ORBs – A post about Dynamic Risk Assessment

Opportunities Risks Benefits

The saying goes that every cloud has a silver lining…this is a post about how to find a silver lining when an Eeek! moment happens when children are involved in play or learning outside…though it can be applied anywhere! There’s a free PDF flow chart at the end too – to help you manage risk. Feel free to share it!

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Have you ever wondered how to assess risk in play situations where so many things can happen? Imagine the situation – I am taking a year 2 school trip to the woods. I have done my risk assessment and even though I thought or loads of things, like what happens if someone picks up stick and starts using it as a light sabre…I hadn’t thought of the steep-ish path that would get muddy after all this rain! As I step onto a slightly steep path my foot goes out in-front and to the side of me and Whoops!…I land graciously on my bum in the mud!

Much laughter and hilarity from the children…and a sore bum and thigh for me.

An Eeek moment!

So what would you do?

A new risk is there, between you and the way out of the woods. What kind of a risk is it? Behavioural? Emotional? The risk is physical – falling over, twisted ankles and bruised knees, that kind of thing…maybe even a broken arm! There is also a risk that fear could sneak in and create a bit of panic! An eek moment! There is no way we can flatten the slope or remove the mud or suddenly grow special grip on our boots? What can we do? We could turn back? We have to make a decision!

Before we do, let’s  pause.. have a breath and look into the crystal ball of the moment for the ORBs…the Opportunities, Risks and Benefits.

So what are the Opportunities? It’s a muddy slope. There are loads of lovely leaves on the path with raindrops still resting on their surfaces like gems. The muddiness under the leaves is making the path slippery and would therefore be a lot of fun to go down, but in a way we can’t fall over…sliding down on our bums! The children will get to see the leaves in more detail, maybe get muddy hands. We could add hand prints to the trunks of the silvery barked beech trees alongside the path, where it flattens off…. and make tree faces out of mud.

I had thought a little about the risks..slipping, falling over..and here,  the slopey-ness and the muddiness can’t be changed. We can change the spectrum of risk from high to low by getting down low and moving along on our bums.

What are the benefits of going down the path in this way compared with going back? Some of the children are obsessed with washing hands and keeping them clean… this will be a playful way to help these used to having muddy hands. The children will see how we can manage risky situations by taking a different approach. There is the troll bridge over a rushing stream and I had planned to play in the meadow on the other side…. We all have waterproof trousers on, and so don’t need to worry about getting really muddy. Perhaps the benefits of going on outweigh the safe option of going back.

Anyway, thats what I think. What about the children? They often have very insightful thoughts about how situations can be managed in a safe way and it offers an opportunity to empower them with decision making.

“Listen in! Let’s have a quick conversation everyone.”

I tell everyone I have hurt my self a bit slipping over and that I think it is dangerous for us to go down the path. I tell everyone I would like us all to continue along the path and ask if anyone has any ideas as to how we could proceed safely?

The answers come – we could walk slowly, we could hold hands, we could find another way round, we could slide down on our bums…

I hear the murmur of excitement at the last suggestion.

“Who wants to go down the slope on our bums?” Many people do. Those that don’t are willing to try.

“To be safest, should we go down all together or one at a time?”  – we decide to go down one at time and everyone gets in a sort of orderly and excited line…

I suggest people can look at the lovely water drops in the leaves on the way down… and fun is had sliding down the slope.

We all cross the troll bridge safely to play on the other side…to eat fresh grass and do some natural musicians* activities. (*click the link to find out more!)

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Here is the PDF… feel free to use and share:

Download (PDF, 52KB)