Last Sunday, the entire semester ran full speed from the dry docks at the waterfront to the mudflats that line the edges of Chewonki Neck. This event had to be timed perfectly because these mudflats are often hidden beneath the icy waves of Montsweag Brook, the brackish estuary that rises and falls with each tide cycle. After a packed week of school, it felt great to distract ourselves with something so out of the ordinary: getting covered from head to toe in mud. Having the entire community there made it even more of a memory to keep. Aidan, age eleven, and the son of James (Team Science) and Esther (our phenomenal French teacher) joined us too. “When would you ever play in the mud with your teachers’ kids?” says Malcolm McGraw, “We were all super enthusiastic, and I loved seeing people just slide around in the mud.” We wore closed-toed shoes for protection, but even so, when I reached down for a chunk of mud to throw at my friends, I cut my hand on a Mud Whelk. I found it amusing that I knew it was a Mud Whelk that had cut me – two weeks ago we had studied salt marsh ecology and so for us this wasn’t just a pit of mud: we could identify every species around us and understood the pieces, patterns, and processes that drive the success of this ecosystem.
We played football, held races across the mud, and we were falling all over the place and laughing the whole time. We turned up the music and tackled each other and got completely covered. It seemed like a lifetime but after about twenty minutes we couldn’t stand the cold any longer. Faculty wouldn’t let us use the showers until we were completely free of mud to keep the drains from getting clogged. It was a three step process to clean up: first we had to swim from the mud to the floating dock in the estuary and dunk underwater to get the silt and clay out of our hair. Celia Hoffman describes the frigid waters as being “so cold I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.” I remember trying to climb up the ladder onto the dock only to have James yell with a smile “get back in there!” James is my advisor and everything he says is funny to me, even if he is telling me to get back into the coldest water I’ve felt in my life. After the swim, we ran to the outdoor showers which, incredibly, were even colder than the estuary. By the time I was running up the grassy hill to a hot shower I was feeling faint and I stood under the scorching hot water for over an hour as the room filled with steam. “I was still finding mud in my ears the day after,” says Alden Powers as she recounts the day, “it was a blast!” The mud rove was a total sensory overload, an incredible experience that I will never forget, and an interesting twist to an otherwise normal week.
Mahal, Inspire Charter Schools, Davis, California