Many teachers and parents assume that risk is a negative construct that must be avoided. However, some types of risk provide developmental benefits. Children need opportunities to take and negotiate risk. For young children, beneficial “risk is essential to becoming at home in the world” (Smith, 1998). For a child, taking beneficial risks in the natural play space will foster positive risk taking in adulthood (Waters, 2008).
Learning about all types of risks can be beneficial to a child’s growth; however experiencing all risks is not safe or acceptable. Teachers’ and parents’ duty is to assess these risks and help children negotiate beneficial risk while at the same time insuring that unacceptable risk is not experienced. For instance, it is important to learn about bear and cougar danger and take appropriate steps to insure safety of students. On Vancouver Island, this does not mean denying children access to areas where there is low probability of contact occurring. However it is not acceptable to play in an area where a known dangerous cougar or bear is present and thus there is a high probability of occurrence and similarly areas where there is a high prevalence of cougars and bears need to take special precautions (Andrachuk et al. 2014).
Possible risks that should be assessed when taking children outside include but are not limited to:
- weather risks (sunburns, cold, heat, appropriate clothing)
- environment risk (dangerous heights, bodies of water, slippery surfaces, fires)
- fauna and flora risks (dangerous animals, insects and plants)
- man-made risks (strangers, dogs, dangerous products) (Kennair, 2011)
Please be aware, this list is not a Risk Based Assessment and is not a comprehensive list. Risk Based Assessment worksheets do exist on the web however we do not recommend preforming a Risk Based Assessment without either taking a professional development course on Risk Based Assessment or having a trained professional aid you in your Risk-Based Assessment. Please refer to our professional development page for more information on courses or contact Bonnie Davison directly if you would like engage her services in performance of a Risk-Based Assessment of your program.
Andrachuk et al. (2014).Forest and Nature School in Canada: A head, heart, hands approach to outdoor learning. Forest and Nature School in Canada
Kennair, L. E. O. (2011). Children’s risky play from an evolutionary perspective: The anti-phobic effects of thrilling experiences. Evolutionary Psychology, 9(2), 257-284.
Smith, S. J. (1998). Risk and our pedagogical relation to children: On the playground and beyond. SUNY Press.
Waters, J., & Begley, S. (2007). Supporting the development of risk-taking behaviours in the early years: an exploratory study. Education 3–13, 35(4), 365-377.