About Me

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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, August 26, 2017

Horizontal channels-toddler version

Thirty years ago when I was first employed by the a public school district to work in a family education program, I was hired as an infant/toddler teacher.  Within a few years when there were cutbacks in our program and we had to consolidate rooms, I was a teacher in a birth-to-five room.  I actually cut my "building-apparatus" teeth for the sensory table with these groups that had the youngest children.  When I moved to mixed-age groups (3 to 5's), I would sometimes still adapt an apparatus for the younger children in the infant/toddler room.  One of those adaptations was a yearly staple in my classroom called  horizontal channels.

Here is what the adaptation of this apparatus looked like for the infant/toddler room.

I first set a wooden board on top of the toddler sensory table to support the apparatus.  The board was longer than the table so the box I used fit nicely on top.

I used strips of cardboard to make walls for the channels.  I used a separate strip that was taped to each of those strips to hold the channels in place.

I attached a cardboard chute to the end of the channel apparatus.  So the chute would keep its shape, I used a cardboard strip taped across its width.

This is what the apparatus looked like from the side.  I set up the chute on one end of the channel apparatus to empty into a white washtub.  I had to adjust the washtub's height otherwise the tub would not rest on the floor.  I adjusted the height by taping a plastic tray underneath the washtub. 

In the picture below, the toddlers are working on three different levels.  They are working with cracked corn in the channels, on the chute and in the tub at the bottom of the chute. 

Why would I even entertain the idea of building apparatus at the sensory table for toddlers?   For the very same reason I built apparatus for the preschool children.  Interesting and intriguing spaces encourage unique types of play and exploration that fuel the fire for all subsequent learning.  Put another way, play and exploration is a generative process that nourishes more play and exploration, which are both vital staples for all children.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Boxes in boxes

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I like cardboard boxes.  For me, when you have multiple boxes, there is no end as to how they can be configured.  I made the following apparatus from four cardboard boxes.  
I constructed this "boxes in boxes" apparatus using a large box (#1) as the base. In one corner of the base, I completely embedded a square-topped box(#2).  I partially embedded another relatively large box(#3) on a vertical into the base box.  To complete the apparatus, I added a narrow channel box(#4) on top of the base that continued on through box #3.

Here are the four boxes before I started to build the apparatus.  They are all different sizes and shapes.

I first embedded and taped box #2 inside one corner of the base box.  I set box #3 on the vertical and decided to partially embed it inside the base box.  Why did I embed this box only partially into the base?  My thought was to leave a little more space on top of box #1 to offer more area for the children to play on that level.   I left the portion of box #3 facing out completely open so the children could have easy access into that box.


I next set the channel box (#4) on top of the base box.  Since it was as long as the base box, I cut a hole in box #3 so it ran through box #3.  For structural integrity, I added a cardboard wall (#5) inside the opening of the base box underneath the channel box.  I also left the flap on the base box so I could tape it down to the table for stability.


Here is a view from the other side of the apparatus.  I cut all the flaps but the bottom flap to give the children a big space in which to operate inside that box.  I left the bottom flap on because, like on the other side, I wanted to tape it down to the table for stability. Because box #3 is on the vertical, it is higher than the base box.  And since the channel box(#4) rests on the base box on the outside, it almost seems like it hangs in the air on the inside of box #3.

One of the more interesting spaces for the children in this apparatus was the square-top box embedded in the corner of the base box.  Because children like to fill containers, this box offered them a container that they could fill.
The reason that is significant is that it gave the children foundational experiences with volume.  As the children added corn to the box, the level continued to rise until it was full.  And with a full box, they tested how far they could bury their hands in the box.

This apparatus offered children a complex variety of spaces on multiple levels for their operations.  Please note that the boxes could have been put together in any number of ways.  On the day I built it, this is how it came together.   

If you build, I would encourage you to think inside, outside and around the boxes.  Creating rich spaces for the children to explore lays the foundation for learning not only in math but in all the domains.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Big box inside the table

I always joke that you can pretty much guess what I just bought by looking at the apparatus in the sensory table.  However, that it is not a joke.  Here is a case in point that I have never written about.  Eleven years ago, I bought a big plastic deck box.   After putting together the plastic deck box, I brought its empty cardboard box into school to see what I could make for the sensory table.  As it turned out, the box fit into the table lengthwise.

