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

Tapping Trees

Sarah Chaffee, January 28, 2018

Forest Preschool

On Monday, Forest Preschool enjoyed warmer weather and wet snow that was great for finding tracks and building snowmen! They began their day with some animal form stretches during Opening Circle. Each child picked an animal and showed the group how it moves while everyone mimicked the movement. Together they wiggled like worms, ran like cheetahs, balanced like flamingos and flapped their arms like birds.

Melissa and the preschoolers drilling a hole into a sugar maple for sap.

They ventured down to Trillium Camp, stopping multiple times along the way to look at some nearly intact prints. The preschoolers observed the distance between pairs of tracks and made guesses as to whether the animal had been walking, running or hopping when it traveled down the path. After snack the children helped Melissa tap a second sugar maple. They took turns using the drill, which needs to go about two inches into the tree before the spile could be inserted. When they finished tapping their new tree, the preschoolers checked the sugar maple they tapped last week and were excited to see sap in the bucket! They grabbed their cups and enjoyed sipping on the sweet drink while playing in the snow.

A preschooler drinking sap from a sugar maple.

On Tuesday, the preschoolers' fox-walking skills were put to the test during Goose and Raccoons. In this game, one child is the "goose" and sits with his or her eyes closed with an egg, or ball of bandanas, in front of them. The rest of the children are raccoons trying to steal the goose's egg without being heard by the alert goose. If the goose hears someone, he or she points in the direction of the noise and the child who made the sound has to move farther away. The preschoolers learned that if they took slow, deliberate steps, they were able to move silently and snatch the egg undetected.

The children playing a round of Goose and Raccoons.

Forest Preschool enjoyed a snowy Wednesday at 4-H Acres. During Opening Circle, they tried to catch the falling snowflakes on their tongues, counting each one that landed. In Trillium Camp, they braved the slippery climbing hill and worked together to reach the top by lending a hand when needed. Once at the top they followed a trail of large tracks that veered slightly off the path. After looking closely at the animal's tracks, the children came to the conclusion that it was a deer and made a new tally on their animal track log. At snack, Jesse told the preschoolers two stories of different raccoon encounters he's had. In one of his stories, he talked about the time he saw several kits, baby raccoons, in a white pine tree. Jesse explained that female raccoons often leave their young behind in "nursery trees" while they go out in search of food.

Jesse and the preschoolers playing Tracking Hide-and-Seek with the preschoolers. In this version of the game, Jesse hides while the children find him by following his footprints.

On Thursday, Trillium Camp was covered in a dusting of large snowflakes. Melissa gave the children magnifying glasses so they could observe the intricate details of each snowflake. The preschoolers walked around camp with their magnifying glasses in hand and used them to look at the snow that had collected on logs, low tree branches and on top of their shelter.

Preschoolers pretending to be hungry kits in a nursery tree.

After snack Melissa explained that kits follow their mother in a line and, in doing this, learn how to climb trees, crawl over and under logs and other necessary skills for raccoons. The preschoolers practiced walking like raccoons and followed Melissa through the forest, up and down hills, over and under logs and back to camp where they discovered a special gift- a basket of pinecone bird feeders! The children hung them from various trees in Trillium Camp and expressed gratitude for their mysterious origins.

Melissa and two children building a snowman.


On Thursday, the Mystery Clan used the pinecones they had collected during last week's scavenger hunt to make bird feeders for Forest Preschool! They covered the pinecones in peanut butter and birdseed and placed them in a basket with string to hang them from trees. The homeschoolers watched Trillium Camp from the Log Circle and hiked down when they saw that the children had left camp. They placed the basket of gifts near their fire pit and climbed the hill overlooking Trillium Camp and waited for the preschoolers' return, using their scouting skills to hide behind trees and bushes. The Mystery Clan watched as Forest Preschool found their gift and hung the bird feeders around their camp.

A bird feeder gifted to Forest Preschool by the Mystery Clan.

The Beaver Clan hiked to the Hemlocks where they made their base camp for the day. There they divided themselves into teams and worked together to collect tinder, pencil and marker sticks for a one-match fire challenge. One group struggled to start a fire from a match, but was instead able to use a coal to ignite their kindling. Like the Mystery Clan, the Beavers also tested their scouting skills with several rounds of Camouflage.

Elias sneaking up on a homeschooler during a game of Crow Spirit.

In the afternoon, the two clans met in Village Camp to play an epic game of "Crow Spirit." In this version of the game, the homeschoolers pretended to be chickadees trying to evade capture from the "predators," or instructors that tried to tag and freeze them, while searching for the elusive Crow Spirit. If they were tagged, the homeschoolers had to stand in place and call out "Chickadee-dee-dee" for someone to come and unfreeze them.

Hillary-Joy trying to tag homeschoolers during their afternoon game of Crow Spirit.

The chickadees ran through the forest looking behind every tree, bush and other potential hiding spots for the Crow Spirit while trying to avoid getting tagged by the speedy predators. After thirty minutes the Crow Spirit revealed herself and said that several chickadees got very close to her hidden spot, but no one found her. At Closing Circle gratitude was shared for the game, the snow, fire, warm clothes and friendship. A resounding coyote howl marked the end of another adventurous day.

Homeschoolers searching for the Crow Spirit.

Winter Explorers

Below are some highlights from the Winter Explorer's adventures on Thursday at Six Mile Creek. All photos are taken by Elisha James, a Winter Explorers instructor.

The Winter Explorers looking at tracks on a snow-covered log.

An explorer showing a large piece of ice he found in a creek.

"King Jesse" and the Wilderness Explorers.

Thank you for reading! We had a fun week finding new tracks, learning new skills and making deeper connections to nature.

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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.