Outside School Hours Research Hub

Vignette 6 – The Rope

The children at Heritage Primary School OSHC love the outdoor space. There are many different loose parts and objects that the children can use in their play. The service philosophy is that OSHC is children’s leisure time and that activities should be determined by the children. Educators tend to stand back where possible and let the children take charge of their own play.

There is a large rope on the ground that children sometimes like to play with. On this day, a group of younger children started a game of Snake with the rope. Two children each took an end of the rope and started shaking and wriggling the rope to make crazy shapes. Other children in the group took turns at trying to jump over the snake without touching it. If a child touched the snake, they replaced somebody else at the end of the rope. The game became really exciting. Other children began to join in, and children started jumping the snake in groups and pairs.

Summer was concerned about one child Eden, who was watching the game closely and looked like she wanted to join in but had haemophilia and a higher risk of being injured than the other children. Summer decided the best approach was to talk to Eden about the game and whether she wanted to join in. Eden explained that she would like to join but thought the game was too dangerous.

Eden said that if she fell over when jumping the rope, she would probably cut herself on the stony ground. After assessing the risk together, Summer and Eden decided that jumping the rope was too risky but maybe being somebody who shook the rope was okay. The other children knew about Eden’s haemophilia and happily let her take one end of the rope.

After a while, a group of older children tried to take the rope and start their own game. It looked like a fight was about to begin between the two groups. Summer was watching the play and wasn’t sure how to respond at first. They engaged in some on-the-spot reflection whilst observing. Summer thought it would be unfair for the older, stronger children to take the rope from younger, smaller children and ruin the game. However, they had seen situations like this before and knew that children were often able to resolve conflicts themselves.

Summer decided to wait and see if the children resolved the situation themselves. A few minutes later, the conflict evaporated and turned into a game of tug-of-war between a large group of younger children and the much smaller group of older children. Soon children from all over the program joined in the tug-of-war and about 25 children were playing the game. By the time one team had won, the two groups were exhausted and moved onto other play experiences. The rope lay on the ground for about 10 minutes before another group of children took the rope and started tying each other to a tree.

Outcome 1: Children and young people have a strong sense of identity

My Time Our Place sees a strong identity as important for children’s wellbeing. “Feeling valued, successful and accepted enables children and young people to tackle new things, express themselves, work through differences and take calculated risks” (MTOP, p34). The rope activities described in this vignette contribute to children’s identities in multiple ways. In particular, Summer trusted and supported the children to be successful and capable. Summer trusted that the younger and older children would be able to resolve the conflict over the rope. Summer made a considered decision, observing the emerging conflict in case they needed to intervene, but firstly giving children the space to work the problem out themselves. 

When supported Eden to engage in the snake activity, Summer recognised Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, that Eden had a right to be consulted, and also that she was a capable collaborator in constructing a solution. Summer’s engagement supported Eden to experience being autonomous and capable, including them in decision-making which contributes to their growing independence. Summer’s ways of working a.  By consulting Eden and supporting her participation in the snake activity, Summer helped Eden to feel a sense of belonging the group and her OSHC community.

Outcome 2: Children and young people are connected with and contribute to their world

When children have mutually enjoyable and respectful relationships with educators and each other it helps them to develop citizenship skills and a sense of belonging to their communities. In this vignette Summer made a number of thoughtful decisions that supported children to exercise their own citizenship but also recognise the citizenship rights of others. Summer could easily have intervened when the older children sought to take the rope from the younger children. Summer instead decided to watch and give the children the opportunity to work through a potential conflict by using and developing their own decision-making skills. Standing back and observing is different from doing nothing. Summer was watchful and paid careful attention to the tensions between the two groups, aware that there may be a need to intervene.

Outcome 3: Children and young people have a strong sense of wellbeing

My Time, Our Place reminds us that “wellbeing includes good physical health, feelings of happiness, satisfaction and successful social functioning… A strong sense of wellbeing provides children and young people with confidence and optimism, which maximises their potential” (MTOP, p47).  The snake activity and the tug-of-war contributed to children’s physical wellbeing and development. In the snake activity, children had opportunities to experiment with their timing, speed and agility by finding ways to jump over the rope without touching it. The tug-of-war gave children the opportunity to use their strength, but did so in a collaborative and cooperative way. 

There can be a temptation sometimes to highlight winners in activities like snake and tug-of-war. However, activities can still be competitive without drawing attention to winners and losers. Highlighting failures can be discouraging for children who do not win. By allowing these activities to develop without adding to their competitive aspects, Summer helped to create an environment where children felt motivated and challenged to participate. Children also felt safe to experiment and take risks, which is inclusive of a range of ages, interests and abilities.

Outcome 5: Children and young people are effective communicators

“Children and young people need effective communication skills to facilitate and maintain relationships with peers and the adults in school age care settings” (MTOP, p60). In this vignette, Summer trusted the children to develop their own activities and navigate any conflicts that developed. This provided a rich environment for them to use and develop their communication skills. Giving children the space to create their own games provided them with opportunities to verbally contribute their ideas in making group decisions such as deciding upon rules for the games. It also provided opportunities for them to listen to and respect the opinions of others.  

Summer was involved differently in their communication with Eden. Consulting Eden about how she would like to be involved in the rope activity was an opportunity to model respectful forms of communication where you attend to and respect the perspectives of others. It also provided a space for Eden to experience respectful communication with an adult.  

Research project being conducted by Professor Kylie Smith and Dr Bruce Hurst from The University of Melbourne and Associate Professor Jennifer Cartmel from Griffith University

This research project aims to find out about how Outside School Hours services plan and program for gender equity. Outside School Hours services are unique and we want to understand what these changes mean and look like in practice. The research will do this by asking you to share your perspectives on the practices you employ in your service. It will also ask you about your knowledge and attitudes towards gender equity work with primary age children.