The big deck box slid into the table to a depth of about 4 inches.  To give the deck box stability, I embedded it in a another plain cardboard box that spanned the width of the table.  I set it in the middle of this second box so there would be equal access to the table on both sides.   There ended up to be space underneath the white box almost like it was floating a couple of inches off the bottom of the table.
By embedding the white box in the other cardboard box, I created some intriguing spaces that were narrow and deep on both sides of the white box.  The apparatus ended up looking like it had wings on each side of the white box.  Children poured corn into the top openings and they accessed the corn at the bottom of the table through the large window cut in the brown box.  Because I cut a similar window hole in the white box directly across from the window hole in the brown box, children also accessed the corn that accumulated at the bottom of the white box. 

As the children accessed the corn in the bottom of the white box, they found a hole in the bottom of the white box that emptied into the bottom of the table.  If a child wanted to, she could stretch through three holes and three segmented spaces to scoop the corn from the bottom of the table.  I would think that would qualify as a wonderful exercise in spatial literacy.
So all the corn would not accumulate in the confines of the brown box, I needed to cut a hole in the brown box at the bottom as an outlet for the corn.  

I cut a lot of big windows in this apparatus.  Whether the children were on the sides or the ends of the apparatus, there were clear sight lines through the apparatus giving them different perspectives.  Not only did they encounter different perspectives through the holes, they also gained some fundamental experiences with depth perception.

After a week, I added cardboard tubes set on an incline on each side of the apparatus.  The tubes emptied into a storage bin at the end of the table.
I also cut out "windows" in the tubes so the children could catch a glimpse of the corn sliding down the tube.

I thought I had created a lot of intriguing spaces that the children accessed through all the different windows.   To tell you the truth, I did not even count the space on top of the apparatus.  Even though I did not count it, the children did.  Below, they used the top of the white box as a shelf to hold all their full containers.
When I look at this last picture, I can't help but think that the children did an admirable job of using the space on top of the white box so all their full containers fit, even the spoons which are laid across a couple of the holes on top.   Now that is some good math.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Minnow nets

I often times liked to include different size minnow nets on the shelf next to the sensory table with the other hodgepodge and doohickies.   In the picture below, I set out two different size nets, the smaller set was green and the larger set had white netting.
I first used the minnow nets with a worm slide apparatus.  The idea behind the nets was to provide implements for the children to catch the worms coming out the tubes or pipes.   Using nets was much different than catching the worms with other containers.  For instance, the net did not hold water like other containers and the worms always ended up at the bottom of the net.   The two pictures below illustrate those differences.

In the following video, the children scoop the plastic worms (fishing lures without hooks) into their nets.  One child seems to be directing the play by urging the two other children playing with her to hurry and catch the worms before they get away.

We need to catch the worms from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The nets were perfect implements for catching the worms because water flowed through the tiny holes of the nets but the worms did not.  However, because the nets were so flaccid, getting the worms out of the nets proved to be tricky.

How to get the worms out of the minnow net from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Because the child could not simply turn the net over to dump out the worms, he tried to dislodge the worms by hitting the net against the side of the table and then against the side of the tub.  He used a little more force each time he tried extricate the worms   On the third try, he accidentally hits the head of the minnow net against the side of the table which somehow allowed all the worms to fly out of the net to his great surprise and delight.

I also found that the minnow nets worked well water beads.  In the video below, a child uses a minnow net to transport water beads into a clear plastic tube.

Transporting water beads with a minnow net from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

That was one full minnow net.  What is interesting is that the child figured out how to empty his minnow net by using one hand to push up the net from the bottom.  That was important because that allowed him to get almost all the beads into the tube.

I also set out the minnow nets with some dry medium, too.  With the Jurassic sand, the nets became like  wispy sieves.  With corn, the nets became supple containers. 

Before I finish this post, I want to go back to the worms and catching worms with the net.  One child created a new worm catching tool using a bottle and the small green minnow net.

New worm catching tool from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The child found a bottle that he could wedge into the minnow net so the bottle would not fall out if he tipped it upside down.  Using his new tool, he was able to scoop both water and worm to transport it around the table.

Where did the child come up with the idea to make a new tool?  Was his first thought: I wonder if I can put this bottle in the net.  When he did that, did he know he made a tool?  Was the tool only realized once he tried to use it as a new type of scoop?  Was there pleasure in the making of the tool?  Was there pleasure in the using of the tool?  I do not know the answers to those questions.  Maybe a better question is: What implements or materials make for a rich mix of paraphernalia to foster creative exploration to discover new possibilities for play?   For me, one of the implements is surely a minnow net.