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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 15, 2016

More pool noodles

I started to write about using  pool noodles two weeks ago.  I had bought some noodles over a year ago but could not figure out a use for them.  I had installed a base for another apparatus and when I looked at it, I thought that it would be a perfect base for the noodles.  The base consisted of a crate taped to a sturdy wooden tray that spanned the width of the table.
I threaded the longer, more flexible noodles through the crate and taped them to the back of the crate.  I also taped them to the lip of the table next to the brown planter tray in the foreground.  One noodle, the middle one, was very sturdy so I taped it to the front of the crate so it stood vertically in the table.  That noodle was closed on the bottom end by taping a lid from a plastic jar over the hole.

The pool noodle on the left emptied into the clear toddler sensory table.  I drilled holes in the vertical noodle and the long, flexible noodle on the right.  Since both of these noodles were tape shut on the lower ends, water poured into them would exit through these drilled holes. 
In the picture above, the water exited the end of the noodle on the left because that end was left open.  In the picture below, the child poured water into the blue funnel and the water exited the two drilled holes in the vertical noodle because its bottom was taped shut.

Children are rarely content to just pour and catch the water.  Instead, they experiment with modifying the holes any way they can (see axiom #5 in the right-hand column of this blog).  The child pictured below decided to use the funnels to modify the holes in the vertical noodle.

That same child modified the hole at the end of the noodle that emptied into the clear toddler table.  He found a plastic nozzle of a watering can that was on the shelf next to the table and stuck it in the end of the noodle.  Watch.

Filling his bowl. from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The nozzle dispersed the water coming out of the noodle so his pan filled more slowly.   As the water slowed to a trickle, he grabbed the nozzle and pushed it in.  Was he thinking that he could get more water out of the nozzle by pushing it in further?  It just so happened that as he pushed the nozzle, someone on the other end of the noodle poured more water in.  That made more water squirt out and he subsequently had to re-position his bowl to catch the water.  What we have here, and something he will eventually figure out, is corresponding coincidences, not cause and effect.

Axiom #6 states that children will block the flow of any medium in the table whenever possible.  Well, it was possible with the pool noodles.  The child in the video below discovered that the tip of a baster fit nicely into the hole of one of the noodles.  Watch what else he discovered.

Baster fun from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

I was pouring the water into the funnel that fed the pool noodle.  The child was holding the baster in the hole of the noodle thinking he had blocked the water from coming out.  But he heard water coming out somewhere.  He was not sure if it was from the noodle or from where I was filling the noodle so he kept looking around for the source of the water.  He then pulled the baster out and to his great surprise and amusement, the water squirted up and out of the noodle.  His expression tells it all.

As the children played with the holes in the noodles, the holes became larger just from the force of different things being inserted in them.  Later in the week when an older group had their turn at the apparatus, the bigger holes made for the "best" play.  Watch.

Gusher from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

One child had actually filled the noodle with water through the large red funnel.  He filled the noodle so full that water was spilling out of the funnel.  (Remember this noodle was blocked on one end.)  That child gave a signal that the noodle was full.  At that point, the child holding the basters pulled the two basters out at the same time.  It was a gusher, a dual gusher.  In the video, the child can be heard saying: "This is the best."

By the way, the water was gushing so much that the water was going on the floor.  A parent who was volunteering in my room saw that and quickly moved to the other side to position a bucket to catch the water.  The children now had a new purpose to their play: Can we get it in the bucket?

When I set up the pool noodles, I envisioned that the children would pour water into the top of the noodles and catch it wherever it came out.  That was the extent of my imagination.  As the children played with the apparatus, they showed me a myriad of other possibilities for this apparatus.  Their adeptness at exploring and experimenting gave me a chance to carry forward those experiments to other classes, which in turn allowed other children to build upon the previous knowledge created by other children to generate even more explorations and experiments.  

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 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. 

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