This article and news video discusses the effects that the “cotton wool era” has had on our students. Student play grounds are designed to be as safe as possible to avoid student injury and school liability. Students in a New Zealand school are part of a experiment conducted by a university that says students should be able to play however they want. They say that the risks of kids not developing properly because of abnormal play out weigh the risks of kids actually getting hurt during play.
To conduct the experiment, the school simply said that recess has no rules. They have seen a decrease in bullying and behavior issues as a result. They have also seen an increase in risk taking in the classroom, and they believe this is due to students being able to take risks on the play ground.
If the results of this experiment are accurate, I don’t see why Canadian schools can’t adopt some of the same ideas. If the rate of injury hasn’t increased, and they see improvement in their school environment, maybe it is worth a shot.
I went to an elementary school for grades k-5. During that time, my parents and I saw a significant change in the playground rules. When I started elementary school, we used to go sledding on the hill behind the school at recess, we played contact games on the field and we messed around on rope nets and tire swings on the playground. By the time I was in grade 5, there were rules against almost all these activities and the “dangerous” jungle jim had been removed and replaces with safe, and quite frankly, boring playground equipment. These changes happen because one kid gets hurt, and schools do not want to be held liable if it happens again. Although I understand their fear of children getting hurt under their watch, I don’t think that it is the equipment or the games that kids play that makes it dangerous. Kids are just inherently dangerous. There is a need to explore and risk take. I believe that is just built into who kids are, and that is how they learn.
I am not schooled in elementary pedagogical theory when it comes too play and development at young ages, but this school may have a point. A recess without any rules seems extreme, but maybe there is a middle ground that can have the benefits of both ideologies. What do you think about a recess with no rules?