About Me

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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 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.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

BOXES IN BOXES - THE BRIDGE AND BEYOND

I change the apparatus in the sensory table every week.  (We all need a creative outlet and this is mine.)  What that means is that there is a completely new apparatus for the children to explore on a weekly basis.  After building the Bridge, though, I decided to add onto the existing structure instead of building a completely new one. I had another IMac box from school and a channel box I found at a hardware store so I added those two to the existing structure.


For the addition, I set up the planter tray to support the new IMac box and then ran the channel box through the two IMac boxes.  The channel box completely runs through the new IMac box but only partway into the original structure.


With the addition, there are more inside spaces to discover.  The view below is inside the new IMac box.  You can only see the child's arm because he is watching the corn fall out on the outside of the box as he scrapes it with the spoon from the inside.  Instead of eye-to-hand coordination, this might be considered mind-to-body coordination.  Without seeing what his hand and arm is doing, there must be a mental and physical loop working to complete his actions.  That sounds like a higher order thinking skill.



And, of course, there are a lot more holes to explore---sometimes with hands.


And sometimes with the implements.


Holes and putting things in holes is very important work for children.  Below is a fine example of that.


Andreas had been putting corn in his minnow net with a scoop.  He put the scoop down and noticed some scattered kernels on top of the channel.  The net he put in the hole created a smaller hole into which he drops the individual kernels.  First, what was it about the scattered kernels that made him want to clear them off the channel?  Next, how did he even notice the small hole between the net and box?   He could have just put the individual kernels in the net.  In any case, there was something about that hole that was a catalyst for his action.  Would you have noticed the hole made by minnow net?  I certainly would not have.  By the way, did you notice that fine motor work he was doing pinching those individual kernels to put them in the hole?  That is an important skill for learning to write.

Here is a little more complex exploration of holes by Hanna.


Hanna was working very hard to get the corn to drop through the holes into the small container. Before I began the video, she had experimented with simply pouring through the holes and eyeballing where the corn landed in the table.  She had also tried several times to catch it with the bottle.  Notice she clears a spot so the container can stand upright on the bottom of the table.  As you can see, her efforts never produced the results she wanted, but the best way to learn is by trial and error, right?

(Just a note about the videos.  I have not been completely happy with uploading video to blogger.  The texture is grainy and it takes a long time to upload any thing longer than 15 seconds.  I liked the quality of YouTube uploads, but they always suggested videos that had nothing to do with the blog.  I noticed that Allie over at bakers and astronauts used vimeo.  The only other videos pictured were from her blog. I thought I would give vimeo a try.  Thanks, Allie.)

One very strange thing happened when I added the addition to this apparatus.  A space was created that somehow invited a couple of children to actually climb in the table.  Look!


I might have thought it was a fluke if only one child climbed in, but two children in different classes climbed into this space created by the new addition.  So what is it about this space that was an invitation to climb in?  It does look like a child-size space and there is an added attraction of pouring the corn through the hole and have it drop on your lap or leg.  And, of course, children explore with their whole bodies. But what was so inviting about this space? Who knows?

I had this grand scheme of adding onto this structure for at least one more week---maybe two.  Once you get started, there is really no end, right?  Well, we got tired of sweeping up the corn every day.


Maybe next year.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

BOXES IN BOXES - THE BRIDGE

I like to combine cardboard boxes to make an apparatus.  Boxes can be put together in any number of ways.  This year I took a big box that held patio furniture that I picked up at a big hardware store and combined it with a IMac box that was lying around the school.  What I came up with was what I call THE BRIDGE because one box bridges a larger box with the sensory table.

One end of the bridging box is supported by the lip of the sensory table.  The other end of the box is embedded in the larger, furniture box. 


