Detective Post #6



News From the Outdoors:

The Nature Detectives took full advantage of the warm weather this week by spending lots of time outside exploring Woodend and noticing signs of Fall. All around us, things are falling off the trees…black walnuts, acorns, seeds and colorful Fall leaves. With that in mind, on Monday the Nature Detectives hiked through the woods and collected signs of Fall. Later, in the classroom we made labels and displayed our finds near the school entrance in our Nature Museum!


No tree is too over-elming for the Nature Detectives!


Fawning over some deer bones.


On Tuesday we kept up our nature collecting ways and collected leaves for a leaf pressing art project. We also had our inaugural Naturalist hike with Ms. Lisa who took us out into the woods to look for different types of fungi growing around our school. The Nature Detectives were able to spot a wide variety of fungi and even found one tree with three different fungi!


PM Naturalist Hike with Ms. Lisa.


AM Naturalist Hike with Ms. Lisa.


We wrapped up the week by exploring a new area of Woodend, the clearing behind the stumps and the woobly logs. While there the AM class spotted an upside down turtle, flipped it back right-side up and observed it slowly emerge from its shell! Later when the PM class visited the same spot, we were happy to see that the turtle had gone on its way!


Let’s Shell-abrate!


Both classes welcomed a couple of new faces to our school this week. The AM class were happy to welcome Casie to the Saplings whilethe PM class had their first visit with our weekly Thursday volunteer Ms. Susan, who read the kids a book and took us on a hike to explore the trees of Woodend!


Fun girls with fungi!


News From the Classroom:

As busy and hard working as we were outside, the Nature Detectives were equally busy in the classroom this week! While past favorites like the farm stand, playdough, and Hi-Ho Apple-O! were back again, we also had some new activities as well! The Nature Detectives made use of some new blocks and rose to the weekly block challenge to make block structures with roofs.


You’re Unbe-leaf-able!


Farm stand open, be sure to bring your reusable bags!


The kids used their various nature collections to make their museum displays, create colorful leaf prints, and even began the process of making their crowns for the Fall Celebration! On Thursday we also reintroduced an annually favorite game, Sneaky Snacky Squirrels!


Working on Journals


Hard at Work on Journals


In addition to all the art, Fall celebration prep and all the fun hands-on learning centers in the classroom, the Nature Detectives also worked on their Journals. For our first page, the kids were asked: “If you were a squirrel at Woodend, where would you hide your nuts for the Winter?” The kids then dictated their answers to the teachers, and added an illustration to the page. Throughout the year, we will add more entries to the journals with more open-ended questions for the kids to think about.


Creating a Museum Display.


Now you seed me, now you don’t!


Books We Read:

We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger

Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

Weekly Top Hits:

Falling Leaves (Tune: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)

Falling, falling, falling leaves

Mother Nature did you sneeze?

Red Ones, Yellow Ones, Orange and Brown

Big Ones, Little Ones, on the ground

Falling, falling, falling leaves

Mother Nature did you sneeze?


The Leaves on the Trees (Tune: Wheels on the Bus)

The Leaves on the trees they blow in the breeze

blow in the breeze, blow in the breeze.

The Leaves on the trees they blow in the breeze

Until they all fall down!


Spoiler Alert:

We’ll be doing more prep for our Fall Celebration!


Silly Cone Valley

News from the Wild – Week 6


Where they’re meant to be – outside

Sometimes seeds are planted, but take some time to germinate. And then suddenly, there it is, something new growing, sometimes slowly, sometime as fast as Jack’s beanstalk. As teachers, we bring ideas to the children in so many ways. We plant them in the stories we tell and read, in conversations at lunch or while walking through the woods. We plant ideas through the places we choose to explore together and what we observe and do while there. We bring new loose parts or tools to Hilltop Home and say, “I wonder what we could do with this?” And sometimes we don’t say anything at all. We just do something different and the children notice. And then the ideas bubble and boil. They mix with ideas from other children, they grow and change. New stories arise and the play follows.



Who needs plastic play equipment when you have a bush honeysuckle jungle gym (also occasionally a fire station)? All it took was pointing out a vine swing to turn this weed tree into a lunchtime destination.

This week, something magic happened. A child who has mostly been an alone player started initiating dramatic play and inviting other children into his play. “This is a Wheat Store!” he announced after lunch, pointing to a stand of tall seeded grass. “Do you want to see where you can collect the wheat?” And of course they did. Soon five children were collecting, grinding and transporting and trading wheat.


