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Honoring Ancestors

Sarah Chaffee, October 26, 2017

Forest Preschool

The theme for Forest Preschool this week was "ancestors". The preschoolers listened to stories about instructors’ relatives, sang a song about grandparents, discussed how to ask the elders in their lives questions and learned ways to honor them.

The preschoolers' leaf and charcoal artwork.

During Opening Circle on Monday, Sean passed around the mystery bag. The preschoolers took their time, feeling the outside of the bag and listening to the sounds the object made when the bag was shaken for any clues about its identity. The contents were taken out and the preschoolers were surprised to see it was dried goldenrod, which Sean explained is at the stage where it sheds its seeds and also acts as good tinder for a fire. Afterwards Melissa introduced the term “ancestor” to the children and taught them a song about grandmothers and grandfathers.

Sean and two children playing a running game in the Horse Arena.

In Trillium Camp, Melissa told an incredible story about her Lithuanian grandmother and her encounter with a Russian soldier. The preschoolers listened intently while eating their snack and then had a conversation about their own grandparents and shared stories about them with the group. After snack the children separated themselves into the activity of their choice, continuing to build the shelter with Sean, an art project with Melissa or collecting firewood and harvesting nettles with Sarah. They gathered back together for lunch and enjoyed some delicious nettle and honey tea and even shared some with their parents!

The preschoolers' ancestor plate with their food offerings.

On Tuesday Forest Preschool continued with their theme of ancestors, listening and sharing stories about grandparents and great grandparents and learning about ways in which they can honor them. During snack time on Wednesday, Sarah introduced the idea of an “ancestor plate.” She talked about how different cultures celebrate their ancestors and how, while there are various ways to do so, one of the most common and shared way to honor loved ones is with food. A wooden board, serving as a plate, was passed around and each preschooler was given the choice to put a small piece of their snack on it. The plate was put in the children's’ fairy village and left alone while they went to the Horse Arena for activities.

A preschooler collecting rocks from the creek.

In the Horse Arena the preschoolers had the options to listen to stories told by Melissa in the tepee, play a running game with Sean or build fairy houses with Sarah. The children loved Melissa’s story about her grandmother so much, they asked her to tell it to them again. Sean brought out a long scarf and used it to pretend he was a dragon. The preschoolers chased him around the field, trying to catch him and laughing the whole time. Sarah and a few others worked on building a roof for one of the fairy houses. At the end of the day, the preschoolers gathered for a special Closing Circle. This was Sean’s last week with Forest Preschool and the children and instructors shared gratitude they had for him. The preschoolers thanked him for teaching them archery, building the new shelter and telling them stories.

Melissa and a group of children going on a creek wander.

On Thursday the preschoolers were bundled up for a chilly but beautiful day at 4-H Acres. They completed their daily Weather Check and had some snack while listening to Jeremiah tell a story about his family from Scotland. Afterwards they had the choices to gather leaves for the roof of the shelter with Jeremiah, collect firewood with Angie or go on a creek wander with Melissa.

Jeremiah and the preschoolers putting leaves on the roof of the shelter.

The children working on the shelter raked leaves onto a tarp and together carried it to the shelter, where they poured the fallen leaves and spread them evenly over the roof. Angie and several preschoolers ventured up to the Horse Arena where they gathered whispies, pencil and marker sticks and then worked together to make a fire for lunch. Melissa and her group went on an epic adventure down the creek and came back with some exciting treasures- a beautiful wooden bowl, a dead snake and a colored stone. They came back together for lunch and a Closing Circle filled with song and gratitude.

A preschooler looking up a tall tree.


This Thursday Homeschool enjoyed a day back with their guilds. Before they continued working on their projects, they gathered for their Opening Circle and sang a song led by Elias. Afterwards two homeschoolers shared with the group fishing poles that had a personal significance to each of them. They both talked about how being able to fish means being able to provide for themselves and they honor it as an important skill to have. When everyone separated into their guilds, the boys who shared the fishing poles went with Justin and Monica for the “Day in the Life” Guild, where they traveled by van to a river and fished.

