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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, March 25, 2017

Rocks

I like rocks.  I always have.  I remember as a child hunting for agates, a semi-precious stone that can be found in Minnesota.  As a dad, I would take my own children down to the Mississippi River to hunt for agates and fossils.  We usually found some, but we also spent plenty of time just throwing rocks in the river or skipping them across the surface.  Physically and emotionally, children feel a great sense of agency when they throw a rock in the river and watch the splash and the ripples.  It's addictive.  The bigger the rock, the better.  Or the farther, the better.  Or the more, the better.

It is important for children to be able to explore rocks outside.  I also think it is important for children to be able to explore rocks inside the classroom.   In fact as a teacher of small children, I know there is much to be gained by offering children a chance to play with rocks on a regular basis all around the classroom and especially at the sensory table.  To that end, below is an example of how I set up rocks on a table for the children to use in the sand table.
Here is a closer look at the rocks.  One of my purposes was to offer rocks of different sizes, colors and textures.

By offering the children different kinds of rocks, they were able to compare and contrast the rocks. One year, I offered the children the tripod magnifier next to the sensory table so they could get a better look at the rocks as they did their comparisons.
The video below is a another good example showing a child comparing two rocks.  Though the color and the size of the rocks are similar, she examined the number and size of the holes before she concluded they were not the same.


One year, I recorded an interchange I had with a child as she was exploring the rocks.  I transcribed our conversation on a big sheet of newsprint and taped it up on the wall next to the sand table.  Below is the transcription.  Alert!  Emergent literacy and numeracy event.
At first, she looked for a big rock.  I asked her if she was looking for a heavy rock.  She insisted it had to be a big rock.  But when I asked her how her search was going, she said it had to be heavy.  Why did she switch---or add to---her description of her search?  Near the end of the episode when she was looking for a small rock, she found one that she said was "shiny, heavy and little."  In the course of examining the rocks, she kept expanding her classifications.

Another reason rocks are important for children in the classroom may fall under my own speculations.  Here goes.  Rocks were important for our development as a species.  (How is that for a theory?)  And I think children recreate some of those important points of development with rocks in the sand table.  (How is that for another theory?)   For instance, the child in the video below used a small rock to clean off the ledge in the sand table.   In essence, the child created her own tool from a small rock.
 

Here is another example.  In the video below, the child discovered that he could make marks with a rock on another rock.  


Making marks with rocks from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

If rocks are important for some fundamental operations that emerge from our DNA, shouldn't there be a place in the classroom for them?  What do you think?






1 comment:

  1. Children..."recreate some of those important points of development". Sounds like the Recapitulation theory, one of my favourite metaphors/lenses through which to look at what is happening in the classroom. I look forward to asking you more about this Tom...

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