The Wheat Store entrepreneur explains how to harvest seeds

He had combined two ideas. Last week at the Twisty Tree Workshop, I quietly collected these same seeds and demonstrated how to grind them on a stump and carry them on a leaf. The Wheat Store child did not play, but he watched. In the Saplings morning preschool, they have been playing Farm Stand, and on Monday, I told an All Together story about the Oaks starting a store (the story mentions each child by name). Ideas started germinating for bakeries and potion labs, with golden nuggets for cash.


Leaves collected for use as money

More than the specific idea of Wheat Store, was the idea that playing with other children in collaborative dramatic play could give him more than building alone. A child proposes an idea and others join in. The very next day, the Wheat Store entrepreneur told the girls engaged in small-world play with toy forest animals, “I built a playground for your animals – do you want to see it?” And of course they not only wanted to see it, they wanted in on that play. Tiny playground was an idea Chelsea had helped develop several weeks before.

Children this age need social dramatic play. It’s where they develop language and connecting ideas that they build with other children. Collaborative play requires negotiation, problem-solving and self-regulation. It’s also how children internalize the components of story through play – rich dramatic play has characters, a setting, troubles, and maybe resolution…or maybe not (the game ends if the story ends!).  This is a weightier part of emergent literacy than knowing the ABCs – it leads to reading comprehension and the ability to make predictions, understand characters and think critically about a story.


If we got in, how could we get out?

Other play arcs this week included Troll Bridge. How will the teachers and the wagon get across the bridge with all those trolls? Troll repellent! It takes a whole day to make and cure in the potion lab. Many cakes and cupcakes were also made in the bakery. One of the best things about teaching 100% outdoors is there is an endless supply of the best loose parts. Rotting log makes excellent chocolate cake batter when mixed with water. Acorns and small stones can be ingredients or decorations. Plus, no need to clean the classroom afterwards!







The bakery starts with three cake-makers…


Loose parts include mud, grass, acorns, stones – plus some tools that signal cooking.


Soon the kitchen is chock-full of chefs


























We also continued our exploration of tracks by making plaster casts of tracks we found at the pond (deer and dog), along with a few from rubber molds (raccoon and BEAR!).

On Wednesday, after reading Leaf Man, we collected leaves and made our own leaf creatures – leaf men, leaf girls, plus a leaf unicorn, leaf dog, leaf ninja and leaf dinosaur. The children drew the tracks they imagined their leaf creature would make.



Work continues on the mini-shelter, at the rate of about one bamboo pole a day/week. Hilltop Home offers the children time to follow their own interests and engage with others in free play, so there are many projects and play arcs. One child might spend the entire time working on lashing two sticks together (trial and error), while others try out different activities with different friends.


Sharing time at circle meeting




Small world play with forest animals

Circling back to the garden metaphor – sometimes all it takes for magic to grow is to give children fertile ground. Offer an idea, change something in a subtle way, give them loose parts, read them a story. Then watch it bloom. A bush honeysuckle becomes a jungle gym, soil divets become cake ingredients, nuts become money or marbles, grass seeds become a window to a world of play.






Playing “Conkers” with chestnuts on strings


Putting up the welcome sign.

Stories this week:

The Oaks Start a Store (All Together oral storytelling)

The Lion and the Mouse (oral storytelling with Jerry Pinckney’s wordless book)

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

Ska Tat by Kimberly Knutsen

Anh’s Anger by Gail Silver


News from the Wild- Week 5

What an exciting week we had at Woodend! As the cooler weather has blown our way, the Oaks have enjoyed noting the changes taking place in familiar spaces, as well as exploring some new spots around Audubon. We began our week at Hilltop Home, where the windy weekend had left many changes and downed branches for us to investigate. As we made our way to Hilltop, the Oaks made predictions about whether the wind had blown over our bamboo structure. We were pleased to find that the previous week’s hard work had paid off, and the structure remained standing! One particularly large branch, however,  rested directly in the center of our Circle Meeting space. The Oaks quickly sprang into action, developing a plan to safely move it out of the way. The branch, a worthy opponent for just two Oaks, became increasingly easier to move as three, then four, then eventually all nine Oaks worked together to carry it! (Curriculum Connection: MCPS kindergarten objectives this week included noting the effects of wind on objects. Check!)


Developing a strategy 


Teamwork pays off!

The Oaks spent time focusing on kindness as a theme this week. There are always ample opportunities to demonstrate this attribute, whether we are working as a group to move a heavy branch, respecting each other’s opinions as we cast votes about where to spend our day, or helping to strap a friend securely into a makeshift vine swing.


