (on the right).  In either case, they have changed the original hole.

Remember what the corollary says about holes in an apparatus?  Children will find all of them. Well not only will they find all the holes, but they will modify all the holes, too.  We saw how they modified the holes at the top, now let's look at how they modify the holes at the bottom.  Since the tubes are flexible, the children  easily modify the holes by changing the positions of the holes. For example, they may lift up the end.
By lifting the bottom hole up, water starts to collect in the tube.  The result is that the weight of the water makes the tube bow in the middle where the tube is not supported. With hole up, suds and water accumulate until soap suds start coming out of both ends.  The reverse operation, namely pushing the hole back down after the water fills the tube, has a dramatic effect.  Watch the video below to see exactly what I mean.

We did it, dude! from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

There are a couple of things to note in the video.  The children have modified the holes on both ends of the tube. You can see the effect with the suds welling up out of the top hole under the funnel. Also, as the water starts to come out of the bottom hole, one of the children quickly changes the position of the hole so the water comes rushing out.  As he pushes the end of the tube down, he yells: "Yeah---overflow!"  He also states: "I knew we could do it, dude."

The children also modify these bottom holes in other ways.  If they can find the right container, they can completely block the bottom hole.
And believe me, they search for the right container to plug the hole.  In this case it was a plastic measuring cup.  You know what plugging the hole leads to?  

The children filled the tube so full that there was enough water pressure to pop the plug.  The children so eloquently characterize the effect: "Bam---bam-ba-bam!"  Were they representing verbally the force of the water pushing the measuring cup out the end?  And did you see the child thrust his fist into the top hole?  Was he representing physically the force pushing the cup out the end?

One of the more unique ways to alter the bottom hole is to change the aperture of the hole.  How does a child do that?  He does that by placing a funnel over the end of the tube.
By placing the funnel over the end of the tube, this child changes the size of the hole and subsequently, how the water flows out of the tube..  How ingenious is that?

Are the axioms and corollaries simply a reflection of children's agency around the sensory table? I am not sure, but when I listen to their pronouncements such as "I knew we could do it, dude," and "Bam---bam-ba-bam," I can feel the agency in their words.

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