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Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  Albert Einstein

Wandering Peregrines

Sarah Chaffee, April 9, 2018

Forest Preschool

This week the children of Forest Preschool learned about the magnificent peregrine falcon, what field marks are and how to give gratitude to trees!

On a chilly Monday morning, the mystery bag was passed around at Opening Circle by one of the preschoolers, who are encouraged to bring their own objects to share with the group. The children felt the outside of the bag, voiced their guesses and then waited for the secret item inside to be revealed. The child proudly pulled out a piece of maple candy shaped like a robot and said she would share the rest with everyone at snack. The children, having tasted the sap from the maple trees they tapped in Trillium Camp, spoke excitedly about trying maple candy as they put on their backpacks and raced down the path, practicing their peregrine falcon speed.

Melissa painting a child's face with charcoal paint to make him look like a mouse.

In Trillium Camp, Melissa and a group of children gathered charcoal from the fire, crushed it up with a rock and then added water to make face paint. As she was helping a child transform into a peregrine falcon, she explained that field marks are a characteristic that birds, and other animals have, that help people identify them. Peregrine falcons, for example, have dark, grey feathers on their head and around their eyes, making them look like they're wearing a mask.

The children playing What Time It Is, Mr. Fox, a Forest Preschool favorite.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the children visited the maple trees above Trillium Camp they tapped in January, and helped Jesse and Sarah collect the remaining sap from the buckets. As they pulled out the taps, the children sang- "Maple trees, maples trees, we love you. We offer you thanks for all you do. So please, please, please rest." Some gave the trees a hug, others shared their memories of eating maple syrup snow cones and drinking warm sap on cold days.

Sap-filled cups warming up by the fire.

During snack, Melissa told a story about a group of fairies who celebrated a very special person's birthday- one of our very own preschoolers! After the story, the birthday girl passed out a treat she brought to share and the group sang a birthday song.

A child sharing a treat with the group on her birthday.

During Opening Circle on Thursday, the children learned that "peregrine" means "to wander." Inspired by this, they put on their backpacks and heading off into the forest, but not to their home base in Trillium Camp. Instead they ventured off into the deep, dark and magical Hemlock Forest, stopping along the way to admire different trees they know- maples, beeches and even a cedar.

Melissa and a child playing on a fallen hemlock tree.

Forest Preschool made an area in the hemlocks their base camp for the day and spent lots of time exploring their surroundings. The preschoolers discovered a hemlock tree that had fallen over and pulled up its roots and part of the Earth with it. The children enjoyed climbing on this tree and playing inside the small, dome-like shelter it created when it fell. While some preschoolers explored, others helped Jeremiah cut a tree using a saw. While one child used the saw, another would help hold the tree in place. Together they cut the tree into several large sections to add to the wood box in Trillium Camp.

Jeremiah and the preschoolers sawing a fallen tree.

At the end of the day, the children split into three groups and led the instructor in their group out of the Hemlock Forest. The preschoolers in Sarah and Melissa's groups followed the paths to Village Camp and led them down the hill, across the creek and up to the Pole Barn. Jeremiah's group trekked past Grandmother Hickory and across the creek and down a path that also brought them to the Pole Barn. When they came back together, the children discussed the different paths they took and the many possible ways to get from one place to another. With that, they ended their wander and, as peregrine falcons, flew back to the red oak tree to end their day.

The children wandering through the Hemlock Forest.


The Northern Flicker Clan began their rainy Thursday with a blindfold walk into the forest. Each blindfolded homeschooler held onto a rope, one in front of another, leading them down a path in the woods. They held the rope loosely in their hands to feel which way they were being directed and had to be mindful of those in front and behind them. Without their eyes these clan members relied on their sense of smell, touch and sound to navigate through the woods. When they made it to their destination, they took off their blindfolds and discussed what it felt like to lose the ability to see. Many spoke about how it felt like they had traveled much further than they actually had and how they paid more attention to certain sounds, like the moving water in the creek, to help orient themselves.

After having spent most of the day practicing their scouting techniques, the Cedar Waxwing Clan stalked the Northern Flickers while they were in their base camp. They eventually decided to reveal themselves and joined the Flickers for a afternoon of throwing stick challenges.

Homeschoolers wearing charcoal face paint in preparation for a scouting mission. Photo taken by Barbara Ann Jordan.

The Cedar Waxwings weren't the only scouts in the forest that day. The Kingfisher Clan worked on improving their stalking abilities by playing several rounds of Keeper of the Keys and Camouflage. When they felt ready, the Kingfishers put on charcoal face paint to help themselves blend into their surroundings and went on a scouting mission to stalk the Northern Flickers and Cedar Waxwing Clans. They hid behind logs and trees, trying to see how close they could get without being seen. When the Kingfishers weren't scouting, they were searching the forest for skunk cabbage, wild edibles and building a shelter in the Hemlock Forest.

A homeschooler putting a hand next to a mysterious track. Photo taken by Barbara Ann Jordan.

The Grackle Clan also spent their Thursday building shelters, but not in the Hemlocks. Through this clans' travels, they discovered the Lost Village- a camp hidden so well amongst a thicket of honeysuckle bushes that even the Grackles had a hard time finding it again. They marked its entrance with a symbol only they know to remember its exact location. Some worked on improving the shelters that already existed there and made plans to expand, while others continued ongoing carving projects.

The scouts in action! Photo taken by Barbara Ann Jordan.

The clans came together in the Pole Barn for Closing Circle where they acted out stories from the day, shared some gratitude and ended with a resounding coyote howl that could be heard above the pouring rain.

The homeschoolers ending their rainy day with Closing Circle in the Pole Barn. Photo taken by Barbara Ann Jordan.

Thank you for reading! We're grateful for time spent outdoors, rain that brings flowers and adventures that take us to forgotten places.

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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.