Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Transforming the Sensory Table

The sensory table is an important part of every early childhood classroom.  It offers a place to explore materials and experiment with new ideas.  There are SO many great sensory ideas available online.  In Pre-K we've had leaves, shells, rocks and sand in the sensory table, as well as snow (fake and real), water and boats, and themed ideas (like hibernating animals, magnetic snowmen and more).  For some reason, none of these sensory explorations has truly held the attention of the children in my class to get them to the point of true exploration and individualized learning.

It was time to take action!  I decided that I wanted open-ended materials for the sensory table that would support science and nature-focused learning.  I found some great sand and water products on the Kodo Kids website.  Through the Lesley University New Teacher Community Mini-Grant program, I was able to obtain a funnel stand, a sensory table accessory kit and some amazing sand called Jurassic Sand.  Thanks Lesley!

My goal with these materials was to introduce them casually and see where the children took them.  First, I added the Jurassic Sand and the funnel stand to the sensory table.  The children were SO excited to see the new equipment in the sensory table.  They immediately started tinkering with the funnel stand (which spins for even more excitement).  They were (and continue to be) fascinated with the simple act of pouring the sand through the funnels and catching it with another object (like a cup or scoop) from below.  I also include recycled individual-serve yogurt cups for more scooping and pouring action.  

After the children got acclimated with the funnel stand, I introduced the sensory table accessory kit, along with corn kernels.  This kit allows the children to sift the sand through two different screens.  The addition of the accessory kit has led to even more discussions and team work as the children work to move the sand and corn from the funnel stand to the sifters.  

The initial sensory table transformation was three weeks ago, and I still have kids clamoring for time at the sensory table.  I enjoy watching them and listening to their discussions around the table.  There is a lot of collaborative play taking place.  And nearly every child in the class is at the sensory table at some point in the day.  Before the transformation, we'd typically see the same children revisiting the sensory table and then getting bored and moving on quickly.  Now, they are spending time, talking, discovering and learning.  Yay!!

Here are some pictures of our transformed sensory table in action:

In the picture above, the children were serving "coffee" from the sensory table.

These children enjoyed pouring and catching the sand from the bottom of the funnel.

The time honored tradition of simply digging is shown in the picture above.  The sand is very silky and not dirty, so the children enjoy the feel of it.

Here a child looks on as another child pours a large cup of sand through the funnel stand.  The children also enjoyed spinning the funnel stand to make designs in the sand.

The addition of the accessory kit and the corn kernels led to more team work.  Here two children are working together to sift out the corn kernels and return them to the sand, while another child is pouring sand through the funnel into his hand.  The sifting screens are easy to move around and put back in place.

Finally, experimenting to see if the corn kernels will go through the funnel.  They do!  And come out the other end into the child's hand.  What a great learning experience!

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