- Tom Bedard
- 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, January 31, 2015
WHY BUILD PART 4
I was asked last spring by another early childhood professional why do I build apparatus for the sensory table. That question was a lot more thought-provoking than I had anticipated. I have been mulling over my answer here and here and here.
In the first post, I stated that children demonstrated early on for me their need to transport sand out of the sensory table. I began to build apparatus so children could continue to find ways to constructively transport. An added benefit was that the children, given the chance to work constructively, demonstrated their ability to regulate their own behavior. In the second post, I said that children recreated operations such as digging and pouring that harken back to a time when our very survival depended on such operations. I build apparatus so children can recreate those fundamental operations. In the third post, I stated that children create a dialogue with spaces. It follows that if I offer the children intriguing spaces by way of building an apparatus, they will create intriguing dialogues with those spaces.
This summer I read---and reread---a monograph entitled: Children's right to play. It was written by Stuart Lester and Wendy Russell for the Bernard van Leer Foundation in December 2010. Their starting point is Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child. In that article, they specifically cite the right of the child to engage in play. For them it is a necessity of life for children. It is not a vehicle adults use to teach children about the world, nor is it a way to make academics palatable to children. It is an activity undertaken for its own sake that is wholly owned by the children.
From their literature review of the research, they go so far as to say children need to engage in play for their very survival and well-being. They say: "Children's play can be seen as a self-protecting process that offers the possibilities to enhance adaptive capabilities and resilience. ... Play acts across several adaptive systems to contribute to health, well-being and resilience. These include: pleasure and enjoyment; emotion regulation; stress response systems; attachments; and learning and creativity."
At one point in the paper, they reference a comment by Brian Sutton-Smith. The comment states: "Play prepares you for more play, and more play offers a greater satisfaction in being alive."
Take a look at the following pictures from the sensory table to see if the children exude that "greater satisfaction in being alive."
According to the authors, the role of an adult is to provide the space and time for children to play---not to directly manage it.
Watch the video below. The quality of the video is poor, but the message it communicates is rich.
Do you know what they were doing? They are burying jewels, their treasure. That is not important, though. The important thing is that seven children ages 2 to 5 are creating an activity of their own choosing that has an immediate meaning for them. There are no adults directing or managing this activity. Notice, even though there are no adults around, they are still working feverishly to complete a task that takes a whole lot of agreement and a whole lot of accommodation and a whole lot of negotiation and a whole lot of cooperation. The adult role in the activity---and why I build---is to set up the space and then to provide the time for the children to create their own, wholly-owned activity.
There is one final reason why I build: building apparatus is my play.
Thank you for indulging me with these reposts. I will be taking a week off from blogging because of travel but will be back in two weeks to play some more.