Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Who's in my Barn?

As an administrator and parent at Wellspring, there is no shortage of days that I stay after school for meetings, check-ins, or to finish up some of the daily business. Most of the time it's quick, and my children happily play with their friends outside in the paddock, or in the field a bit beyond. Lately, though, they've been exploring beyond those boundaries. Some of this is fine and safe, but when the neighbor came by to let us know that some of the girls had been exploring in his barn, we had to find new solutions.

After school that Friday, some of the adults sat down with the oldest population of the school (1st, 2nd, 3rd graders) for a community meeting. We do this often, but generally during the school day and with the teachers. This time, we explained what the neighbor told us: "It's a big old wooden building-- certainly fun for exploring, but there are rakes hung up on nails on the wall, and all kinds of other dangers in there." He was afraid someone would get hurt.

Those who weren't in the barn that day chimed in immediately. "But it isn't our property, so we can't use it without permission," one boy said with conviction. My daughter said that it was okay because no one was home. I have to say this was somewhat alarming. I held my tongue. Another adult questioned her.

"Would it be okay if someone were to play in your garage when you weren't home?"
My daughter said yes, because she wouldn't know the difference.
"Would it be okay with you if someone was playing in your garage, or in your house, when you weren't home, and then you came home and found them there?"
She paused. "Not really," she said, seeing a new picture.
The adult followed through. "So then it wouldn't really be okay with you if people played with your things while you weren't there."
My daughter shook her head. "We won't go there again," she said quietly. "Though it really was interesting."

From there, we asked the everyone what they wanted in terms of places to be during afterschool play. The boys wanted space to run. The girls wanted private spaces away from others. The adults wanted to know that the children were safe and within view. After some deliberation, we all agreed that if no adult was outside, the children would have to stay in the fenced area abutting the school building. If an adult was outside, they could play in front of and on the side of the school, but not in the back. Everyone had some of what they wanted, even if it wasn't everything. And that felt good to everyone.

We've referenced these decisions a few times, but for the most part, things are going well with after school play.


Photo by flickr user foxypar4 under a Creative Commons license

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