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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, February 11, 2017

Other box towers, other possibilities

Last week I wrote about a certain type of box tower and the possibility of unique types of play as the children explored the apparatus.  Let me expand on the idea of a box tower with different combination of vertical boxes that expand the possibilities even further.

The size and the shape of the box determines the potential tower configuration.   The cardboard box tower pictured below was a combination of two long, narrow boxes taped together on their vertical axes.  It just so happened that the combination of the two was the exact width of the table so it could be taped down to the lip of the table to make it secure.  Holes were cut in the sides and on hole was cut on top of only one of the boxes.  There was also a window cut between the boxes.  Access to that inside hole was more of a challenge because the children had to reach into one of the boxes to use it for their play.
My documentation on this apparatus is minimal, so you will have to use your imagination as to how the children used this for their own purposes.   

A box tower does not need to be made from multiple boxes. The box tower below was made from one computer box.  For this box tower, the holes on the sides were smaller, but the holes on the bottom were larger and opened out into the table.
When I cut the holes at the bottom, I made sure I ended up with a flap that I could tape down to the bottom of the table.  The flap is buried under the the corn but is outlined in the picture above.  I cut holes with flaps on the bottom on all four sides so it was taped down so securely that the children could not push it over.  With this tower, there was a lot more exploration on the top and the bottom of this box tower and much less with the smaller side holes.  Why?  Was it the dimensions of the box?  Was it the size or placement of the holes?

Here is another box tower made from one box.  That is not exactly correct because I did add a channel box horizontally through it. 
How a child combines any given provision with any given feature of the structure is always important for how play develops at any given moment.  A case in point is the two pictures below.  The pictures are grossly out of focus but hopefully you can see the child's genius anyway.  The child created a machine (her own words).  And what did her machine do?  It separated the smaller grains of sand from the larger ones.

The child found a sieve and placed it on top of the box over the hole.  She added sand and shook the sieve back and forth.  When she was done, she was pleased to display what her machine produced.

Here is a box tower made from six boxes, six liquor store boxes.  In a way it reminds me of a pyramid with steps on two sides.  However the steps all have holes.  The holes are formed by cardboard packing panels taped onto the top of the boxes.  Things dropped through the holes fall down to the bottom of the table.  
How did the children's exploration of this structure differ from that of the other boxes already mentioned?  Here are two ways.

On the left, the children inserted a loose cardboard tube and filled it.  They were experimenting with volume. On the right, the child referenced his own actions in the box through the hole above.  He was honing his proprioception.

Here is one last box tower.  This was made from six boxes that were larger and of different sizes.  There were actually two towers, one in each sensory table, that were connected by a horizontal element in the form of a box bridge. 
Since this box tower was more complex, the children's exploration of space was more varied and more complex.

The child on the left examined the space inside the small tower by bending under the bridge.  The child on the right put sand into the bridge, a much different experience than dropping it down a tower.

There is really no limit to what a person can build in terms of box towers.  But why build in the first place?  I would be disingenuous if I said I did not get a certain amount of satisfaction to see what I can come up with.  Everybody needs a creative outlet and this has been mine over the past 28 years.  I do have another motive which is just as important: I am extremely curious about how children explore and investigated spaces, both large and small.  By offering built spaces, I get a chance to satisfy that curiosity.  Given the time to explore and make it their own, the children manifest their own curiosity in ordinary and extraordinary ways.  In other words, my curiosity feeds their curiosity.  Since their curiosity is boundless, their is no limit for the play possibilities in and around these built structures.

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