A Community Standards Agreement or Social Contract is one way to establish a solid foundation for managing risk together in outdoor play programs. This is a process where an educator facilitates a discussion and co-creates with children the guidelines and agreements for staying safe and kind with each other.
Some educators may have the children create something tangible as they discuss. One educator uses a large piece of canvas and draws a trail through the forest. On one side of the trail we see all the suggestions children have offered for all the things they want to do: “Climb trees! Build a shelter!” And on the other side of the trail drawing we read their suggestions for how we’ll stay safe together: “Check in with an adult before you climb. Sticks need space! Come to the howl!”
Children are often eager to help create the guidelines. They often feel trusted and engaged when they are asked to contribute. The process can strengthen relationships among children, and between the educators and the group. It also offers a reference point when we need to return to talking about safety. It’s helpful to display the community agreement on program days where it can be read and added to as new guidelines emerge. Rebecca Seiling from Kitchener Forest School shares how she leads Community Agreements with children in her outdoor play program.
Reflective Sharing Prompt: Consider the children you play with on the land, what would you want included in your community agreement? What would you need to facilitate this process with children?