Got Dirt?

Sam PenmanTeachers

What is dirt exactly? Such a natural part of life, can be harmful - but also loads of fun. Why are we “anti”? Why is it feared so much? At worst, is it not a necessary evil?

Per Wikipedia, “Dirt is unclean matter, especially when in contact with a person's clothes, skin or possessions when they are said to become dirty. Common types of dirt include:


• dust — a general powder of organic or mineral matter

• filth — foul matter such as excrement

• grime — a black, ingrained dust such as soot

• soil — the mix of clay, sand, and humus which lies on top of bedrock”

Now just because someone isn’t grime averse, doesn’t mean they don’t maintain basic personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness. Sure, not all children or adults like to get dirty or messy, but many do – or at least start out life that way. Basically, we all know EVERYTHING goes in the mouth before the age of 2! And if you suffer from Pica, well beyond.

We all ingest quite a sum of bugs throughout our lifetime – without even knowing it. Good thing germs are invisible – otherwise we’d all be absolutely neurotic 24/7. And as far as the amount of visible critters goes, according to this article is 1-2 pounds per year!
Here is one of my favorite stories from “The Bug”. And yes folks, this is a true account of what happened. So, on a Monday morning, one of our Bubba Momma’s came in and informed us of an interesting moment from their weekend, during the usual exchange of relevant tidbits and life in general. She was outside with her little guy doing some gardening and despite best efforts to prevent things going in his mouth and warding off undesirable oral experiences, her son nicknamed “Rollie Pollie” actually ate a Pillbug! Without missing a beat, Mr. Isaac (one of our Infant teachers) exclaimed “Awwww N., you ate your spirit animal!”. Needless to say, we all cracked up!
I remember as a child growing up in Australia, it was common practice for when a child contracted a contagious disease like chicken pox or measles etc., the Moms would organize a play date and throw all the kids in the sand box together. Despite most children being vaccinated, the aim was still to expose the kids, have it pass through their system and potentially get it over and done with. Mind you, it is a country where illness is less dangerous than most of our native fauna.
This article introduces the “Hygiene Hypothesis” and presents medically/scientifically based dual perspectives, albeit a much drier read.

There have been countless studies and reports done based on the argument that an increase in allergies, asthma, more virulent disease strains and overall immunity to any type of health risk is due to more sterile environments or “over cleaning”. In my reading and research, I came across a wealth of information for and against. Like this article about "friendly filth".

IMHO, I tend to lean towards
Dr. Mary Ruebush’s point of view. Especially after a childhood love of mud pies, messy motherhood, and operating a child development center.
My Dad was an avid nature guy who regularly took my brother and I on “walkabout”. Ok, not quite, but we did bush walk and camp rugged style for weeks at a time (no amenities, mattresses, you hike in what you need etc.) for most of my upbringing. I have fond memories of getting thoroughly grubby in the Aussie bush. This self-confessed Tom Boy is a dirt fan, after all my nickname growing up was “Pigpen”!