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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, July 23, 2016

More water

This year, the water pump was set up so the children could send water across and over the blue table into the clear table through pipes connected horizontally that were supported by a pink crate.
 
Once water reached the clear water table, children scooped the water and put it in the red funnel.  A translucent hose that was connected to the bottom of the funnel carried the water back to the metal tub to be pumped out again creating a built-in water cycle.

Watch what this looks like in real time.  The video starts at the water pump and follows the pipe into the crate.


Water pump operation from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The video delineated well at least one important aspect of the setup: children could enter play anywhere along the length of the pipe.  In the video, two children were at the pump; one child poured water directly into an opening in the pipe; a little further down the pipe, another child spooned water into funnel she had placed in one of the pipe connectors; and finally at the end of the piping, one child caught the water in a metal bowl. 

What was missing from that video was someone pouring water into the funnel.  This next video captures that and more.  In the video, one child catches water coming from the pipe.  He is the same child who was catching water in the first video.  At the same time, the second child pours water into one of the holes on top of the crate inches away from the child catching the water.  The child pouring does so very carefully and just misses getting the other boy wet.  The child catching the water goes off camera to dump his bowl into a green bucket next to the table.  While he does that, the child with the metal cup scoops up some water and dumps it into the funnel.  This is where it gets interesting for that child because he notices that air bubbles and water move in the translucent tube after he poured the water into the funnel.  He decides to test his new-found theory that if he pours water into the funnel, both air bubbles and water will move in the translucent tube.  To do that, he scoops some more water and pours it into the funnel.  He does not watch where he is pouring, but blindly pours into the funnel so he can watch what happens in the tube when he pours.  He does a further experiment at the end of the video by pouring water directly onto the translucent tube to see the effect.


Where to pour? from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

When the child blindly poured the water into the funnel, some splashed out on the other child who had re-positioned himself right next to the funnel to catch some more water.   Why didn't the child get upset? 

The complexity of this short video is astounding for the child doing the experiments.  The complexity becomes even more astounding as a narrative further unfolds for the child catching the water in the metal bowl.

The child who was catching the water and then pouring it into the green bucket from metal bowl positions himself above the green bucket.  Another child is along side him over the bucket.  At first, they seem to be working at cross purposes.  The smaller child pours water into the bucket while the other child with the metal bowl pulls objects out of the bucket.  Then both children reach into the bucket and together they pull out a spoon.  The one child takes the spoon and the other takes the bowl he has been holding in his right hand the whole time and fills it up completely by immersing it in the bucket of water. With his full bowl, he proceeds to walk to the other side of the table to pour water into the metal tub from which the children are pumping water. In the background there is a chorus: "More water. More water." In fact this is what the child is responding to because knows the pump tub was running low on water.


More water from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.


Lifting the bowl from the bucket and carrying it over to the other side of the table is no small feat.  With the bowl being so full, he has to transport the water carefully so he doesn't loose too much water in the process.  That said, he did spill a fair amount.

I contend that the narrative of the child with the metal bowl was astounding.  It was astounding because it looks liked he was on a mission from beginning to end.  In the first video,  he caught the water in his bowl coming out of the pipe.    In the second video, he gathered the water in his bowl and emptied it in the green bucket.  In the third video, he switched positions to gather water back in his bowl to return it to the pumping tub.  The mission was to get more water back into the pumping tub.  How much did he plan this whole operation?  Did it develop because of the chorus of voices asking for more water? What allowed him to keep to his mission even though there were hiccups along the way like getting splashed or working at cross purposes with another child?

I wonder if I have just contrived this narrative to try to make sense of the complexity of the children's play.  Maybe by shaping the children's play into a narrative, I did not do justice to the complexity of the their play.  I am sure I did not do justice to the children's emerging skills and competences.  How many more narratives would I have created to give children their due?


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