A couple days ago I posted about having received Gever Tulley's book Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) as a gift from Max, and mentioned the plan to spend our summer session giving as many of those things a go as feasible in preschool.
Since Max had, in particular, been interested in trying out the dangerous act of throwing a spear, that's where we began. We started by asking the question, What are spears used for? We knew they were used weapons and for hunting. Liam's mom Abigail, who has experience as a javelin thrower, reminded us that it is also a sport, something most of us didn't already know.
We then figured out in which direction we ought to throw our spears, deciding we ought to throw away from the other people. For this we selected the hillside that connects the lower and upper parts of the new sand pit, where no one was currently playing. We made that area "off limits" for the time being. As we talked things through, we realized that we needed to not only be concerned about what was in front of us, but also behind us. We didn't want to injure anyone when drawing back our arms to throw, a realization that came to us when we initially tried the turn-taking method of lining up one behind the other. It was decided that those waiting their turn would stand outside the sand pit and somewhat off to the side, with Teacher Tom calling out the name of whose turn it was.
Then, finally, we got to throwing.
Our spears were bamboo garden stakes, pilfered from our zip tie building set. We threw at the sandy hillside for a couple of rounds before realizing that an actual target would make things more fun. Charlie L. nominated one of our manufacturing patterns and placed it appropriately.
I'd decided to not try to teach proper spear throwing technique, thinking that they could figure out what works best through trail and error (it didn't occur to me to take advantage of Abigail's expertise until it was too late). This meant that mixed in with some pretty decent tosses, were a number of end-over-end efforts, and at least a couple throws that took off at ninety degree angles, results that proved the wisdom of our idea to await our turn while standing "behind and off to the side."
We did, however, manage to hit the target several times. Abigail has now advised us on how we can, in the future, weight the bamboo spears (perhaps by sticking a marshmallow on the end) so that they will fly better. I'm thinking that next time, I might let the kids "manufacture" their own spears by adding various types of weights at different points so they can experiment with what works best. I might even use the balloon cage fencing to create a spear throwing range.
The net result: no injuries, some notable improvement on technique and accuracy, and a good amount of fun. Max, however, opted out, choosing instead to join the kids making lemonade.