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Smith, Stephen J. (1989). Risk and Playground. Unpublished Dissertation Edmonton: University of Alberta.



< Abstract >

The basic contention of this study is that risk can be regarded as a term of positive educational significance, depending upon the level of reflectivity we bring to bear upon playground activity. At one level, there are the risks that children experience which, if left unattended, may lead to serious injury. At a second level, we can think about the nature of our interest in the risks that children take and see ‘nsk” as a term of our pedagogical relation to children. In doing so, we can put risk at the centre of our reflections on the course of children’s playground activity. Then, at a third level of reflection, there are the measured responses we make to the riskiness of children’s activity-responses which are intended to help children yet still allow them the latitude to find things out for themselves. These levels at which we can reflect upon the riskiness of children’s playground activity show the extent to which we can be personally and practically responsive to the risks that children might take.


The divisions of the study conform to these three levels of reflection. In the first section, which includes Chapters Two and Three, the playground is defined as a place of risk and as a place where one might attend to the meaning of risk in children’s lives. The second section of the study, including Chapters Four to Six, shows how to be responsive to the risks of the playground. Key interactions with children are understood in terms of the various ways they can be challenged to take risks and our own ways of encountering the risks of the playground with them. The third section of the study, including Chapters Seven to Ten, serves to put the descriptions of risky playground situations into an educational framework. The interactions that have been considered so far are now described in terms of being in practice with children on playgrounds and seeing the practical consequences of what one does with children on playgrounds. In particular, the practical consequences of this pedagogy of risk are discussed in terms that make sense of the more physical dimensions of the school curriculum.