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Campus playground awash with mud and mayhem

Published on May 11, 2023

Campus playground awash with mud and mayhem

Fun Mud Day makes post-pandemic return

The typically orderly playground of the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) devolved into muddy chaos on May 5 for the preschool’s annual Fun Mud Day. For two hours, children splashed in puddles, crawled through mud, jumped in leaves and completed a number of messy obstacles with the support of Eastern physical education students.

“Our goal is to get kids moving around, out of their comfort zones, jumping, climbing, having fun outside,” said Katie Roberts, a sophomore physical education major who helped organize the event as part of a semester-long internship.

Despite the overcast, cool weather, participants did not hold back from the muddy playground. “It was great seeing parents out there, helping their children get through the obstacles,” said Jessica Pyrek-Bennett, a senior physical education major and co-intern alongside Roberts. “The parents are so happy and grateful we’re doing this.”

Fun Mud Day is spearheaded by physical education Professor Darren Robert, who supervised Roberts and Pyrek-Bennett through their internship. Because the CFDRC staff does not include physical education teachers, the interns led weekly physical education lessons for the preschool’s children, culminating with Fun Mud Day.

Fun Mud organizers
From left: sophomore Katie Roberts, Professor Darren Robert, CFDRC Director Niloufar Rezai and senior Jessica Pyrek-Bennett

“Kids don’t do this anymore,” said Professor Robert of the trend in children spending less time outdoors. “Children aren’t allowed to get dirty, but today they are, and everybody enjoys it. The students love it, the parents are good sports, too.

"Fun Mud Day is not a race,” he added, “but an opportunity to work together as a team to make sure we all complete the course and have fun!"

In some cases, parents end up dirtier than the children. “We’ve been looking forward to Fun Mud Day,” said Adrianne DeVivo, a muddy-kneed parent of a 4-year-old who attends the CFDRC. “This is fantastic, better than the hype! Dirty kids are exploring and learning, using all their gross motor skills, climbing and jumping.”

Fun Mud Day is a collaboration between Eastern’s Education Department and the CFDRC. “It’s important, what (Fun Mud Day) provides for children. It’s well worth sacrificing a tidy playground,” joked CFDRC Director Niloufar Rezai, adding that Robert’s students normally have the space cleaned within an hour.

“The students see what children are capable of, and (what it’s like) to push them to the next level that’s developmentally appropriate,” added Rezai. “They learn to accommodate children who are hesitant — ‘How can I still get them to engage in a meaningful way?’ — which is so critical as a teacher.”

Fun Mud Day was staffed by 15 physical education candidates and one early childhood education candidate who oversaw 79 CFDRC families through two one-hour sessions.

Written by Michael Rouleau