Word Muse: To Risk Risk-Taking

by Tina Reeble, Education Specialist, 
Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and Nature Explore
 This week’s Word Muse is inspired by the Certified Nature Explore Classroom Creative Tykes in Evansville, Indiana.  They said, “Children experience risk-taking in our Nature Explore Classroom.” 

To risk or not to risk, that is the question. There are ever-present commentaries on the value of risk-taking for our young children, supporting their need to have opportunities to face challenges, self-assess their own situations and make appropriate decisions for themselves. Consider the opportunities that our outdoor classrooms provide for children to challenge their own abilities. When they do, children learn that with practice and persistence they grow in their abilities. This translates into power; the power to believe in themselves; the power of confidence. The power to shout from the roof tops, “I am brave! I am strong! I can make my dreams come true!”

In our Nature Explore Outdoor Classrooms, risk-taking is most often evident in the physical activity that children are engaged in. Promoting risk-taking experiences for the children in our care can seem tough at times because we want to keep them safe, protected, out of harm’s way. But we also know how important it is to give our children the support, practice and experiences they need to be able to make their own life decisions.We find that appropriate supervision is a process of stepping back, loosening up and letting go so our children can engage in challenging play that allows them to exceed their own expectations. They learn the value of connecting their brain with their body and make thoughtful decisions based on the connection of what they think they can do and what they can actually do in the real world.

Take a moment to view risk-taking in the photo above. Notice the supportive role that the teacher is taking.  Her intent is to allow the children to use their own ideas and discover answers for themselves.  The key to those answers lies in the challenge of moving very large heavy objects.  These children have learned that they have what it takes to get the job done.

As I consider the risk-taking that has taken place in my own family over the last few weeks, I am again reminded how foundational our early childhood experiences in the outdoors are.  I recall “learning to ride a bike episodes” when I was cautioning one child to slow down and be more careful, and in the same breath wishing another one would just pedal so I could quit pushing!  My teenage daughter is in the process of auditioning for various performing groups at her high school.  She has assessed the “risk” involved (What if I don’t make the team, what if I mess up, how will I feel?…) and decided that the possibility of becoming part of the team is worth the “risk.” The “risk-taking” that I engage in as an adult allows me to travel to new unfamiliar destinations, drive my car through Washington D.C, share the passion and mission of my work to audiences across the country.  I am very aware of and thankful for the early- learning  experiences that have helped me grow into an adult who can say, “ I can do this!”

So tell me, how have the children in your setting engaged in risk-taking lately?

Our next word is Peacefulness. 

Be bold, choose to be extraordinary, and I will see you next week.