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Early childhood education has been my life for over 40 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.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Last year I wrote about an apparatus I called Vertical Tubes in a Box.

I not only wrote about it once, but I wrote about it in four consecutive posts.  I wrote how to make it here, and the subsequent play that emerged from the apparatus here, here, and here.

Because the apparatus is built so well, I bring it back every year.  Every time I bring it back, new play emerges and new discoveries are made.  This year the discoveries centered around explorations with funnels.

One of the discoveries was that static electricity is created as the sand slides down the sides of the funnel.
This picture shows how well the child is focusing.  What it doesn't show is that he is watching the grains of sand dance and hop off the side of the funnel because of the static electricity created by the friction of the sand particles rubbing against each other and the side of the funnel as the sand drains down the funnel.

The children created a new funnel arrangement in which they put funnels on top of funnels on top of one of the vertical tubes.  That led one boy to discover a form of verbal play.  Watch and listen.

At first, he may have just been explaining the set up, but at some point, he discovers he can play with the words and the play becomes generative.  Though it does not show it in the clip, he creates real enjoyment for himself with his verbal play.   Although, maybe you did notice how his body motions---especially of his head---match the cadence of his "funnel on top of funnel" word play.

One child discovered that the flow of sand out of the bottom of tube is different depending on the size of the funnel.  The smaller the funnel opening, the narrower the flow of sand.  If you look closely at the picture below, you can see the child watching a narrow flow from the vertical tube. The narrow flow is created by a funnel with a small opening.
Another nice picture of focus, no?

This year, the children discovered that at least one funnel could actually be placed on the bottom of one of the vertical tubes.

That discovery plus the desire to crawl into the tub at the side of the table

led to the discovery that it is possible to regulate the flow of sand coming down the vertical tube.

This boy is playing with regulating the flow of sand from the tube.  He uses his right hand to hold the funnel at the bottom of the vertical tube while his left hand covers and uncovers the funnel hole.  One important aspect of this play is that he senses when sand is dumped down the tube without seeing it because it exerts a sudden pressure on the funnel as it falls.  That is a type of learning that only comes from physically experiencing it.

I guess you could say we had a lot of funnel fun with the vertical tubes in a box this year.

Please note that I will not post next week.  I will be setting up a sand table display at an event organized by the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota taking at Hamline University(St. Paul, MN) on Saturday, April 28.   The title of the event is:  Enter, Encounter, Engage: A Community Dialogue about Learning.   There will also be exploration of nature materials facilitated by Dodge Nature Center and exploration of sound and rhythm materials facilitated by Dianna Babcock. Follow this link for more details and a complete listing of the day: http://www.mnreggio.org

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