About Me

My photo
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 2, 2016

Table covering with holes

I consider the apparatus Table Covering with Holes one of the more unique installations I have built.  Simply put, it is a piece of plywood cut to fit inside the sensory table so that it divides the table horizontally in two; there is a bottom half of the table and a top half of the table.  The bottom is the bottom of the sensory table itself and the top half is the surface on which the children work.  The children access the medium in the table through holes cut in the plywood.

The table covering has legs so from the underside it looks like a table.  You can think of it as a table within a table.  Because of the expanse of the sensory table, I screwed in cross pieces on the bottom of the plywood to give it more load-bearing strength.  I also used those cross pieces to help anchor the legs to the bottom of the plywood sheet.

When children pour and fill at the water table, they usually hold their container with one hand and then pour with the other.  Children do this all the time.  Often times when they do that they are holding the container next to their body.  As they pour, especially into a bottle with a narrow neck, they often spill and water goes down their smock into their shoes.  With the table covering with holes, the children can pour hands-free so if they overfill, the water stays in the table.
This child has filled her narrow neck bottle to the top.  She actually overfilled the bottle, but the water just spilled right back into the table.

I consciously cut the holes different sizes.  Part of the reason was for aesthetics and part of the reason speaks to one of the elements for building in the right-hand column of this blog, namely, make holes of various sizes.  Holes of various sizes add an additional challenge for some of the children's operations.  The video below is a good example.  The child tries to pull a yellow pan through one of the holes.  It doesn't fit and he gives up.  I suggest he try the next hole over.  He does and he is able to pull it through the larger hole.  Watch.

Sizing the hole from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Compared to how hard he pulled when he was trying to get the pan out of the smaller hole, I was intrigued by how deftly he floated the pan to the next hole and adroitly lifted it through the larger hole.  When he lifted the pan out of the larger hole, he was careful not to have it hit the sides of the hole.

What I noticed late in the school year was that there was a lot more role playing everywhere in the room.  That was true for sensory table, too.  Here is a video of three children making "poison water."  The clip opens with a child saying that he has drunk all the poison water.  The play continues with pouring and mixing.  Watch.

Poison water from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Where does a scenario like this come from?  Isn't poison water a subject that should be frowned upon?  Are they recreating something from stories they have been reading?  Did one child start it and the others negotiate their parts on the fly?  Does the color of the water have anything to do with it?  Who understands what in the scenario?  The child pouring into the funnels is an integral part of the play, but what part do the funnels play in the narrative?

When I watch children play, I often wonder where they come up with their actions because so many of them just seem to flow.  The actions may be singular---pouring water into a bottle---but so often they are contagious---poison water.  In any case, their actions are like ideas that come one right after the other until they are played out.  Children think by doing; their ideas are realized in their actions. I am baffled sometimes when I hear adults tell children to stop doing something they are trying out or totally engaged in.  You would never tell an adult to stop thinking.  Why would you tell a child to stop doing?

Here are four more post talking about the Table Covering with holes.  In each, the medium and the setup is a little different.  They are table covering with gems, Jurassic Sand, water beads and wood fuel pellets.   If you want to see how a couple of other early childhood educators adapted this apparatus using cardboard and a dry medium, check out this post from Cathy at Preschool Play or this post from Kristin at Exploring the Outdoor Classroom.  Who knows, you might be inspired to build something, too

P.S.  Speaking of building, I just recorded my presentation on the framework I use for building apparatus for a virtual conference by Fairy Dust Teaching that begins on July 11th.  Besides myself, there are three other keynote speakers and 19 featured speakers.  It is the fourth year for the conference and can be viewed anytime without travel or hotel costs.  Here is the link to the conference:  https://io156.isrefer.com/go/summer16/tpbedard/   Check it out.

In an effort for full disclosure, Fairy Dust Teaching gives me a % of the registration through this link.

No comments:

Post a Comment