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Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  Albert Einstein

Primitive Projects

Sarah Chaffee, November 20, 2017

Forest Preschool

This week Forest Preschool began working on two different projects. The Monday/Wednesday group began making clay, while the Tuesday/Thursday preschoolers started tanning rabbit pelts. Both projects take time and patience and will be continued for the next few weeks.

A preschooler meeting a tree during Wednesday's "story walk."

On Monday Forest Preschool enjoyed a morning of free-play which included making magic potions, pretending the climbing logs were a large ship out at sea and bravely climbing the hill overlooking Trillium Camp. The preschoolers also started working on their clay project with Jenn. The first step was the add water to the dried out clay. The children gathered buckets and small bowls and filled them up with water from the creek. Jenn helped them bring the clay back to life with the water and then left it alone to set, hoping that in a few days it would be ready to use.

A potful of water being warmed by a fire for tea.

After snack some of the preschoolers went with Jenn to collect firewood while the rest helped Melissa add more leaves and large sticks to the shelter. When the firewood-collecting group returned, they helped break down the pencil sticks they had collected and added them to the fire pit. Melissa also demonstrated using an axe to break apart larger pieces of wood. Afterwards, the preschoolers ate their lunch and listened to an epic story told by Jenn around their warm fire.

Melissa filling the children's cups with peppermint, white pine and honey tea.

On Tuesday Forest Preschool group began working on their project- tanning rabbit pelts! They got a large pot of warm water, ivory soap and vegetable oil and used their hands to spread the mixture over the rough parts of the rabbit skin; by applying this along with hand pressure, the tough areas of the skin will become soft.

Preschoolers tanning rabbit skins.

During Opening Circle on Monday, the mystery bag was passed around. The children's guesses after feeling the outside of the bag were- "Acorns!" "Gold" "A rock!" When Sarah took out the mysterious object, the preschoolers were excited to see that it looked like a rock with pieces of gold in it! Sarah explained that the small golden flecks seen in the rock were actually pyrite, also known as Fool's Gold, and that it had tricked many people into thinking it was actual gold. They decided to go out into the woods of 4-H Acres in search of real gold now that they knew what Fool's Gold looked like.

A preschooler searching for gold during the story walk.

Melissa introduced the idea of a "story walk" to the children as a way of helping them remember the way back to the oak tree. During the story walk, the preschoolers pointed out landmarks and gave them new identities and stories. The trees became animals, logs turned into boats that helped them over rough seas and other landmarks became navigation points showing them the right direction. Their journey ended in White Pine camp, where the preschoolers enjoyed exploring, playing games and making tea over a fire. At the end of the day they were able to navigate out of the forest based on the story they had created.

Jeremiah playing a running game with the preschoolers and some homeschoolers.

On Thursday the preschoolers continued working on their rabbit pelts with help from Jeremiah and Hillary-Joy, who came for a special visit. After snack they hiked up to the Horse Arena where they enjoyed seeing what the homeschoolers were up to and playing a running game with Angie and Jeremiah. The children took a few trips on the horsey log and then went back to Trillium Camp for lunch and Closing Circle.

A child making a necklace.


Homeschool gathered in the log circle on a chilly morning this Thursday at 4-H Acres. Their voices joined in song while their hands and feet created a beat. Afterwards one of the homeschoolers participated in "Teen Share" and showed the group a notebook she uses to jot down any ideas, inspirations and stories that come into her mind throughout the day. Jenn talked about writing as a form of technology and how it's amazing that we can read messages, and therefore learn, from humans who lived long before us.

A member of the "Day in the Life" Guild making a mat out of harvested phragmites.

Meagan asked the group to close their eyes and think about the last time they saw an animal. "Where were you? What was the weather like? What it nighttime or day? What was the animal and how was it moving?" she asked everyone. Once they had opened their eyes again, the homeschoolers were asked to act out the animal they had seen in the last week while the group guessed what they were. One homeschooler moved his arms back and forth like a bird, while another made herself small and low to the ground like a chipmunk. Afterwards they spilt into groups for the last day with their guilds.

A homeschooler tying her phragmites mat together.

The "Day in the Life" Guild made the Horse Arena their base camp for the day. After leaving Closing Circle, the worked together to carry the large pieces of phragmites they harvested in October up the hill towards their camp. Once there it was revealed to them that they were going to make sitting mats out of the phragmites. The homeschoolers used various tools to cut apart the large pieces and twine to tie them together. They also made a fire to help keep their hands warm and to burn the tops of the phragmites where the seeds are carried. They did this, as Justin explained, to prevent the spread of phragmites' seeds since they're an invasive plant.

A homeschooler cutting pieces of phragmites.

About a month ago, the Construction Guild used cob to make a rocket stove. On Thursday they moved the stove very carefully from the Pole Barn to Village Camp where they planned to use it with the Cooking Guild. Jenn, Meagan and two other homeschoolers carried the heavy rocket stove that sat on top of a piece of plywood down a hill and over the creek. They navigated slowly over rocks and logs and eventually made it to Village Camp with their creation intact!

Members of the Construction Guild working together to carry the rocket stove over the creek.

Once the Construction Guild members had arrived, the Cooking Guild began chopping sweet potatoes, carrots and zucchini for a curry they were hoping to make using the rocket stove. The homeschoolers went out in search of firewood and were able to come back with large, dry pieces, which was quite the accomplishment on a rainy day.

The rocket stove cooking curry.

They made a fire within the rocket stove and took turns making sure it stayed lit. The homeschoolers put a pot of coconut milk with curry spices on a piece of soapstone, and together placed that upon the top opening of the rocket stove to cook.

Jenn working to keep the rocket stove lit.

In the meantime, other homeschoolers worked to created a bigger fire to cook the vegetables for the curry. They also processed hickory nuts and acorns they had harvested back in October and roasted them on top of the rocket stove.

Homeschoolers opening hickory nuts and acorns to roast on the rocket stove.

Members of the Pottery Guild were sad to discover that since their last guild day their clay had dried up and was no longer the right consistency to make pottery with. However, they didn't let this stop them from having a day of adventure and fun. Together they trekked out to the Hemlock Forest where they practiced their fire skills with one-match challenges. They also worked hard to find dry pieces of wood and used them to build a fire.

Construction and Cooking Guild members sitting together by a fire in Village Camp.

In the afternoon, the Pottery Guild joined members of the "Day in the Life" Guild in the Horse Arena for some games and crafting projects. They played a version of Keeper of the Keys, but instead of keys the homeschoolers used their own personal objects, such as water bottles, mugs, hats and gloves. One homeschooler sat with a blindfold covered over his or her eyes and listened carefully for the sounds of footsteps getting closer to their guarded belongings.

Sweet potato, carrots and zucchini curry.

After several rounds of Keeper of the Keys, Justin led a group of homeschoolers on a wander up the creek, while those remaining tended to the fire, played Forest Fire and continued to work on their phragmites mats.

Homeschoolers during Closing Circle.

For Closing Circle the guilds gathered together in Village Camp where the Cooking and Construction Guilds shared their curry with everyone. They sat in a circle enjoying the delicious curry and each other's company. There was lots of laughter as stories from the day were shared and acted out for the entire group. Together the homeschoolers shouted their words of gratitude from the day into the air and left to go home after a loud coyote howl.

A homeschooler exploring the creek.

Thank you for reading! We had a week filled with gratitude for the Earth and all it provides for 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.