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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 20, 2014


If you follow my blog, you know that some of the constructions get a little complex.  Take for instance one of the latest apparatuses: the Box Peak.

This construction creates lots of different spaces for the children to explore. There are up, down, in, out, on, under and through spaces. There are open and closed spaces.  There are flat and incline spaces.  Suffice it to say, there are many varied spaces.

Sometimes, though, it is good to keep it simple.  How simple?  Recently I set up a Large Platform over an extra sand table and set it next to the regular sand table.  That's it, an open table and an open platform.

I was lucky because I did not have to build the Large Platform.  It came from a discarded sand and water table that was about to be thrown out from the elementary program in our building. It looked like this.
The infant toddler teacher really liked the simplicity of the table, but it was too high.  I removed the bottom shelf and cut the legs to make it lower to the ground.  Here is what it looks like now.

I did not discard the shelf because it was beautiful and well constructed; I put it in storage for future use. That future use turned out to be the Large Platform for this setup.  (As it turns out, you can buy the shelf separately from School Specialty for about $80.)  

There is a big difference between this apparatus and the Box Peak.  First, there are not nearly as many spaces created by the Large Platform.  Second, its two primary spaces are completely open.  Third, there are basically only two levels.

Moon Sand was introduced for the first time this year. Commercial Moon Sand from a catalogue is expensive, but it is worth the expense. There are also recipes for making moon sand on the Web. I have not tried any of them because our Moon Sand has lasted several years and still retains its unique qualities

There was one problem with the initial setup.  The sides of the shelf were too low to contain the sand.

Children always scraped the sand to the sides and would pack it up against the edges.  That meant a lot of the precious sand fell on the floor.

There was an easy solution to this problem.  I took packing corners someone had given me that came from an appliance box and taped them to the three edges of the platform where spillage was an issue.

This added enough height to the edges so spillage was reduced.  Here is an important bit of wisdom that comes directly from axiom #1 on the right-hand column of this blog: Children will always spill.  Heck, we spill all the time as adults.  You cannot prevent spillage but you can minimize it by design.

In a previous post, I wrote that the complexity of an construction can add to the capacity---number of children and operations---at an apparatus.  As it turns out, simplicity can also add to the capacity.
It was not unusual to find seven children around the table at one time.  Even when there were nine(pictured above), it still looks like there is room for more.

So how can simplicity also add to the capacity?  In this case, it must be the additional level. What can be so attractive about an additional level?  It may be its shape and its height.  The level is wide enough for multiple children to work on at the same time.  The height is such that the children do not have to constantly bend over to carry out their operations.   It may be similar to working on a counter top or workbench like we do as adults all the time.

So does the capacity of this simple construction also pertain to the number and variety of operations?  Stay tuned.

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