Giving a friend a push on the swing

The middle of our week was spent exploring unseen parts of Woodend. After a group vote, the Oaks made their way to what was named the Twisty Tree Workshop. Low branches and sturdy logs provided a great space for climbing, as well as hidden homes for creatures, including a baby black rat snake and an entire family of slugs! img_0075



A longer hike on Wednesday gave the Oaks an opportunity to practice their navigation skills. As we continue to explore, we are becoming increasingly more familiar with Woodend, a skill which allows us to develop a mental image of how the spaces around us 20161012_132654connect to one another. The Oaks used these “mental maps” to hike from Hilltop Home, past the Ultimate Climber, and down the concrete steps before making it to the outdoor classroom. Here, we were able to uncover and investigate a clutch of old snake eggs!

After our two days of exploring we returned to our Hilltop Home. Here, the Oaks were surprised to find notable changes to our space, including a roof which had been added to our bamboo shelter, tree cookies which had been moved around, and shelters which had been dismantled and rebuilt in new areas. Using these clues, we were able to infer that we must have had some visitors! We have been working hard to develop a cozy and inviting space at Hilltop Home, and realized that this must have been an appealing place to passersby!  Circling back to our theme of kindness, we took this opportunity to discuss ways to explore and play while still respecting other people’s creations.

20161013_131732As some of the Oaks went to work repairing and rebuilding, others worked to create a booklet explaining the magic of our Hilltop Home! We invited visitors to enjoy our space and asked that as they do, they please take care to respect our hard work.


Kindness abounds as an Oak works to repair a friend’s shelter!


Friday brought another day of exploring, as the Oaks ventured across Jones Mill Road and into Roc20161014_100806k Creek Park. We had been looking forward to our hike for days, and the excitement could be felt in the air as the Oaks’ giddy laughs and playfulness filled the morning!
The woods on the opposite side of Woodend offered many new discoveries, from mushrooms to hickory nuts, and even a giant stick fort! The Oaks were eager to explore and make guesses about how many children could fit inside, as well as to remind one another that, as with our forts at Hilltop Home, forts built by others should be treated with respect.


Could we build one like this at Hilltop?

After crossing a bridge that led us closer to the creek, we came across a tasty surprise: persimmons! We talked about the best ways to find the ripe fruit, we gathered, cleaned, and tasted our treat. What a delicious morning snack!


“I wish I could pick these every day!”


“They’re actually really good!”

Finally, after a long morning spent hiking, we made it down to the creek! We quickly noticed that we were not the first creatures to have visited the muddy banks, as we noticed interesting marks that had been left behind in the mud. The Oaks used their knowledge of animal tracks to make inferences about who may have been playing at the creek, and were able to identify deer, dog, and duck tracks. As it always does, the end of our day crept  up on us, and it was time to begin our hike back to Audubon. Before saying farewell to the creek, the Oaks took turns stomping their own shoes into the mud, leaving behind human tracks!


What tracks were left by the water’s edge?



A fallen tree makes a perfect bridge!

Books this week:

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

Three Cheers for Ostrich  by Francesca Simon

Big Tracks, Little Tracks by Millicent E. Selsam





The Detective Post #5

News From the Outdoors

This week the Detectives took full advantage of the wonderful fall weather with more than one all outdoor days! We enjoyed the crisp fall air, noting the different clothes we wear for the weather and how Woodend is changing around us.


Outdoor Meeting!


Stay PAWSitive


The Detectives noticing lots of nuts falling from the trees around the Sanctuary! We discussed how different plants change in fall, noting the harvesting of pumpkins and apples that we saw at the farm as well! The kids also took a trip to compost station, adding our pumpkins to help make dirt for us to plant in the spring time.


Enter a caption


Hammer Time


Both classes enjoyed trips to ultimate climber, observing decomposer bugs, animal scat, as well as discovering a “fire fighter” pole that can be accessed from the top of the climber!


Afternoon Siesta


The Poles are in!


The Detectives were also transformed into squirrels this week, hunting for acorns around Woodend! By the wobbly logs, the “squirrels” collected and hid acorns in sneaky hiding spots to store for the winter time.


Nuttin’ to see here


News From the Classroom

The Detectives continued their harvest exploration this week by examining apples further. We listening to the Star of the Apple story, where a little boy discovers the star of seeds upon opening an apple! The kids enjoyed using those apple halves to create apple print art!


