On Friday, April 28, kindergarten students from North Park Elementary in Hardin County, Ky. visited Bernheim for programs with our Education Department, followed by free play at the Children’s Play Garden. This was the first real test of our new climbing tree with kindergarten students and boy did it get a workout.
Upon spying the sideways tree and our new upright climbing tree the students flocked to them. I learned that our tree, like many rock-climbing gyms, has a number of routes that range from easy to difficult. This was of course unplanned be
cause we are simply using what nature provided, but it was interesting to observe.
A teacher confided in me her surprise at which children seemed to be the most daring. One little boy with a developmental delay found his way to the very top. That was a happy surprise to the teacher. Another little girl was tentatively testing her footholds. I could almost read her mind as I watched her test her reach on different branches. A few children seemed surprised at about how the tree felt. Could it be possible that some of these children had never actually come in whole body contact with a tree before? If that’s the case this tree is important in many ways. My favorite moment was watching one little girl reclining on a horizontal branch just enjoying her day.
It was also interesting for me to observe the teachers. A few seemed more comfortable with the experience than others. It’s the same range of comfort and fear I observe in many groups of adults. Seeing children as competent explorers capable of assessing their own limits takes practice. But it’s important work if we are to nurture children comfortable with exploring their potential.