A Consideration of Risk

Give the photo below a moment of your mind.  What’s your gut reaction to this set up as an appropriate place for children to play? Is it safe? Dangerous? Appropriate for children? Inappropriate?  What would you need to know to say “Yes!” if your child asked you if they could play here?IMG_0299 - Version 2
As has ever been the case, we live world surrounded by inherent risk. The fact we exist for more than a moment in time is beyond all odds. And yet we do. It was not long ago that we humans began the interesting concept of betting against ourselves by purchasing insurance. Essentially, with insurance, we are betting we will hurt ourselves. So we pay money to people we don’t even know that are betting we won’t. The winner is the entity that spends the least amount of money on dealing with the results WHEN we do get hurt. Rare is the person among us that has never been injured. I am not advocating for getting hurt. In fact, quite the opposite. Here is what I AM advocating for.  I would like us to consider that one way to reduce the odds that any child gets badly injured just might be letting them experience lots of little hurts.  Sounds like an odd argument, I’ll give you that.  Here’s my argument:  A) The world is full of risk. B) Every child encounters risk daily, with or without us present. C) I want my child to be able to identify and manage the risk she encounters. D) Children learn best through real experiences and repeated practice.  E) Careful and reasoned exposure to risk allows children to practice identifying and navigating risk on their own.  F) The cost of occasional bumps and bruises returns the benefit of experience that reduces bigger bumps and bruises down the road.  This is not my idea alone.  In fact, click HERE to go to a really good article on risk from the Children at Nature Network by Ken Finch.

But there are other payoffs to allowing children to play in the type of environment pictured above.  This environment was created by children.  In the process they learned physics, group cooperation, geometry, the properties of materials like wood, construction techniques, and much more.  The picture below shows some of that learning in process.  In a world where we have become almost pathologically averse to risk, we need to reverse that trend.  Our safety depends on it.  Just an opinion.

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Cause I Can Eat Slowly

The other morning I was having breakfast with my five-year old when she said “I can’t wait for the weekend.” It was a Monday. I asked her what she especially liked about weekends. She thought things over for about half a minute while she was eating her oatmeal. Her response…”Cause on weekends I can eat lunch slowly.” I think, ultimately, that we are doing our children a disservice by over scheduling and tightly cramming their days with “time on task.” What is our ultimate goal with children? This kind of industrialized education will kill us. I agree with you my daughter…let’s eat slowly today.Ruby - Eat slowly

Papilio polyxynes – Eggs on Fennel

Fennel in mound garden 6-29-13

Fennel in mound garden 6-29-13

I’ve been watching my fennel plant for the presence of these eggs for a spell now.  I knew they would be coming.  Ruby was amazed to see the little yellow “marbles” that are the eggs of the black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).  Her comment…Awwwww.  I’ll try to photography the coming caterpillars and butterflies.  It’s all about timing though.  Here’s a picture of the plant and two of the eggs.  I don’t have a good closeup lens but I like the soft look of these.
Inside these yellow spheres cells are dividing and organizing. That will happen again when the caterpillar changes into a butterfly. And then there is the death of the butterfly, yet another change followed by organization and whatever happens next. There is always a next whatever happens next.

Papilio polyxenes - egg 6-29-13 - on fennel

Papilio polyxenes – egg 6-29-13 – on fennel


Papilio polyxenes - egg - 6-29-13

Papilio polyxenes – egg – 6-29-13

Pump In Place

A Monitor hand pump was just put in at the petal garden beds in the Bernheim Edible Garden.  One of my strongest childhood memories was a working hand pump at my grandparents home that we used to fill a limestone watering trough.  My brother and I would wad up grass to plug the drain hole and then use the pump to fill it and play in it.  So I guess you could say my first pool was hand carved from solid limestone.

In the Bernheim garden all the water will be collected and stored on site in a connected system of rain barrels, cisterns, pools, ponds and wetlands.  That water will be moved around using only gravity, human power and solar pumps.  Here’s Masha, our summer intern with the FoodWorks program, testing out the newly installed hand pump.  The pump is positioned directly over a cistern that is filled from roof runoff.  Children can have fun playing with the pump without much water loss.  When they are just playing around with the pump the water flows right back into the cistern.  In the background you can see the temporary cistern collecting water from the roof so that we can use only water collected from the site during the construction phase as well.

Masha Lafen testing our new pump.

Masha Lafen testing our new pump.