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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, October 19, 2013


I seem to be on a kick this fall making things using planter trays and tubes.  The big box hardware store had a good sale on planter trays and I recently received a donation of cardboard tubes and several plastic tubes. The first apparatus to come out of these materials was the Cardboard Tubes Embedded in a Cardboard Tube.  The second apparatus to come from these materials is Pipes Embedded in Planter Trays.
This apparatus may look complicated, but it is relatively simple.  There are two 5-foot pieces of 3/4 inch PVC pipe running horizontally through two 29-inch planter trays placed end to end.  The pipes are embedded 1 inch above the bottom of the planter trays and extend past the table out of the trays over tubs on each end. Aquarium caulk is used to seal the holes around the outside of the pipes.  Holes are drilled in the top of the PVC pipes as they traverse the inside of the planter trays.  Here is a top view; it is easier to see all the holes drilled in the top of the pipes.

The way this apparatus works is that children pour water into the trays.  As the children pour water into the trays, the bottom fills up.

Once the water reaches the level of the top of the pipes, water drops through the holes in the pipes and  travels to the end of the pipes and flows out.

This is where the fun begins.  Catching the water from the pipes is not as easy at it may seem, though. The water does not flow at great speed out of the pipes.  Unless someone is pouring a lot of water in the trays, the flow is slow and steady.  In the video below, you see a child collecting the water in a bottle.  As the video begins, he is switching hands because it is tiring to hold his arm out straight for long periods of time.  He has to reposition the bottle to make sure the water drops into his bottle.  As the water flow decreases he continually has to reposition the bottle to make sure he catches the water.  Watch.

Catching the Water from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Can you imagine the persistence it takes the child to fill his bottle this way.  He, of course, is up to the task; just look at his concentration.

Children will always find other ways to to fill their containers.  One group figured out that certain bottles fit nicely over the pipes, so they could fill the bottles hands-free.

Take a look at Axiom #6 and its Corollary in the right-hand column of this blog.  It states that children will redirect or block the flow of the medium whenever possible.

This child has stopped the water with her thumbs. When she pulls her thumbs out, the water gushes out. Her agency has changed the rate of flow.  Should we tell her?

Another child found a second way to stop the water.  She used the basters that fit nicely into the ends of the pipes.  The basters, though, gave rise to another operation.  By squeezing the basters, this child was able to force air and water back out of the holes in the pipe.  Watch.

Basters in the Pipes from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Children will always approach a new apparatus with a set of basic operations.  For example there is pouring and catching.  Children, as you can see in the above operations, are not limited to those operations, but in dialogue with the space, materials, apparatus and others, bring their full imagination to their work.  I definitely agree with Einstein when he said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge."


  1. I love this apparatus because there are so many different ways that children can interact with it. I especially enjoyed seeing the video showing what happens when a child inserts basters into the ends of the tubes and squeezes. Bubbles!!! What a great way to integrate science, cooperative play, sensory experiences, and the development of hand muscles. And I love that quote by Albert Einstein... I used it in my latest newsletter. :-)

  2. Thanks Jen. I don't think I have ever built anything like this before. The apparatus does not work until the bottom of the trays get filled up. And even then, it takes effort to keep the level high enough for the water to keep flowing out of the pipes. By the way, I consider my sensory table my science table---hands-on science table.

  3. I agree that the sensory table is a science table.