I've recently had my eyes opened to the terrific blog Sand And Water Tables by a veteran teacher from Minnesota who goes by the apt moniker Tomsensori. There's a lot more to explore over there, but the first thing I knew we must try at Woodland Park is the idea of carving up the sensory table with dividers. In Tom's case, he used one of our own favorite low-cost standbys, cardboard and duct tape, but since we'd been horsing around with our plywood play planks, I thought they'd be a perfect (and easier) alternative.
We tried them out first with the Pre-3 class in a table of coffee beans, although as you can see in the pictures I underestimated the kids' average height a bit, leaving them with wall they could easily see over. Not a big issue, really, but I'd been hoping to give the kids their own "private" work spaces with windows through which to interact with their friends. This miscalculation lead to a lot of exploration around the concepts of "over" and "on" as opposed to "through."
Even though I'd failed to create the exact environment I was shooting for, we still found it nice to have our own work spaces in which to experiment with the coffee beans in relative peace.
And there was still quite a bit of play involving the little windows.
For the 3-5 class, we augmented the walls with a few more boards, giving the various sections a more enclosed feeling.
There was still some "over" and "on" play, but the windows became much more of a focal point of the play.
The older kids also seemed to enjoy having their own sections in which to play.
Especially popular was this cramped little triangle area, which seemed to be hosting someone at all times, and even 2 or 3, often with the objective of "filling" the area.
At one point Connor explained to me how he'd made a waterfall by filling the small section, banking it up against a corner where the beans spilled out and into another section through a small gap between the boards. He was then collecting the beans with his shovel and returning them to the top of the waterfall. Several other kids wound up being pulled into his game.
We had coffee factories, construction sites and all kinds of over, under, through, and around play going on in there, not to mention the opportunity for more quiet, meditative moments than our sensory table normally provides. And there's a lot more to explore here, both in terms of the use of dividers and materials, as well as over on Tom's blog. What a great new window into the world of sensory play.