Wednesday, November 05, 2014

"My Head Isn't A Pumpkin"

It was only a matter of time, of course, before children began their risk-taking experiments on the new playhouse.

It hasn't become a daily thing, but a few of the older kids, obviously not finding sufficient climbing challenges in our outdoor space, have taken to exploring the outside of the upstairs railing. So far, the adults have managed to avoid rushing in with any rules and dire warnings, but have rather stayed close and made informational statements about the falling risk as we see it:

"If you fall, it will hurt."

"That's a long way to fall."

"I'm worried that if you fall, you'll break a bone."

We've not, so far, commanded them to stop climbing, but rather, sometimes nervously, permitted them the space to do their own thinking about risk, and the truth is that there are now only a couple kids, our most competent climbers, who have persisted. One of the beauty parts of being a cooperative is that we always have an adult available to quietly spot the children who need to test themselves in this way.

These post-Halloween weeks are what I often refer to as "rotting season," as our space contains a number of jack-o-lanterns in the process of growing beards and otherwise decomposing. And, naturally, one of the most entertaining things one can do with a rotting pumpkin is to drop it from a high place. 

Last week, even before Halloween, we had one that was getting squishy fast. I was poking at it with a group that included our more avid climbers, when I put my finger right through the side. 

"Ew! You stuck your finger into its brain!"

That gave me an idea. "Hey, do you want to see what would happen to your head if you were goofing around on the top of the playhouse and fell off?" I was, of course, leading up to a big pumpkin drop, but the kids were thinking, protectively, about their own heads.

"Teacher Tom, that would hurt."

"No, I'm talking about dropping this pumpkin from up there." Thus clarified, the children were fully on board, so I carefully carried the squishy squash up the ladder, where I made a general announcement to all who played below: "If you want to see what will happen to your head if you fall off the playhouse, come over here!"

Over the years, we've dropped many things from high places to see what would happen. Both children and adults enjoy gathering around. Once they had assembled, I made a bit of a show of it, re-emphasizing that the pumpkin was a "head" and that this is what could happen to heads that fell from such a height.

The splat was spectacular, widely spattering pumpkin goo to a chorus of "Ew!" followed by a smattering of applause. I said once more, "So that's what would happen to your head if you fall."

As I climbed back down, the kids moved in for a closer look, some carrying off bits and pieces to feed the worms in our compost bin. I was feeling pretty good about the demonstration, hoping it would cause some of our biggest risk takers to, at least, engage in a little deeper thought about the risks they had been taking. I found a girl who is particularly fond of scaling the outsides of the playhouse, saying, "Pretty cool, huh?"

"Yeah, it was cool. Some of it splatted on me."

"That's what would happen to your head if you fell off."

She looked at the mess for a moment, then said, reflectively, "My head isn't a pumpkin."

Since then, we've recreated this demonstration a couple more times, both drops at the request of the very girl who, correctly, asserted that her head was not a pumpkin. And despite her head not being a pumpkin, I've not seen her, nor any of the children for that matter, attempt to scale the outside of the playhouse since the demonstration.

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1 comment:

Diane Streicher @ Diane Again said...

People who don't understand or respect the intelligence of children simply don't spend enough time with them.