Sarah Chaffee, January 16, 2018
Forest Preschool came back to a snow-covered forest after a two week holiday break. While climbing up a giant pile of snow and making snow sculptures, they excitedly shared stories from their winter adventures. During Opening Circle, Sarah said that during her break she tracked a fox while hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail. She wondered if there were any fox tracks at 4-H Acres and if so, could Forest Preschool find them? The children were up for the challenge and grabbed their backpacks with their eyes glued to the ground in search for animal tracks. Together the group made the trek through deep snow to the tepee. Along the way there were many track discoveries that brought many questions. "Where was this creature going and why?" "Was this a big animal or a small one?" "How many toes does it have?" In the tipi the children had snack and listened to an epic tale of a brave girl named Whispy told by Jesse. After snack the preschoolers led the way to Trillium Camp and used buckets and shovels to make snow cakes. They decorated the cakes with stick candles, dried leaves and ice from the frozen creek.
The preschoolers helping Jesse start a fire on a snowy day.
On Tuesday at Opening Circle under the oak tree, the preschoolers led the group in animal form stretches. They each picked an animal and showed everyone how it moves while the rest copied their movements. They walked like bears, slithered like snakes and hopped like rabbits through the snow. Afterwards they headed down to camp, excited to see if any critters had visited in the night. Jesse brought the children under the bridge to look for tracks, explaining that the bridge protects them from snow, rain and wind and it's a good place to check everyday for fresh prints. The preschoolers also enjoyed making fairy houses out of ice and snow with Siri, a Primitive Pursuits' instructor. By the end of the day they had made an entire fairy village!
A child warming his hands by the fire.
During Opening Circle on Wednesday, the preschoolers played a game of Fox and Rabbit tag. The game is played in a circle where everyone can only run forward. One person is the fox while the rest are rabbits, who run around the circle to avoid getting caught. After several rounds of the game Sarah revealed a message she found on a piece of birch bark by the ice fairy village. The note was a series of strange symbols that Sarah believed was the language of the Winter Fairies. The message read- "Thank you for giving us houses to live. Now we've got presents and treasures to give. Travel forth and go. Your treasure is buried in the snow." The children grabbed their bags and rushed down to camp in search of the hidden treasure. Sarah showed them where she found the note and they began to dig through the snow, finding shells and blue gems along the way. After their pockets were filled with presents from the fairies, the children gathered for snack. Jesse told a story about a lost boy who was found by a fox and a group of fairies who worked together to use their tracking skills to find him. When snack had ended the group went on a wander to gather white pine needles for tea, which they enjoyed around a warm fire at lunch.
The children using buckets to make a snow cake.
Thursday was a noticeably warmer day at Forest Preschool. The children said the snow felt more wet than previous days and that they thought the creek wouldn't be frozen. They walked down to Trillium Camp to see if their predictions were correct, stopping along the way to observe a track that mysteriously disappeared at the base of a tree. The preschoolers made some guesses as to how that could have happened- "Maybe it flew away." "I think it climbed up the tree." "Maybe it went down the hill." At camp the children enjoyed making snow cakes and climbing the Climbing Hill, which they pretended was Mt. Everest. The melting snow made the hill slippery but the preschoolers worked together to get to the top, often reaching out a hand to help pull someone else up. After snack they played a tracking game where one group hid while another followed their tracks to find them. The children learned how to tell what direction someone is traveling based on their print. At lunch they roasted apples by a warm fire while listening to stories and enjoying the sunny day.
Jesse (left) and Siri (right) building sculptures in the snow with the preschoolers.
On Thursday Homeschool divided into two clans to explore the forests at 4-H Acres. Monica and Hillary-Joy brought their group, who named themselves the Mystery Clan, to the large creek where they found lots of animal tracks. The clan followed these tracks through the woods, noticing how some of them stayed on the man-made trail, while others veered off into the trees. They worked on improving their tracking skills by having a group hide while the rest used clues, like tracks, broken twigs and other signs of disturbance, to find them. The Mystery Clan also found coyote scat! Hillary-Joy explained how to differentiate coyote scat from other animals' scat by explaining its "pointy" appearance and by observing the fur that could be seen from its last meal.
Homeschoolers leading a blindfolded Danielle out of the forest.
Danielle and Elias adventured to the Beaver Pond, where they dubbed themselves the Beaver Clan. There they did a one-match fire challenge, searching their surroundings for good, dry tinder and making sure to clear a place in the snow for their mini-fires. For one homeschooler this was his first time successfully making a fire! While exploring their base camp, the clan found raccoon tracks, deer scat and could tell by the bedded-down snow where deer had chosen to take a rest during the day.
A homeschooler holding a fallen nest she found.
The Beaver Clan decided to create a song that told to story of their day. They used sticks, rocks and their own hands to create a beat while the rest staggered their voices in a multi-layered song. Some of the words sung by various members of the clan included- deer scat, raven and hawk, cold feet, burnt sandwiches. At the end of the day Danielle and Elias blindfolded themselves and had the homeschoolers lead them back to the log circle. They blindly walked over ice and through deep snow, but had the help and encouragement of their fellow clan members the whole time. Together they successfully made it out of the woods in time for Closing Circle.
Members of the Beaver Clan performing a song they wrote that told the story of their day.
This was the first week of Wilderness Explorers, a brave group that travels to forests far and wide, testing their skills and knowledge along the way. On Thursday they went to Hammond Hill where they played an epic game of Compass Tag. In this game a circle is made in the snow with a cross in the center. One person is "it" while the rest run around the circle and through the two intersecting lines to escape getting tagged.
The Wilderness Explorers playing Compass Tag (left). The explorers having an epic snowball fight (right). Photos taken by Barbara Ann Jordan.
The warm weather made the snow perfect for building things. The explorers challenged each other to see who could create the largest snow ball. Their snow balls started off small, but as they rolled them over more and more snow, they increased in size until they had several ginormous snow balls!
The explorers creating giant snow balls. Photo taken by Elisha James.
They also made snow bears, using rocks for their eyes and nose and sticks for their claws. At the end of the day, the explorers' fire and stalking skills were put to the test. They divided into two teams, both with the goal of starting a fire while also trying to sabotage the opposing teams' attempts at building a fire. They did this while sneaking up on their rivals and launching snowballs into their fire pit.
The explorers next to a snow bear they built. Photo by Barbara Ann Jordan.
Thank you for reading! We're so happy to be back in the woods, sharing stories, tracking animals and making fires.