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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.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Trays in a box

I like big boxes and I like trays.  A few years ago, I decided to combine a big box with some trays.  What I got was a crazy looking contraption that fostered a lot of exploration of the spaces that were created by combining the box and the trays in a rather unique way.
I inserted two trays inside the table to form the base of the structure and hold it above the table.  I taped these trays to the table and the box to the these trays.  I embedded one tray completely through the middle of the box.  On another level. I partially embedded two trays in the box on each side.  These two trays floating out from each side offered a structure which seemed to have an odd balance.   

Here is a view from the other side.  Note the holes on the top of the apparatus.  I cut those directly above each of the trays.  I also cut holes in the bottom of the box over the support trays so the corn would not collect in the bottom of the box.
In essence, I created an apparatus with lots of intriguing spaces to explore on several levels.   Spaces that were over, under, around and through.  You can read more about how the children explored all those spaces here and here.

Since I have already written about how the children operated in the spaces created by the trays in the boxes, I want to explore how the children used the clear plastic tube that was wedged between two trays and emptied into the big blue bin next to the table.

Specifically, I want to explore the sounds the children created and experienced as they worked with the tube and the corn.   In other words, the aural nature of their experience.  In the first example, four children created a virtual cacophony.   Listen to hear how many different sounds the children produced while using the corn and the tube for their operations.


Filling the tube from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

In 15 seconds, there was the sound of the child scooping corn in his measuring cup and pouring down the tube.  There was the sound of the corn rushing out of the tube when the child unplugged the full tube.  There was the sound of the corn piling into the yellow pail as one of the children caught the corn exiting the tube.  And finally, there was the sound of the child drumming on the tube with his plastic spoon.  There was some verbal communication, but I was struck by how much of the sound and communication was nonverbal.

I want to contrast that cacophony with the sound of a child dropping individual pieces of corn down the tube so they hit a pie tin propped up in the bin at the bottom of the tube.


Pie tin from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

This child was pleased with his discovery of how the individual kernels of corn hit the pie tin and made a unique sound.  He did ask me if I was ready because he wanted to share his discovery with me.  But again, his operation and communication were essentially nonverbal. 

Sound also played a really important part in this last clip.  A child had been catching corn from the tube with his little metal pot.  The piling of the corn into his pot had a distinctive sound.  All of a sudden, he heard a solid clink in his pot when I dropped a wooden ring down the tube.  Watch his surprise and delight.


A little joke from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

I could have told him that I was going to drop the ring down the tube and to listen to the difference.  But no, for me it was kind of a joke.  You can tell by his laugh that he understood it completely.   Now even the joke was nonverbal.

There is an aural component to every apparatus and every medium.  By stepping back and listening, I get a better understanding of how children can learn to discriminate sounds.  Words are important but so are sounds without words.

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