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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, October 4, 2014


Last week's post was about a Channel Board, which is an incline installation that is divided into three channels with each channel having its own surface.  When water is poured down the channels, the children see how water flows over the different surfaces.

For this week's apparatus, I repurposed the Channel Board.  I removed the rubber mat from one of the channels, but left the DRICORE squares in the other.  The Channel Board then became the base for a wavy mirror that I had made for the classroom over 25 years ago.  The result was a Channel Board with a Funhouse Mirror.

Here is the frame for the funhouse mirror.  The frame is 12" wide and 32" long.  There are cross braces to give the frame stability and strength. The braces are flush with the top of the frame to also give the mirror more strength and stability

I painted the frame red with a high gloss paint.  I then attached the frame to the Channel Board by screwing the cross pieces into the boards that form the inside channels.  When the frame was attached, I screwed the mirror onto the frame.  The mirror is a plastic mirror sheet no thicker than tagboard that is duct taped to 1/4" flexible plastic piece.  The tagboard-thin mirror sheet does not have enough body strength to be used by itself, thus the plastic backing.
The side panels were added last.  They are made from the same black plastic as the base of the Channel Board.  The sharp corners were easily rounded using a utility knife.  The seams for the panels were caulked with bathroom caulk.

This is still a Channel Board because there are channels for the water to flow down.  And the channels still have different surfaces.  Now, however, the channels have added dimensional components.  The channels can now be categorized as above, on the side, below and through. That makes pouring and catching the water more intriguing.

One of the most captivating features of this apparatus is how the reflected images change when water is poured over the funhouse mirror surface.  Watch the reaction of the child who is looking at herself in the mirror as other children pour water.

Because the video is taken from a different angle than her perspective, I am not sure what she sees.  She is clearly happy and fascinated.  Part of the fascination has to come from the changing image as the rate of water flow slows and her image becomes more clear.  And part of it has to come from seeing her image through the rippling water.

I do not have a good understanding of the physics part of what she is experiencing.  I have a better understanding of some other operations that emerged from children exploring this apparatus.  One of those operations was simply rubbing the smooth, wet surface of the mirror with hands.  Watch. 

This is a true sensory experience.  Children gather so much information about the world through their hands.  In fact, when something is attractive to a child, he has a hard time keeping his hands off the desired object.  Rubbing the mirror, feeling how smooth it is, and then having the water poured over his hands is the child's way of collecting a little bit of knowledge of the world through his hands.

Though this Channel Board is more elaborate because of the funhouse mirror, some of the simplest operations must not be overlooked.  Below is a video of a child simply catching the water with a pink cup as it flows off the mirror surface.  Pay attention to her reaction at the end.

Was that a laugh of satisfaction having caught the water in a relatively fast stream of water flowing down the channel?  Or was it simply a laugh of wonderment and joy?

It took me over 25 years to figure out how to incorporate the funhouse mirror into water play at the sensory table.  It was not until I remade a lighter Channel Board that I saw a way to make it part of an apparatus.  In fact, if you were around me as I built this, you might have heard a little chuckle of satisfaction and joy.  Can you tell that the building process is play for me?  I saw a comment not long ago in reference to this blog and the building process.  The person said: build it and it will happen.  I encourage you to play and to build things.  Some joy and laughter may ensue from the children---and maybe even from you.  Again, build it and it will happen.


1 comment:

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