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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, January 16, 2016

MAKING MEANING

Last week I wrote about transporting as an overarching process at the sensory table.  To that end, I set up many tubs and pails around the table to support children's innate need to move the sand in and out of the table.  (See axiom #1 on the right hand column of this blog.)
The only thing that can be considered an apparatus in this setup is the wooden tray spanning the width of the table.
That leaves the children free to move the sand from one container to another.

The question then becomes: How do the children make meaning in the process of transporting?  One way is through role play.  The boys pictured below set out their cookies(rocks) to dry on a drying rack(a piece of tree bark spanning a space above the table).  The children even sprinkled sugar on the cookies.
The picture makes very clear there were a lot of rich, spontaneous and authentic conversations as they made their cookies.

Here is another example of role play.  The child put some sand in a triangular container (this is an old oil pan I had in the basement).  As he rolled the pan around to distribute the sand evenly across the bottom of the pan, he declared: "It's a pancake."

Pancake from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.


I am intrigued by a couple of things with this video.  First, how did he know that rolling around the pan distributes the sand evenly?  Second, what prior experiences did he have that helped him imagine that he was making a pancake?  Did he see his mom or dad make pancakes this way?  Did he help make pancakes like this before?

Another way the children make meaning is to set up their own apparatus with the loose parts.  In the video below, two children propped a sieve between the wooden tray and an upside down trash bin.  One child poured sand into the sieve and the other caught it as it fell through the holes.

Sand through a sieve from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.


I think this rivals any apparatus I have built.  In a way it is superior because the children have authored it themselves.

Another way the children make meaning is to experiment with volume by filling containers.  One child took four different size bowls and filled them individually.
Not only did this child fill containers one on top of the other, but he did it in sequence from the biggest bowl to the smallest bowl.  In addition, he did it through a sieve.  That would seem to make his operation even more intentional because it took more coordination and time to fill his bowls this way.

Here is another example of a child experimenting with volume.  The interesting twist here was that he verbalized his query.  As he poured sand in a clear plastic tube he asked: "Why does the sand go up when I put the sand in?"  I reflected his question back to him and he answered: "Because it...there is sand in there."  Watch.



Here is one last example of a child experimenting with volume.  The interesting twist here was that the child inserted his hand and arm in a clear plastic tube and a friend poured sand in the tube.


I am curious what questions this child asked to create this episode.   To begin with, did he just want to see if his hand would fit in the tube?  Did he then want to see how far in his arm could go?  What prompted him to ask his friend to put sand in the tube?  What was he thinking and feeling as he looked at his hand enveloped in sand?  What new understandings did he gain of the physical world and of his body in the physical world?

Children are always asking questions.  Some of the questions are explicit and some are not.  Some are profound and some are simple.  If we can recognize their questions, which in turn lead to other questions, we can begin to see how children make meaning of their experiences.










2 comments:

  1. I hung a small clear bucket above the sand tray to use as a pendulum. Of course the children discovered more than anticipated. They spun it really fast and watched natures force move the sand inside. When shifted to the water tub this apparatus was used in the same way as experimented with the sand. However the water made a vortex inside the container. They had made a tornado. How excited we all were. The best things happen when they are unexpected.

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    1. Loreen, I contend that young children are the best scientists in every sense of the word. Everything they encounter turns out to be an experiment. I think your observations of the pendulum over the sand and water tray is a good example of that. Tom

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