Star apple prints


Ask your child about a shiny, red house, with no doors, no windows, and a star inside!


We also embarked on our first, two day long science expirement! The Detectives were introduced to the concepts of a hypothesis and observation by making guesses about how an unpeeled, peeled and apple with holes poked in it would change overnight.


Apple of my eye


In the block area, we introduced the triangle blocks, challenging the detectives to create ramps for rolling apples! In the dramatic play area, we opened up a class farm stand, just like we saw at the farm last week. Dry corn was added to the lab table, as well as pumpkin and leaf cookie cutters to the play dough.



Beware of inflation!


At the art station, we started prep for our Fall Celebration! During meeting, we introduced the idea of celebrating the seasons with our families at Nature Preschool. Each child got the chance to work on their own eye dropper art leaf to decorate the class with for the party!



Celebration Decoration



Books we Read

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

From Shoot to Apple by Stacy Taus-Bolstad

It’s Fall by Linda Glaser



Deer Crossing



Weekly Top Hits

Wait and See

I’m a nut (3x)

That’s me,

Gonna grow into a big oak tree,

I may be small,

but someday I’ll be tall,

wait and see!



Walnut collecting



Spoiler Alert: Next week we are talking about signs of fall at Woodend!


News from the Wild – Week 4


Using a loupe to look at a mushroom

What a glorious autumn week! To celebrate October, we added a new song to open circle and a new poem to close our day:


Little leaves fall softly down
Red and yellow, orange and brown
Whirling, twirling round and round
Falling softly to the ground
Little leaves fall softly down                              Red and yellow, orange and brown
(sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle)

Just Me (from Lady Bug Magazine)
Sweet day,
Peaceful wind
soft ground.
Just me,
where I want to be,

We spent the first part of the week up at Hilltop Home, where all kinds of magic happens. The Oaks gathered and mixed magic potions in their bamboo potion bottles (seeking out a few of the coveted bleeding fairy helmet mushrooms, which might make you invisible if mixed with the right ingredients), experimented with bamboo music on an improvised xylophone, continued working on forts (one now includes a special room for “dangerous things”), sawed tiny fairy tree cookies so the fairies could hold their own circle meeting, and played ever-changing versions of insect family (small-world play) and fairy family.

This social dramatic play is so important to the development of the robust oral language and other building-block skills needed for reading. The children make their own stories, figure out characters/roles, invent troubles and how to solve them. It is also how the children connect to one another, learn to negotiate and solve problems, practice flexibility, and develop empathy. You can’t play these games alone.

Some of the children gravitate towards projects, either alone or in pairs.  If you watch a child totally absorbed in this kind of activity, it’s clear that it is serious work. It requires creative thinking, invention, and the ability to focus on a task. One of the most important goals of education is the development of executive function, a set of cognitive skills that include the ability to plan, organize, and make decisions. You cannot build a “dangerous things” addition to a stick fort without all kinds of design, planning and decision-making.


Discussing the ingredients for magic potions.


Bamboo music


Hammering. Work=play=work


Dismantling the raft for parts


Counting votes for the question of the day. Y stick for YES, they all like swimming


Cleaning the chalkboard slate


Insect family dramatic play (dressed as fairy super heroes)


Teamwork sawing, fine-motor work using both sides of the body (this indicates that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively)


Hard at work on their fort


A visit from Stephanie! Getting the fairies into their capes/wings. A fairy must have excellent balance.


Magic potion # 9 (she made these all week!)

On Thursday, we left the wagon at Hilltop and headed out into unknown territory. Our goal was to reach the Far Corner of Woodend. “Do you think we are we lost?” asked one child to another. “I hope so!” the second replied. Adventure can be created so easily. A large depression in the ground could be a giant footprint, but it can definitely be a great hidey-hole if you are really still and quiet. We found several hollow trees, including one we could see straight through. At Far Corner, we played Meet a Tree. In this activity, one child leads another blindfolded child carefully through the woods, talking her over obstacles, until they reach a tree. The blindfolded child feels the tree carefully. After being led back to the start, she must remove the blindfold and find her tree. Integration of the senses, awareness of the sizes, shapes and textures of trees, and so much fun.


Climbing out of the hidey hole


Can you see me?


I can see you!



Trust walks in turns


Meeting her tree

We spent Friday morning at Hilltop. The Oaks found golden nuggets (painted acorns and chestnuts) hidden all around the site. Maybe pirates lost their treasure? Maybe fairies hid the gold? Either way, the Oaks have been needing money for their games. Loose parts like these are super tools for sorting, counting and imaginary play.



