Sunday, July 24, 2011

Throwing Rocks

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.

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amy @ kids in the studio said...

You need some water! My kids can't resist throwing rocks into the ocean at the beach. My only rule is, "Don't throw rocks near people." So when the beach starts to get a little busier, the rock throwing often has to stop. The splash is so irresistible.

Linda said...

Kids just love throwing something and rocks are so accessible.

This article about playgrounds being too safe will interest you I think:

rachelle | tinkerlab said...

My 3 year old loves throwing rocks! Gever Tulley is brilliant, and I was lucky enough to get an early peek at his new school in San Francisco. When my daughters are older it might be worth the commute to have them go there! The idea of going through the 50 things with your kids is inspiring and I love how your kids have rejected those they've tried thus far as "not dangerous." I need to get my hands on that book!!

Christine Natale said...

Of course throwing rocks is not dangerous when directed safely and when the children are balanced and cooperative. But there are children who will throw rocks, sand, sticks etc. at other children and they can be dangerous and hard to stop. There is a quantum difference between the occasional (and to be expected) accident and the reality of aggression. Unfortunately, many parents who have a child who is overly aggressive believe that the damage is accidental while other parents are too severe with a child who has caused an accident.

Christine Natale said...

That being noted, in Waldorf Kindergarten we are all in favor of using sharp knives to cut up fruits and vegetables, using real hammers and saws to work with wood, using candles at mealtime and story time, climbing trees and "mountains", digging and getting "dirty", balancing, jumping and lots of other fun stuff. : )

Grace said...

This is a great idea. I have an almost 2-year-old who loves to throw dirt, rocks, toys, etc. because he's excited about playing with them, not to be mean, but it's been hard teaching him not to throw at people. Making a target sounds like a great way to channel that throwing desire.