Taking Safe Risks – Ropes, Tools, Trees and Logs

We often talk about the benefits of safe risk-taking and listening to the cues our bodies give us. A ‘big risk’ for one child might only be a ‘small risk’ to another child. Safe risk-taking supports cognitive, social and emotional development. While there are many types of risk, the biggest focus for play in our Wildspace is physical risk taking.

Much of the activity observed today engaged children in taking physical risk at a level that felt right to them.

Rope Swing – As we entered the space, the children immediately noticed a new rope hanging above the mud slide. A long queue immediately formed for turns on this new swing.

• How can we swing on this safely with so many people around?
• How can we keep ourselves and others safe?
• How long is a turn?
• What is fair?

All these questions and more had to be discussed and negotiated throughout the day.

Some children went on the swing over and over attempting new feats each time. Others watched others for a long time before having a single try. Each engaged in their own way.

“It makes me feel calm.” Student “M”

“It makes me smile.” Student “L”

Tree climbing – Tree climbing is another way children take risks with their bodies in the Wildspace. As some children work towards this goal, we hear and see their peers support them through demonstration, language and physical assistance. The shared success when a child reaches that goal is greater than if they work alone.

Trees and swings are not the only place to take physical risks. With new logs for balancing and imaginative play, there are many ways to take risk in our Wildspace.

Risk should not be confused with safety. Using tools has a level of risk to it.

Working with Real Tools – Engaging in ‘tool licences’ and requiring children to demonstrate an understanding of safety in this area is one way to increase safety, while still allowing children to engage. We have an outside construction space complete with hand tools for students ranging to electric tools as students grow in skill and capability!

Today, our Outdoor Provocation Specialist (Leslie) worked with students to learn about safety at the work benches during Wildspace time today. Our students had to demonstrate understanding of many points and demonstrate some key skills, including; working at a safe distance and in a safe manner, proper storage of tools and materials, and safe disposal of used and rusty nails. Students who have their ‘tool license” through a thorough induction into this space can work at the tool bench during Wildspace and at lunchtimes (with Leslie on hand of course)!

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“The shrewd guess, the fertile hypothesis, the courageous leap to a tentative conclusion - these are the most valuable coins of the thinker at work. But in most schools guessing is heavily penalized and is associated somehow with laziness.”

Jerome Bruner

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