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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, March 7, 2015

ADDING THE VERTICAL TO THE HORIZONTAL

The apparatus Horizontal Tubes in Boxes offers plenty of opportunity for children to work on and through horizontal planes.  The horizontal planes in this apparatus are long cardboard tubes so children use homemade plungers to reach into the tubes to push pellets through or pull them out.



What happens to children's play and explorations when vertical tubes are added to the horizontal tubes?
You can see from the picture above that children still work horizontally through the long tubes either using their arms or using the plungers.

What does change, though, is that children start to go vertical with their operations.  They do not use plungers in the vertical tubes, but they do reach as high as they can to pour the corn into the vertical tubes.
Do you know how hard it is to pour corn into a tube that is over your head?  Expect some spillage. Sometimes it even drops into your sleeve or down your neck.  That just adds to the sensory experience, right? Also expect some good large muscle work coupled with balance and eye-to-hand coordination.  The child above is using his left hand for stability as he stands on his tiptoes to empty his bowl into the clear tube.  In other words, he is pouring with every fiber in his body.

When I say the children start to go vertical, I also mean that they go vertical with their whole body.
This child has climbed up onto the lip of the table between the two boxes.  He can now pour the corn into the tubes without having to reach over his head.  

In their quest to go vertical, some children will actually climb on the apparatus.  Look at the pink shoe in the picture below.  It is suspended in air which means the other foot is standing on a cardboard tube.
Is that safe?  I know the structure is strong and supports her weight and I look to see how stable she is.  I conclude that it is safe. 

You could even analyze this gestalt further and talk about how the children are using their bodies to create multiple points of stability.
I will go so far as to say that this space off the ground and between the boxes offers a comfortable place for these children to add another dimension to the explorations and operations.

The vertical tubes seem to invite one type of operation that I rarely see with the horizontal tubes: children will often jam-pack the tube to create blockage.  Vertical holes need to be tested and filled with any and all objects within reach.  It must seem like a real-life puzzle to see what can fit in the hole---or what can be forced into the hole.  

There is a corresponding reverse operation to blocking the tube, namely, unblocking the tube.   In the video below, one of the vertical tubes is clogged. Two children try to free the tube of objects blocking the flow of corn.


As you can see, it may take great effort to unclog the tube.  I chuckled when I heard the drama in boy's lowered and strained voice say: "Ah, I can't get this one out!"

There may be yet another effect on children's play and exploration by adding vertical tubes to the horizontal tubes.  If you look at the number of children in the picture below, you might very well conclude that the additional tubes increase the capacity of the area.
I am not sure of that, though. One type of apparatus, whether it is complex or simple, does not in itself determine how many children can play at the table at one time.  The vertical tubes add a new level of intrigue to the apparatus and augment the opportunities for open-ended industry by the children.  However, that alone does not explain the large number of children around the table. To be sure, that is part of it, but there also has to be a parallel willingness on the part of the adult to give the children license to regulate their numbers around the table themselves.  







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