Recently, 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.
We threw spears, we tried licking 9-volt batteries, we broke glass, set out to master the perfect somersault, and hammered nails. Most recently we threw rocks.
I pulled out the book this week as a visual reminder of the things we've already done, listing them one by one. Children shouted out, "That's not dangerous!" after each one. I've not planted that understanding, I don't think; the kids, through these experiences, are coming to recognize that dangerous is the wrong word for describing this series of lessons in rendering things safe through proper technique and foresight.
The first step, according to Tulley, is to select your rock, recommending the use of the circle you can make with your thumb and index figure as a sizing guide. This technique was rejected by all of our Woodland Park participants, judging that to be far too small. Instead, we chose rocks that filled our hands.
Next, we found an unpopulated area of the outdoor classroom and decided that we would use orange caution cones as targets. We put one right up close to us, one some ways off, and a third was already standing at a great distance from us, so we named it a target as well. There was some discussion about why taking turns was the right way to go, but ultimately decided that the only really dangerous aspect of throwing rocks was the prospect of hitting someone or breaking "glass things," so standing back and waiting our turns would be a good way to avoid that. Actually, those waiting chose to stand on the cedar rounds that line the sand pit.
As one might expect, as we threw more, our accuracy improved. No one ventured a try at the more distant targets, opting instead to stick with the cone that stood only a few feet away. This means none of the kids took the opportunity to really air it out. Maybe next time we'll ditch the targets and go for distance.