FALLING OUT OF TREES
Over the last two weeks we have had two significant events at the College, both at the Secondary Campus, but issues that involve us all.
The first occurred when a student in Year Eight was swinging on the branch of a tree and fell onto soft fall ground and an exposed tree root. The branch was about three metres high. We called an ambulance and I travelled in the ambulance with him to the hospital and remained with him. Parents were contacted, he was checked thoroughly and he ended up being uninjured. The question that is obviously raised is, “what do we do on a block full of trees and opportunities for adventurous nature play?” I was discussing this with the 'ambos' as we went to hospital. They made an interesting point, “if an unexpected accident happens to one of our people, we don’t make knee-jerk decisions. If an ambo gets stuck by a syringe, we don’t ban syringes.”
It is heart-rending traveling in an ambulance with a child under your care, and the outcome could have been much worse. Here are some thoughts I want to share with you. It is my intention that next term we raise this as a topic of discussion at our Open Parent Committee next term, as I want there to be a shared sense of agreement amongst us.
The thoughts: If young people are in “cotton wool” and adults make every decision that keeps them from risk, they don’t learn how to make those decisions themselves. Research shows that children able to take reasonable risks and learn the difference between reasonable and unreasonable through experience, grow into adults that can mitigate against risk. I’d prefer them to fall out of a tree than fool around in a car. If a cubby caves in, they will learn to make a better one. I’ve spoken to our Parent Committee and they support this thinking. We will initiate activities with our Year Sevens as they come to the College to help them respect bushland and bush play as well as think reasonably about risk. I’m very interested in this becoming a community discussion. This is something just as real in our Primary bush play areas as well.
A Stranger on our Secondary Campus
At the end of lunchtime about a week ago, a student returned to the Secondary building from playing on the side of the hill and remembered he had to go back to pick up some things. He walked about 200 metres into our playing area and on his return, there was a stranger standing between him and the building. He was alarmed and didn’t feel he could run around this person to make it to safety. He ran in the opposite direction and found safety at the Parky Children’s Home, who rang the police, his parents and me. The police searched the area and our college grounds and found no-one. Mum, the student and I went back to speak at my office and supported the student, who then went home. We sent a message to every parent that day. (It was short as we can only send 160 characters). I spoke at length to the police who have agreed to do extra regular patrols around our and the Steiner school. Believing that a lack of correct information forms a vacuum that is usually filled by false information, I went to every class, explained honestly what had happened and told students that if a situation like “going quickly into the bush alone to get something” occurs, then they must not go alone. I called local schools and informed them. There have always been distinct perimeters around where students play at recess and lunchtime and supervision during those times. I, and the parents of the student involved, are proud of the action he took and his subsequent bravery.
Our CEO, Stephen Lee, made a valid point during this time, “We can’t make schools completely safe but we can work hard to consider risk”. This is a conversation that we need to continue and develop.