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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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Last week I explained my thinking for putting a Dome over the Horizontal Channel apparatus.

I know it is not really a dome; a dome is rounded on top.  It is a box with holes, but that does not do it justice.   It does not do it justice because the play it elicits from the children is exquisite, like the shape of a dome.  That is enough poetic license for now.  Sorry.

The truth is that the box over the horizontal channels changed the nature of play because it added intriguing spaces for exploration.  For children the equation works something like this: more intriguing spaces equals more exploration.

Let's look at some spaces the children discovered to explore and what those explorations looked like.

First, there are the openings created by the box over the channels.  In the picture below, the boy keeps running the palm of his hand under the edge of the box over and over again.  Why?  To see what it feels like, of course.

From feeling the edge of the box, this child starts to feel the corn by reaching under the the partition.  His hand is totally immersed in the corn.  Immersing his hand under the partition has to be a different sensation that simply immersing his hand in an open channel.  The feeling of immersing in this instance is totally cut off from his vision by the partition.  As you can see, this two-year-old finds this part of the box appealing and worthy of exploration.

Second, there are the windows.  One scenario is to work outside the window to get something through the window.  The child in pink is using a little plastic tube to transfer corn from her cup outside the window to the area inside the box.

A second scenario is to use the window to work inside the box.  The girl below is filling her truck with the corn.  To do that, her entire head, arms, and torso are in the box.

A third scenario is to use the window to work inside the box to get the corn out of the box through the vertical chute.  Watch as the boys below work at getting the corn down the chute.

Fourth, there is the bottom of the vertical chute.  If you drop the corn down the chute, you necessarily find where the corn ends up after being shepherded down the chute.

Firth, there is the top of the box.  Not only will the children play with the objects and material on the top, but they will use it to gain another perspective on what lies beneath.

 And sometimes there is a surprise: a friend looking back at you from inside the box.

And how about this: The girl below is trying to retrieve her bulldozer that dropped down the hole. She is reaching through the very same hole on the top of the box.  To do that, she is actually lying on top of the box.

I have always been amazed at how children explore spaces.  I enjoy documenting the how.  Why children explore spaces the way they do is often a mystery that eludes me.  That mystery keeps me intensely curious and spurs me to create new, intriguing spaces for them to explore in novel ways.

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