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

Keepers of the Hearth

Sarah Chaffee, December 8, 2017

Forest Preschool

The students of Forest Preschooler celebrated their last week of the fall session! With colder weather on the way, the preschoolers kept warm by running, climbing and making fires. While winter brings so much excitement, it was also time to say goodbye to some of the preschoolers that won't be with the group until spring.

The preschoolers having lunch around a warm fire.

On Monday Forest Preschool enjoyed a day of free-play. They let their imaginations take them on journeys all over the world. The climbing logs transformed into a giant ship that took them across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa where they saw lions, giraffes and some rhinos. The shelter became an airplane that flew them to Tasmania where they played with friendly Tasmanian devils and watched koalas climb trees.

A child playing on the climbing logs.

The Tuesday group made a small fire in the hole they dug beneath their new shelter and continued to smoke more rabbit hides. On Wednesday Forest Preschool continued their project as well. Before snack they played a game of Firewood Tag where they were safe from being tagged and remaining frozen if they had found a good piece of wood. At snack Sarah told a story about getting lost in the woods with her sister and cousins when she was younger and how they found their way by using their deer ears to listen for any clues on which way to go.

Angie and a preschooler playing on the climbing logs.

After snack they built a fire and melted beeswax in a pot to make more handprint candles. The preschoolers enjoyed stirring the melted beeswax in the pot and helped collect and add pieces of wood to keep the fire going. After the beeswax had melted completely, it was poured into the handprints in the sand. The children watched closely as it hardened on the outside and slowly moved inward. When the wick was added and the candle had cooled, they were wrapped in wool the preschoolers dyed during the first week of Forest Preschool. These gifts were given to the two children from the Monday/Wednesday group that will be coming back in the spring.

Jeremiah breathing on a tinder bundle that he lit using a coal from a bow drill.

On Thursday the preschoolers listened to a story about the Yellow Jacket Sisters and how they helped bring fire to the people. The children used costumes to act out the story and enjoyed it so much that they performed the story several times. After snack, Jeremiah started a fire using a bow drill. The children watched closely at what he was doing and listened as he explained how to place the coal into a tinder bundle and breathe on it to keep it burning. At the end of the day the preschoolers enjoyed a special treat to celebrate the children that were leaving for winter- hot chocolate!

Melissa removing a pot of water, used for hot chocolate, from the fire.


The homeschoolers gathered on Thursday morning in the Log Circle and shared their observations about the obvious change in weather. They noticed how the wind felt colder, the ground harder and the trees were almost completely bare. Danielle and Jesse saw the winter-like weather as a good opportunity to talk about the best clothes to wear in cold weather and why. They both showed the group the many layers they had on and how almost all of them were made up of wool or a synthetic material, not cotton. "Cotton," Danielle said, "Is great in summer, but not in winter. It takes a long time to dry and will keep you cold and wet."

The homeschoolers competing in a fire challenge with two blindfolded and one not able to use his hands.

After singing a few rounds of "We Come from the Fire," a song introduced to the group by Monica, everyone split up into their group. Justin and Meaghan's group traveled to the far corner of the Horse Arena for an epic fire challenge that tested their friction fire skills, team work and communication.

A homeschooler leading another to find wood for a fire.

For this test the homeschoolers had to divide themselves up into groups of three. The individual members of each group could decide whether they wanted to be blindfold and able to use their hands or be able to see but have lost the ability to move their hands. In this way they had to get a coal using a friction kit. The person who was the "eyes" of the group had to let their blindfolded partners know if they were on the right track to getting a coal, while those blindfolded had to use their other senses to tell them if they were getting close to reaching their goal.

Danielle helping a homeschooler keep a coal from a friction kit burning.

Danielle and Elias' group ventured into the woods outside of Village Camp where they too completed a fire challenge. Their challenges, however, were based on the individual skill level with friction fire for each homeschooler. Some were blindfolded, some were unable to talk and others worked by themselves to gather wood and start a fire using a friction kit in just one hour.

A homeschooler collecting tinder and wood.

Monica and Emily's group, who decided to name themselves the Mystery Clan, continued to test and improve their awareness skills by completing several blindfolded activities. Like last week, they were led on a blindfolded walk by Emily but this time they were each placed by a tree where they were told to sit keeping their blindfolds on. After about five minutes they were told to move their orange bandanas and to look around at where they were. Many of the homeschoolers felt like they had been sitting there for about 20 minutes and were shocked to find out that it had only been five.

Jesse scraping coals from a stump his group is hoping to burn out into a bowl.

The People's Clan, joined this week by Jesse and Elisha, made their home in Village Camp where they spent the day building trading posts and making objects to put in them. They made a large fire and kept it burning all day, occasionally going out to collect more wood to add.The homeschoolers found a stump in camp and created a small fire on top of it in hopes of coal burning the piece of wood into a bowl.

Homeschoolers playing Poison Dart Frog.

At the end of the day Jesse scraped away the extra coals and the People's Clan was happy to see that the fire had created a deep dent in the stump. They plan to continue this project next week until they've created a bowl. The homeschoolers also found some dry and frozen clay in camp and used the fire and some water to help it get back to the right consistency. They used the clay to make small figurines and left them in the Muskrat Lodge to dry.

Homeschoolers warming up their feet.

Towards the end of the day, the clans made their way to the Horse Arena to play a big game. While waiting for everyone to arrive, some homeschoolers played a few round of Poison Dart Frog. In this game one person acts as the frog, who can stick their tongue out at people to eliminate them from the game. Another person serves as the detective and has to figure out who's the frog before everyone is out of the game.

Jesse and a homeschooler "wheel-barrowing" to get themselves to their team's side after having been tagged during CTF.

Once all the clans had arrived in the Horse Arena, Danielle announced that they were about to play a game that had never been played at Primitive Pursuits before. The game was called Scared Order Capture the Flag and required each team to protect items they had that represented shelter, water, fire and food.

Elias running towards his team's side.

If a player was tagged on the other team's side, they had to remain there until another member from their team was also tagged. Together they had to "wheel-barrow" to their side without stopping. If they stopped or slipped, they had to go back to where they started.

The Natural Disasters coming into the game.

An exciting addition to the game was the role of the "Natural Disasters," a group of homeschoolers who would periodically enter the game and cause havoc with whatever storm, flood or fire they were embodying. When they came in as an earthquake, the members of both teams had to crawl and weren't able to stand until the Natural Disasters had left. When there was a flash flood, the Natural Disasters took each team's Sacred Order items and scattered them around the field. At the end of the game the Natural Disasters pretended to be rabid animals and chased members of both teams. If they were tagged they joined them in chasing the others until everyone was caught.

Post-CTF leaf fight.

The homeschoolers and instructors drank some water, put on some of the layers they had lost during the game and headed over to a fire where they discussed highlights from the game. One homeschooler talked about how Elias was good at sneaking onto the other side without anyone noticing and how he had tried to catch him after he stole his team's Sacred Order item. Another said they loved the role of the Natural Disasters and how it was always unpredictable what they were going to do. The group shared some gratitude, sang a song and gave a loud coyote howl to signal the end of another day.

Everyone gathered together for Closing Circle.

Thank you for reading! We're excited to see what new skills we learn, new adventures we embark on and new friendships we might make next week.

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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.