Sarah Chaffee, April 24, 2018
The following blog post is from the week of April 2nd.
The children of Forest Preschool rang in the spring session of their program with a dusting of snow still on the Earth. On Monday, Melissa brought her handmade, deerskin mystery bag and passed it around the Opening Circle for everyone to feel and guess what was inside. From the outside of the bag, the unknown object felt like a long, hard tube with softer parts extending outwards. Some of the children's guesses included a stick, a tiny branch and a musical instrument. After everyone had gotten a turn, Melissa pulled out two long and beautiful feathers from the bag!
The tracks of the mysterious albino hemlock ostrich led the preschoolers to this spot.
The children carefully examined the feathers, noticing the reddish-orange color and dark stripes that went across. At first some thought that the feather belonged to an owl, one child even said "the feather is big and some owls are big." Another thought it belonged to a hawk because she had seen feathers like this before on a bird she once saw in the sky. Melissa revealed that the feathers did in fact belong to a hawk- the red-tailed hawk! Afterwards, the children flew down the path to Trillium Camp, some pretending to be predator birds and swooping down to catch their prey, while others were song birds, sending their beautiful ballad off into the forest.
Jesse holding the egg of the albino hemlock ostrich.
After snack, Jesse announced that there was evidence of a rare and elusive creature living at 4-H Acres- the albino hemlock ostrich! He showed them that this animal's track looked like two long straight lines that they create by dragging their long talons, and encouraged the group to follow the tracks to see where they led. Together the children climbed up the climbing hill, down the path, through the woods and stopped where the tracks ended and a small clearing in the leaves had been made. "This must be where the albino hemlock ostrich laid its egg," exclaimed Jesse. The children helped him dig at the Earth until the shell of the massive egg was revealed. Jesse explained that the egg was actually a cantaloupe and that if it were a real egg, he would leave it alone so that it would be able to grow and turn into a bird. Around a fire at lunch, the children enjoyed the tasty cantaloupe and thanked the mythical albino hemlock ostrich for leaving it for them.
Barbara Ann and two children breathing a coal to life.
Tuesday and Wednesday were rainy and muddy days at Forest Preschool. On Wednesday, the children learned a red-tailed hawk song during their Opening Circle:
I'm a red-tailed hawk,
and I fly real high.
I soar in wide circles,
and attack in a dive.
I hunt birds and snakes and rodents,
with my talons and sharp eyes.
I'm a red-tailed hawk,
I gotta go now, goodbye!
In Trillium Camp, Jesse helped the children make fishing poles out of sticks and jute. The preschoolers made "hooks" by tying smaller sticks to the end of their fishing pole lines and practiced casting out their lines and reeling them back in. Some caught dead leaves or small branches and pretended they were giant salmon, bass, etc., and one even caught a great white shark! After snack, the children went in search of the best mud puddle at 4-H Acres. Their journey took them to the Horse Arena where they found not one, but two awesome puddles! They took turns running through them, jumping over them and had a contest to see who could make the biggest splash. At lunch, the preschoolers told a group story about a red-tailed hawk that was big enough to carry all of them on its back. This magical bird took them to a magical place where unicorns and mermaids lived.
Jeremiah telling a story at lunch.
On Thursday, Forest Preschool was joined by the wonderful Barbara Ann! The children helped her chop wood for a snack time fire and she taught them about friction fire. The preschoolers helped her gather dry beech leaves and some remaining goldenrod to add to their tinder bundle. When she got a coal, Barbara Ann carefully moved it to her tinder bundle and asked the children to breath the coal to life. After several breaths the tiny coal had turned into a flame! They moved it to the fire pit and began feeding the fire small sticks and, eventually, the larger pieces they had chopped earlier. When snack was over, the children explored the woods near the tepee and found deer tracks! They followed them and noticed some fur along the way. "I think it's from the deer," said one preschooler. When they returned to camp, the children noticed egg shells hidden in the climbing logs, near the shelter and behind the pavilion. Barbara Ann explained that they needed to find all of them and bring shells to their nest without getting caught by the very hungry red-tailed hawks. The preschoolers worked together to find all of the egg shells and put them safely in their nest, which was the lean-to shelter. "You did such a good job that I have a surprise for you," said Barbara Ann. She revealed an intact egg sitting in a nest of moss that had all of their names written in charcoal. The children carefully put it on their Nature Table where it remains today.
A child helping Barbara Ann chop wood for a fire.
On Thursday, Homeschool welcomed the Winter Explorers back to 4-H Acres! Overnight, two dead tamarack trees had fallen over due to high winds. The group used the dry and dead branches to start a large fire for their Opening Circle. Before dividing into clans, they played an intense game of Turkey Spirit. In this game, which is similar to Crow Spirit (a Primitive Pursuits' favorite), the Turkey Spirit hides and releases its call into the forest. Those playing must follow the sounds and find the hidden Turkey Spirit without getting tagged.
Three "wolves" protecting their den.
After Turkey Spirit, the Kingfisher Clan trekked out to the Hemlock Forest where they made their base camp for the day. They noticed that the storm that had taken down the tamarack trees in the front of 4-H Acres had also affected the area near their camp. A large hemlock tree had fallen over, pulling up its roots and the surrounding Earth. The clan members turned it into a wolf den and worked together to protect it from intruders. The Kingfisher Clan also did one match fire challenges and used one of the successful strikes to start their lunchtime fire. Afterwards, they went in search of skunk cabbage, a definite sign of spring. While they didn't find any, the Kingfishers were hopeful that soon his stinky plant will start to reveal itself.
Near the Beaver Pond, the Northern Flicker Clan worked on making water-tight and insulated containers out of tin foil. Their designs varied and, after making a fire and boiling water, the clan members filled their containers and saw which methods were successful and which were not. The Northern Flickers plan to use this knowledge when making pine bark baskets in late spring.
Monica playing the call of the bird of the week for the homeschool clan.
The Grackle Clan made their base camp in a secret location. They found the perfect place, hidden and tucked away in a forgotten corner of the woods where an abundance of honeysuckle bushes and young white ash trees concealed their whereabouts. The Grackles quickly began building a shelter between two trees that would be large enough to hold their entire clan. While some clan members were busy building, the rest were out protecting their camp. Using charcoal face paint, these Grackles scouted the other clans to make sure their whereabouts were nowhere near their secret village. In the afternoon, the clan came together for lunch in their new shelter and discussed plans for expanding their camp.
The Cedar Waxwing Clan used the sun as their guide and found themselves in the Hemlock Forest. They tested their firewood gathering and communication skills by working in pairs, with one person collecting wood blindfolded and the using their voice to lead their partner, as their hands were tied behind their back. When enough wood had been gathered, the fire was built and started by two blindfolded clan members who were verbally directed by the rest of the group. They spent the rest of the day drinking warm sap and observing the growing plants around them.
A moment between friends during Closing Circle.
In the afternoon, the clans met back at the Log Circle to share stories of their day in the woods. They brought their voices together, singing- "I hear the wolf and the fox and the weasel. I hear the wolf and the fox singing." Monica revealed that each week the homeschoolers will be given a different bird to collect facts about and observe in nature. "The bird for this week," she said, "does not spend its winter here, eats seeds and insects, has blueish-green eggs and has bright red and yellow feathers on its shoulders." Monica walked around the circle playing the call this birds makes and, after some thought, members of the group shouted out- "it's a redwing blackbird!"
Exploring the magical Hemlock Forest.
Thank you for reading! We're grateful for the abundance of bird song and the promise of warmer days.