Field trips and Risk Aversion

Prior to beginning our weekly trips we had believed that they would provide a great opportunity for children to learn, which they have done, but we adults have had to justify the risks that taking children out of the setting presents. Yes, we have produced risk assessments, we follow our procedures and we are well equipped for every eventuality. And we have asked ourselves if the learning opportunities justifies the risk. I believe that the risk is justified in our situation as children have grown and developed skills and knowledge over the last weeks that they could never learn in a sterile classroom environment. But I think we, the adults, must be brave enough to allow small risks, to encourage small risk so that children feel confident, capable and strong. Today our children climbed over a stile, rather than using the gate. Later we came across a very old dead tree half fallen on the grass, half way up the tree there was a broken branch. Immediately the children wanted to climb the tree but it was surrounded by brambles and nettles. There was only small space to get to climb the tree. Our teacher stood in the small clear patch and children came to her to climb the tree. Some children needed more help than others but in each case children were helped first with words before hands. We encouraged them, calling, ‘you can climb that, pull hard, plant your feet firmly, go on you can do it, well done, that’s great!’ and those that needed a hand were given the lightest of touches to enable them to climb. On reaching the small broken branch children sat for a moment to enjoy the view and allow us to photograph them too!

Brambles, nettles and calpol!

The site we visit is in a natural state, with very long grass and hidden stinging nettles. There are interesting paths to walk along, with hedgerows filled with exciting things for little hands to explore, touch, grab and pull. But the hedgerows contain brambles and nettles too.  Of course as part of our risk assessments we have taught children to identify the nettles and brambles and to distinguish these from the beautiful grasses, weeds and wild flowers, all safe to touch. But small children cannot remember to be vigilant when engaged and absorbed in play so nettle stings do happen. So we have learnt where to find the doc leaves that will cool the sting and how to use them. But what do children today feel, know or think about using leaves to cool the sting? Today, on our walk through long grass one small child trailed a hand through the long soft grass by her side when suddenly she was stung by a small clump of nettles. I quickly went to her and suggested we find a doc leaf, which I was able to do quite quickly. When I showed this to her and suggested that she let me rub it on her hand she withdrew her hand and was afraid. Of course this was quite natural having just been stung by leaves. I rubbed the leaf on my hand to demonstrate how safe it was and how it could be used. Again, she refused, this time telling me, ‘I need some calpol’

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