The first few groups I worked with worked very well, yes beans did end up on the floor with all the pouring and exploring, but the children understood that if they heard the pitter patter of beans on the floor then they needed to pick them up again. There were no problems - they excitedly jumped after the beans and collected the cheeky ones that tried to escape.
On offer were spoons, ladles, bowls, cups plastic plant pots, funnels and tubes - all to experiment with, and experiment they did.
Later a group of children had access to the beans on the light table without adult assistance (although they started with a teacher but she left to do something else...). I could hear in the background the rhythmic pitter patter of beans on the floor - not a few at a time but like someone was creating a rainstorm. I could hear children crying out "not on me"... the teacher returned and swept up and threw away the beans - and in those seconds of throwing them away their was another shower of beans...
So I wondered...
- these children did not learn responsibility to pick up their own beans - so it was quite easy for them to just be reckless with beans again... after all someone else fixed it for them and will do again
- the children who were asked to pick up their first few beans they dropped were then careful of how they poured etc, their experimentation was more thought through
- there obviously seems a needs for a "wilder" bean play - I need to think if that is something that can be arranged without the tidy up part hindering exploration
- new materials need to be explained - how are they to be used, what are the expectations when finishing off a session (does it need cleaning, putting away, throwing away rubbish etc etc)
- while free play to discover between children is wonderful, often a teacher does need to be there in the beginning to supply new vocabulary, new techniques, to ask questions to deepen the experience etc - and through observation the teacher will know and understand each child to be able to do this in an appropriate way.
- is a light table with a various props enough as a third teacher for the children to understand how to use it?
- what are our expectations as teachers? Are they reasonable? Who/what are the main expectations for - to help the child, for safety, for ease for the teacher? etc etc
I am quite sure more thoughts will pop into my head tonight when I am trying to fall asleep. But for the moment, these are my reflections. It will be interesting to return to this post in a week and a month - to see if I have had further reflections or have managed to offer the children a wilder variation of the bean play - and whether it is something the children need?