Sap is Flowing
Sarah Chaffee, March 16, 2018
This week Forest Preschool learned about crows, including their corvid relatives- bluejay and raven! During Opening Circle on a chilly Monday morning, Melissa mimicked the birdsong of each of these birds, pointing out the slight difference between a crow and raven. Afterwards the preschoolers took a turn trying to make these sounds while flapping their arms like wings and flying down the path towards Trillium Camp. They played there for awhile, observing the ice that formed at the edge of the creek. For snack the children ventured up to the Horse Arena where they ate in the tepee and listened to stories about crows and ravens. Melissa talked about how ravens have been found to use small rocks to raise the level in a glass of water. While exploring small ice puddles in the Horse Arena, the children gathered together when they noticed that Melissa was missing!
A crow being chased by a group of chickadees during Bird Mob, a new Forest Preschool game.
They went on an adventure to find her, searching the woods around them far and wide until they found tracks that looked similar to Melissa's. After following these prints across the creek and into Village Camp, the preschoolers noticed someone behind a tree. When they got closer they realized it was Melissa, or was it? "I am the Crow Spirit," she said with charcoal painted on her nose to resemble a beak. She marked each of the children with charcoal and told them to go and chase away the hawk that had been following them during their adventure. With the mark of the Crow Spirit, they found the hawk and chased him away and spent the rest of their day exploring the woods around Village Camp.
A child enjoying a maple syrup snow cone.
On Tuesday, Forest Preschool continued their study on crows while also learning about rose hip, a plant that produces red berries good for tea, jelly, syrup and many other things. The children went with Felicity in search of rose hips to flavor their tea. Together they looked by the Horse Arena and near the secret staircase, stopping to look at animal tracks they found along the way.
A preschooler helping tend the fire.
Wednesday brought snow and maple syrup snow cones! The children filled up their cups with fresh snow while Melissa poured maple syrup over it. She explained that if they took all of the sap they had collected from the sugar maples and put it over a fire, after a while they would have syrup. On Wednesday Forest Preschool also played a new game called Bird Mob. In this game there are three groups- the chickadees, crows and hawks. The chickadees have to protect their nest and eggs from the hungry crows, while in turn, the crows have to protect their eggs from the even hungrier hawks. However, two chickadees can scare away a single crow and two crows can chase away a hawk. Afterwards the children talked more about bird mobbing and discussed the difficulties of trying to guard their nest while also snatching eggs from the others.
A hawk (Jesse) being chased by a crow during Bird Mob.
The sun came out to say hello on Thursday as Forest Preschool joined Homeschool for their Opening Circle. Together they sang a song about the flowing sap and the critters waking up from a long winter's sleep. Afterwards the preschoolers asked the group to make observations and predictions about the weather, something that is a part of their daily Opening Circle routine. "What does the sky look like today?" said one child. "Will the creek be frozen?" asked another. Each week the homeschoolers are shown an unknown animal track with some clues. They have a week to think about what it could be until it's revealed during their next meeting. Hillary-Joy announced that last week's track belonged to a porcupine! As she said this, she pulled a mounted porcupine out of a bag. She walked around the circle, letting everyone feel it's smooth, yet pointy quills. The children stayed to hear Monica tell a story about spring overcoming winter and making the world warm again before heading down to Trillium Camp where they made maple syrup snow cones and played Bird Mob.
A child eating a maple syrup snow cone.
On Thursday, the Mystery and Cyanide Sap Clans gathered in the log circle with Forest Preschool to begin their day in the woods. Danielle presenced the new moon and talked about how some people like to give each moon a name that coincides with something happening in nature. After some discussion, the group decided to name this moon the "Sap Moon," because of the abundance of sap flowing from the sugar maples.
The homeschoolers sitting around a fire they made to warm up sap in Village Camp.
After answering some weather questions from the preschools and learning that last week's track belonged to a porcupine, Elias revealed this week's mystery track. It had four long toes with claw marks and was said to be carnivorous and nocturnal, calling dense, coniferous forests its home. The homeschoolers listened to these clues and will give their guesses as to what this creature might be at next week's program.
The Mystery and Cyanide Sap Clans made Village Camp their home for the day. When they arrived, the homeschoolers realized that one of the sugar maples they had marked with caution tape had been tapped! They quickly checked the gallon jug attached and saw that it was filled with sap. Together the group worked hard to collect enough dry wood to keep a fire going all day. They placed the sap in a pot and let it warm on the coals. As the end of the day drew near, the clans let the sap cool and then poured some into their cups, exclaiming with excitement at how sweet and tasty the sap was.
The clans enjoying the sweet sap.
The homeschoolers also made an epic mud slide near the creek by Village Camp. They worked together to smooth the surface and added water from the creek to make it more slippery. One by one, they slide down the hill only to climb back up and do it again. At Closing Circle Danielle asked the group if anyone had been to their "secret spot" and if so, what had changed since the last time they were there. "I noticed buds on the honeysuckle in my spot," said a homeschooler. Another talked about visiting her spot whenever she's sad or upset and how it always makes her feel better and at peace. During gratitude there was lots of thanks for the sap and for Sean who took the time to tap the trees for Homeschool. There was also thanks for the mud slide, a warm fire and friends. With their hands outstretched towards to sky, they ended their day of adventure until next time.
A final all-in at the end of an exciting day.
The explores ventured into Danby State Forest on Thursday where they discovered about eight inches of snow! Making paths through the deep snow, they found a lean-to and noticed open areas of the forest where trees had been cut down. Justin explained that parts of this forest had been logged a few years ago and how certain trees are left and will eventually fill in forest canopy. During lunch, the explorers made a fire and worked on their twine baskets. Afterwards they split into two groups and ventured up and downstream, coming together later to talk about what they had found. During their wander, they helped Justin scout out good bedding material for Winter Basics, an adult program at Primitive Pursuits. Winter Basics had an overnight at Danby State Forest on Friday and used spruce bows, among other things, to make a comfy and warm bed to sleep on. To end their adventurous day, the Winter Explorers played a truly epic game of Capture the Flag.
Thank you for reading! We hope that the sap continues to flow from our sugar maples and that spring is on its way.