About Me

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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, December 13, 2014


Last week this blog featured a Box Peak apparatus that I had built in early November.  Colleagues and parents commented on the architectural nature of the construction.
The children, of course, did not comment on the nature of the apparatus, but they sure did play on, in and around the whole structure.

The second week I added some new elements, a channel and tubes, and a new loose part, a homemade plunger.

The channel that was added had two holes on the top into which the children could pour sand. The lower of the two holes also gave the children a peek at the sand flowing down the closed chute. The hole on the end of the channel directed the sand into the hole at the bottom of the apparatus. If you look closely, you see that the sand coming out of the channel is split in two, but is transformed into one stream coming out of the hole emptying into the tub.

There were two types of tubes added to the apparatus.  The first was a cardboard tube.  The purpose of this tube was to direct sand through the hole on the other side of the box.  Watch how this works; you will have to wait to the end of the video to see the child pour the sand---the red, hot lava---down the tube.  The video begins with the child saying:"Hot lava for sale.  Who wants hot lava?  Red, hot lava with a lot of candy in it.  And a lot of healthy things.  There are healthy things in here."  All the while she is scooping sand from the bucket and putting it in her measuring cup.  Every time she puts some sand in her measuring cup, she uses the scoop to smooth off the top.  When she is satisfied with her exact measurement, she stands up and pours the sand down the tube.  It rushes down the tube and out of the box---you might even say like hot lava.

Red hot lava for sale from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Did you notice all the areas of development that were touched upon in this 30 second video.  Here are a few I noticed: motor skills(both fine and large motor), language, role play, math(measuring the red hot lava), science(pouring the sand down the tube), cooperation(the other child is also in on the role play) and imagination.  Not bad for 30 seconds of play.

The second tube was a plastic tube that was embedded horizontally in the Box Peak.  The tube was set fairly high in the apparatus so the children could still reach under the apparatus to get at the sand.

The main reason for this tube was to encourage play with a new loose part: a sand plunger.  The sand plunger is a jar lid screwed onto the end of a sawed-off piece of broom handle.

The lid was the perfect size to fit into the tube.  That way the children could use the plunger to push the sand from one end of the tube out the other.  Or a child could just push the plunger through the tube without moving any sand.
The child at the top of the picture has just pushed his plunger all the way through the tube.  At the same time, he has pushed the other plunger out of the tube.

Of  course, the children found their own uses for the plungers that had nothing to do with the tube. Below, the children are using the plungers like shovels as they try to move the sand at the bottom of the box to the hole.

I can always enumerate the features of an apparatus.  I can explain how the different elements fit together.  I can illustrate how children use loose parts.  What I cannot do is begin to explain how the children come up with ideas like "red, hot lava" or appropriate a loose part to be a shovel.  It all happens in a context---physical, social, emotional, intellectual---that is greater than the sum of the parts.


  1. I just love this!! If you listen closely to the girl scooping, her "hot lava", while she is "inviting" others to come get it, she is so beautifully absorbed in her own world of song, mantra and peace. I wish every teacher in the classes I visit would think like you do.

    1. Thanks Eileen. I do believe children need space and time---away from the teacher's agenda---for their explorations and play. That is when the magic happens.

    2. Exactly!!

  2. Dear Tom,

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring work. A question for you. It's clear that you value children's own intent and exploration as they use loose parts and media. I built a funnel rack for my sand table using cardboard tubes but it only lasted day because I chose not to stop the children from using water with it! (They are aways teaching arent they!?) How do you respond to your students when they want to add water to any of your cardboard-based apparata?

    1. Hi Jeff, The size of my classroom is such that I only have one table out at a time. It is either a dry table or a wet table so I do not have children putting water on the cardboard structures. That said, there are things that happen at the sensory table that are destructive. When that happens, I will set a clear boundary. A couple of weeks ago, I had a child crawl on top of one of the structures. I did not think it was safe for her to be on top---not because she wasn't a good climber---but because I thought the structure would not hold her. She protested a bit but when all was said and done she was perfectly fine with the limit. I can see, though, that when you have wet and dry next to each other that may be an impossible boundary to set and maintain. Although you might think about setting up something else near that is cardboard that the children can transport water onto so when they need to transport water onto the cardboard, there is an outlet for it. Let me know what you think or how it goes.

    2. Thanks for those ideas, Tom. I found the funnel rack today, it had dried out and is back in service! I started building something along the lines of your ideas...I hope it will be in service layer this week and I'll let you know what happens! Thanks again.