I never quite know what will happen when I turn over an apparatus to the children. The children's explorations and investigations give an apparatus life. It is only through watching them and seeing the consequences of their actions that I begin to understand how it works---and how they work. I tolerate a lot of mess in the sensory area, but I am always looking for ways to minimize the spillage. For that reason, I felt I needed to modify the apparatus so more corn would stay in the box instead of shooting out onto the floor.
The modification was fairly simple. I embedded a third, smaller tube through the big box. I taped the flaps of the big box to the tube so the corn would be directed into the tube and not the box.
Here is a view from the top. I taped the flaps so the slot cut in the tube would catch the corn. The corn that did not drop in the slot, stayed in the creases where the tape met the tube. Eventually, someone would sweep the corn in the creases into the slot.
The new addition provided for another entry into play at the apparatus. Adding more invitations, expands the explorations. Adding more invitations also adds to more types of play, whether that is in the tubes, on top of the box, or in the box.
When I looked over my documentation of play at this apparatus, I was intrigued by how even a bulky apparatus like this fostered connections between children. The apparatus created large spaces between and separating children so how could it possibly foster connections?
One of the ways the children connected was with a game of peek-a-boo through the tubes.
There was a more active way to connect through the tubes, also. In the video below, one child scooped corn into the cement tube while the other one pushed it right back out with a long-handled plunger.
Tube connection from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
In a way, this felt like a dance. They both used the actions of the other to create a scoop and push the corn one-step-two-step. Interestingly, they were not using facial cues but physical and material cues.
Here is another example of this kind of connection. Two children used their homemade plungers to joust in that space under the box.
Jousting from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
I would say this was more like play fighting. The play fighting, though, is limited by the space under the box. We usually think children make connections through facial and body cues. Here, though, was another example of reading physical or material cues.
After looking at the documentation showing children connecting with each other at the Concrete Tube Apparatus, I wondered if the barriers created by an apparatus offer children safety to try out different ways of connecting.
Of course, children do not need barriers to connect. Sometime a loose part is all they need. Here is a lovely video of one child helping another child fill the clear tube into which he has inserted his hand. Watch the subtle looks and smiles as one helps the other.
Connection from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
To be sure, these were fleeting connections that may never happen again in the room. That does not make then inconsequential. Maybe by paying more attention to these moments of connections---even those across constructed barriers---we will see more.
What do you think? Do barriers foster connections? If so, why and how? How do those connections differ from the ones create by reading facial and body cues?