Greetings, teachers, and thank you so much for considering a Let Grow project for your students! I hope this sheet will answer your questions, but if not, please feel free to email me at Lenore@LetGrow.org . Also, if you’d like to have the students or parents fill out before and after surveys so you can see the actual change in confidence and outlook, I will send you a link!
What is a Let Grow Project?
A Let Grow project simply involves K-8 students doing something they feel ready to do, but for some reason they haven’t done yet. They ask their parents’ permission and then — jump in! In the younger grades, a child might decide to walk down the street to a friend’s house, or prepare a part of dinner. Older kids could walk to school, bike to the local store for milk, “camp” in the backyard, stay home while their parents run an errand, or go the local park and play with whoever’s there. And a thousand things more!
What’s the point?
Today’s society sees childhood through the distorting lens of danger. We are encouraged to do what I call “Worst-First Thinking” — think up the WORST case scenario FIRST and proceed as if it’s likely to happen. This is a paranoid view of the world, and an ungrateful one, too. Adults in other times, and even today in other places, could only DREAM of kids as safe as ours. In fact, we live in the safest time in human history, according to Harvard’s Steven Pinker. Yet we are encouraged to act as if our kids are in constant danger. This hovering keeps them from developing the very can-do spirit we want them to see in them! There’s a reason it’s called “self-confidence,” not “adult-assisted confidence.” Kids grow when they do things on their own, and they thrive when they know that the adults they love (including teachers) believe in them.
Think back on your own childhood and chances are your PROUDEST moment was not one assisted by your mom or dad. (In fact, they might not have even KNOWN about it.) (In fact, they STILL might not!)
Why aren’t kids doing anything on their own anymore?
Blame the media — and our minds. Our minds work like Google. When we ask ourselves, “Is it safe for my child to wait at the bus stop?” up pops the most popular search result: Jaycee Dugard, the girl who was taken from her bus stop and held captive for 18 years. Because she’s at the top, our brain assumes her story is the most relevant. But actually, it’s the opposite: Her story is so RARE and horrifying that it received massive media attention. That makes it simple to retrieve. What our brains (and Google) can NOT do is retrieve info on the tens of millions of kids who go to school every day and come home safely, having gotten some time to exercise, decompress, sing to themselves, or start a leaf collection. Kids who are active are less depressed, diabetic and obese. They’re also easier to teach! We get this skewed idea that what is extremely HEALTHY (a walk) is extremely UNhealthy — even dangerous — because good news is invisible.
But couldn’t something BAD happen?
There are no guarantees in life. Our problem is that we tend to confuse “risk” (inherent in everything) with “risk-Y” (inherent in hang-gliding over the Grand Canyon). For instance, car passenger deaths are the #1 way kids die. Should parents never drive their kids anywhere? Of course not. We are able to keep the risk in perspective: It’s not GUARANTEED safe, but it’s safe enough that we get in the car.
When it comes to letting kids do anything on their own, however, our perspective is warped. We are terrified to let them walk to school, but not to drive them. BOTH activities are extremely safe. Neither of them is ALWAYS safe. But just as it makes no sense to never drive our kids anywhere, it also makes no sense to never let them walk anywhere, or go to the park.
A good way to keep perspective is to remember:
All the worrying in the world doesn’t prevent death. It prevents life.
Why is this a school project?
As teachers, you command great power and respect (even though it may not always feel that way). If you are suggesting that a little more independence is GOOD for kids, that’s the kind of authority parents need to hear before they sign on. Your stamp of approval encourages parents to loosen the reins a bit. In turn, kids who are more confident and mature are good for the classroom — kids develop self-control when they have to figure things out and fend for themselves a little bit. They pay more attention, they grow up. You reap the benefits and so do they.
How does the project work?
You announce the idea and, if you’d like, read the kids a story about the joys of doing something on their own. It can be the little story I wrote, “Times Have Changed!”, or, for older kids, my article, “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone.” Or it can be your favorite children’s book about kids who have an adventure, big or small. (Which is basically all of children’s literature.) Or you can tell the kids about something YOU did at their age.
Then explain that anyone who wants to try a Let Grow Project can, for extra credit. All they have to do is:
1 – Propose the project to you.
2 – Get it approved by their parent(s).
3 – Do it!
4 – Have students draw a picture, make a poster, do a video, or write a poem or story about what they did — if that’s what you’d like them to do. Totally up to you.
That’s it! There’s a list of project ideas below.
But first, here’s a story I wrote for the Huffington Post about a class in New York City that does a Let Grow Project (formerly called the Free-Range Kids Project) every year.
LIST OF LET GROW PROJECTS FOR STUDENTS TO DO ALONE OR WITH A FRIEND
Walk to school
Run an errand
Walk the dog
Wait at the bus stop
Ride your bike to a friend’s house
Make a fort
Explore the woods
Climb a tree
Pick up something from the store
Build something out of junk
Go get ice cream
Go get pizza
Spend some time at the library
Ride a local bus
Organize a visit to a friend’s and get yourself there
Visit a relative
Buy a surprise for your parent
Build a surprise for your parent
Play in the park
Do something with your brother or sister outside
Organize a game outside with your friends
Take the subway
Go to a museum
Mow a neighbor’s lawn
Get to an afterschool activity on your own
Pick up your sibling from an activity
Get yourself ready for school and out the door
Get the ingredients for a cake and make it
Play night tag
Bake something delicious
Make your lunch for tomorrow
Camp out in the backyard
Trick or treat
Go to a friend’s and then go together to find another friend
Add your own ideas here!