Signs of Spring
Sarah Chaffee, March 6, 2018
On Monday, the children of Forest Preschool gathered together underneath a red oak tree for Opening Circle. Noticing the absence of snow and the cloudless and sunny sky, the preschoolers went on a wander in search of signs of spring. They made their way to Fall Creek, stopping along the way to say hello to a banded woolly bear, the newly sprouted buds on the honeysuckle bushes and to listen to the birdsong that followed them until they reached their camp for the day. After some snack, the children explored the creek bed and made fairy boats out of dried leaves. They placed their boats, some with sails made out of small sticks and grass blades, and watched them float down the creek. Melissa and several of the preschoolers journeyed further down Fall Creek where they came across a small beach covered in shells. After collecting a few to share with the rest of the group, they found a newly fallen tree that had distinctive characteristics of one that had been chewed on by a beaver. After some lunch, some gratitude and a coyote howl, the preschoolers traveled back to the red oak where their adventure had begun.
Lunchtime around a warm, crackling fire.
Forest Preschool continued to search for signs of spring on Tuesday. They learned about different animals that take a long winter's nap to survive in cold temperature with little food. Felicity introduced the group to a game called Hibernation. In this game one person, the groundhog, gets all cozy in his or her burrow and waits until its time to emerge. During this period, the children must hide and camouflage themselves amongst their surroundings so that they can't be seen from the groundhog's burrow. When it's time to wake up from hibernation, the groundhog will come out and look out into the forest. If the groundhog see's someone, then it'll be six more weeks of winter and the found person becomes a groundhog too and moves into the burrow. The groundhogs must also stay close to their home, for if they stray too far, a hungry hawk might swoop in on them. The game continues until everyone has been found.
A preschooler exploring Fall Creek on a sunny day. Photo taken by Melissa Blake.
The children greeted Wednesday with an Opening Circle filled with song, predictions and movement. Melissa recited a poem about spring along with movements, while the children followed along. "Animals of spring are waking up. Hello groundhog and chipmunk," they said while waving their hands to these creatures in the forests. Afterwards Siri asked the group what they noticed about the weather. "It's cloudy," said a preschooler. "The air is colder than when we went to the creek," said another. Before they left for Trillium Camp, they each embodied a groundhog and lived a "day-in-the-life of a groundhog," waking up from hibernation, eating lots of food and then going back to sleep. After snack, the children found some tracks they identified as a white-tailed deer. They followed them through the forest, trekking over and under logs, navigating around prickly bushes, until coming across a bone! The children brought it back to Trillium Camp where they showed the others and discussed the possibility of it being a dinosaur bone.
A child collecting gifts of nature.
After spending Thursday morning filling baskets with pine cones to add to their tinder supply box at Trillium Camp, Forest Preschool joined the Homeschool crew for their Opening Circle. The children found a spot in the Log Circle and listened as Monica asked what signs of spring they had noticed. "Buds on trees," said one homeschooler. "The smell of grass in the air," said another. Each week the homeschoolers are given an animal track with various clues to the creature who makes them. During their morning gathering, last week's animal was revealed. "This animal has a human-like track with five fingers. It's also nocturnal and will eat just about anything," Hillary-Joy said. She walked around the circle and showed the drawing of last week's track and the asked what everyone thought it was. Together the homeschoolers and preschoolers yelled "Raccoon!"
The preschoolers eagerly waiting for some sap warmed by their fire.
After Opening Circle with Forest Preschool, the Cyanide Sap and the Mystery clans went out into the forest in search of those signs of spring they had discussed during their morning gathering.
The homeschoolers gathered together at Village Camp after playing several rounds of Weasel Tree.
The Cyanide Sap Clan made Village Camp their home for the day. After making a fire, they used the leftover charcoal to make face paint and took turns decorating each other's faces with images of deer, foxes, coyotes and other animals of the woods. They also played several rounds of Weasel Tree, a game where players have to move from tree to tree by making eye-contact and switching places with another player. However, a sneaky coyote might be trying to visit all the trees as well and could jump in a take someone's place.
A homeschooler decorating a friend's face with charcoal paint.
They played several rounds of this game, laughing when the coyote would just nearly miss the opportunity to get to a tree. At the end of a game, Siri told the homeschoolers to take a look at the tree they were next to and asked them what they noticed about its bark, the size of its trunk, and its branching pattern. The Cyanide Sap members took in their observations and then joined the Mystery Clan for a special sign of spring activity- tapping sugar maples!
A member of the Mystery Clan asking questions about tree ID.
The first step was to identify the maples around Village Camp. The clans split up into two groups and went in search of trees with opposite branching that has dark, grey bark with deep grooves and ridges and likes to grow on hills. When they had found a sugar maple, the homeschoolers tied caution tape around its trunk to tap for next week.
A homeschooler taping off sugar maples they found around Village Camp.
After each group had identified several maples, they gathered back in Village Camp for Closing Circle. The clans gave some gratitude, thanking fire for keeping them warm, shelters for keeping them dry and maples for giving them sap. A loud coyote howl marked the end of another day spent out in the woods.
Going off in search of sugar maples.
The adventurous Winter Explorers spent their Thursday exploring, navigating and fire-building. Together they trekked across frozen creeks and participated in five minute, one match fire challenges. The explorers also played an epic game of Coyote and Deer that tested their teamwork and camouflage abilities.
Thanks for reading! While there may still be snow on the ground, we'll continue to search for signs of spring out in the woods.