The six-legged team did journals. The building crew worked on a mini-shelter out of bamboo, which we’ll continue to shore up next week. img_0061


Now it just needs a roof and walls and….


Designing shelters in his journal


Quiet journalling

Other treasured moments – the finding of a toad in a stick fort and sneaking up on a young buck on our way back to the school.



Close encounter!

Books this week:

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

Iktomi and the Boulder by Paul Goble

The Bog Baby by Jeanne Willis

Have You Seen Trees? by Joanne Oppenheim

Oaks Class Book by the Oaks

Detective Post #4


The Nature Detectives launched into a busy and exciting week as they got to explore some new corners of Woodend on our hikes. After all the rainfall we’ve had lately we explored along the creek to see what it looked like now that most of the water had emptied out of the creek and into the pond. While exploring the kids got to see lots of animal tracks, find some new places to climb and explore, and clear out some fallen brush from the storms.


We have the need, the need for seed.


Reserved Seeding.


We also made our first trek out to a favorite spot at Woodend, the Ultimate Climber!  The Ultimate Climber is a section of the woods with a bunch of fallen logs that are fun for the kids to climb and balance on. The area also offers up some good log-rolling opportunities, and some other fun things to explore.


Ants on a log


Shell shocked!


On Tuesday, the PM class took advantage of the sunny weather and had an all outside day! They had lots of fun having snack on the stage, making farm animal masks and turning various areas of the playground and outdoor classroom into outside versions of our classroom! The AM Class came across an Eastern Box Turtle in the meadow one morning as well and had fun watching it move around.


The highlight of the week was definitely our trip to Homestead Farm! The kids had a great time seeing all the farm animals, taking a hay ride, and picking out pumpkins!  Thank you to all the chaperones and parent volunteers that helped to make the trip a big success!


They see us rollin’ they hay-tin.


Hay Jude


News From the Classroom:

In the classroom, we introduced some new learning areas and continued to keep the farm theme going. In the block area the kids made block barns for the farm animal toys, while in the dramatic play area the barn tent and farm animal costumes were back for more fun!


We introduced another kid-favorite learning area, the light table, as the kids got to build and make colorful designs with the Magnatiles. During our meeting time, the kids made estimates as to how many seeds were in the pumpkins we picked up from the farm. Later, we carved them open to see for ourselves how many seeds were inside! Then we toasted up some of the seeds and got to snack on them!


Working on the Farm Book


Counting seeds


Each class capped off their trip to Homestead Farm by creating their own class books about the trip! We printed out photos from the trip and each child got to decorate a page and share a favorite memory or two (or five in some cases!) about their trip! Later during story time we read the book and we’ll keep the books in our book-nook for the kids to enjoy throughout the year!


The light table is a whole watt of fun!


Totes ma-goats


Books We Read:

Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell

Senses on the Farm by Shelly Rotner

Our Trip to Homestead Farm by the Nature Detectives


Story time with Ann-Mari



Reading our farm book


Weekly Top Hits:

The Rules Song 

Farmer Ben Had a Farm (Tune: Old MacDonald)

Take Me Out to the Barnyard (Tune: Take Me Out to the Ballgame)

Take me out to the barnyard

Take me out there right now

Show me some pigs and a horse and a cow

I hear an oink and a neigh and a moo

There are chickens laying their eggs

If they don’t lay its a shame

Cuz it’s one, two, three eggs today

and I’m glad I came!


We got the moos like Jagger


Spoiler Alert:

Next week we’ll turn our dramatic play area into a farm store!




News from the Wild: Week 3

All teachers learn as they teach, but sometimes we lean a little more into the learning. This week the Oaks taught us how important ritual and routine are to young children.  We knew this of course; it’s one of the reasons we set up our Hilltop Home and do a circle meeting and storytime every day. It’s why we use a chime and name-stones, a song and a share as part of our circle ritual. That’s part of what makes Forest Kindergarten school rather than just a romp in the woods.


The entrance to magical Hilltop Home


Tree cookie circle with name stones

But this week we got ambitious. We had Big Plans, and since time goes too fast and there’s never enough of it, we thought we could move part of our ritual (circle and story) out of Hilltop Home to save some time for the Plans. Hilltop is, as the name suggests, at the top of a hill that takes some time for small legs to climb. And there’s the wagon.

