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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, November 12, 2016

The life of a big box in the classroom

I like big boxes.  I try to set them up around the sensory table at least once a year.  This past school year at the end of February, I arranged four big wardrobe boxes around the sensory table.  They were arranged so there was one on each end of the table and one on each side of the table.
One of the reasons I like big boxes around the table is that it expands the table and creates inviting spaces that the children can inhabit while doing their operations.  Children can be in a box reaching out or they can be in the in-between spaces created by the boxes.
How does working inside a big box change how children approach their operations?  For one thing, children often kneel in the box as they do their operations because the window in the big box makes it a little more difficult to stand and work.  If a child stands, she has to bend her back and lean over the lip of the table.  Children do it, especially if they want to extend their reach, but kneeling is more comfortable.  How does a child in between the boxes experience the working space and how does that affect his operations or his relationships with others working inside the boxes? 

Before the boxes were set up around the sensory table, they were taped together on the large muscle mat in the classroom to make a box fort. 

The boxes were connected by inside doorways allowing the children to crawl in and through the boxes.  Holes and windows were cut in the top and sides for rousing games of peek- a-boo. 

The boxes had a life before they were set up at the sensory table and they also had a life after the sensory table.  One of the boxes was moved to the house area next to the books.  This became a room within the house.  It became a new place to for the baby to sleep.
 It was an exciting place to share with friends.
It was a place that could be moved just enough to create a new space in which to hide.
It was a place that could be re-oriented to be a superhero cave.

Another big box was re-purposed to be a capsule for the light table.  Three big holes were cut on three sides, but the side closest to the wall was not cut to give the box stability.
The idea was to block the fluorescent light coming from above so the table itself would seem brighter for the children's operations.
Besides making the table seem brighter, it also created the feeling of being inside a space and under a canopy.

It would seem that the life of these big boxes was a study in children's exploration of space.  They willingly and enthusiastically explored the spaces offered them.  Interestingly, though, their explorations of space were byproducts of the operations that they created and recreated within those spaces.

Wait, aren't there two more big boxes?

To be continued...

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