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Playing In Dirt

June 22, 2012 | Tag(s): Summer Zoo Camp
By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo
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Today we got into some very messy business at the zoo.  The zoo campers found that perfect combination of water and dirt, more commonly known as mud.  They started creating rivers (a great lesson on flow and watersheds, dams and flood plains.) Then I interfered and said they better remove their shoes or I would get angry calls from parents.  They loved that idea and soon everyone was in the mud squishing the wet stuff between their toes.  Some of them told me they had never been in mud with bare feet before. (I gasped!!) They were happy, I was happy and I really hope the parents and my leaders will be happy too.

Children don’t play outside anymore.  Children don’t play in nature anymore.  The days of mud pies and forts in the woods are mostly over for American children. New research  from Oregon State University suggests that because children, specifically girls, don’t play outside anymore they are suffering higher rates of allergies and autoimmune disorders.  Playing in dirt is actually healthy for girls.  I encourage girls and boys to play in the dirt, look for bugs, dig rivers and make mud pies.  I did it because I really wanted the campers to connect to nature and disconnect from indoors and technology.  Now I have proof that playing outside has health benefits.  I love seeing them outside my window playing in the mud.  I believe that a dirty camper is a happy camper.  I know parents don’t always agree with me and I apologize for the mud covered shoes and shirts.  I know my leaders wish that there was grass outside my window instead of a mud pit.  I apologize for the mud pit and will get the grass back in the fall.

I hear sounds of happy children doing the things that I was free to do.  I am so grateful that I can offer this to some of the children of New Orleans.  I wish I could offer it to everyone. 

Connecting to nature means touching it, smelling it and having it squished between their toes.  I’ll have to answer to some parents today and maybe even my leaders, but it will be worth it. 

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