In November of that year, I went to a session at the annual NAEYC national conference on block building done by staff at the Bing Institute of Stanford University in California. It was a very good session that got me thinking about blocks and block building. Remembering the September block episode at my sand table, one of my thoughts was that I should try to set up blocks at the sensory table as a provision. It took me more than a year to do it, but I finally did it.
I must admit that there was not a lot of building with the blocks. When the children used the blocks, it looked a lot like the September 2012 episode: pile everything into the table.
The biggest surprise with this setup was how much the children used the cardboard rings. They were used for making impressions in the sand.
Besides the fact that the one child has just created a tool, there are a couple interesting things of note in this video. First, the child using the cardboard ring as a shovel is able to scoop a significant amount of sand without loosing too much sand out of either end of the tube. Second, there is nonverbal negotiation of space in the table by the two children. The child in the foreground needs more room so he can scoop sand so he pushes things in the table out of his way into the other child's container. Without missing a beat, the child who created the tube shovel, moves his container to accommodate the other child's need for more space.
As far as blocks in the sand table are concerned, I am left with the questions: Why didn't the children build with the blocks in the sand table? Were there too few blocks? Could the provocation be set up differently to encourage more building? Should I even try providing blocks at the sensory table again? Why were the other provisions more attractive or more suited for play and exploration in the sand table? What was it about the tube rings that was so appealing? TBD