Reggio-inspired classrooms are often resplendent with open ended materials, inspiration from the natural world and thoughtfully offered provocations. These are some of the reasons they are so well loved, and yet these environments can at times feel daunting when considering one's own context. By contrast, mud is a plentiful, free and rich natural material available to almost anyone. In the case of mud, we have the soil under our feet and the rain above our heads and suddenly a sensory rich experience awaits the children who dare to get messy. The beauty is around us, on a walk outside with the children when the snow melts or after a good rain. What happens next is up to the children and the teachers as they experience this abundant and rewarding material.
Read these two pieces from the Nature Action Children's Collaborative about two groups of children in different parts of the world (Nepal and Australia), with very different contexts, playing and expressing themselves with the language of mud.
The children in Nepal live in an orphanage, and face physical challenges. They did not have extra clothes and were given new "game clothes" to wear for their mud play. One can understand why they may have hesitated before they plunged into the muck! Still, they dared and were delighted. The children at Bold Park in Australia heard about their playing with mud, but also about how the children in Nepal had no extra clothes for this kind of messy fun. This became the inspiration for Bold Park's own Mud Day celebration, both as a way for the children to raise money to help the children from Nepal and as a way for the Bold Park children to experience the joy and wonder of mud themselves. And though these two groups of children come from different backgrounds, one group from an orphanage, the other group privileged and raising money to help the they had the same kinds of reactions to the mud; nervous trepidation, followed by cautious exploration and then fully immersive and messy play!
As disconnected as we often feel with some having so much, and many more having so very little, there is beauty, too, in the idea of children all over the world playing in the mud on the same day, all connected to the earth together. With many of the children at first hesitating when they go near the mud, it also reminds us of how cultivating each and every child's relationship with the natural world is important as our lives take us farther away from nature. What kinds of play would the children at our schools in Minnesota envision if we invited them to a Mud Day? What have the children in our environments done with dirt and mud? And what could we do to help them envision and create a fantastically messy mud playground of their own?