Saturday, June 18, 2011

Spear Throwing!

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.

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Anonymous said...

Spear throwing sounds like fun! I don't know if coordination is up to it, but throwing 'at' a wall or floor of balloons to pop them as the target sounds like fun too.

Juliet Robertson said...

Somewhere I read that throwing spears and other objects is central to humans' cognitive development. Not that we needed this as a reason to throw a few spears. Bows and arrows are fun too. All work well if children have the chance to make their own! Great for introducing whittling!

Males in Early Childhood said...

We'll have to keep an eye out for the Woodland Park Olympics Team in a few years. Then again, that sort of competitiveness isn't for them. I can see potential coaches in the making though. Not just for javelin either, but for all sorts of 'events' such as shot put, archery, woodchopping, boomerang, etc. It could also lead to discussions about culture & history.

I'm sure Tom will always be in the middle of the fun too! We'll be looking for more antics soon.

Greg :D

kristin @ preschool daze said...

yes! we've done this too! i love reading it here.

I Am Rachele said...

LOL! That is awesome!

Kylie said...

We recently had a similar moment at Scribbles and Squiggles. It was a fantastic experience and lead to the creation of fire sticks and more Swiss Family Robinson moments. Thanks for sharing.