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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, August 8, 2015


One of the elements I think about when I build an apparatus for the sensory table is levels.  Levels seem to be important to children in their operations.  Axiom #3 in the righthand column states that the children will find every level in an apparatus.  Not only will they find every level, but they will also use every level.  That idea was the impetus for adding a second level to the Pegboard Platform so the apparatus went from one level...

to two levels by adding an additional pegboard piece above the original setup to make the Pegboard Platform - Level 2.

That was two years ago.  When I constructed the Pegboard Platform this year, I also followed it up by adding a second level to this year's apparatus.  Since I added an extra tube to the one-level platform, I also added a longer tube to the second level.

Adding the cardboard tubes was an intentional change to the apparatus. You can see how the children appropriate the shorter tube in their play in the latest rendition of the Pegboard Platform here.  The longer cardboard tube presented children with physical challenges.  On the left: How high can I reach?  On the right: Can I stretch enough to both pour and catch at the same time?
There was an additional change that was unintentional.  I did not find the original tubes that supported the second level, so I used new, taller tubes.  

That change increased the gap between the two levels.
Increasing the gap between the two levels changed the play in at least three ways.  One of the ways it changed the play was increasing the visibility of the the pattern of the sand streaming through the top piece of pegboard.  In other words, the children did not have to bend down to see it because it was now closer to eye level.

Secondly, because there was more space between the two levels, children used the lower of the two levels more than when the gap was smaller.  That increase in space allowed the children to pour and fill more freely without bumping into the top level.  

Third, because there was more play on the lower level, there was more play between levels.  The two girls in this video work on both levels.  The one on the right is using the top piece of pegboard to sift her ingredients as she fills her bowl on the bottom level.  The girl next to her fills her bowl on the bottom level and then places it onto the top level.

This reminded me of the times I have been in a diner with a open window into the kitchen with two counters.  When the food is done, the chef puts the finished dish on the top counter for the server to take.  Have either of these girls ever been to a diner?  Are they recreating that experience? They may only be pretending to cook and simply incorporating the levels into their play.  In any case, the diner is open for business.

I am surprised at how much play changed by an unintentional modification to this apparatus. Literally, a matter of inches increased the play between the levels.  It tells me space and how space is configured is important.  The problem for me is: I do not understand space well enough to predict how the children will use it.  The problem, however, is always solved by the children if I take the time to observe their operations and explorations.

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