The day started off pretty normal. I was running a mobile junk and nature playground at a school, and every grade was spending a lesson in it. Over by the pop up mud kitchen, kids were commenting on the feel of the mud, the smell, the sounds. Some wondered if it was mud or dog poo. They rubbed it on their hands, added it to pots, pans, and old tins, and rolled it into balls. By lunch time we had gone though 40 litres of mud. Then it was the grade 7’s turn.
First they couldn’t believe they were allowed to play with it. Then they couldn’t believe their friends wanted to play in it. It was revolting, slimey, and some said it stank (it smelt like wet soil). And then just like that…It exploded.
It was horrible! Mud everywhere. Grade 7’s covered head to toe in sticky gooey mud. It was hanging in clumps from their hair, dripping from their faces. Their clothes became a uniformed brown. Tears washed mud from beneath their eyes. Tears of laughter. The teachers watching, couldn’t believe the scene. Their grade 7’s, the kings and queens of the primary school, running around screaming in delight throwing mud at each other, looking like 6 year olds. Gone were the mobile phones, sneaky eye make-up and pretend teen-age talk, replaced with extreme nature play. The mud fighting hung around the mud kitchen, and all those who entered knew what they were getting in for. The battle levelled traditional power structures, as the girls displayed a keen eye for precision and strategy, while the innocuous book worm attacked with stealth. This play went on for 30 minutes. It never escalated into anything else, but fun. It was reciprocal, measured, and challenging for all who participated. Not a bad activity for a grade 7 lesson. Engage in an extreme, challenging battle, needing self-control, resilience, and social connection (not a bad collection of learning dispositions)
The grade 7 teachers were pretty excited watching their ‘grown up’ students. “This is an age where there is so much pressure to grow up, yet something as simple as mud gave them an opportunity to still be kids” said one teacher.
Cant wait to see what this school does for international mud day June the 29th!