A few weeks back my group and I visted a park on the South Island... where we always have great fun... It just so happened that on this occasion another educator (another preschool, that incidently prides itself on having a RE approach) told one of "my" children to "STOP, not ride there" in a commanding voice... I was there and could see the whole thing... so I asked "why should she stop"
"Because she might fall"
The whole situation irritated me a little on several levels... firstly the educator shouted out stop as the child went by, without seeing how the child had been managing previously, the teacher obviously didn't either take the time to risk assess... the child was at the most balancing on the scooter on a quite narrow raised pathway, which was at most30 cm above the ground... grass on one side and protective soft surface on the other... there was little risk of a real injury, and mostly because the child was expected to stop without any reason been given... just an order... how are children expected to learn if adults are simply telling them what to do without letting them know...
sure if it's a real emergency shouting out an instruction can be important.. but afterwards a follow up as to why is equally essential so that the child gains the chance to understand why the situation was dangerous.
It got me thinking about how often adults expect children just to follow instructions... for their own good (or quite often for the good/ease of the adult) rather than trusting the children...
Of course this can be because, as John Holt wrote, because we were never trusted ourselves... BUT that does not mean it is impossible, it just means as an adult we have to think about it all the time... be conscious of what we are saying and how we are saying it... so that the children can learn about the world and understand how the world works and not just follow instructions... following instructions means you are forever dependant on someone giving instructions.
For me, the aim is to allow the children to be capabe, to be empowered and to understand the world... this means allowing them to make their own mistakes to learn from... but it also requires I keep them safe while they are doing this...
The children are also informed of the risk of going up, that they need to be aware of others around them... especially those coming in and out of the door...
It was interesting watching the teachers and school children who were there at the same time who had less control over their own risk assessing, as the teachers was keeping tabs on how long each turn was, how they pushed, how close they got etc etc... I felt a little concerned what those educators might think of me - but the children learned themselves that the carousel was lower at one side than the other and therefore easier to get on then (the school teachers told their children that)... that my preschoolers took turns with each other... knowing that if one child had a long turn then they too would get a long turn and that they could have fun in between pushing and haging onto the seats . They also learned that if they were not fast enough they got bumped by a swing and that falling flat to the ground was a good idea and crawling out... (the school children were not allowed to push... the teachers did that). My preschoolers have yellow vests on them!!!
of course as the child gets more practiced and the other children are more aware, it can become a game of a human bridge to go under... but ALL the children need to be aware that this is the game they are playing... They need to listen to each other.
Using knives is an important way to learn about the world... learning about where fingers should be, to hold the knife on the handle not the blade (you would be surprised to read that 3 children I need to remind to keep their hand on the handle, as their hands slipped onto the blade in the hope of having more force ). The children surrounding the carrot cutting child also need to have an awareness and a respect so that no fingers get cut.
I will also lend my camera to the children to take photographs... teaching them how to hold it... letting them feel it first while it is still around my neck, so that they are prepared... informing them why it is around their neck (and my neck too) - and getting the chance to take photographs with a viewfinder... not just with a moble phone where you see the whole image easily on the screen.
So how are you helping children learn about the world?
How much time and space do you give the children to explore and make their own mistakes?
How often do your children get to make their own risk assessments?
And do you explain everytime your decisions... so that the children have the opportunity to learn?