Sarah Chaffee, January 23, 2019
This week at Forest Preschool, the children welcomed a new instructor- Maggie! They gave her a tour of Trillium Camp, being sure to show her all their favorite places- the Climbing Hill, the tepee and of course the creek, which was almost completely frozen! They practiced sliding on their bellies like river otters and enjoyed breaking the ice with sticks and using the broken pieces to build ice castles.
Each week the children have been learning about a new animal. While last week they practiced leaping like white-tailed deer, this week they learned how to hop like eastern cottontails. During Opening Circle, Sarah passed around the mystery bag. With one hand and eyes closed, the children put their hand in the bag and described what they felt. "It feels soft." "It's furry." It's kind of scratchy." When everyone had a turn, the mystery was revealed to be...a rabbit hide! Afterwards the children practiced hopping like rabbits, with their feet first and hands behind, to their backpacks and down to Trillium Camp.
Aside from hopping like cottontails, the preschoolers also tried to be still like them. They learned that when rabbits sense danger, they tend to freeze in order to camouflage to their surroundings. If the potential threat gets too close, they'll quickly hop away. The children practiced this in the snow-covered Meadow by trying to sneak up on their fellow preschoolers, who were sitting on a log with their eyes closed and singing a song. When the song stopped and they opened their eyes, the approaching rabbits had to freeze. If they moved, the children had to start from the beginning and try again to get close to the singing group.
During snack, Melissa told the latest installment to her peace-making tales- a story about two rabbits that needed help from Fine Words Fox, Peaceful Porcupine, Feel Better Butterfly and Unity Unicorn. As she told her story, Melissa passed around the Peace Stones and the children took turns holding each one.
The children not only learned how to be still like cottontails, but also how to run like them. In the Meadow they played a game called "Run Rabbits, Run!" where they ran from burrow to burrow without getting caught by Maggie and Sarah, who pretended to be hungry bobcats. Prior to playing, the preschoolers learned that eastern cottontails don't live in holes, but instead make themselves comfortable in burrows usually dug by other creatures, like woodchucks.
The preschoolers also expressed interest in learning about black bears. Here they can be seen in their den with Melissa pretending to be hiberanting. Due to some snoring bear cubs, they woke up early from their nap in a fit of giggles!
A bear cub giving a ferocious growl from a den he made himself!
On the path down to Trillium Camp, the children noticed some feathers in the snow. They carefully picked them up and observed their color and shape. After some discussion with Melissa, they realized the feathers probably belonged to a wild turkey! Some of the preschoolers decided to take a feather or two home to add to their own nature collections.
Melissa holding the Gratitude Hoop while she shares with the group during Closing Circle. Forest Preschool takes time at the end of every day share what they were grateful for from their time together.
Two children observing a dead stump on the path leading to the Meadow. They discussed for several minutes what could have happened to it and why it was there. Afterwards, they helped collect some dry sticks and beech leaves for a lunch fire.
The Homeschool crew gathered together on Thursday for the chillest day of program yet! To stay warm, they played a few round of Forest Fire where they not only had to know facts about their animal, but also what its tracks look like. "Run if your animal has four toes and leaves claw marks in its tracks," said Zak as the homeschoolers ran from one side of the field to the other. After they had warmed up a bit, the homeschoolers listened as Hillary-Joy reveal what last week's mystery track was (a crow!) and as Jesse showed this week's new track. Here he can be seen holding up a drawing of this animal's tracks and a picture of its scat. Jesse explained that this is a coprophagous mammal, which means that it eats its own feces for nutrition.
After Opening Circle, the group split into their clans. Zak and Hillary-Joy's crew ventured down to Trillium Camp where they helped the preschoolers work on their lean-to shelter. They gathered roofing materials and began placing them on the shelter; they even had some help from the preschoolers! Afterwards they spent some time boot-skating and sliding on the frozen creek- a favorite activity of preschoolers, homeschoolers and instructors alike.
The Fox Tracker Clan with Jesse and Sarah had snack at their secret basecamp which they decided to name "SVC," which stands for "Secret Village Camp." After discussing their care-taking plans for their camp, they decided to keep moving and travel to the Hemlock Forest. Before they left, Jesse showed the group a decaying tree and took some of its bark and "punky" wood (the soft, rotted area usually towards the center of rotting wood) to make a fire taco!
What's a fire taco, you ask? It's a way to carry fire from one location to another! The Fox Trackers quickly gathered beech leaves and dry white pine needles to keep the ember in the fire taco going. When it needed some air, Jesse asked the group to help him by having them gently breath into the fire taco.
The Fox Trackers grabbed their gear, said goodbye to SVC and started the trek to the Hemlock Forest. Along the way they looked for dry materials to help feed the growing ember in the fire taco. They also collected larger pieces of firewood, however when they reached the Hemlocks, their ember had sadly extinguished. The group talked about what they could have done differently and plan to practice the art of carrying fire another time.
On their way to Raccoon Motel, where the Fox Trackers had decided to have lunch, they stopped at the Dragon (a shelter that had been created this summer using the uprooted part of a hemlock as the mouth of a dragon). Seen here are two homeschoolers warming themselves in the "belly" of the dragon.
Since the homeschoolers had already collected firewood, they had no trouble getting their fire started and even got to practice lighting a few matches. They warmed their hands and food over the fire while telling a story that involved wizards, a magical crow and a hungry polar bear.
The two clans met back in the Meadow to play an epic game. Huddled together in the tepee, Zak explained that a mysterious crow-being was hiding in the nearby woods and that it was our job to find her without getting caught by the trolls! The trolls, while very agile at moving through the honeysuckle thickets, can only see people when they're moving. So in order to avoid being captured, the homeschoolers had to stay very still (like cottontails!) when the trolls where near. Zak, who had transformed into a troll, can be seen above searching for hiding homeschoolers.
The group searched far and wide for the crow, who was a very good hider. Just when a few were sure they would never find her, they heard a distinct crow call coming from a fallen white pine. The homeschoolers approached slowly, careful to not attract the wandering eyes of the trolls, and found the mysterious crow-being! She marked them each on the forehead and told them they now had the power to tag the trolls! The homeschoolers leaped over the log and through the honeysuckles and chased the trolls until they were both tagged and had transformed back into Zak and Jesse.
The clans circled at Turkey Knoll where they shared some stories from the game. Many talked about how exciting it was to freeze when the trolls were near and to watch them walk right by if they were still enough. Afterwards, they imagined that there was a giant basket in the middle of their circle and tossed their gratitude into it (seen above). With a giant leap and coyote howl, they grabbed their bags and headed out of the woods after another adventurous day of Homeschool.
The Winter Explorers spent Thursday exploring some gorges, where they enjoyed playing in the fresh snow and practicing some conifer tree identification. The group also completed a five-minute fire challenge, the result of which can be seen above! Photo taken by Danielle Prizzi.
They also harvested some Japanese knotweed, which they cut into cups and put fresh snow and hemlock needles in to make tea! Above are the knotweed cups and two explorers eagerly waiting for the tea to warm up. Photo taken by Danielle Prizzi.
Thanks for reading! In this chilly weather, we're grateful for the human and land connections that keep us feeling warm all winter long.