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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 9, 2016

How do children explore spaces?

Before I return to the sensory table, I would like to take a second look at this year's big box fort with a little different lens.  Last week I wrote about literacy in connection with the fort.  This week, I would like to examine how the children explore spaces in and around the big box fort.  I connected four big wardrobe boxes so children could crawl in, out, and through boxes.
There are no doors on the side facing the room.  In fact, there is only one window in box #3 that faces the rest of the room.  Box #2 has no doors, only windows.  Box #2 is connected with the other three boxes with inside portals.

Box #1, #3 and #4 each has an outside doors.  The doors on boxes # 3 and #4 open on one end of the fort. 
The door for box #1 opens out the back of the fort. 
The highlighted square shows one corner of an inside passage with the dotted line representing the part of the inside door that is not visible.  Children crawl through that passage to move through the fort.

When children explore these spaces, they do more than just crawl from one box to the other.  They do that, but they also inhabit those spaces in different ways.  One way is to do it with others.
That gets provocative when a couple of children settle into a space and a third child either wants to join them or pass through.  How do we fit in this space and how can we accommodate more?

Another way to explore the spaces is to see what happens when we stand up.  In the taller box, we have a small window to the world.  Our bodies our inside,but our mind is looking out.

The shorter boxes offer the children the chance to be both in and out of box.  How much of me can be out and how much of me can be out?
Can two of us be both out and in?

Another way to explore the spaces is by filling them with something.  One group this year filled one of the end boxes with blocks and anything else they could find to put down the hole in the top of the box.
Of course, not everything they found fit in the top.

Filling up the box gave the children another way to explore spaces.  How do we empty the spaces we filled?
The question is not only how do we empty the box, but what space do we use for the stuff as an interim to putting it all away? 
Children like to explore the in-between spaces, too.  One of those in-between spaces is wall with the cardboard window.  You can see from the video below that it fosters a gleeful game of peek-a-boo.

Here is a more active game of peek-a-boo in which the children use all the spaces inside the fort and outside the fort.

The boy on the outside runs around the whole fort looking in windows and doors to see the child inside the structure.  The boy inside the structure crawls from one end of the fort to the other.  In the end, the boy on the outside peers in the window and can see the other child exiting the fort on the other side.  The boy on the inside was inhabiting the inside spaces while the boy on the outside was inhabiting the spaces created by the structure on the outside.  They were doing it together each in their own spaces.

How do children explore spaces?  First, they find all the spaces.  That includes all the spaces in, around and in-between  Then the children act upon those spaces; they breathe life into those spaces. Children give those spaces meaning  literally and figuratively by filling them with their play.


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