It's evidence to me that there was a "civilization" that inhabited our school before my time, most likely the one lead by the legendary Peg Schwartzman, a teacher who was heading toward retirement at about the same time I was just starting out. Our paths crossed for a couple of years when she taught at the Northwest 5's Cooperative across the street from us, where my friend Teacher Aaron now presides, and I've run into her at a number of political rallies where we find ourselves on the same side. To this day, nearly 20 years after Peg moved on from Woodland Park I still have boxes of games and puzzles she made by hand. I still break out the collection of bird's nests, animal bones, and pelts she left behind. There is a shelf of natural science materials in the storage room that once belonged to her that I've never used, but haven't been able to throw out either. I know, for instance, that there's an apparatus labeled "root farm" up there that I really should try to figure out.
But it's our sensory table that makes me think of Peg nearly every day. I can only imagine the kind of devotion she must have inspired in her parent community to have had one of them put in the dozens of hours it must have taken to build this one-of-a-kind sensory table.
In Peg's honor, I tend to fill it with natural materials like water, rice, wheat berries, beans, flax seed, dirt, and sand, but it is such a versatile table that I also use it to contain our marble run, scads of junky toys, and rubber bands. Along those lines, for the past couple days it's been home to drinking straws.
We combine them with scissors. I like the satisfying feeling of snipping through a straw and the way the short end flies up into the air when you're successful. The kids also sometimes enjoy inserting them into one another to create "super long" straws, or stringing the bits onto lengths of yarn to make necklaces. A parent one time figured out a way to make "straw chains" my bending them into circles and linking them together. And there's always the game of moving all of the straws from one side of the sensory table, then back to the other. This is a particularly fun game for the 2-year-olds who always seem impressed that they are able to pick up so many straws at once.
But it's the cutting that's most fun and there are some kids who not only master the technique, but who develop the ability to aim the short bits of their straws with alarming accuracy. Yesterday it was 3-year-old Sena who developed the technique. At first we thought it was an accident that she was "shooting" the bits of straw across the table at her friend Sarah, but soon her consistency made me suspicious. I said, "Hey, I want you to shoot some of those at me." She grinned, adjusted her body slightly and beaned me in the forehead 3 straight times before misfiring slightly and sending one over my shoulder.
I spent the rest of session trying to match her technique, just as I suspect Peg would have done.