The apparatus gains its character when I start to cut the holes.  I think it is important to cut holes on all levels of various sizes.  You can read more about what I think is the significance of holes here

Notice that there are holes on the top on both boxes.  Going down, there is two openings facing the camera.  Inside, you can see another window that connects the two boxes.  There are four more outside holes and one inside hole.  By the way, by taping the boxes together at the windows, I get a sturdy structure.  I also duct tape all the windows to prevent paper cuts.
Did you notice the plain cardboard patch on this side?  That used to be a window, but when the children started to pour the corn into the top of the apparatus, way too much came out that hole onto the floor.  Cardboard holes are easy to patch with cardboard and duct tape.

The fun begins when the children explore the holes.  

From the top.


To the bottom.
And everywhere inbetween.
In an apparatus like this, there are also spaces and holes to explore inside the boxes.

Below the child is moving the corn with the spoon out of the "bridge" box into the sensory table.  Pushing the corn out of the box is a much different operation than pouring corn into the box.

Below a child is transferring corn from one box to another via a small hole that connects the chambers of the two boxes.  There is a bigger hole right above it, but the smaller one is interesting because it is even with the bottom level of the bridge box so all a child has to do is push the corn in the hole.


I included a new utensil to use with this apparatus: a minnow net.  Minnow nets added a whole new dimension to transferring the corn.  Watch.


video

Filling the nets, which are flexible and bulge, is so much different than filling other containers with rigid sides.  In addition, trying to pour the corn out of the nets provided an extra challenge with different children figuring out different solutions to getting all the corn out of the net.

I want to leave you with a short, 8-second video that shows how one child animates his "corn machine."


video

First let me tell you what is not on the video.  The side of the Apple box we don't see has a picture of a computer on it.  Daniel first pushes a couple of the icons pictured on the that side of the box to start his machine.  In short order he starts his furious actions.  It was quite loud in the room, but I said nothing and just observed. What I saw was a child approaching and using this apparatus with his whole being. He absolutely threw every thing he had into his actions.  Just look at how he bends down, puts his ear next to the outside of the box, and passionately flails his scoop back and forth across the corn.  When a child can put this much of himself into an activity, he is a happy child.  When an apparatus can accommodate this much happiness, it is a good apparatus.

Friday, May 13, 2011

BOX TOWER-DINOSAUR MOUNTAIN-HOLES

This is a good apparatus to illustrate the significance of holes.  If you notice, there are holes at every level of the apparatus from the bottom to the very top.


The holes are placed on different sides and on different levels to create interesting spaces to explore.

The children will explore the bottom holes.













They will explore the middle holes.










And they will always find the top hole.























Even if it means stepping up on the lip of the table from a stool to get the needed leverage to stuff the bedding down the hole.  (Is that a dangerous move?  The child looks pretty stable, so I did not think I needed to intervene.)

And sometimes, a child will work with holes on more than one level simultaneously. In the picture below, a child is pouring bedding into one of the holes on an upper level with one hand and then trying to catch it on the bottom level with her other hand. She has given herself a nice little large-muscle, eye-to-hand coordination undertaking.


This apparatus is sturdy enough to use outside of the sensory table.  I set it up near the block area where I also keep our little cars.  Here you can see it became a garage.  Cars were obviously driven around the edges, but many ended up in the holes.

And as long as we are talking about exploring holes, there is no better way to explore them than to use your body.

There is one more point to make about holes.  Children will find them even if they may not be a part of the apparatus.  If you look at the original apparatus, there is a bridge that connects a small table that holds many of the utensils we use in the table. Watch my friend Alex and see what hole he has found.

video

Did you see the hole he found?  It was really a crack, a crack between the table and the wall.  At first, I could not figure out what he was doing.  Well, he was putting the animal bedding down the hole and it was disappearing.  It is amazing the operations children create for themselves.  

Now you have to understand that the animal bedding is going on the floor.  It is not like putting it in the holes in the actual apparatus which is contained in a table.  After I realized what Alex was doing, I wanted to redirect his operation, so I asked him to put the bedding in the pail.  Watch what happens---and if you pay close attention, you can see his little pile of bedding on the floor next to the wall under the table.

video

If you want to know why this redirection works so well, you may want to take a look at my very first blog entry back in July of 2010 here. In the post I talk about the importance of using a pail next to the sensory table.  See if you see any "holes" in my logic.