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Early childhood education has been my life for over 40 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 14, 2015


The first time I set a box on top of the sensory table was for Big Box on Top in the spring of 2012.
It was a sturdy box with big holes cut on two sides to allow access into the table.  Inclined tubes were embedded to allow the children to transport the corn into, out of and through the box.

The second time I set a big box on top was in the spring of 2013 when I changed a wardrobe box from an incline apparatus to a Horizontal Wardrobe Box.

There are holes all around this box so the children can access the inside of the box from the ends or the sides.  There are also holes and a channel on top to extend play to the top of the box. There is another large hole inside on the bottom of the box so children can scoop down to the bottom of the actual sensory table.

The most recent box on top is similar to the Horizontal Wardrobe Box.  There are holes cut all around the box and trays are used to support the box across the width of the table.

This apparatus also has the big hole in the bottom of the box that provides access to the bottom of the sensory table.
The invitation to scoop from the bottom of the table poses physical challenges and unique spacial awareness such as being outside the box but operating inside the box through two different holes.

The windows for the current apparatus are bigger, thus Big Box Big Windows.  The bigger windows grant easier access for the children into the box.  In addition the holes on the sides are closer to the ends, again allowing easier access from the windows on the side.

For this apparatus, I added a channel on top of the box that is embedded across the width of the box.  The embedded box is longer than the big box is wide so there is an overhang with a cut-away so the children can more easily access the channel.
There are four holes in the embedded box.  There are two on the top, one on the side and one on the bottom.  The holes on the top are relatively small to retain the integrity and strength of the channel box.  Also, the top holes of the channel box do not align with the holes on the bottom of the channel but the hole on the bottom of the channel does line up with the hole at the bottom of the big box. Got that?  The reason I did this was to make moving pellets from the top of the apparatus into the bottom of the table a two-stage process.   

Let's see how that works.  In the video below, someone dropped pellets down the top holes so there are already some pellets in the channel.  The child uses one of the small brooms that is always at the sensory table to sweep the pellets down the hole in the bottom of the channel box.

This child does more than simply complete the second stage of moving the pellets to the bottom of the table.  At the beginning of the video, she references her sweeping action through the hole in the side of the  channel.  To do that, she begins with a plan of action.  She looks down the channel to see where the pellets are.  As she pulls her head around to watch the pellets drop through the hole, she keeps her broom inside the channel.  Once she has a clear view of the hole, she begins to sweep.  She then alternates between watching the hole where the pellets drop and her own sweeping action through a side window in the channel. Have you ever tried to sweep without looking directly at what you are sweeping?  When she no longer gets any pellets to fall down and only sees the bottom bristles of the broom, she brings her head back around so she can see where the pellets are that she wants to sweep down the hole.  It is still not an easy task, though, because she is sweeping at eye-level away from her body in a space that is only as tall as her little broom.

Out of cardboard, I rarely make the same apparatus twice.  If I have a box that can go on top of the table, it will become something different from previous box on top apparatus.  Why?  Because there are too many potential configurations to settle on just one.  In addition, those new configurations open up new possibilities for play and exploration first, for me and then, for the children.  This becomes a virtuous circle because as I watch children play and explore, I get new ideas for possible configurations, which gives me a new opportunity to play and explore, which in turn…

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