In the videos, a child uses loose parts from around the sensory table to build his own construction. It is not an expansive structure, nor is it an aesthetic marvel. It is ordinary in every sense of the word. In fact, it only uses a few ordinary elements. Not only are the the structure and elements ordinary, but so are the operations used in building the structure.
Next to the sensory table, there is always an assortment of what I call Hodgepodge and Doohickies. Children go to the shelves to pick out what they want to use in the sand and water table.
On this particular day, many of the implements had already been transported to the sensory table. One child, though, found four things he could use to create a little building project for himself. For more insight into this child's actions, I solicited the parent's reaction to the videos. Her reactions are in italics after each clip.
In the first video, you see a child take a clear plastic tube and drop it inside a larger cardboard tube. With great facility, he puts the tube combination into a measuring cup. He seems to have an ultimate plan: standing the tubes upright in the measuring cup. His actions are extremely measured (no pun intended) because he seems to realize the structure is not stable. With a leap of faith, he places another measuring cup onto the structure and lets go. The result?
engineering 1 from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
In the first video I noticed his uncertainty (which was really obvious when compared to video 2). I could tell the wheels were turning the whole time and I must say was impressed that he knew he had to hold the tubes at the bottom in order to keep the clear one in the cardboard one without trial and error.
Even though he did not succeed, he carried out his actions and intentions with great care and a budding aptitude for building. (If you read the action writeup on the Vimeo clip, you will get an idea just how much care and aptitude he exhibits. Nothing is easy when balancing different things in each other or on top of each other.)
After being unsuccessful and little frustrated at trying to get the tube to stand up in the measuring cup, he inserts the tube into a red coffee can. As the video begins, you see from his actions and his definitive "Huh" that he has realized his plan. He now places the measuring cup on top of the tube with a lot more confidence. He turns to the camera and gives another "Huh" and proudly declares: "It stays."
engineering 2 from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
In the second video, I noticed how much more sure of himself and his method he was. He said "Huh" right away in the beginning because he anticipated success with the smaller coffee can. He had no apprehension on his face the whole video and used "huh" again at the end (when he was actually successfully) as a kind of completion and "I've bested you" to the now standing tube. His smile at the end was priceless and showed how pleased he was with himself and his accomplishment.
Like all good builders and experimenters it was time to test the structure. He exudes confidence with his body language as he tests putting a couple of other loose elements on top of his structure. It is not hard to see that he is smiling with his whole body.
engineering 3 from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
Did a little magic unfold in these ordinary moments?