PEOOTLT is Dangerous!

My students have created and continue to modify a game called PEOOTLT. Pronounced “pee-olt”, it stands for Push Each Other Off The Leaf Things.

There are these green, leaf shaped platforms that circle an oak tree and are just far enough from one another to encourage leaping from one to the other. On some of them are small walls that jut up from the middle. Some are pointy, some oddly shaped.

I’m not too sure of all the rules of the game but it involves making it across all of the platforms without getting pushed off by another participant. It’s evolved to have specific entry points and teleportation.

Since before the game’s inception, kids have gotten hurt just leaping across and landing poorly. At least twice a day someone hurts their self. The inclusion of pushing one another has not lowered the injury rate but it also hasn’t raised it.

peootlt-ben

After a particularly harmful day, it was brought up during Change-Up that PEOOTLT is dangerous and that it shouldn’t be played anymore. There was huge disagreement amongst the kids who enjoyed playing and one stated how the risk you take in playing is that you might fall or bump your knee. The student continued, stating that those who don’t want to get hurt and don’t want to play shouldn’t play but shouldn’t block those who do from being able to.

The facilitators have not participated much in the conversation with the students outside of the facilitating. It’s interesting to see them have this conversation about consenting to a game that they risk injuring themselves. Though we want to, we haven’t banned the game nor the simple leaping across. That seems like the easy way out. We’re responsible for their health and safety, sure, but they’re kids and you simply can’t eliminate the potential and actuality for injury and harm.

Someone could argue that as adults we should do the best we can to decrease the risks and certainly not allow for increase. I would argue for the student’s ability to rationalize and consent to activities that may be dangerous. I would argue for students being responsible for their bodies and having the faculty to decide for themselves whether or not it’s wise to engage in certain activities. We could argue all day.

In the end, I know PEOOTLT is dangerous and the kids know it too. Because they’re aware they’re also held responsible. To me, the lesson of autonomy and self-responsibility is far more important & valuable than what lesson might be taught when you require kids to obey a safety mandate because fear of increased risks.

3 comments

  1. Profile photo of Nariman
    Nariman says:

    Love it, Anthony! I totally agree that the lesson of self-responsibility and autonomy is far more valuable than obedience. One question, though, going forward, how would you maintain a healthy culture among the disagreeing parties? Meaning, as those who want to play continue playing and seeing it as a risky/exciting game, how do you maintain a culture that doesn’t allow for peer pressure? or for others who really don’t want to play to feel that they are engaging in “less risky” or “less hard” activities than their peers?

    • Profile photo of Abby
      Abby says:

      Just as we’ve chosen not to outright ban risky games at ALC-NYC, we also don’t try to ban peer pressure. One reason is because it’s a losing battle…My friends are pressuring me right now to come get pie instead of continuing to work. It’s part of being social beings. But it’s ok that my friends want me to come eat pie. I know ultimately that they won’t shame me for my choices, will stop if I ask them to, and feel comfortable begging because they trust (and will respect) whatever boundary I ultimately set. Sometimes their peer pressure is a really positive influence, since it motivates me to study Spanish and try new dances. Since our relationships are healthy and I’m steady in myself, their peer pressure never feels threatening to me. And this is what we want for the kids here, especially in NYC where they’re bombarded with so many other people’s agendas constantly. We model boundary-setting. We talk about what healthy relationships look and feel like. We encourage them to make choices that feel good and right for the person they are in that moment. We don’t comparing their choices to those of others aaannnnddd we offer reassurances that wherever they are in their growing right now is fine by us. Sometimes kids ask about how they measure against other kids; I usually respond that measuring against who they were yesterday will help them keep growing while measuring against others involves giving away power over their self-valuation and makes collaborating harder. Ultimately, the choice is theirs, but I always make clear that they have a choice. It seems to work…Just gotta support facilitators in staying mindful about the culture conversations+modeling create.

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