Getting into the Flow: An Absorbing Invitation

by | Nov 27, 2023 | Invitations

It took just three ingredients to inspire this absorbing invitation inside the classroom – nature, man, and children’s curiosity.

It was one of those warm spring days when winter snow no longer had power to hold its shape and form. The snowbank that had been created with shovels over the winter to enable clear passage into the kindergarten doorway was shrinking. With care, Mr. G. began dispersing the lump of remaining snow and snow melt by shovelling the slurry mixture onto the pavement in a singular direction. The result? A ‘river’! The melting snow meandered along the pavement like a snake feeling for dips and curves beneath its belly. At first only one child noticed and stood back mesmerized by the contrast and movement of snow and water along the asphalt. Soon it was eight youngsters who watched the transformation, predicting their best guesses of where the river would move next through the standing and crouching positions they made along the wet and dry pavement. Their voices sometimes silent in anticipation, and sometimes filled with high-pitched squeals of excitement continually drew other children into their experience.

I watched their utter fascination and joy. They seemed drawn in by how water moved. Sometimes the ‘river’ flowed. Sometimes the ‘river’ stopped and pooled into a small lake. Some children dropped chunks of snowy ice to the ‘lake’. The colour of these ice flows turned from white to brown to opaque. The children showed such curiosity with each transformation.

I wondered how to bring their curiosity about water flow indoors. What would slow down the flow of water and make it more visible for the children to study?

It was then I thought about creating an invitation using:

  • Similarly sized strips of absorbent material (paper towel) and non-absorbent material (thin white foam)
  • Small cups of water, eye droppers and small spray bottles for dispensing and controlling the amount of water children used.
  • Differently coloured bingo daubers to enhance the visibility of where and how the water moved on different surfaces.
  • Cookie sheets beneath their explorations to catch ink seepage, larger dumps of water, and to keep their final experiments in tack so that they could observe if and how changes occurred as their paper dried.

The invitation drew them in. Children were keen to observe others while they waited for materials and space to test things out for themselves.

Children compared the water’s response to variables introduced through the materials and tools they used. Their experience and awareness about absorbent and non-absorbent materials and their impact on water flow deepened.

They revisited these experiments day after day with added nuances of intentional colour design.

Overnight the water dried on their papers leaving traces of colour that impressed us all. This then inspired the children to create in new ways!

Some children taped their colourful sheets to the window to see how shades of colour could be enhanced when the sun shone through them.  Another child imagined her colourful paper towel pieces as a gorgeous long snake. She problem-solved with tape to attach each piece  end to end  so her rainbow snake could slither AND hold  together.

The possibilities for exploring the movement of water movement are endless. We also offered the children a water table with differently sized plumbing pipes and elbows, funnels and scoops to experiment with gravity and water pressure. Construction with these loose parts was new to many of the children and they worked tirelessly to create water courses and to simply discover how to connect and work with these open-ended materials.

What offerings you would create for these children… or for the children at work or home who find complete and utter joy in jumping into rain or mud puddles?