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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, July 5, 2014


The first time I wrote about Vertical Tubes in a Box was in March 2011.  In that post, you can actually see how the original apparatus was built.  It is an apparatus so rich in potential that I bring it back almost every year.  Four other posts with this apparatus can be found hereherehere and here.

The apparatus itself has changed very little over the years.  There are five tubes embedded vertically in a long, narrow box.  And there are two tubes embedded horizontally in the same box.

I mentioned that this simple design is rich in potential.  For instance, children will figure out multiple ways to pour the sand down the tubes.  It is done with bottles and scoops.

The boy on the left is using a syringe to pour sand down a tube. The girl on the right is also using a syringe, but she is also pouring sand into the syringe from a bottle.  She looks like a scientist measuring the material for her experiment.

The children are always provided with a variety of scoops, containers and loose parts to use with their operations.

The beauty of the loose parts is that the children combine them in various ways to create their own tools for pouring.  It can be as simple as inserting a clear plastic tube into the end of a bottle of sand to direct the sand into a tube.

And sometimes the pouring operations take on a complexity all their own that only the children can create.  The child in these photos has a involved process of pouring beginning with filling up his tube/bottle device using a funnel and then emptying the tube/bottle device into another clear tube that has been inserted into one of the vertical tubes in the box.
There is another realm of rich potential for this apparatus and that is in the realm of physical challenges. When there is a vertical dimension to an apparatus, the children are encouraged to go vertical.  There are always at least five little stools next to the table for the children to use if they want to get a perspective from a little different height.  For some children that is not enough. Some children feel compelled to go even higher and they do.
As you can see from the picture, two of the children have climbed onto the lip of the table.  They do that to get a better view of their own operation of pouring sand in the tube.  Is this safe?  The table is robust and the apparatus is firmly secured to the table so it will not topple over.  Is that enough to make it safe for the children to climb onto the table?

Some children can push the physical potential even further.  In the picture below, a girl has draped herself over the apparatus to spoon some sand from tray supporting the apparatus.  Her feet are no longer on the table, so the apparatus is supporting her whole body weight.
Think about what this child is doing.  She is scooping sand from a tray that she could easily completed with her feet on the ground.  Why does she have to make spooning the sand such a physical challenge? And, again, is it safe?

In looking over the documentation for this apparatus for this year, I was surprised at the depth of potential in the physical realm.  Does it show itself because there is something inherent in the verticalness of the apparatus?  Is it because children are allowed to go vertical?  Is it because the children themselves need a way to go vertical?   

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