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

Quinzhees and River Otters

Sarah Chaffee, February 4, 2019

Forest Preschool

Forest Preschool arrived at 4-H on Tuesday greeted by the sun, snow and a quinzhee! The children learned that this new snow shelter had been built the day before on Fire and Ice Day (Click here for more information on school break days). The preschoolers enjoyed crawling inside the shelter and helped Melissa and Maggie make the inside bigger by carving out the snow. They also found large snow piles made by the snow plows and bravely climbed to the top pretending they were mountain climbers. Once they had submitted the mountain, they slid down on their bellies!

Enjoying the warm sunshine, the children ate their snack near the quinzhee. Sarah held up a drawing of animal tracks and gave the group some clues about this mysterious creature. "This animal lives near rivers, ponds and lakes. It has five webbed toes and a long tail that helps it swim. Sometimes it even likes to slide down hills on its belly," she said. After observing the tracks and asking some questions, the preschoolers came to the conclusion that the tracks belonged to a North American river otter- and they were right!

After snack, Maggie and several children continued their work on the quinzhee. Together they pulled needles off branches from the nearby white pine and used them to create a soft bed on the floor of the quinzhee. As the day was coming to an end, the group gathered under the red oak tree and learned a new song! Maggie strummed her ukulele and sang- "Slipping, belly- sliding away. Friends gather near it's time to play. Swimming here, bounding there over earth and water. There she goes, our friend the otter." Click here to listen to Maggie's otter song! The children played along on a large drum and, after sharing some gratitude, ended their fun day in the snow and sun.

On Wednesday, the children welcomed Katie- Forest Preschool's new volunteer! Together they played in another quinzhee that had been built in Trillium Camp by the Fire and Ice campers. Katie helped the children carve out parts of the shelter and then played a game where they pretended they were fish swimming away from a hungry river otter! When the otter (Zak) got near, the children hid in the quinzhee, which turned into their cozy otter den.

Melissa and a child working on the fire. At lunch they sat around it, warming their hands and roasting some food, while listening to a story.

Before putting on their backpacks at the end of the day, the children slid down the snow pile like otters!


Dressed head to toe in rain gear, the homeschoolers braved some rainy, and eventually snowy, weather last Thursday! Before their day began, they played in the slushy snow and helped Jed, Primitive Pursuits' Founding Director, make a snow bear (seen above). At Opening Circle, Jesse revealed that last week's track had belonged to an eastern cottontail and afterwards, Sarah showed the new track of the week. "This animal," she said, "is apart of the weasel family and has 5 webbed toes on its front and hind legs. It has a long tail that helps in swim and the ability to close both its ears and nose to prevent water from getting in."

After playing a round of Coyotes and Deer, the group headed out to the Hemlock Forest to get some shelter from the rain. Together they set up a tarp and gathered close to eat their snacks. While discussing ways to stay warm in weather like this, Jed left to go collect some firewood. As the homeschoolers were starting to pack up their snack, Jesse got a phone call from Jed saying he was lost! The group was up to the challenge of finding him and quickly began following the tracks he had left in the snow. They noticed several long lines next to his footprints and realized that he must have taken a sled with him. The tracks took them deeper and deeper into the Hemlock Forest until they noticed smoke up ahead. As they got closer, they saw Jed holding a fire taco! He thanked the group for coming to find him and asked them what direction they believed camp was. Some pointed towards the way they had come via Jed's tracks while others pointed in a different direction. They decided to split into two groups to see which way was faster.

Sarah and several other homeschoolers followed Jed's tracks back to their camp. Along the way they talked about how they were sure they would arrive at camp before the other group and were shocked to find out they were wrong- the other group had gotten there first and were already working on getting a fire started! While Jed revealed some secrets to starting fires in the rain to some eager homeschoolers, the rest played on the nearby dragoon shelter. Later some did a blindfold challenge where they had to take fifty steps away from camp and then try to come back to where they had started. The rest of the group remained silent while watching the blindfolded homeschoolers find their way back to camp. Afterwards they enjoyed some lunch around the fire, shared stories of times they got really cold and then hiked to the Meadow where they ended their day with an intense game of Compass Tag.

Winter Explorers

Last Thursday, the Winter Explorers crew ventured with Zak to Spencer where he owns some property. There they participated in several different snow ball challenges, went sledding and explored a nearby pond. They even had some hot coco!

Thank you for reading! We're feeling grateful for the sun that warms our bodies even on the chillest of days.

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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.