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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 24, 2018

Another oldie

A few weeks back, I wrote that I got a new toy.   It was a scanner that now allows me to see and scan pictures pictures I took a couple of decades ago when I first started building apparatus for the sensory table.   It is not perfect because it is hard to get the color right, but it is still fun to play with.

Here is an apparatus I built over 20 years ago.  Like many apparatus, it started out as a box that caught my eye.  The box was big compared to my small sensory tables so I did not want to fit it inside either table.  Instead, I decided to place it in between the two tables.  That looked pretty promising. 
I did not want a closed barrier between the two tables so I looked for a way to connect the two tables.  I had some scrap culvert drainage pipe that I decided to embed through the box.  The polyethylene pipes were sturdy so the ends did not need to be supported.  Interestingly, that gave the impression that they were somewhat suspended in midair.
To make it easier for the children to pour the sand into the pipes, I cut away pieces from the top of each pipe.  For the longer piece of pipe, I cut a piece that went all the way through to the other side of the box so the children had a peek at the sand falling through the pipe on the side with the yellow sand table.  Below you can see the child dumping the sand into the pipe through the top piece that was cut away.

Besides being stiff, the drainage pipe had another unique feature: it was ribbed.  As a consequence, sand would get caught in the ribs as it was poured into the pipes.  That also meant there was a little delay from when a child poured sand into the pipe and when it came out the bottom.

One thing I noticed about these old pictures is that the children seemed to enjoy working on the lowest level for their play.  They knelt because the sand table is low, but kneeling also required them to use different muscle groups for balancing and doing other operations.

When I first started to build apparatus for the sensory table, I took pictures to record what I built and how I built it.  Because I was doing it to record what I built, I did not take a lot of pictures documenting how children made it their own.  Part of the reason was that film and the developing of the film was too expensive to take gads of pictures.  More importantly, though, I did not have the mindset that challenged me to do more than just record.  

I am glad I was able to record.  We all have to start somewhere.  However, I find myself a bit empty when I try to make meaning from these old pictures.  Children are competent and they are always thinking but with so little documentation with this apparatus, I cannot speculate on the meaning of their play.  

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