Coyote and Deer
Sarah Chaffee, February 7, 2018
During Opening Circle on Monday, Sarah gave three clues as to what was in the day’s mystery bag. “This thing grows on an animal’s head, this animal can be found at 4-H Acres and we’ve found its tracks in Trillium Camp,” she said. After the children listened to the clues, the bag was passed around and they shared their guesses and observations. “It’s pointy,” said one preschoolers. “It feels like bone,” said another. The “mystery” was taken out of the bag and the children were excited to see antlers! They carefully passed them around the circle where they learned that antlers grow on male deer, also known as bucks, and that they shed these antlers every spring to grow new ones.
The preschoolers catching snowflakes.
After Opening Circle, the children went on a scavenger hunt where they needed to find a deer track, beech leaves, firewood and ingredients for tea. Together they wandered through Trillium Camp and up towards the Horse Arena, keeping a lookout for the items they needed to find. After some searching they found a white pine tree, which they identified by counting five needles in a bundle, and harvested its needles for tea. They also came across a cluster of beech trees and collected some of their leaves while giving it some gratitude. “Thank you tree,” one of the children said.
A child wearing "deer antlers."
Along the way they had collected some wood and brought it down to camp to start a fire during snack. While they munched on some food, they listened to Jesse tell a story about a time he saw an entire family of deer. At lunch they placed their tea, which included the white pine needles from the scavenger hunt and some sap from their sugar maple buckets, onto the fire. When it had cooled off, the children filled their cups with the warm, sweet tea.
Pine and maple sap tea.
On Tuesday, Forest Preschool continued learning about white-tailed deer and beech trees. During Opening Circle they were taught a new song called "American Beech" written by Melissa and Felicity. "American beech, you stand so tall. I want to reach for your bright orange leaves," the instructors and children sang while lifting their arms towards the sky, pretending to be a tall beech tree. After lunch they played Coyote and Deer. In this game, one person starts off as a coyote while the rest are deer, who signify this by putting their hands by their head and spreading their fingers out like antlers. When a deer is tagged, he or she becomes a coyote and the game continues until there are no deer left. The children started off as deer and learned how to camouflage themselves amongst the trees to hide from the sneaky coyotes.
Jesse and a preschooler starting a fire using beech leaves and goldenrod.
Wednesday was a perfect day to go sledding! After snack the preschoolers went in search for a good hill to slide down and, when they found it, showed great patience and teamwork by waiting their turns to use the sled. Their laughter and cheers as they slid down the hill echoed throughout the forest. When they returned to camp they warmed up by a fire and listened to a Cherokee story about how deer got their antlers.
Jeremiah and two children making a large snowball for their snow castle.
Forest Preschool enjoyed the forty-degree weather on Thursday, which made the remaining snow excellent for building. They spent most of their day in the Horse Arena making giant snowballs, some of which were taller than the children! The preschoolers rolled the giant snowballs together to make a snow castle at the edge of the field. They also played Meet a Tree. In this game the children are blindfolded, if they choose, and are led to a tree that they're encouraged to get to know by feeling, smelling and even tasting its bark. Afterwards they are led some distance away from the tree, their blindfolds are removed and the children have to find the tree they met. The preschoolers used several clues, such as their footprints in the snow and the texture of their tree's bark to find the tree they met.
A preschooler meeting a tree.
The Mystery Clan spent Thursday practicing their scouting skills. They began by going over the art of fox-walking, moving slowly and deliberately so their movements made almost no sound. Using this technique, they played Keeper of the Keys. One homeschooler sat blindfolded with an object their fellow clan members had to try and take without being heard. If the Keeper hears and points at someone, that person has to move farther away.
The Mystery Clan hanging out at Forest Preschool's snow castle.
The Mystery Clan also played several rounds of Camouflage until they felt ready to go on an actual scouting mission. Putting all of their skills to the test, the homeschoolers scouted the Beaver Clan. They got as close as they could without being seen, fox-walking and camouflaging themselves amongst the trees, bushes and fallen leaves.
The homeschoolers playing Coyote and Deer.
The Beaver Clan began their day by following a mysterious track into the Hemlock Forest. The prints led them to a shallow, frozen pond that they enjoyed boot-skating across. Later they found some more tracks, these ones with four toes and claw marks. After following these for awhile, the homeschoolers decide to stop, make a fire and eat some lunch. While sitting around the fire, Danielle told a story about an epic race between fisher and coyote. At the end, she revealed that the tracks they had been following belonged to these two creatures.
The group playing a game called Snow Snake.
In the afternoon, the two clans met in the Horse Arena for a game-a-thon! The first game they played was Coyote and Deer. Danielle and Elias started off as coyotes while the rest were deer, many of whom tried to avoid being tagged by hiding behind a large white pine tree. They played until the last deer was caught.
The homeschoolers running from the snow snake.
They continued the game-a-thon with a new game called Snow Snake. This game is played in a small circle and starts with one person, the Snow Snake, laying on the ground while everyone places a hand on them. On the count of three, the snake is released and has to try and tag the standing players while remaining on the ground, slithering on their belly. Players who are tagged become snakes too and the game ends once everyone has become a snake.
A group of snow snakes searching for the last person left.
The homeschoolers played several rounds of this game and laughed as they tried to move quickly while on their stomachs. There were many near-escapes as homeschoolers ran around the outer edges of the circle to avoid being caught. Some were brave enough to run through the middle of the circle where many of the snow snakes were waiting to tag their passing feet.
Monica leading an energy break at the end of Closing Circle.
The two clans ended their day by gathering in a circle and sharing some of their favorite moments from the two games. "I liked being a coyote and chasing the deer," said one homeschooler about the Coyote and Deer game. "I loved the Snow Snake game and hope we get to play it next time," said another. Afterwards they gave some gratitude; many were thankful for the warm weather, the fisher tracks and the game-a-thon. Their day ended with a coyote howl and excitement for what new adventures week will bring.
The homeschoolers gathered together at the end of the day.
The Winter Explorers traveled to the Danby State Forest on Thursday where they enjoyed a day of tracking, games and other adventures.
The explorers looking at a set of tracks they found in the snow.
The warm weather made the snow soft and slushy and great for tracking. The explorers followed prints they identified as red fox by observing the size, number of toes and gait pattern. They also found a more mysterious set of tracks that weren't so easily recognizable. Based on their shape and size, the group was able to determine that they belonged to an animal in the weasel family, but weren't sure if it was a fisher or an otter.
An explorer hiding behind a tree.
After some intense tracking, the Winter Explorers played several rounds of Coyote and Deer. They enjoyed having a large space to run, hide and chase each other. They spent the rest of their day exploring the forest and enjoying the warm sunshine.
The group taking a break for lunch.
Thank you for reading! We've been enjoying the many gifts of winter and are looking forward to six more weeks of it (according to a trustworthy groundhog).