Mud: A Key to Resilience
“To fight for change tomorrow, we need to build resilience today.- Sheryl Sandberg
The fall of 2020 has been quite a cold and wet one. We have had weeks of rain which has made for some very good mud. Most people might dread the idea of mud, thinking about all the muddy boot tracks in the house or soggy umbrellas sitting around. Not at Aishling Forest School! We look forward to weather like this. Jaeda Dewalt puts it so eloquently as, “When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.” The rain that has been falling this fall has given way to great mud play opportunities. Why are we so excited about mud play? Playing in the dirt or mud has physical, emotional, and social benefits.
Our little learners have been busy creating mud pies, cakes, cookies, and teas. They have designed their own mud slide using a huge beautiful kettle hole feature of our heart of the woods at CEED. No matter what age the child is, what gender, what size, or personality; all have found beauty in the wondrous play of mud these past weeks. All of our forest friends have had their fair share of turns riding down the big mudslide, giggling the whole way down!
Physically, we are seeing that our learners are developing and practicing their fine and gross motor skills, increasing their awareness of the senses, and improving hand/eye coordination while they bake their “delicious” freshly made mud creations in the kitchen. Additionally, there are many studies being published about “the farm effect’, in which researchers postulate that in our overly-sterilized modern world, developing immune systems don’t encounter enough bugs to learn how to regulate properly. They believe the exposure to mud and dirt decreases the incidence of allergies and asthma when children are exposed to a variety of microbes from the soil.
As per emotional benefits, mud play encourages the development of one of our favorite emotional skills, resilience. Coping with stress in a positive way is known as resilience. Resilience is associated with longevity, lower rates of depression, and greater satisfaction with life. Over the past week, we have observed our learners coping with the cooler, wetter weather and developing their resilience. Not one child complained, they all understood that it was rainy, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t have fun. Each one of them found their own version of entertainment and fun in the mud, whether it be the mud kitchen or mud slide, or building a shelter from the storm, they enjoyed every second of jumping, sliding, slipping, crawling, squishing, and dancing in the mud.
Socially, our forest friends learned to take turns and lead or follow directions of their peers as they collaborated on their mud creations. Through mud play, the learners develop a sense of self and belonging in the world around them. Being in nature provides this opportunity for them to explore and ground themselves in a safe space amongst their peers. Playing with mud frees them from the restrictive feelings of “getting it right” or “making it perfect”, mud is mud and they have unlimited freedom to create without judgement.
Hidden amongst all these tiny little adventures, there are many beautiful lessons to be learned that will stick like mud with our learners for a lifetime.
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