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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, April 30, 2016

Big boxes around the table - additions

For the past month I have been writing about big wardrobe boxes that were first set up as a fort in the large muscle area of the classroom.

Four big wardrobe boxes were taped together with passage ways between the boxes on the inside and openings all around and on top for the children to peek out of and into.

I moved the boxes from the large muscle area to the sensory table.  I disconnected all the boxes and set one on each side of the table.

In this configuration, the space over the table is open and can be accessed by the children either through the spaces in-between the boxes or from inside the boxes themselves.

To this setup, I added two new boxes.  One of the boxes was an iMac box.  This box was embedded on one end into one of the wardrobe boxes and embedded on the other end into the second new box, a large wreath box.

Here is the view of the iMac box from inside the wardrobe box looking toward the wreath box.  The iMac box has such an interesting shape being wider at the bottom than at the top.  It defines a space not usually experienced by children.  The iMac box also changes the shape of the wardrobe box window into the sensory table.  Children inside the wardrobe box can gather or transport pellets from the table or the iMac box.
It looks like the iMac box is suspended in midair, but it is embedded in the wreath box and then taped to the wardrobe box in such a way that it is quite stable.  Pieces of duct tape run from the bottom of the iMac box to the top of the wardrobe box.

The wreath box spans the width of the table and is embedded into the two wardrobe boxes on either side.  The box rests on the lip of the table on either side to add strength to the structure.
Children access the wreath box through the hole cut in the side seen in the picture above and through holes cut in the ends of the wreath box where they are embedded in the wardrobe boxes.  One of the direct entry points is through the wardrobe box that is not connected to the other boxes and directly faces the wreath box.

With these additions the space changed significantly.   Children could no longer just scoop pellets from the space over the table unimpeded.  The area above the table was now partially closed creating  restrictions to their operations.  The video below illustrates two of those restrictions: 1) having to reach around and under the apparatus for pellets and 2) having to reach into the narrower iMac box for pellets.

Under and through from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

For the girl to reach under the apparatus to gather the pellets, she has to reach down and around the apparatus.  That is a physical and balancing challenge as it is, but to complete the transfer of pellets into her bucket, she has to reverse the whole operation.  For the boy to gather his pellets, he has to almost crawl into the iMac box.

In both of these instances, the children can see the pellets they are gathering.  One child found a way to scoop pellets even though she could not see them.  She is in a wardrobe box and wants to get pellets from the bottom of the sensory table.  She figures out she could reach through a small opening created by the wreath box bisecting the original window in the wardrobe box.  Only her arm fits through the opening and she has to wedge he head between the wreath box and the wardrobe box to reach the pellets.  As a consequence, she cannot see what she is doing.  Watch.

Tight spaces from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

If you give a child a long hallway or an open field, the child will run.  The spaces tell her to run.  In this new configuration of a big box apparatus around the sensory table, there are a lot of tight spaces that restrict and shape how children move and operate in the spaces.   Just this morning I was just watching my 10-month-old granddaughter crawl under the table and the rocking chair.  What is it about tight spaces that calls the children to action?  

explore spaces

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