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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, September 26, 2015

EXTRAODINARY OR ORDINARY?

Just a month ago, I wrote a piece about the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.  In that post, I said one of my goals this school year was to find the extraordinary in the children's everyday encounters with others and the materials.  After looking over my pictures just from the first week of class, I am seeing the extraordinary all the time.  Am I hallucinating or reading too much into the children's actions?  Here are just few examples.  You be the judge.

The context for the examples is the water table with the Pipes Embedded in Trays.   The apparatus has lots of holes for children to pour water into so the water exits at the ends of the pipes.

Instead of concentrating on the myriad of ways that children pour and catch the water through the apparatus, the examples focus on some of the children's novel uses of a common kitchen utensil: the turkey baster.
Children figure out very quickly how to transfer water from the table into the pipes using the baster.  However, if you think about it, you quickly realize it is a multi-step process that is not so intuitive.  The child has to put the tip of the baster in the water; keeping the tip in the water, he squeezes the bulb; still keeping the tip in the water, he lets go of the bulb to suck up water; he guides the baster to the desired hole and squeezes the bulb again to empty the baster into the pipe.

But what else can a child do with a baster?  He can try to fill it a different way.  For instance, he can try to pour water from a measuring cup into the tip of the baster.  
As adults who have worked with basters a lot, we know that doesn't work, right?

Filling the baster from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

As you can see, the child is able to get some water into the baster by pouring water into the small tip.  That takes persistence and a good deal of fine motor control.  The extraordinary part for me is: What makes him think of pouring water into the baster through the small tip in the first place?

Children learn very quickly that they can squirt water with the basters.  Surprisingly, though, they do not really squirt each other.  I suppose that is because there are plenty of constructive outlets---all the holes---for the children to target their squirting.  However, watch as one child figures out a new way to squirt with the baster.  She puts the baster in a hole in one of the pipes and squeezes.  Since the baster tip is pressed against the back of the pipe, water is forced out cracks in the baster's syringe.

Squirting wate with the baster from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Does she get anyone wet?  Yes, she does.  But there is not enough water spray to get the others too wet.  The extraordinary part for me is the surprise and delight of this child's discovery.

Sometimes, the actions of one child lead directly to the actions of another.  One child watches the child using the baster to squirt from the video above.  She wants to do it, too, so when that child leaves, she puts her baster in one of the holes and starts pumping the bulb.  Instead of squirting, though, she makes squishy sounds.  In the video below, that is the child on the right.

Make a joyful noise from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The child on the left watches the child making the squishy noises and she, too, puts the tip of her baster in a hole---the hole where the original squirting play took place---and starts pumping the bulb.  Together, they make joyful, squishy noises.  The extraordinary part for me is the trajectory and transformation of simple play from one child to another.

Are these moments really extraordinary or just ordinary?  You be the judge.

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