I did not give up on the idea of making a Worm Slide using the plexiglass sheets. Instead of using two, though, I created a installation that used only one of the plexiglass sheets. I still set up the plexiglass on a slant, but I used a different base which gave the apparatus slightly less of an incline. That did not change the functionality of the Worm Slide, but there was less pull on the tape making it more secure, especially since I was only using one plexiglass sheet.
With this new iteration, I also added a clear plastic tube and white PVC pipe so children could transport the worms down more modest inclines, one of which was opaque, into the adjacent, clear water table.
The incline was not great enough for the two new tubes, so I used small, plastic manipulatives taped together to give the tubes a little more height on the base end.
Without any instructions, the children knew exactly what to do with the Worm Slide. They put the worms in the channels and poured water to make the worms race down into the tub next to the table. There were different ways to get the worms into the channels: children placed them in by hand and some poured them out of containers into the channels. Of course, some children just dumped them right on top of the apparatus. Watch.
Worm Slide from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
The first four seconds of this video was like a ballet. Almost simultaneously, three different children worked inches apart on their own operations. The other 15 seconds is more ballet and a study in subtle gestures.
Someone figured out that the tops of the channels were a good place to line up the worms. Once each channel had a worm, she poured sequentially.
The children also used the tubes for their operations. A child would pour worms and water down the tube and the child at the other end would catch. It happened that sometimes the child on the catching end was not expecting to catch. What fun! Watch.
Connected in playUntitled from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
There were at least two captivating aspects to this video. The first was the unconscious motor planning it took for the child with the coffee can to get it out of the table so he could pour the water down the tube. His movements were fluid: the can was lifted out of the water with two hands; his right hand went over the top of the tube; he pulled the can over the tube and out of the table with his right hand; and the left hand went immediately to support the can as he moved it to the tube. The second was how quickly the girl's exclamation went from one of vexation to one of delight. They were connected in play at that very instant. Did they know it?
In one class, the PVC pipe came loose from the lip of the small water table. It did not stop play, but created an invitation for a different kind of transporting and filling.
5 Gallon Pail next to the table at all times.
Their imagination was fluid and they made use of all the materials at their disposal. Another example of that fluid imagination was when one child combined two unrelated objects to make a new, unconventional scoop.
New tool from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
By taking two very ordinary objects---a minnow net and a empty container---this child has done something extraordinary. He has created a new tool for retrieving the worms and the water without having to get his hands wet.
When children have the time and space to do their own thing without adult instruction or interruption, the ordinary easily morphs into the extraordinary.