Let's Go Tracking!
Sarah Chaffee, January 24, 2018
On Monday, Forest Preschool had a "play day" where children and their parents could come spend time at Trillium Camp, learn about the program and have fun in the snow. They enjoyed finding tracks, exploring the inside of the tepee and making an entire village out of snow! During lunch, they listened to stories and roasted apple slices over a warm fire. At Closing Circle, they shared some gratitude and created a song based on what they were thankful for. They ended the day with a loud coyote howl that could be heard throughout the forest.
Forest Preschool listening to a lunchtime story.
On Tuesday, the children welcomed a new member to Forest Preschool- Felicity Holmes, an intern from Ithaca College. They sang the Welcome Song to greet her and introduce the children. Afterwards they ventured down to Trillium Camp where they explored their snow-covered surroundings for any new tracks, looking on top of logs, at the base of trees and under the bridge.
A bucket collecting sap from a sugar maple.
At snack, Melissa told the group that they were going on a special adventure to find a sugar maple to tap for sap! The children excitedly packed up their snack and began hiking up the hill, stopping at the horsey log for a quick ride and then continuing up in search of the perfect tree. Melissa explained that with no leaves on the trees, the next way to identify a sugar maple is by its bark. These trees have deep grooves in their bark (see picture above). The bark can also reveal a sugar maple's age. The children took turns using the drill and hammer to place the spile into the tree. Afterwards they hung the bucket from the spile and made a plan to check it every day in hopes of finding sap.
Melissa pointing out a sugar maple to two preschoolers.
On Wednesday at Opening Circle, Sarah introduced Forest Preschool's track log. "On the left," she explained, "are drawings of tracks from animals that might be found at 4-H Acres. On the right is a place to tally how many of each track is found throughout the winter." Walking down to camp, the preschoolers found a set of tracks that appeared to stop right at the base of a tree. They looked closely at the tracks, some preschoolers getting so close that their noses were an inch from the ground, to see if it matched any of the drawings on the track log. "It has five toes," one preschooler exclaimed. "I see claws," said another. Together they decided that the track looked like the second to last one on the track log and made a tally when they got to camp.
Forest Preschool's animal track log.
The preschoolers enjoyed playing at the edge of the frozen creek on Thursday. They searched for strong sticks to use to break up the ice in search of ice crystals. The children used these pieces of ice to slide across the frozen creek and enjoyed seeing how far their pieces could go. They also used these pieces to build ice castles and fairy houses that they decorated with leaves, twigs and other gifts from nature. After snack, they went on a wander to search for tracks. On the hill above Trillium Camp, they found a red fox track along a fallen tree. The children counted its toes and followed its tracks until the prints disappeared in the snow.
Melissa and the children searching for tracks.
On Thursday the Mystery Clan embarked on an epic scavenger hunt that took them all over 4-H Acres. They needed to find two pine cones, materials to make a tinder bundle, five pencil sticks, three marker sticks, one mammal track, one bird track, something green and something cool (see picture below). The homeschoolers worked together to collect these items and filled several bags full of their findings. After they successfully completed the scavenger hunt, Monica and Hillary-Joy revealed that next week they were going to use the pine cones for a special project!
A list of items the Mystery Clan needed to find on a scavenger hunt.
After their scavenger hunt, the Mystery Clan traveled to Trillium Camp, stopping at the log circle to play a few rounds of "Guess that Animal." To play, homeschoolers and instructors would act like a specific animal, making the noises they would make or moving in the way they might move, while the rest guessed that animal they were.
The Mystery Clan playing "Guess that Animal."
The Beaver Clan spent their day building a giant snow fort! They shoveled the snow into a large pile, using sleds to transport snow from one location to another. They decorated their fort with dried goldenrod and a flag that waved proudly in the chilly breeze. The Beaver Clan plans to continue working on this impressive snow structure in the weeks to come.
Homeschoolers having fun on the edge of the frozen creek.
The Winter Explorers had an exciting Thursday! Together they explored the forests near the South Hill Town Recreation Way, trekking through deep snow and searching for tracks. They hiked down a hill towards a frozen lake and explored the area when members of the group suddenly noticed a creature watching them- a red fox sitting on an overlooking hill.
A trail of fox tracks. Photo taken by Elisha James.
The explorers' excitement grew as the fox moved from its perch down towards the lake's edge where they watched. It got closer and closer until it stopped, sat down in the snow, curled up, yawned and appeared to take a nap in the sun. This incredible encounter lasted about forty-five minutes until the explorers started to get cold. They said goodbye to the fox and thanked it for this special encounter.
An explorer watching a fox (left of large tree trunk). Photo taken by Elisha James.
Thanks for reading! We're hopeful for more snow, tracking and exciting stories to share in the winter weeks to come.