Is it time that we all “walked like a penguin?”

There is something about ice that makes me want to warn children to “be careful.” I have often been a proponent of keeping students in at recess time when it’s too slippery and sectioning off parts of the playground to decrease access to slippery sections. Then last week, I had an experience that made me see things differently.

After a combination of freezing rain, regular rain, and snow, our playground became very slippery. I joked that it was “National Walk Like A Penguin Day,” as waddling seemed to be the only way to move around without falling down. My teaching partner, Paula, has helped teach me about the benefits of outdoor learning, so even though Paula was away sick, I was still determined to head outside. Due to the icy conditions though, I decided not to take the students to the forest, and instead, have them play between the outdoor classroom and a small section of the junior playground.

This playground section includes a large, steep hill. There was a pylon at the top of the hill though, so I told students that they could go to the pylon. This was a great plan until the pylon started sliding further down the hill. Each time it moved down, so did the students. I initially called the children back up, saying it was too slippery, but then I decided to stand back, listen, and watch. Some amazing things happened.

  • Children that usually “give up” inside were persevering outside as they determined ways to get up the hill. There was such great problem solving as students crawled, found less slippery sections to climb, and used sticks to support themselves as they walked up the hill. 
  • Children screamed in delight as they made it up the hill and rushed back down to try again. 
  • Children supported each other in getting up the hill. Amazing teamwork happened here, and without the suggestion from an adult to “help your friends.”

Students were so proud of themselves for making it up the hill. They couldn’t wait to try again the next day, and even got some children from the other Kindergarten class involved in the fun.

Dean Shareski often speaks and writes about the importance of “joy” in education. This was truly a joyful learning experience. It was also one that I almost stopped from happening … and have stopped numerous times in the past. I think about my “one word” — perspective — and how I just needed to change my perspective to view sliding differently. Maybe we all need a different perspective every once in a while. What do you think?


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