A homeschooler decorating a rocket stove with broken pottery.

The Construction Guild was joined by the Cooking Guild, and Elisha, a guest instructor. Together they joined forces to build two rocket stoves! They used the cob they made two weeks ago and formed it into two separate bases to support the stoves. Then they took PVC pipes and formed them into the shape of an “L.” The homeschoolers shaped the cob around the pipes, making what looked like a very large boot. Afterwards they put colorful pottery into a bag and took turns smashing it. They used the pieces to decorate the stove and enjoyed making creative designs on the stoves. When the cob is dry, the PVC pipes will be carefully removed from the rocket stoves.

A homeschooler showing a figurine she made with the remaining cob.

The Pottery Guild set up their base camp and began working on their clay. For the past two guild weeks they have been working their clay into the perfect consistency to make pottery. On Thursday they bundled their clay into balls and wrapped them in fabric, hanging them to dry in the Pole Barn. Later in the day they gathered wood and made a fire to warm up on the chilly fall day. Sean showed the group his latest discovery- popcorn made from jumpseed. They spent the rest of the day telling stories and playing games with the other guilds

The Pottery Guild's drying clay.

In the afternoon, the Construction, Cooking and Pottery Guilds gathered together to play some epic running games. The first one was Forest Fire. Each homeschooler thought of an animal and when a characteristic of that animal was called, they had to run to the other side without getting tagged.

Meaghan and the homeschoolers playing Forest Fire.

Afterwards the homeschoolers decided to play Coyotes and Deer. For this game half of the homeschoolers were deer, who would hid themselves near Trillium Camp. Some decided to camouflage themselves amongst the surrounding trees and fallen leaves while others hid underneath the bridge and behind the pavilion, ready to run at any moment. The remaining homeschoolers were the coyotes. They gathered in the Log Circle and talked about different strategies while the deer hid. The coyotes discussed diversions and ambushes, stalking methods and where they hypothesized the deer were hiding. For the first round of the game they agreed to travel as a pack. The game began with a loud coyote howl.

Two coyotes chasing after a speedy deer.

This was a game of endurance and strategy. The coyotes moved together in their pack, searching for deer, and chasing them when discovered. Many of the deer hid behind trees near the path and watched as coyotes ran by without seeing them. One very fast deer avoided capture for the majority of the game by running up and down the banks of the creek, leaping over logs and ducking under the bridge. He was chased by four or five hungry coyotes, who eventually caught him near the end of the game when one stuck their hand out on the bridge as he ran by and tagged him.

A deer hiding on the other side of the creek.

They played three rounds of the game, with the final one being homeschoolers, as deer, versus instructors, as coyotes. The coyotes gathered once again to plan while the deer hid and the game started with a resounding howl. There were many more deer than coyotes and they used that to their advantage, most of them opting to hide across the creek where they could see the coyotes’ advances. The game came to a climatic end when Sean tagged an especially speedy deer after a long and exciting chase.

Sean having a laugh between rounds of Coyotes and Deer.

The homeschoolers gathered together for their Closing Circle and shared some highlights from the game. They were also joined by the “Day in the Life” Guild who told stories about their day near a river, which they spent fishing and exploring. Their voices joined together for a song and they left to gather their backpacks and head home, but not before doing something very special for one of their instructors.

Elias and homeschoolers listening to stories from the day.

This was Sean’s last week with the Primitive Pursuits. The homeschoolers made a large circle and each shared gratitude they had for Sean and thanked him for all he had taught them. One homeschooler said that “there are too many things to say in one lifetime” and another said that they’re the person they are today because of Sean. The gratitude circle ended with a giant group hug for Sean, who will be greatly missed by all. We hope to be seeing him back as a guest instructor and to lead special workshops.

A group hug for Sean.

Thank you for reading! We're excited to welcome colder weather and see where next week's adventures take us.

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Need a trail guide?

We’re happy to help you navigate. Give us a call at the office (607) 272-2292 ext. 195 or use the link below

Get In Touch

Don't miss a beat, add yourself to our list to get all the latest details.