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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 1, 2016

Pool noodles

People often ask me how often do I change the apparatus in the sensory table.  My answer is that I change it every week.  Sometimes it is a wholesale change and sometimes I only change what gets attached to a base that I will use for more than one week. The base pictured below was so good I used it for three consecutive weeks.
The base was a white wooden tray (made from scrap wood from my basement) that spanned the width of the table.  I duct taped it to the lip of the table on each side.  I then duct taped the green crate to the wooden tray.  I purposely taped in on the end that would give the most height to the apparatus.  The height allowed me to create a suitable incline for the PVC pipe in the first apparatus which was a worm slide. Since the crate has holes, I was able to thread flexible tubing through the crate adding a bit of intrigue to where the worms would end up. 

In addition, the wooden tray section of the base offered a unique space in which the children could pour hands-free.  The crate in the middle created two of those spaces, one on each side of the table.

For the second week, I used the same base to secure a rocking chair waterfall to the sensory table.
I did rearrange the flex tubing and added another PVC pipe, but the waterfall ramp was the new deal.

The third week, I kept the rocking chair waterfall, but I replaced the flex tubing and the PVC pipes with pool noodles, three to be exact.  One noodle was shorter and more sturdy.  I taped that noodle(the middle one) vertically onto the crate and the wooden tray.  The end standing in the table was taped so the only exit for water that was poured into the blue funnel was through the holes that were drilled in the noodle.  The two thinner and more flexible noodles were threaded through the crate and taped both to the back of the crate and the lip of the table near the brown planter tray.  The noodle on the left was left open at the end so when a child would pour water into the black funnel, the water would empty into the smaller clear table.  I taped the end shut of the noodle on the right so when a child would pour water into the red funnel, the water would squirt out the holes in that noodle.
There are a couple of things to note from this picture.  The first was that the height of the apparatus allowed for some good, tiptoe trunk extension.  The second was the number of different funnels both in size and shape.  The black one is used for changing fluids in cars.  The red one is just huge, the biggest I have found.  And the little blue one has a surprise: its own flex tube.

I provisioned turkey basters for play with these noodles.  It was not long before the children figured out that they could plug the holes with the turkey basters.
And with the holes plugged with turkey basters, they could fill the red funnel to capacity.  When they filled the red funnel to capacity and they pulled the plug, they got a nice surprise: water gushing out of the noodle into the brown planter tray.
I actually drilled the holes in the noodles with a drill.  I did not know how big I should make them or even how many.  I started with small holes and tested the apparatus.  Four holes were too many so I taped over two and that worked well.  I kept the smaller holes, but to my surprise as the children tried to fit more things in the holes, the holes got bigger.  As the holes got bigger the stream of gushing water got bigger.  Some water even ended up on the floor, oh my!  But what fun!

FYI: I do not plan to blog next week because I travel to Missouri to do an all-day workshop on Friday for a public school EC program.  This is a workshop in which I offer a framework for building in and around the sensory table and the participants get to build their own apparatus.  It is almost like a pop-up adventure play event for adults.  Also, at the end of October, I will be presenting on sand and water tables in Seattle at the WashingtonAEYC conference.  My session is on Saturday morning from 9:00 - 10:30.  The following week I am LA for the NAEYC national conference.  My presentation for that conference is Thursday afternoon from 1:00 - 2:30.  If you plan to be at either of those conferences and you get a chance, stop by and say hi.

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