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, September 24, 2016

PVC pipes and flex tubing

Two weeks ago I wrote about an apparatus I called the rocking chair waterfall.  I called it a rocking chair waterfall because it was made from bentwood parts of a rocking chair.

The bentwood pieces gave the apparatus the curve.  I attached a toner deposit with holes drilled in the bottom to direct the flow of water down the curved incline to produce the waterfall effect.

I attached the apparatus to a base that consisted of a wooden tray and a green plastic crate.  The tray spanned the width of the table and was duct taped to the lip of the table.  The green plastic crate was then taped to the tray.

Because this was such a good base, I could not pass up the opportunity to add more things to the base on the opposite side of the waterfall apparatus.  The crate allowed me to set up some PVC pipes on an incline and the holes in the crate allowed me to thread some flex tubes into a simple tangle inside the crate.
PVC pipe #1 was taped on an incline so it emptied into the brown planter tray attached to the smaller clear water table.  PVC pipe #2 wast taped to the side of the crate on an incline.  A clear plastic tube was taped to it so it emptied into the clear water table. Flex tube #1 started at the top of the crate and wound its way through the crate, along the outside of the crate and then under the wooden tray to empty back into the blue sensory table.  Flex tube #2 started at the top and immediately exited through the front of the crate and ran along its side to empty into the black tub at the end of the table. Here is a closer look inside the crate to see how the flex tubes were arranged.

Pouring water down the flex tubing made for a more intriguing operation.  Pouring water became an opportunity for the children to create a theory about where the water goes.   That was not so obvious because when a child poured water into one of the tubes, the tubes actually crossed paths inside the crate.  Watch how one child tried to figure out where the water went when he poured water into one of the tubes.   When he first poured the water into the tube, he stepped down to look see if the water came out the tube on the other side of the table next to waterfall apparatus.  He was not entirely convinced that was where the water came out, so he proceeded to look at the tubes in the crate from various angles: from below, from in front and from the side.  He came up with a theory that the water emptied back into the blue table from the tube under the wooden tray.  His actions became more purposeful because as he poured, he focused on the end of the that tube.

His theory was wrong.  Just to be sure, though, he grabbed the end of the tube under the wooden tray and bent it down just to see if any water came out.  Eventually he figured out the path of the water through the tubes through more theory building and testing.

To be sure, children also know how to make pouring down a straight incline intriguing, too.  Take for example this child who decided to see if he could both pour and catch the water down the PVC pipe at the same time.
This child knew the water went down and out the pipe because he had poured water several times into the top of the pipe to track the path of the water.  He then challenged himself to see if he could do two operations simultaneously.  Is that a self-reflexive theory?  In any case, he could.

I often tell people that my sensory table is my science table.  Children are constantly creating theories about how the physical world works and testing those theories in real time.  Some theories are not confirmed and some are.  The important thing is the process of experimenting. 

I would like to leave you with a photo of a discovery made by a child at the table with this apparatus.  The thing is, the discover relates to axiom #7 in the right hand column of this blog:  Children will always devise new and novel activities and explorations with the materials presented that are tangential to the apparatus itself.
Besides that his hand looks orange, can you guess what this child has discovered through the process of experimenting with this bottle of orange water? 




  1. Hi Tom

    I can't tell you how much we value your website and the impact your ideas have on our children's learning.

    1. Thanks Kerry for your kind words. I am still learning myself and the children are the ones teaching me!