- Don’t climb up the slide.
- Be careful.
- That’s too high.
- It’s not safe under there.
- Just one student at a time.
- Oh no! That’s not for climbing!
- You might hit someone.
- Remember, you might get hurt!
These are just some of the words that I utter and have heard uttered on numerous occasions either on the playground, in the classroom, or both. Every time that I say or hear these words though, I can’t help but think back to one of my favourite blog posts by Kristi Keery-Bishop. There’s something to be said about learning how to take risks, fall safely, and get back up again.
I remember now a conversation that I once had with a parent. We spoke about how her son is sometimes reluctant to take risks, and the impact that this has on his academic performance. We spoke about ways to change this. What did she do? She took him to the playground and had him try out the monkey bars. He always said that they were “too hard,” so she supported him in taking some risks, trying them out, falling, and trying again. And you know what? He went from not being able to hold onto the first monkey bar, to making it across multiple ones. Yes, he fell down. Yes, he wanted to give up. But this mother understood the value in risk-taking, and she encouraged him to persevere. Not only did this make a difference in his “monkey bar skills,” but also in his reading and writing skills.
On the topic of the monkey bars, I’ve also watched a student fall off of them, break her arm, and come back in a cast — making her way across the bars again. I remember asking her if she was scared. Her reply to me was, “No, Miss Dunsiger. I fell off and got hurt. I might fall again. I will be careful though. I can’t give up!” This is not only true on playground equipment. It’s true in life.
I’m not suggesting that students do double backflips off the playground equipment (if that’s even possible), but there is value in some risk-taking. As I watch my Grade 1’s celebrate a high climb or a new accomplishment on the play structure, I see that same excitement that I do when they solve a math problem, read a new word, or write more than they ever did before. If we want students to take risks academically, they also need to take risks physically and socially. Maybe that student that is reluctant to take risks in reading and writing will be inspired to do so after experiencing success taking risks in phys-ed or on the playground. Maybe we also need to encourage these other types of risk-taking more often. Maybe that student that “climbs up the slide,” will also be the one that exhibits creative problem solving and unique thinking in other areas. Learning doesn’t happen without taking risks. How do you encourage and support this risk-taking in the classroom, in the home, and on the playground? What impact do you see in doing so? I’d love to hear about your experiences!