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

Warm Soup, Warm Hearts

Sarah Chaffee, November 5, 2017

Forest Preschool

This week Forest Preschool continued their ancestor theme by hearing more stories about family, learning some ancestral skills and singing songs. The preschoolers also happily welcomed two new instructors - Jenn Feingold, joining the Monday program and Hillary-Joy who will be there on Wednesdays.

The preschoolers looking at the Weather Check.

Forest Preschoolers started their week off with a chilly and windy Monday. They gathered together for opening circle near the oak tree and sang the “Welcome Song” to Jenn. Afterwards the children grabbed their backpacks and embarked on a journey to find turtles. They enjoyed pretending that they were turtles and their backpacks were shells. Some even liked to tip themselves over on their “shells” and needed help from eachother to flip themselves back over.

The children having a laugh with Angie.

The adventure took them to a camp they had never been to before. Here they had snack and a discussion about how families and ancestors can consist of people who aren’t related to us. Afterwards, the preschoolers led the way back to Trillium Camp where they were excited to see how much the creek had risen from the weekend’s rain. They eagerly completed the Weather Check and were stunned to see that the rain gauge was completely full! They enjoyed some free-play, had lunch and closed the day with a Halloween song.

Melissa and the preschoolers going on a stalking mission.

On Tuesday Forest Preschool celebrated Halloween by going trick-or-treating at 4-H Acres! With Angie they traveled through the forest until they reached Village Camp where they were greeted by Coyote in the Muskrat Lodge, who gave each of them a walnut. After meeting Coyote they continued on their journey. When they got near the creek they were greeted by Grandmother Hickory, who gifted them each with a feather.

A preschooler enjoying a walk in the woods.

On Wednesday the children welcomed Hillary-Joy to Forest Preschool! They came together during Opening Circle and shared stories about Halloween and their trick-or-treat adventures. The mystery bag was passed around and as each preschooler felt the outside of the bag, they gave a guess as to what was inside. “Cotton balls!” “Fabric!” “Gold!” Melissa tipped the bag over and out came the beautifully dyed wool they made during the very first week of school. After snack they enjoyed using the different colored wool to make mini dolls they got to take home. The preschoolers also worked on building walls on the shelter and adding to the fairy village with Hillary-Joy, who is a fairy house expert!

Children playing on the climbing logs.

The Thursday Forest Preschoolers put their minds together to solve a tricky problem - how to crack open a coconut! They brought the coconut up to the Horse Arena where they tried throwing it on the ground and on large rocks. They also tried finding sharp rocks and using them to break open the thick husk. After trying several different techniques, they decided to ask a homeschool clan for some help. They hiked until they were right outside the White Pine Camp and chose to test their stalking skills the rest of the way. Together they crept along the path, hiding behind trees and crouching amongst the brush.

Melissa ripping fibers off the coconut to give the homeschoolers to use as tinder.

When they made it into the camp they received friendly greetings from the homeschoolers, who were also curious about how to open the coconut. They also took turns trying to crack it by throwing it on the ground and using a strong tree branch, but nothing seemed to work. As a thank you, the preschoolers removed pieces off the coconut husk and gave them to the homeschoolers to use as tinder for a fire. When they returned to Trillium Camp after their adventure, Jeremiah used an axe to finally open the coconut. The preschoolers enjoyed examining the inside of it while finishing up their lunches and getting ready for the end of the day.

Forest Preschool going on an adventure.


Homeschool gathered close for Opening Circle on Thursday in the Pole Barn to get some shelter from the rain, which was loud as it fell down on the roof above them. However, their voices joined together in song could be heard loud and clear over the continuous sound of rain. Jenn talked about the importance of water in terms of “keeping a hearth.” The homeschoolers chimed in with their own thoughts, saying that if you’re starting a fire it’s important to make sure you have a way of putting it out. For the Teen Share, a homeschooler showed everyone her water bottle and said that she uses the water to help put out fires and to keep herself hydrated throughout the day.

A flock of geese going to search for food.

Heidi, a guest instructor, introduced a game to the homeschoolers. She told them to divide themselves up into “flocks” and to think like migrating geese, searching for food on their journey to warmer weather. For the game, Heidi explained that a flock consisted of three or more geese who had to travel together looking for bundles of food hidden in the forest. If a goose was separated from its flock, an eagle could swoop down and tag it. The geese could also only speak using “geese language” and if they were caught speaking as humans, the eagles could attack the entire flock.

