Thursday, August 16, 2018

Building "The Danger Climber


I said, "I'm going to make something very dangerous." I was talking to a boy and girl, old friends who are together with a couple dozen other children for the last of our two week summer sessions. Two weeks is the right amount of time for "summer camp," but not really enough time to do anything more than superficial community building, so I sometimes try to jump start things a bit by initiating a "project," one of the cornerstones of building any sort of community. I placed one end of a plank of wood atop a stepping stool, saying, "This is so dangerous. Kids can't do it. Only adults can."


I've been the girl's teacher for three years. We know one another quite well. She took it as it was intended, as a kind of challenge. She disagreed with me, "I can do it." She used the plank as a ramp, balancing along it to the top of the stool. She said, "See? I can do it."


The boy, who I usually only see during summer sessions, watched his friend, then started to give it a try himself, but after two steps jumped off saying, "It is super dangerous."


The girl did it again, proclaiming it not dangerous at all. Once more her friend attempted it, but again abandoned the project. He pointed out the part that worried him, indicating the end of the plank atop the stool, "This part might slip off. That's why it's so dangerous."


The girl traipsed along the angled plank once more, gaining confidence, disagreeing, "It's not dangerous at all!" Jumping from the stool, she said, "I'm going to make it even more dangerous," which she did by positioning a 2X4 descending from the opposite side of the stool. As she made her way up the original plank, then, more carefully, down the narrower one, her friend said, "I'm going to make it more stable." He positioned a plastic crate under the opposite end of the plank. Not entirely satisfied, he pulled an old car tire from a pile and began to roll it up the hill. His friend, seeing this, decided she would get a tire as well. As he rolled his, she carried hers, saying, "Look how strong I am." Pausing to look at her, he replied, "Look how smart I am," before continuing to roll the tire uphill.


Soon they had piled the tires in a way they declared "more stable." As the girl tried things out, the boy then began adding obstacles of various kinds to the course, declaring that you lose points if you knock this or that one off. They added another plank and more "rules" to their construction and the project was fully on as I backed away, my work done. It wasn't long before they were joined by others who wanted to play with and on what they were calling "The Danger Climber," a community building project for the morning.


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