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, October 8, 2016


I did not think I would get around to doing a post this week because I did an all-day workshop yesterday in Belton, Missouri.  Belton is seven hours from my house in Minnesota.  I went down on Thursday afternoon and returned on Friday night.  I was gone from home for 33 hours, 14 of which was on the road.  I thought I would be too tired to write this week.

I was tired for sure, but as it turned out, I was also inspired by the people and their efforts at Grace Early Childhood Center in Belton.  So much so that I have to share some of the inspiration.

For this workshop, the participants had to build after I presented them with a framework for building apparatus in and around the sensory table.  In addition, I presented them with axioms of how children play around the built structures at the sand and water table.  (The framework and the axioms are in the right-hand column of this blog.)  In anticipation of the workshop, they had collected all kinds of materials such as cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes, PVC pipes, guttering, etc.

As the participants started to build, I could not help but think that this was really a pop-up adventure for these teachers.  Here is a picture from a pop-up adventure for children from my retirement party last June.  The children could build anything they wanted with the materials on hand.  Adults were there to help only if a child asked.

Here is a picture from yesterday's workshop.  In this case, the adults could build anything they wanted from the materials on hand.  I was there to help if asked.  

They pursued possibilities.

They played with unique configurations.  This group actually took the liner out of the
 sensory table to use as a receptacle for stuff coming out the clear tube from the white box in the 
table.  And, they fitted the drain hole with a tube for the children's experiments in 
theorizing and testing: "where does it go?"

 Some even ventured to use power tools for the first time.

They even made some very unique elements for their constructions.  On the left is a PVC connector taped into a bottle.  When the child pours
into the bottle, which end of the connector will it come out?  On the right is a bottle taped into the
 bottom of another bottle.  
In essence, it is a 
homemade funnel emptying into 
another homemade funnel.  Brilliant!

  They even got to theorize and then test their theories 
about how their apparatus really worked.

I arrived in Belton on Thursday night after dark.  It is always a little disconcerting for me to arrive in a new place at night.  On top of that, I arrived in a storm.  It was raining hard.  There was a lot of lighting and thunder.  The wind was blowing hard.   The next day at the workshop when I reflected on the disquiet I felt coming into this new place just the night before, I could not help but think that some of the staff at Grace Early Childhood Center might be having some misgivings about going to this new place of building to which they had never been before.   During the course of the workshop, several even mentioned that they were not comfortable with the building process.  Despite not feeling comfortable building, they made 17 different apparatus for their tables.  Not only was I inspired by their ingenuity and their imagination---no two apparatus were the same---, but I was inspired by their effort to throw themselves into this endeavor for which there was no blueprint, nor specified outcome.

I want to thank Jan for inviting me down to do the workshop.  I also want to thank both Jan and Jill, the principal, for making me feel so welcome and to make sure I had everything I needed.  And, I want to thank the staff at Grace Early Childhood Center for playing along---and inspiring me. 

If you are going to the Washington AEYC conference at the end of October in Seattle, you can see my presentation on sand and water tables in on Saturday morning the 29th from 9:00 - 10:30.  If you are going to the NAEYC national conference in LA, you can see my presentation on Thursday afternoon November 3rd from 1:00 - 2:30.  


  1. This was such an amazing workshop for us. Thank you so much for traveling to Belton and sharing your knowledge and passion with us!

    1. Thanks Emily. It was my pleasure. And when I said that the staff in Belton inspired me, I meant it. It helped filled a void for me since I am not doing the building anymore on a weekly basis. Let me know how it goes. Tom