During my week away from class, we'd had potting soil, pots, and artificial flowers in our sensory table, but since we had so much going on in the other parts of the classroom during my first week back, I thought we'd just leave the soil where it was, adding a few river rocks with the idea of creating a sort of quite Zen garden-like retreat for kids who needed a little break from the action.
I thought it had a kind of simple beauty to it.
Either I'd misjudged their need for an oasis or it was just a bum idea, but whatever the case the kids more or less steered clear of the sensory table, stopping by only to quickly destroy whatever pattern the adults created before moving on. The only way I found to attract the kids to the area was to use the the stones and dirt to tell stories, which was great, but not really what I had in mind.
I stuck with it until Wednesday thinking that the lack of engagement might just be one of those flukes of the preschooler hive mind, but by the end of the day it was clear that this one was exhausted. The kids removed the stones and we wheeled the sensory table outside where we provided shovels and declared we needed to get this good soil out to the garden.
This is when the action finally began. Jasper's mom Leslie took on the role of "coach," inspiring a team of girls (mostly) who scavenged pails from the sandpit, creating a kind of bucket brigade to the garden where Jody's mom Jennifer (a master gardener) directed this late fall soil augmentation.
And it didn't stop there, soon the table was on its side as a pink coated team finished the job of cleaning out the sensory table with brooms. I love nothing more as a teacher than to see children form into teams to accomplish an end. This ability to work with others, more than any other thing, is the skill most predictive of living a satisfying life.
And while they did a magnificent job, there was still a residue of soil in the table. My usual strategy is to let the kids unknowingly finish the job of cleaning the dirty table with a day of water, their swishing and splashing serving to completely wash it out. I tossed the river rocks back in for good measure.
That simple switch from dirt to water was all it took. The 2-year-olds kept our good, old sensory table company for the entire morning.
And now the sensory table is clean.