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Learning from Ancestors

Sarah Chaffee, November 7, 2018

Forest Preschool

For the past two weeks, Forest Preschool has been learning about ancestors. Together they've discussed what the word "ancestor" means, practiced ancestral skills such as shelter-building and fire-tending and shared stories of their past relatives.

While Monday may have been cold, windy and cloudy, that didn't stop the preschoolers from being out in the woods. They took advantage of the weather (the wind had caused the trees to let some branches go) and collected these sticks to use for future fires. They also began working on a shelter by gathering large sticks, leaning them against one another and finding leaves to put on top.

Melissa and three children telling stories in their shelter.

Melissa holding a garter snake she and several preschoolers found while working on their shelter. Together they sang a song of gratitude as they let it go.

On Tuesday the preschoolers continued to add leaves and sticks to the shelter and even found a small garter snake while doing so. Melissa gently picked it up and showed it to those who were interested and then let it go, being sure to sing a song of gratitude for it. At snack Colleen shared the story of her great grandmother's journey to America and afterwards, invited the children to ask their families about past relatives. As an ancestor plate was passed around the snack time circle, Sarah explained that food is a way many cultures choose to to show love for their families, even after some of them have passed away. The children were asked, if they felt comfortable, to put a small piece of their snack on the stone as an offering to their ancestors. Together they found a special place in Trillium North to leave the stone and spoke excitedly about what would eat the treats they left behind.

A child pretending to be a monkey hanging in a tree.

Two children sitting next to their ancestor plate.

The children practiced another ancestral skill on Wednesday- songlining! As they walked through the woods, the preschoolers created landmarks in the trees, plants and other unique things they saw and wove them together into a story. The preschoolers' journey took them to Village Camp where they ate snack in the sun and played a game called Hibernation. In this game, the children pretend to be dandelions in a field hiding from a very hungry groundhog. As the children hide, the groundhog, an instructor, comes out of their den and looks to see if they can find any dandelions from where they're standing. The groundhog is careful to not move too far from its den while searching for dandelions because if he or she goes too far, a red-tailed hawk, played by another instructor or child, can swoop in and force the groundhog back into its home.

Children hiding amongst the Climbing Logs during a game of Hibernation.

Forest preschoolers warming their hands by a fire during lunch.

During Opening Circle on Thursday, the children passed around the mystery bag and noticed that whatever was inside felt flexible, thin and was very light. After voicing their best guesses the mystery as revealed- a picture of Sarah's ancestors! Sarah explained that the three men in the photograph were three generations of people from her family, starting with her great-great-great grandfather! She shared some more photos and stories about her ancestors during snack and asked the children to see if their families have any photographs of their past relatives too. The children put the last of the leaves on the shelter and used it as the groundhog's den during several rounds of Hibernation. They also collected wood and had a lunchtime fire where they roasted food and listened as Colleen told a story of a time she accidentally ate poisonous berries!

A child running through the creek.


On Thursday, the Homeschool crew had one of their first dry days since the beginning of program! The took advantage of the weather by playing in the leaves, building shelters and enjoying the gifts of fall.

The Sur-Thrival Clan with Danielle and Elias ventured out to Danby State Forest where they worked together to build a shelter. They completed almost half of it and have made plans to return to finish their project.

It was a good day for shelter-building because the White Oak Clan did the same! They spent most of their day at 4-H Acres digging holes, raking leaves into large piles and finding big sticks. They also, with the help of Zak, used saws and hatchets to cut and shape the three large supporting sticks of their shelter. The homeschoolers were very eager to get the shelter finished and when their time had almost ended, they worked together to put up one the support beams. They spoke excitedly of next week and their plans for the shelter as they ventured out of the woods.

A member of the White Oak Clan using a hatchet to shape the end of a support beam for a shelter.

A homeschooler using a bow saw on a piece of wood for the shelter.

The Dragon and Ponderosa Clans joined forces this week in Cedar Camp. They too enjoyed the dry weather and spent their day playing in the crisp, fallen leaves. They made forts, had leaf fights, drank some delicious hemlock tea and even fired clay creations they had made a few weeks prior. At the end of their time together, the Dragon and Ponderosa Clans came to the Log Circle where they shared some gratitude for the trees, sun, friends, wind, leaves and everything else.

Zak and two members of the White Oak Clan seeing if their support beam will be able to stand on its own.

Jenn passing an oak leaf to Monica during Gratitude at Closing Circle.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out our upcoming school break days, Forest Preschool play days and adult workshops.

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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.