Our dialogue with rain continued this week, although it might be more accurately described as a dialogue with mud! 3 Friday’s of rain in a row has resulted in a very muddy Earthsong! During the previous two weeks, the teachers observed that children in the group actually have many different dialogues with the rain and mud at Forest Kindergarten. Some children are ready to cover themselves head to toe in the mud, others a more drawn to puddles and keeping the mud to their hands and feet, while still others prefer not to feel muddy at all. To provoke each of these groups to have a different experience with the mud this week and expand on their dialogue with the mud, Amy brought supplies for a mud kitchen to set up under one of our tarps. Then, we watched to see what would happen on this third muddy, rainy day!
Among the mud kitchen supplies were metal and wooden spoons, cake pans, and muffin tins. Spoons were immediately picked up by children and utilized for digging in the mud. They were a popular tool for all the children, no matter what dialogue the child using the spoon had with mud. Children who wanted to be covered in mud used the spoons to help them dig up more mud for bigger mud splats. Children who preferred to experience the mud less immersively could use the spoons to dig mud and fill the muffin tins and cake pans. Some began to make cakes and cupcakes, but others were content to try and fill the pans to the brim with mud. Later, when we added our used snack bowls to the mix, the children remembered how they had filled the bowls with water and began to do the same. They could then add the water to the mud in the pans and make super sloppy pies!
Chances for creative thinking and social-emotional growth also took place when using our mud kitchen. When all the spoons and pans were in use, there arose opportunities for children to think about alternative tools or ways to use them together. Children who did not have a spoon but wanted one became open to the suggestion of using a rock or a stick like a spoon. The teachers wonder if they will continue to use rocks and sticks in this way on future Forest Kindergarten days. Since there were only 3 muffin tins, children had to negotiate their use amongst themselves. When one child was using a muffin tin and another wanted to join their play and use the same muffin tin, each child had to use words to express their feelings and come to an agreement.
While the mud kitchen was a source of new interest with our mud play, children also showed their growing resilience to the rain. They discovered even more new ways to play as the rain continued. We came across some recently split fire wood and stumps, early in the day. Children were immediately drawn to these loose parts, and began balancing the split wood on the larger stumps. The rain and the slipperiness of the wood increased the challenge of this activity, and gave the children an even greater sense of achievement. They also collected saw dust in this area to take with them down to Root World, and some of it ended up in our mud kitchen cakes and pies. Children’s increased comfort in the rain suits and rain gear also seemed to result in more explorative activity all around Root World. Several children returned to the mud slide area, but several others explored slightly further away looking for new ways to play in the rain. At one point, Will began to walk away from the group and when Amy questioned where he was going he let her know he wanted a vine. Will ended up trying out several vines until he found one that was the acceptable size to bounce on, and was joined by Eden at one point, too! It was enjoyable to see how comfortable the children had become being active in the rain and feeling comfortable moving further away from the cover of the tarps.
On our way back to Ayeli, we had our most obvious display of comfortable dialogue with the rain and mud. The accumulating rain from the past three weeks had created giant puddles in the parking lot area. Even after spending the entire morning in the rain, the children wanted to spend time splashing through these puddles. The wide-open, flat space created room for children to run and then take big jumps into the puddles. Huge splashes were made, and the children laughed and ran back through the puddles again. We got back to Ayeli later in the day than our past two rain days, very satisfied with all the physical activity we put in playing in the rain and mud on our third rain day in a row!