Risk-taking Is Essential for Children's Well-being Says International Alliance
International School Grounds Alliance
5 September 2017
Photo courtesy of International School Grounds Alliance
College of Environmental Design alumnae Lisa Howard (MLA ‘96) and Sharon Danks (MLA/MCP ’00) have been actively involved in the release of a declaration by the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA), which was released in September. The declaration asserts that risk-taking in school yards is essential to the well-being of children. “School grounds should not be as safe as possible, but as safe as necessary,” the declaration states.
The ISGA is an international, non-profit organization that aims to promote healthy learning and play for children through the design of school grounds. In addition to working at Green Schoolyards America and BAY TREE DESIGN, respectively, Danks and Howard have been working pro-bono for the ISGA. Danks in one of three co-founders of the ISGA and Howard is the co-chair of the Risk Working Group of the ISGA. Danks and Howard are two of the 14 contributors to the declaration.
“As co-chair of the ISGA Risk Working Group, I can vouch that this was an international effort and that our hope is that this document will constructively contribute to discussions on beneficial risk in children and youth’s environments,” Howard said.
The declaration has been endorsed by all 54 of the ISGA Leadership Council members who represent 38 organizations from 16 countries and six continents. Using research from all around the world, the ISGA states that indiscriminate risk-minimization policy can actually be a source of harm and that those who plan and manage school environments should take the benefits of risk into account. The declaration prompts parents, school officials, legislators and insurers to devise policies that allow schools to provide activities with beneficial levels of risk.
The ISGA suggests that children must take risks in order to develop cognitive, social, physical and psychological competencies. Further, risk-taking allows children to explore aspect about themselves and their environment. As the world is filled with risks, the ISGA asserts that children must learn to recognize and respond to risk early in life.
“Exploring beneficial risks in the world allows children to develop self-confidence, resilience, independence, and sound judgment,” Howard explained. “Small accidents may happen from time to time, but when the risks are appropriate to the children's developmental levels there are more benefits than harm and large accidents are less likely to happen than in school grounds that do not provide beneficial risks. We need to believe in our children and let them explore. It is part of healthy development.”
You can read the ISGA report in full here.