So we spent a day at the bamboo grove behind the preschool. We did our circle and story at a lovely circle of stumps. This first day the children were flexible. On with the day- our goal was to make a raft that we could test in the pond. (Also to see how hard it is to harvest and tie bamboo, as we plan to build our shelter with it).  I cut pieces of bamboo, the Oaks trimmed them with our bow saws, measured sort-of equal lengths, and then a few helped tie the bamboo together with twine. Others went to explore the bamboo, climb trees, play with potion bottles and build a parking structure for the wagon. Even the ones who weren’t actively building the raft kept stopping by to check on it. And when it was done, in the nick of time, they all proudly carried it out to our dismissal spot to await the next day. The raft-carrying took some serious coordination and communication, all managed without our help.



The next day, we made the trek to Hilltop, leaving the raft next to the trail junction. After circle and story (The Raft, by Jim LaMarche, our longest story yet), we headed to the pond. The Oaks made guesses about whether the raft would sink or float. They were divided. A third said it would definitely float. A third said it would float first and then sink, and the pessimist third assured us it would probably sink. The children suggested we tie a rope to the raft first, then we scouted the pond for the least muddy, most solid point of entry. The pond this time of year is really a giant mud puddle. Together they launched the raft, into the mud. They realized they needed long sticks to push the raft out into the water. And VOILA! Floating raft! They then hauled it back and began searching for branches and logs to load on top, to see how much it could carry. We vetoed a suggestion to send a child out to see if it would sink. They did experiment with standing on the raft at the water’s edge (on top of mud), and learned it would hold one, but not two Oaks. We talked about the differences between our raft and the raft in the story, which easily held a boy and his grandma. I have done this STEM activity with tin foil rafts in a basin of water in a classroom, and let me tell you, this was way more fun. And muddy.


The launch


It needs to go farther

On with the Plans. We wanted to do an Animal Homes Scavenger Hunt, to find the homes of their symbol animals at Woodend. We’ve also been experimenting with reading longer picture books, to test their readiness for chapter books. But there’s that pesky time issue. Their parents want them back; our own children want us back. The day has to end. It was a nice rainy day, so we ate up at the covered picnic tables and decided we could just do circle and story there (Miss Suzy by Miriam Young, about a squirrel who loses and then regains her home), then head out on our hunt. There were twelve animal homes to find and we knew we needed to loop through the Meadow, a section of forest and past the Pond to find them all. So, we held circle in our lunch spot. It was unsettling. Lots of extra energy, jostling,  distraction and opposition. “Are we ever going to go back to Hilltop Home?” one asked plaintively.

So we planned to spend Thursday at Hilltop, without Big Plans. They needed it. There had been too much disruption to our newly-established routines and too much teacher-direction. They were missing the structure of their routine, but at the same time, feeling too constrained by our more directed activities. They needed to climb that hill, play and explore. Then, that morning, the weatherman predicted strong thunderstorms right during the Oaks class. The radar map showed dark green, orange and yellow. With lightening we have to be inside. Plus their rain gear was soaked from the morning class. So we headed to the Mansion, which we had hastily provisioned. We made it through a fidgety circle. We read another longer story (Clever Beatrice by Margaret Willey –  a traditional story about a little girl outwitting a giant). Then the children brainstormed about our shelter designs, in both a group and in their journals. Chelsea demonstrated how a roof works with a bin lid and zoobs. Their ideas included a ladder to the roof, a bathroom, doors, windows and a floor. Then our time was up. Just in time – they were ready to run!

On Friday we took advantage of all that rain to go on a very successful mushroom foray with Audubon’s School Programs Director Serenella Linares (aka Mushy).



Mud obstacle course, Forest K version


Nothing better than a puddle

Woodend rang with the happy yells of “Mushroom!” as we found one after another. “They’re everywhere!” A favorite was the “bleeding fairy helmet” or mycena haemotopus, with a stipe (stalk) that “bleeds” red. After working up an appetite finding mushrooms and splashing in the creek, we tried oral story telling while they ate their snack (a version of the Sioux legend Iktomi and the Eyeballs). Rapt attention. Then, finally, finally we got up to Hilltop Home. The relief was palpable. We were home.


Sometimes we need to listen to the lessons in the simplest of stories. Our first book this week was Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. The characters hatch ever more complicated plans to catch a brightly colored bird. The littlest character ignores the plans, and eventually befriends all the birds with an offer of crumbs. Sometimes in order to teach well, we need to let go of some of our best-intentioned plans and follow the children.