What I discovered was that the children handled the sticks with plenty of care and no one got hurt. I was emboldened so I filled the table with sticks, branches and stumps---and none of them were taped down. This is how the setup looked from one side...
The sticks became tools with which to stir and pound.
Because they could move the sticks and branches, the children did. They moved the wood around within the sensory table.
Balancing branches from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
Judging from his body language and without seeing his face, I think he was pretty pleased with what he had just accomplished.
For some children, the bigger branches and logs were used to test their strength. In the video below the child lifted a big heavy maple log up onto the stump to roll it over the stump. He first used the stump as a fulcrum to lift the log off the bottom of the table. Then he lifted the log up every so slightly before balancing it on the stump. The effort was palpable. Once it was balanced on the stump, he re-positioned his hands so he could control the log as it rolled to the other side.
Heavy lifting from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
I would say this child was on the border between controlling the log and loosing control of the log. Early in his endeavor, I moved in to help because I thought he would drop it on his finger. Though I was close, I ended up not helping at all. Instead, he shifted his hands and his body weight to keep the piece of maple log under control. After he rolled the log to the other side, he brushed his hands together again, intimating that that was hard work and now it was done.
Since I started the first post on sticks, I have been thinking a lot about how the children handled the sticks, branches, logs and stumps. More specifically, I was wondering how the children managed the wood pieces so well in the closed-in area of the sand and water table.
Children are attracted to sticks. I could forbid their use in the classroom by simply not bringing them into the classroom. Or I could offer the sticks as play things to the children so they can learn to use them for constructive pursuits of their own making. To do that, they need the time and the agency to explore the possibilities of sticks within the social and physical context of the classroom and, in this case, the sensory table. However, that does not mean anything goes because, as the teacher, I am part of that context and my role is to know the children well enough that I can intervene when something looks too dangerous. That said, I do not remember intervening even once with the sticks. Maybe we had already built a play culture in the sensory area that precluded the probability of dangerous play with sticks. Is that possible?
Let me leave you with a picture of my grandson dragging a stick that is twice his size along the Mississippi River. He is also holding a shorter stick in his other hand.