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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, February 28, 2015


There are three main orientations I think about when I am about to build.  You can see them on the right-hand column of the blog.  For the current apparatus, I decided to set cardboard tubes horizontally through two boxes.
This was harder to do than it looks.  The biggest challenge for me was lining up the holes to make the tubes as level as possible.  I did an initial hole on one side of one box and then measured where the hole was and then used those measurements to make a hole on the other side of the box.  The second box was a different size, so I had to do it all over again.  Since there were four tubes that meant I had to repeat the process a total of four times.  By the fourth tube I was tired and was not as concerned about how level the tube was.  The fact is I may have made it harder than it looks,  My colleague, who sews, told me I should have made a pattern.  I will tuck that tidbit away for the next time.

The tubes extend beyond both ends of the blue sensory table.  To catch the pellets coming out of the tubes, I set up a smaller, clear sensory table on one end and a big blue tub on the other.  That way, I was able to add more levels to the apparatus.  All but one end of one tube is notched to give the children easy pouring access into the tubes.
The two larger tubes on the bottom also have cut-aways and holes to increase access and viewing for the children.

Below is a picture of the shelves with the provisions for this apparatus.  Note that there are extra tubes and homemade plungers of various sizes and lengths.
The plungers are jar lids screwed onto dowels.  Many of the dowels I use are old broom or shovel handles.

This apparatus creates a lot of spaces for children to explore. There are spaces the children can look into and there are spaces they can reach into.

There are spaces between and under and there are spaces that are between and over.

Not only do the children explore any and all the the spaces, they also author operations that are particular to this apparatus and the provisions.  Let's look at just a couple having to do with the plungers.

The first operation is one that you might expect: a child pushes the pellets through the tube with a plunger.

Pushing the pellets through the tube from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Did you notice the reaction of the child on the other end?  At first, it looks like he moves to catch the pellets but, in the end, he helps the first child unstick the plunger head that was caught on the end of the tube.

After working with the plunger in and out of the cardboard tube, this child noticed that he could see his actions in the mirror.  He showed the greatest interest in motion of the plunger on the other end of the tube.
In other words, he was referencing his actions remotely.

Children not only author a given operation, but often times they fabricate the reverse operation. Instead of pushing the pellets through the tubes, a child will scrape them out.

Pulling the pellets out with the plunger from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

I was impressed with how purposeful and fluid she was in her actions.

I will leave you with one final video.  To understand the video you need to know that I am part of the action.  Besides filming, I am on the opposite end of the tube from the child.  I also have a plunger and I am pushing it through the same tube as this child.  Watch his reactions to this little game we have created.

plunger game from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

I have said many times that after I build an apparatus, I give it over to the children to make it their own. I guess that is not entirely true because, as you can see, I sometimes play, too.  Why should the children have all the fun?

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