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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, July 28, 2018

Moon Sand operations

Just because an apparatus is simple does not mean that the operations that emerge in the children's play and exploration are simple.  A couple of years back, I set up a large wooden tray with low sides on the end of the sensory table.  For that particular apparatus, I used Moon Sand.
The tray was placed on a small, flat table in such a way that the tray hung over one end of the blue sensory table.  Basically children had two large open surfaces on which to work on two different levels.  The lower level required the children to bend over and into the table while the higher level allowed them to stand and work on a counter-type level.

One way children spawned complexity around this fairly simple apparatus was to do one thing in a variety of ways.  Using their hands and assortment of implements, the children found different ways to flatten out the Moon Sand.

In the video below, the child used only his hands to make the Moon Sand flat in the jello mold. 

Moon sand in a jello mold from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
In the second video, a child pounded the sand with a large white scoop to make it flat in the tray. 

Pounding the moon sand from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

In the third video, a child found a clear plastic tube that she used to roll the sand so it was flat.  And she did it in such a way as to make a smooth transition from the edge of the tray to the bottom of the tray.

Rolling the moon sand from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

In the fourth video, a child used the bottom of a stainless steel bowl to flatten the sand.  For his operation, the sand was so smooth that it took on a sheen.

Burnishing the moon sand from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

In the last video, a child appropriated the dust pan for flattening the sand.  He even pushed down on the pan part with his right hand to make sure it was good and flat.

Flattening the moon sand with a dust pan from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Each of these children flattened the Moon Sand in their own way.  Big deal, right?  I do think it is a big deal because I appreciate the inherent beauty in the way each child found to do something ordinary: flatten the sand.  For the child who just used his hands, it was almost like a mediation so all the sand was just so.  For the child who pounded, it was a meditation of a different sort with bumpity-bumptiy rhythm.  For the child with the clear plastic tube, it was building a transitional incline with the sand.  For the child with the steel bowl, it was burnishing the sand.  For the child with the dust pan, it was finding a new use for a found tool.  Taken as a whole, their operations of flattening the Moon Sand took on a complexity that could easily be overlooked. 

These were just five examples of one operation the children created around flattening the sand.  There were surely many more.  And for each one, the children fabricated their own purpose.  The children essentially transformed the ordinary into extraordinary.  And for that, I am in awe.

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