The Start of Forest Preschool and Homeschool!
Sarah Chaffee, September 22, 2017
The second week of Forest Preschool began with the surprise of fallen leaves in Trillium Camp at 4-H Acres! The kids excitedly raked the red, orange and yellow leaves into a large pile and took turns jumping into it. They enjoyed a morning of free play with some choosing to explore the creek to look for aquatic critters while others made a magic potion using mud, dirt, sand and plants they collected.
The preschoolers counting in their shelter during a game of hide-and-seek.
During snack time, Melissa, a Forest Preschool instructor, told a story about a grumpy ogre who stole the fall colors from the trees and of a determined group of forest fairies who worked together to get them back. Afterwards the preschoolers had a choice between harvesting pokeberries and goldrenrod to make dye for wool with Melissa or helping Sean, another Forest Preschool instructor, with fixing a shelter in Trillium Camp. Melissa’s group adventured to the Pole Barn where they discovered a huge pokeberry bush. The preschoolers enjoyed filling their baskets with the colorful berries and even used some later to paint with. They also collected goldrenrod flowers in hopes of dyeing their wool a beautiful yellow color.
A preschooler gathering ingredients for a magic potion.
On Wednesday Forest Preschool began their day by playing a game of Songbird. The preschoolers ran from tree to tree, pretending to be birds and avoiding capture from the “hawks.” Afterwards they gathered in a circle to guess what was in the day's mystery bag. They each took turns feeling the outside of the deer hide bag where the mystery was hidden. “Gold!,” one camper guessed. “Rocks!,” said another. Once they had all given their best guess, Sean dumped out the contents to reveal a bow drill kit!
Preschoolers working together to bring wood they gathered back to Trillium Camp for a fire.
Once they arrived at Trillium Camp the preschoolers enjoyed some free play where they played hide and go seek in the shelter, went on a bug hunt and a wander through the creek. During snack time Sean told a story about how humans were gifted fire from the other animals.
Sean, a Forest Preschool instructor, starting a fire using a bow drill.
Afterwards he demonstrated how to use a bow drill and nursed the coal in a tinder bundle and allowed each preschooler to help blow the flame to life. Wood that the kids helped collect was used to create a big fire that heated up the pokeberry and goldenrod dye. Once the dye was hot enough the wool was added and stirred.
Sean holding the tinder bundle up to a preschooler to help breathe the fire to life.
At the Horse Arena, Sean introduced archery to the preschoolers. They each waited patiently in line to hold the bow and aim the arrow out into the field. Once everyone had a chance to shoot they adventured into the field to collect their arrows.
A preschooler playing in the tepee at the Horse Arena.
On Thursday Forest Preschool put black walnut husks and leaves they had harvested on Tuesday into a cauldron. They added some water and vinegar and mixed it together while making up a magic spell in hopes that its mysterious color would reveal itself on the wool they were dyeing.
Black walnut husks and leaves soaking in water and vinegar.
Melissa placed the cauldron on the fire and when it got hot she stirred in the wool and let it soak up the natural dye. Afterwards the preschoolers went to the Horse Arena with Jeremiah, a Forest Preschool instructor, and Angie, an intern. They played in the mud pit and found two frogs that they named "Froggy" and "Froggy Jr." They also enjoyed exploring the tipi and playing hide-and-seek.
A preschooler holding a frog he caught.
While at the Horse Arena, Jeremiah taught preschoolers who were interested in archery how to hold a bow and string it with an arrow. The kids lined up and patiently waited their turn to shoot, some of them doing so for the very first time!
On Thursday the forests at 4-H Acres were filled with sounds of laughter, songs and storytelling as the homeschoolers began their first day of the fall semester! Over 40 kids gathered in the log circle, some familiar faces and others new, and talked about the amazing adventures they had over the summer.
A homeschooler searching for frogs during a creek wander.
Afterwards Sean, a Homeschool instructor, announced that their theme for the fall would be "keeping the hearth." The instructors took turns to discuss what the theme meant for them and what goals they had for the season. One said they were hoping to deepen their relationship to fire while another said they were looking forward to gathering together to share stories and food.
A homeschooler playing in a hollow log.
After Opening Circle the homeschoolers separated into their three different clans for the day and went out into the forests looking for adventure. Sean and Jenn, another Homeschool instructor, took their clan to a far corner of 4-H Acres where they unearthed a treasure that had been buried long ago. They also found owl and turkey feathers, as well as a "mystery bird" feather. While exploring, this clan found apple trees and harvested 15 to 20 pounds of delicious apples!
A homeschooler carving into the base board of a friction kit.
Danielle and Alex took their clan deep into the Hemlock Forest where they practiced their friction fire skills. The kids paired up and took turns holding the handle and pulling the cord, which is used to move the spindle back and forth.
Homeschoolers working together to practice their friction fire skills.
The homeschoolers worked tirelessly through stiff muscles, sore arms and some frustration and were eventually gifted with a small ember. "We got a coal! We got a coal!," a pair shouted. There were high-fives and cheers of encouragement all around.
Alex high-fiving a homeschooler after getting a coal.
Monica, another Homeschool instructor, took her clan to Mystery Camp where they became wilderness explorers and traveled up the nearby creek to the Beaver Pond. Once there they saw tadpoles and frogs and enjoyed watching how quickly they swam in the water. One homeschooler also found a huge toad that she carefully held in her hands and released after all of her fellow clan members got a chance to see it.
A homeschooler holding a toad.
Towards the end of the day all of the clans gathered back together at the horse arena for an energetic twist on Capture the Flag. In this variation, each team had to gather as many bandanas as possible from the other team's "nest."
Strategizing an escape together.
Before the game, each team huddled up to discuss a strategy. One team decided that being defensive and making sure their nest was safe was the best strategy while the other team decided to play a more offensive game. There were lots of group-led diversions, sneak attacks and "jail breaks" that made this game of CTF a truly exciting one to witness.
After the game everyone gathered in a circle to discuss awesome plays from the game that they saw other people do. Sean talked about a moment when Alex "flew through the air almost like an arrow" and caught a bandana.
Sean, a Homeschool instructor, discussing highlights from the game.
After hearing everyone's stories it was revealed that there were hidden objects wrapped in the bandanas! They were opened one at a time, each bandana holding a special item that showed the homeschoolers different projects or guilds they could choose from this fall. The first bandana held a small bundle of wood. Jenn explained that this represented a project to build a roof over the cob oven and stove to go with it. The next bandana had a small piece of dried clay. Sean said that he was looking forward to helping kids learn how to use this resource to make bowls, cups and other useful things.
Danielle, a Homeschool instructor, helping homeschoolers open up bandanas from the game to reveal project guilds for the fall.
The third bandana held a hickory nut. Danielle explained that she was excited to begin harvesting wild edibles and working with the homeschoolers on cooking and sharing food. The last bandana was empty, leaving the final guild's theme a mystery. The homeschoolers ended their day by singing "Home, I'm going home..." and left with excitement for what next week will bring.
Weaving the days stories together at closing circle.
Thanks for reading! We're looking forward to the beginning of a wonderful fall with our Forest Preschool and Homeschool kids.