Hillary-Joy, a guest Forest Preschool instructor, and a homeschooler cutting squash.

The game began in the Ash Grove Camp and soon the forest was filled with hungry honking geese searching in honeysuckle bushes and at the base of white pine trees for the bundles of food. The eagles were quick to catch any goose that wandered away from its flock, but it didn’t take long from the clever geese to find all of the food. Their prize consisted of a can of coconut milk, potatoes, onions, some spinach, and two squash.

Jenn helping a homeschooler with a carving project.

After the game the homeschoolers separated into their clans for the day, each group taking some of the food that was gathered by the geese. Jenn and Hillary-Joy made Village Camp their home for the day with their clan. They got to work collecting wood for a fire and began chopping up the squash. When the fire was hot enough, they put the squash into a pot with some water to steam it. While it was cooking, some homeschoolers worked on carving projects while others began building a shelter.

Popcorn made by a homeschool clan.

Monica and Heidi’s clan made their base camp among the white pines. They enjoyed lots of imaginative free-play and were even visited by Forest Preschool, who gifted them pieces of husk from a coconut they were trying to crack open. The homeschoolers used the dry, hair-like husk as tinder for a fire. After lunch they put a pot with some coconut oil and corn kernels over the fire and made popcorn!

A homeschooler playing Weasel Tree in the hemlocks.

Barbara Ann, Elisha, and Elias brought their clan to the hemlocks. Together they gathered firewood and made a large, roaring fire. The homeschoolers chopped up potatoes and onions and, along with some coconut milk, added them to a pot over the fire. The homeschoolers took turns stirring while others played an intense game of Weasel Tree.

A homeschooler stirring a pot of squash.

In the afternoon, the Homeschool clans gathered back together in Village Camp and played a large game of Head Honcho. The game is played by having one person leave the circle. While that person is gone, the rest decided who will be the “head honcho.” This person gets to set a beat in various ways, which the rest of the group has to copy. When the missing player returns to the group, they have to guess who the head honcho is. The homeschoolers played several rounds of this game while waiting for all of the clans to arrive. There was a lot of laughter, especially when a head honcho had the entire group doing a silly gesture.

The homeschoolers together in Village Camp.

When all of the clans were there, each group revealed the food they brought to share with everyone. There was potato and onion soup, squash and popcorn! The homeschoolers gathered their empty lunch containers and mugs and got in line as the instructors served them the delicious treats they had all worked so hard to make. They all sat together, slurping their soup and eating popcorn while enjoying each others' company.

Instructors serving potato and onion soup and squash.

After everyone had finished eating, Monica told the group an Algonquin story of four siblings who depended on hunting to survive and their encounter with the Cheenoo, an evil spirit that ate humans. For the story she had four volunteers who acted out the story as she told it.

Monica telling a story with her young story-actors.

The main characters of the story were Older Brother, Older Sister, Younger Brother and Younger sister, who was also called “Little Listener.” Little Listener was always left home to tend to domestic duties while her siblings went out to hunt. One day while Little Listener was home, she was visited by the Cheenoo. Instead of being afraid she greeted him as if he were her grandfather and invited him into her family’s home. Little Listener fed him and allowed him to sleep while she went outside and waited for her siblings to return.

Homeschoolers laughing during the performance.

When her brothers and sisters had returned from hunting, Little Listener told them she had befriended the Cheenoo and that they must pretend he is their grandfather. When the Cheenoo awoke from his deep sleep, the siblings kindly greeted him. The Cheenoo was so touched by their kindness that he went out and hunted two moose, which he brought back to his new family. The siblings wanted to bring their grandfather to the village but the Cheenoo had to undergo a transformation before he could do so. After a long time in a sweat lodge, he came out transformed as an elderly man. The siblings hugged their grandfather and traveled to the village together where they feasted on the meat the Cheenoo had hunted.

Elias after his character transforms into an older man.

The homeschoolers and instructors enjoyed the epic tale and there was a chorus of laughter when Elias, who played the Cheenoo, was turned into the siblings’ grandfather. After the story, the homeschoolers put on their backpacks, helped clean up camp and gave a big coyote howl signifying the end of the day.

A homeschooler giving a coyote howl at the end of the day.

Thank you for reading. What an awesome week we had! We're looking forward to the warmth of many fires and the exciting stories that will be told around them.

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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.