Monday, May 10, 2010

kids and risk

On NPR this morning they talked about children's natural attraction to risk taking behavior. There have been scientific studies, but anyone with eyes would be able to see kids purposely taking risks all the time. Risky behavior is the process through which children explore their limitations and their power.

I asked my 5th and 6th grade students about it. They confirmed two things. First kids like to take risks. Secondly, their risky behavior increases when they are with peers. They don't want to be seen as lacking in courage, so when they are with friends they do wilder stuff. Peers also provide an important audience. You've heard the redneck kid's last cry? "Hey watch this!"

I also asked this important question, that wasn't covered on the radio this morning. "Does being prevented from taking small risks, increase your probability of taking larger ones?" My students said yes, but that also, children who have not engaged in risky behavior have a poorly developed sense of consequences arising from the more outrageous things they might be inclined to do. In other words, the effects from minor risk taking help children to predict the effects resulting from larger ones.

Ironically, the radio report was about texting while driving, something without the oh wow! factor of more meaningful risk taking. It is sad that something offering so little fun might be the thing most likely to kill kids. In the meantime whittling with knives in school seems to be the thing that would frighten parents the most. Go figure. It seems that by sheltering kids, we may be doing them the most harm, by making them blind to the cause and effect relationships inherent in physical reality.

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop, the 4th, 5th and sixth grade students practiced carving and sharpening knives in preparation for the spring camping trip which starts tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The number of car accidents caused by inattentive cell phone users and texters around here has grown to the point where it's terrifying. Sadly, one of the problems is that kids won't admit that it could happen to them.

Mario