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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, April 28, 2018

Funnels part 2

Last year I wrote a post on funnels.   In that post I explained how I used funnels when I built apparatus and how children used them as loose parts.  After watching a video multiple times that I posted two weeks ago, I saw something new and different that made me want to revisit funnels.  What I saw in the video was how the funnel changed the flow of the sand into a narrow stream.

Plugging the funnel 2 from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

In essence, the funnel transformed the sand that was poured into a wide-mouth opening to a narrow and precise stream.  I began to wonder how else funnels were used by the children to create other transformations.  With a quick dive into my archives, I did find some interesting transformations.  Here are a few.

One of the first transformations was simply covering a large hole with a funnel.  In the picture below the child covered one of the vertical tubes with a red funnel.   If a child poured sand directly down a tube, it quickly disappeared down the hole.  But when the child covered the hole with a funnel, the sand filled the funnel and was channeled so the flow of sand was slowed and evenly regulated down the tube.
Because the funnel slowed down the flow, the child observed how the sand sank into the red funnel.  What he saw was the sand sliding down from the sides into the middle of the funnel.
In other words, the funnel transformed how the sand flowed through the embedded tube.

What did that transformation look like from the bottom?  In the video below, a child poured sand into a funnel that was placed over one of the tubes embedded vertically in a box.  As soon as he finished pouring the sand, he crouched down to see how the sand exited the tube.

Checking the flow from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

It came out as a pencil-fine stream.  I speculate that the transformation caught the child's interest because he could not see the actual transformation of the sand from his cup to a fine stream.  He could not see because the tube was embedded in the box making part of the operation invisible to him.  In addition, the thin stream was framed by the larger diameter of the pipe through which it traveled completing the intriguing contrast between how he poured the sand into the funnel and how the sand exited the tube.

Here was an interesting transformation using a funnel with water.  The child used a funnel to cover the end of a horizontal pipe.  Up until this point, the water flowed freely out of the bottom of the pipe.  When the child positioned the funnel over the pipe, the flow was first blocked.  As the pipe filled with water, the hydraulic pressure built up behind the funnel so the water was pushed out with enough force to form a waterspout.

The child pictured below had a different idea of how to use the funnel to transform the flow of water.  This child inserted the stem of the funnel into the tube.
Now instead of a water coming out of the tube like through a nozzle, the funnel dispersed the water so the flow was not so organized.

In the video below the child actually used two funnels to carry out a transformation with water.  Ostensibly the transformation was filling a bubble bottle using a combination of the two funnels.  The child inserted a plastic syringe (first funnel) into a blue bubble bottle.  She placed a red funnel (2nd funnel) onto the syringe.   After pouring a second cup of water into the red funnel, the water started to overflow from the top of the bubble bottle.  She tried to catch the overflow with another bottle, but that did not work.  Finally she took the syringe with the red funnel out of the bubble bottle and emptied the rest of the water from the syringe into another bottle.

Overflow from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

I appreciated how calm this child was throughout the whole operation.  She knew she was spilling but she seemed more interested in the transformation from filling to spilling.  Because the syringe had such a constricted stem, she was able to watch the transformation in slow motion.  And finally come up with a solution to the spilling issue.

Here was one last transformation.  The child in the video below used a long black funnel to redirect the flow of water coming out of a tube into another flexible tube.

Redirecting the water from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

In this case, the child used a funnel to transform the path of the water.   The transformation may not have been efficient, but it sure was joyous.

Are these examples with funnels really transformations?  I am not sure because the transformations are not permanent.  The funnels do transform and shape how the different mediums flow, but then the different mediums revert to their original state.  Is there such a thing as transient transformation?  If so, the children have used their agency to come up with a whole host of explorations to make some sense of this phenomenon.    

The question is: Am I making any sense?

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