In the Orange Room, the teachers have been documenting the risky play that takes place, particularly on the playground. Risky play opportunities allow children to explore what they are comfortable doing, try new things and push their capabilities in ways that offer risk without danger as a teacher guides and supports the play.
One part of our playground that the children explore over and over is a bench with two ramps. One ramp is flat, but thin (so it bounces) and is narrow at one end. The other has a curved bottom so it is a little unpredictable as it may wobble as the children walk on it. The children have been working on going up and down the ramps, choosing to crawl or walk, alone or holding a hand if desired.
As the children have become more comfortable and coordinated, they have changed the way they explore this area. Some run or bounce up and down the ramps and there have been a few times when someone has pushed a wagon or lawnmower up and down.
Recently, the children began trying to take bikes and wagons up and down the ramps with a lot of supervision from a nearby teacher. They had to work very hard to figure out how to get the heavy bikes up the narrow end of the ramp. Could they ride it? Did they have to lift it? Could they do it alone or did they need help? And what would they do when they got to the top?
One student tried taking both wagons and bikes up and down the ramps and was most determined to get up one ramp, across the bench and back down the other ramp. With a teacher nearby, he figured out that he could not get the bike across the bench or onto the other ramp and settled into working with a wagon. However, with the wagon he could complete the circuit. After going around a couple of times, he helped others get up the ramp and then left the area.
Another student wanted to get a red bike up the ramp very badly. He didn’t seem comfortable trying to ride it up, so worked from the side to lift it. He had a hard time as the front wheel kept turning and steered the bike off the side of the ramp. He asked for help and other children and teachers helped him at different times. He worked so hard and got a little frustrated when things didn’t work as he wanted, but persisted in his efforts.
A third student figured out that he could ride a bike up if he lifted it by the handlebars to get over the narrow part of the ramp. He tried to ride on top of the bench, but quickly figured out that it wouldn’t work. After a few trials, he settled on a routine: ride the bike up, climb off, and push the bike over the edge of the bench to make it land on the ground. This took a lot of strength and coordination, but he mastered it.
It was amazing to see this group of children work at a task that they set for themselves. The bikes are very heavy and I’m sure that it felt precarious to try to get them up on the ramps and benches. Each child found ways to accomplish what they wanted in ways that felt safe to them, ways that were unique to each child.
Reflection by Andrea Tallacksen and Abby DeLong, Orange Room Co-teachers