What an unexpected session! We had presentations about the transition of playground design over the past 20 years, and a very thought provoking discussion around how play is vital for development. I particularly liked “the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression” ... a few adults could learn something here.
I also found the six categories of risky play (from the University of Oslo) a helpful base for discussion back at school around perception of danger and addressing adult fears for child safety. The six categories were: speed, height, dangerous tools, dangerous elements, rough and tumble, getting lost. Who can identify these with their childhood games? Definitely me!
I practised this with my own children over dinner last night when discussing what is so brilliant about walking and cycling to school. They both cited the fun of riding down hill as akin to flying and we talked about new bike designs that could cope with stunt jumps and safe landing 😂 We also then covered the basic “risks” of walking and riding (cars and people) and how to be safe (keep a look out and ride respectfully around others). We all agreed that a drawing and colouring session of "monster" bikes would be fun - a great idea for a school competition!
The Bottom Line: exposure to things that are a bit scary build tolerance, learning and experience.
A real eye-opener for me was the presentation around stress and brain function. I wish I had written the details down from Kerry Logan's slides but the essense is this: kids who have experienced a stressful departure from the house need time to de-stress before arriving at school. (Think: "Jack, put on your shoes! Where is your water bottle?! Oh for goodness sake, put your SHORTS ON! We are late, why can't you just get ready on time? Arg!"). Arriving too soon (i.e. by zooming car) means their brains are still in fight/flight/freeze mode and are therefore closed to new information. I have seen this first hand with my son on such mornings and the penny dropped. When we make an effort to plan ahead, take the time to bike or walk, everyone arrives in a fresher state of mind. Its mind-blowingly simple and the results speak for themselves with the smiling faces and wind-tousled hair.
We also heard some rather depressing global statistics about health and activity, where Australia ranked in the bottom 25% of 42 surveyed countries and scored a D+ ... so much for the “sport-obsessed” Aussie stereotype. Definitely room for improvement.
I really enhoyed Emma Harris' feedback from North Morley's Walking School Bus project. A Walking School Bus was already on my list for Millen PS, but it was incredibly helpful to have an experienced person talk the walk and highlight issues to be mindful of. I noted that participants enjoyed the social side of the "bus", not only the exercise and opportunity for play.
A final point among so many useful tid-bits was a comment about school bag weight and design. I ask my kids whether they have rocks in their bags, they are so heavy. Realistically the answer is actually "yes, lots of rocks!" (gah!). Riding with a heavy bag is hard, so what can we do about it? We don't expect adults to ride with large bags, we have lockers and bicycle paniers ... so that's food for thought. Our purpose build school bags at Millen PS are big enough for the kindy kids to fit into - perhaps there is an option for an "Active" Bag which is smaller, made of lighter-weight material, is better fitted with waist belt, and sized to fit the child ... I will be exploring this issue for our school and see if we can create an affordable option.
Thank you to The YM Schools Team and all the speakers at the Tuesday morning session. I learned a lot and feel increadibly energised to get some projects up and running at Millen PS.