Taking Chances

I’m behind the boat, but I learned that April 23rd was National Take a Chance Day. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share something I learned about recently. A couple months ago, I received a message from a friend who said, “Check this out! I totally thought of you when I saw this.” I’m darn proud of that. If people associate my name with ideas like the following, I think I’m doing something right.

The link he shared was a video from Britain describing “risk playgrounds” being developed in neighborhoods for kids. You read that correctly. Risk playgrounds. When looked at without any explanation, you might not know what you were looking at. It looks somewhat like heaps of random junk laying around in a common area. It’s a far cry from the brightly-colored slides and swings we see in our local parks.

When taking a stroll through a risk playground, instead you’ll find stacks of two-by-fours, crates, loose bricks, tires, mud pits, stumps, and workbenches with real saws, nails, and hammers. The idea is to find ways to increase risk which in turn will increase resilience, develop creativity and problem-solving, and engage the mind as well as the body. Schools are even implementing risk playgrounds for students in their early years program. The manager of one such program said, “We have fires, we use knives, saws, different tools…” and she adds, “They normally only cut themselves once.”

Here’s an article discussing risk playgrounds in Britain:
In Britain’s Playgrounds, ‘Bringing in Risk’ to Build Resilience

Reading isn’t your thing? Check out this video instead:
Why safe playgrounds aren’t great for kids

The goal is not to put anyone in danger or to see anyone get hurt. Every aspect of the playgrounds are carefully designed, and in the early years program, students are constantly supervised. The argument is that by exposing kids to risky situations, authentic, meaningful learning can take place. If you’re careless and end up cutting yourself, you’re likely going to be more careful next time. If you touch the bush and realize it’s prickly, you’re likely not going to touch it again. As the article states, “This view is tinged with nostalgia … in which children were tougher and more self-reliant.”

We’ve come to live in a state of fear, trying to protect our kids and our students from dangers and other risks that exist around them. But how much are we actually protecting them? Is it possible that this over-protection is actually harming them in other ways? I think so.

I’m not suggesting we tear down our playgrounds and throw a bunch of scraps and tools down in their place and call it a day. This is just one radical example of a community taking a chance on something and providing their kids an opportunity to do the same thing … take chances.

Authors AJ Juliani and John Spencer challenge teachers to ask themselves the following question: “What am I doing for my students that they could be doing for themselves?” I find myself facing this thought a lot, and I would argue it is a question parents should ask, as well. There are many reasons that make this a difficult concept to confront. It’s tough to hand over control. It may feel less efficient. It might not be done as well. It may be done differently than how you had intended. I can guarantee, however, that whatever the task, it will be far more meaningful for your child or your student if the responsibility is put in their hands.

Those are my brief words of wisdom for today. What chances are you taking? What chances are you encouraging your kids or students to take? No chance is a waste. Learning comes from experience and failure…from taking chances. See it? Take it.


2 thoughts on “Taking Chances

  1. Maggie Schoenfeld says:

    An example from this morning:
    I attended a bike clinic at a friends home with 20 other women who all came to learn how to change a bike tire. It was a long morning. A few of us succeeded. And we learned from our mistakes. I am sad to say that the vast majority hung around the perimeter of the group. Some laughed at the notion of trying. Several said they would pass off the job to the first man who came along. Or they told stories about a flat tire they had once and along came a man who just did it for them. To help, right? No problem, right?
    Errrrr….It gets you back on the road, but then you don’t really know how to change a tire, do you?

    I left thinking, one does not learn by watching others. One learns by not being afraid to try something and even fail.


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