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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, April 16, 2016

Children and physical challenges

The big box fort that was set up in the large muscle area of my room is now history.
 

The fort is gone, but the boxes have been re-purposed to create an new apparatus at the sensory table. I separated the four boxes and positioned them around the four sides of the sensory table.
Unlike the fort, the boxes are now their own separate cubbies.  For the most part, the openings remained the same except for the ones facing the table.  I had to expand those holes otherwise the children would not be able to reach into the table from the boxes.  Even though I made those holes bigger, there was an inherent physical challenge for the children to work from inside the box.
You can see in the picture above that a child inside the box had to bend his back to stand up to work in the table.  Of course, an easy solution to the problem was to work from your knees like the two girls below kneeling in the boxes while scooping pellets.  Was that comfortable?  Imagine the new perspective the children experienced with their chin on the lip of the table while scooping pellets.
One of the features of this setup is that it created spaces in-between the boxes for the children to work in.  In the picture above, the boy in the red was working in such a space.  The boxes constituted physical barriers to his operations.  Since he could not go side-to-side, perhaps he had to lean in further for his enterprise.  In the picture below, you can see four children working from inside each of the four boxes, but two children are working in those in-between spaces.
Here it is easier to see that the boxes made it imperative to lean into the space over the table to coordinate their scooping and pouring.

Only two of the boxes had holes in the top.  And the children found both of them and used them for their operations.  The endeavor through one of the holes would have made a contortionist envious.  Watch how the child in the video below retrieved a pan from the top of the box through a hole that accommodated just his head and his hands.


Contortionist from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Why would a child do this?  Maybe he invented a moment in time in which he was both creator and agent of his own actions.  How compelling would that be for a child?

Speaking of physical challenges, watch these two children drop pellets through the hole in the top of the box into the orange bucket they had set up inside the box. 


A drop in the bucket from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Just by itself, it was a physical challenge to drop the pellets from a height into the bucket, but these two did it while climbing up and balancing on the lip of the table.

These are good examples of a physical challenges the children create for themselves.  Over the past couple of years, I have come to appreciate those physical challenges and how the children actualize them.  In fact, it is the 9th axiom in the right hand column of this blog.  Given the time, the space, the resources and the freedom to explore, the children invariably search out their own unique physical challenges to create moments of agency and mastery in their world/s.


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