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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, February 6, 2016


The past two weeks I have been writing about a concrete tube apparatus.  The apparatus is basically a big box with tubes embedded horizontally that is set over the sensory table.
The two big tubes on the bottom are tubes used as forms for pouring concrete posts.  The smaller tube is a piece of a carpet tube.

I kept this apparatus up for two weeks.  However, the second week I added a vertical element to the apparatus.  I embedded a rain gutter extender tube that went from the top of the box, through the inside of the box and out one side of the box.  The tube emptied into a five gallon pail next to the table.
I created a catchment around the top of the tube to capture the corn that missed the target as the children tried to pour the corn into the tube.  The catchment is a small box taped to the top of the big box with a hole cut in it to accommodate the gutter tube.
The purpose of the catchment was to keep down the mess.  This fellow was very accurate with his pouring, but as you can see, not everyone was.  By the way, the catchment also offered a lesson in volume as it filled up.

With this vertical addition, the children immediately started to go vertical on concrete tube apparatus.
The girl in the foreground balanced with one leg on the lip of the table while she held onto the box and kicked the gutter to to extract any pieces of corn stuck in the folds of the tube.  The child in the green plaid balanced on the edge of the window with his torso over the top of the box.  But why stop there?
What was it that drove this child to climb on top of the box?  How did he get down from the box? And what kind of teacher allowed this child to climb on top of the box in the first place?

Here is another two-year-old from another class who felt the need to climb on the apparatus.
This child spent a long time climbing.  This was surely full-body exploration.  He even used the concrete tubes for climbing.

And watch how he balanced on the lip of the table as he made his way around the apparatus to pour corn into the tube on the far side from where he started.

Climbing at the sensory table from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

You have just watched a significant transformation of the concrete tube apparatus brought to you by the children.  They transformed this sensory apparatus into a large muscle apparatus.  It was no longer just a place to scoop, pour and transport.  It also became a place to climb, balance, test muscle strength and take risks.  Those types of transformations happen all the time when children are agents of their own learning.

p.s.  When I give talks about building apparatus to change the sensory table, I have to caution participants that if you build vertically, the children will go as high as you build.  If you are not comfortable with children going high, only build to a height that matches your comfort level.  Don't be afraid to stretch a little, though. You might be surprised at what the children can do.

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