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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, October 17, 2015


At the sensory table, planter trays have been a staple in my classroom for many years.  However, this is the first year I set up a multiple tray apparatus to be used with water.

Holes were punched in the bottom of the trays so water would not collect in the trays, but drop into trays or tubs placed under the holes.  The focus of play was pouring water into the trays and catching the water dropping from the holes in the trays.

I kept the apparatus up for two weeks, but the second week I added a PVC pipe and a wired tube.

By adding the pipe and the tube, did the children change the focus of their play? There was still a lot of pouring into the trays and of catching the water trickling out of the trays...

but I do have a lot more of pictures of the children using the pipe and tube than simply using the trays.   

Here is an example: One group brought over the little dinosaurs from the manipulatives and set up a dinosaur "water slide."
The picture shows the girl just letting go of the dinosaur so it can speed its way down the pipe.

The tube attracted a lot of attention, too.  It was short and higher above the table so children had a more dynamic view when tracking the flow of water coming out of the tube.

Did the children change the focus of their play or did I change the focus of my documentation?  Another possibility is that the children added another focus to their play while my attention was only centered on what was different the second week the apparatus was up.

In comparing my documentation, though, I did find one operation that was essentially the same, but looks completely different from one week to the next because of the affordances of the two setups. The first week the child pours and catches the water through the bottom of the tray.  He is using a clear bottle to pour and a baster to catch.  He has to use a lot of fine motor coordination to catch the water.

The second week, a child pours water into one end of the tube with a metal measuring cup and then quickly reaches with a small metal pot to catch the water coming out the end.  There is some fine motor work here, too, but her undertaking really relies more on large motor coordination.  There is a lot of stretching to pour and stretching to catch.

These two children are essentially making sense of the world with the same question: If I pour the water in here, can I catch it coming out at the bottom?  The question and answer both require the body and mind together to physically form and complete an idea.  The idea takes shape in real time as the children interact with the materials and the setup.

No matter what the setup, learning about the physical world is a serious endeavor.  Children, given the time and space, will ace the test every time.  And we must not forget, inherent in that quest there is bound to be great joy---and an ample dose of silliness.

If you are going to the NAEYC national conference in Orlalndo in November, I am presenting on sand and water tables.  The session is on Thursday morning from 8:00-9:30, so we will see who are the early birds.   Any readers of the blog who want to chat, I would love to find a time to meet and exchange ideas.  Please feel free to contact me through my email: tpbedard@msn.com

1 comment:

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