About Me

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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 9, 2016

Natural elements, natural exploration

Besides the hodgepodge and doohickies on the shelves next to the sensory table, I like to set out natural elements of various sizes and shapes.  That was just as true with the apparatus I wrote about last week, namely,  table covering with holes.
A child has placed a tree cookie under the yellow pan.  It looks like a burner or a hot plate for the pot.  If you look closely, you can see that two pieces of bark have also been placed on top of the apparatus.

I will often include big pieces among the natural elements.  The big pieces give children a chance to work together or to test their strength.  Why?  Because children are are always looking for physical challenges (Axiom #9 in the right-hand column of this blog).  

In the video below, the child decided to test her strength and balance while carrying a heavy object.  She found a wooden log and lifted it off the shelf.  She said: "I found a really huge cookie".   She used her whole body to carry this log around the table to her ultimate destination, the tub of water next to the table.  When she got to the tub, she dropped it in the water and made a huge splash.  

Really big cookie from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The child was quite astonished at the size of her splash.  (I even had to move the camera to keep it from getting wet.)  I asked the child to wipe up the water on the floor from the splash.  She did it willingly without a moment's hesitation.  At the end, she declared: "That cookie took a long time to cook."

That was pretty dramatic, but there are many other undertakings that are not so dramatic but still wondrous in an ordinary kind of way.  One child found out that she could spin the tree cookies as they floated in the tub. 

Spinning tree cookie from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

You can tell she was pleased with her discovery because as she spun the cookie faster and faster on top of the water, she looked up at me with a big smile as if to say: "Look what I can do."

One child found that stirring the water in a bottle with a small stick could be an investigation of buoyancy.  In the video below, he started to stir the water in the bottle with his stick.  As he pushed the stick further into the bottle, the sticks pushed back and bobbed up between his two fingers.

Stir stick from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

He was able to get the stick to stay in the bottle, but then he knelt down and started to stir the water again.  This time it did not go between his fingers, but he stilled played with the buoyancy of the stick.

How many times have I set up the float/sink science experiment in my classroom?  You know the one where you have a tub of water with objects set next to the tub.  The children try out each item to see if it floats or sinks.  There is usually two trays provided with the words "float" and "sink" so the children can sort the items.  I have done it many times over the years.

Well, along come these three children and they create their own version of this experiment.   Their pursuits, though, are much richer.  They are richer because they are authentic using natural elements. The pursuits are richer also because they are part of a richer context such as making cookies or stirring the water.  And finally, they are richer because, instead of me posing the questions, they are posing their own questions.  Isn't that where true knowledge begins?



  1. Brilliant - loved your session in Fairy Dust Conference!

    1. Thanks Karen. Let me know if you have any questions. And if you build, please share. Tom