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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, August 4, 2018

Horizontal tubes bridging two sensory tables

I have a proposition that I want to see if it makes sense.  The proposition is: Children's actions are never random and neither are they planned.  Though this is not a direct quote from Movement and Experimentation in Young Children's Learning by Liselott Mariett Olsson, it comes from discussions I have had with others about the book.

To see if the proposition makes sense, I have chosen three video clips taken with a child who worked with the apparatus pictured below.  More precisely, he explored moving things through the two cardboard tubes that connected two sensory tables filled with wood fuel pellets. 

In the first video clip, he used a homemade plunger---a jar lid attached to the end of a short wooden dowel---to move sticks through one of the tubes.  It is an operation that seemed methodical as he moved the sticks through each section of the tube before pushing them completely out of the tube.

Plunger and sticks from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

In the second video, the child switched the tubes on which he was working.  Instead of moving sticks through the tube, he moved pellets through the tube.  And instead of using only one plunger, he used two.  In addition, he added an extra challenge by working in such a way as to lean over to the other side of the apparatus.

Two plungers and pellets from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

To get through each section of the tube, he had to push with some force because the diameter of the jar lid matched the diameter of the tube itself.  Because he had to use force, the lead plunger popped out of each section.

In the third video, the child again moved pellets through the tube featured above.  Two aspects of his operation, however, were different.  First, he moved to the side closest the tube for easier access.  Second, he reversed the plunging process by pulling the plunger back through the tube.

Reverse plunging pellets from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Because he reversed the operation, he both pushed the lid part of the plunger and pulled its handle through each of the sections.  That evened out the forces so he had more control over how the plunger traveled through each section.

If I look back at the proposition, his actions were not random.  The orientation of the apparatus invited him to move the sticks and pellets horizontally through the cardboard tubes.   The plungers were another invitation especially since their diameters matched so closely to the diameters of the cardboard tubes.  There were necessarily other factors that are not so visible that contributed to the non-randomness of this child's actions.  One factor could have been this child's penchant to experiment and explore this type of apparatus.  Yet another factor could have been that this child saw another child use the plungers to move things through the tubes.

Someone might think that if something is not random, it is most likely planned.  However, I do not think this child's actions were planned.  Planning has the connotation of being linear along with the idea of causation.  In the three videos, I would be hard pressed to say why he moved sticks one time and pellets the other two times.  And did using one plunger naturally lead to using two plungers?  At what point did he decide to reverse plunge?

I am left with the question: If children's actions are not random, nor are they planned, then what is left?


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