Detective Post #3

News From the Outdoors

Fall has officially made its debut at Woodend, and the Detectives have been busy noticing the changes that have marked its arrival! From collecting leaves and seeds to experimenting with fruits and thinking about a season of harvesting, the Detectives have been spotting clues in places both new and familiar.

We began our week by thinking about Fall harvests. What does it mean to harvest something? What types of plants might we harvest? …What better place to answer these questions than one where harvests are currently underway: Homestead Farms! Together with carpool buddies, the Detectives departed from Audubon and headed out to the farm to see where food is grown.

We heard about the needs and care of various farm animals, and even had some things in common with them. Piglets love apples, and goats enjoy going down slides- connection! After an exciting (and bumpy!) hayride around the farm, the Detectives arrived at the pumpkin patch and were each able to choose their own pumpkin. Each child searched for one that was just the right fit for them, and practiced responsibility by carrying it back to the hayride. We ended the day with a crunchy snack of apples, grown fresh from the farm! What an exciting trip!

Seeing the plants growing at the farm got us thinking a lot about the things growing here at Woodend. With the help of our Naturalists, the Detectives set out to explore the grounds in search of various leaves, fruits, and seeds.

We found leaves in so many colors that are falling from our resident deciduous trees, and collected seeds in all sizes, ranging from large walnuts to tiny grass seeds.

Our searches for Fall clues had us playing and exploring in familiar areas, such as the bird blind and playground, and brought us into new areas as well. Together, we ventured to the pond, children’s garden, and lookout, where new play ideas were sparked and children were able to utilize their fine and gross motor skills. The children worked together to balance on logs, transport large sticks, pick up tiny seeds, and make some wonderful memories together.

The end of the week brought us some wet weather, and the Detectives were thrilled to test out their puddle stomping boots! Exploring the wet creek bed gave us the chance to squish through the mud, get “stuck” in the muck, and create a splash zone for powerful stomps! We are looking forward to more fun weather in the upcoming weeks!

News From the Classroom

Our seed and harvest theme continued in the classroom this week, where the Detectives were busy experimenting with a variety of materials!

Following our farm field trip in which we had looked at the outside of pumpkins, we opened up a pumpkin and took a look inside! The Detectives pulled out the seeds to see how many were inside before roasting two different varieties- cinnamon and salt- for a little taste test.

Seeing the inside of a pumpkin made us curious about the insides of apples. After reading a riddle about the star inside an apple, we cut open an apple and took a peak at its seeds. The Detectives switched into their scientist mode, and made hypotheses about what would happen to an apple when its skin was altered. The following day, they used their powers of observation to describe the changes.

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The Detectives experimented with different materials for art projects, and made paintings using walnuts and apples! Friendships continued to flourish as they worked together to construct bridges and ramps for rolling apples, to build puzzles, and to mix up a new batch of playdough. We even worked together to play a new game- Hi Ho Apple-O! What an appletastic week!

Books We Read

Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
Field Trip Book, Written and Illustrated by the Nature Detectives!
Red Leaf Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
Star of the Apple (storyboard)

 

Weekly Top Hits

Farmer Ben Had a Farm (tune of Old Macdonald)

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!

Spoiler Alert: Next week we will continue to look for more changes around Woodend, and will start preparing for our celebration of the season!

Oaks News from the Wild #2

The Oaks have been busy exploring, creating and playing with friends in the fabulous fall weather.  We have been focusing on building friendships, expanding imaginative play, and enjoying the natural world.

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Snake! 

Turtles and Worms and Slugs- Oh my!

The children have observed many animals over the past few weeks including an Eastern Box Turtle, green frogs, toads, millipedes, centipedes, butterflies and moths, worms, slugs, spiders, roly polies, beetles and a snake.

 

Outdoor Exploration

We spend hours outdoors every day with the children engaging in activities that foster  their language, fine motor, gross motor, math and social-emotional development- and their love of nature!

 

 

Several kids worked together for three days at Hilltop Home, collecting rocks and making the Titanic, then a dragon’s den and, finally, a ring of fire (like the Pacific volcanos).  They stretched their bodies, imaginations and social skills.

 

 

We worked as a class to build a bridge across the dry creek bed.  Hoping for some rain soon!

 

 

 

Playground Fun

At the start of the day, the children enjoy creative play on the Oaks playground.  We read the book, Not a Box, and many kids have enjoyed turning boxes into rocketships, houses (for people and worms), the Titanic and more!

 

 

Indoor Exploration

In our beautiful indoor space the children are free to choose what they want to do.  They enjoy treasures from nature, building materials, dress ups, blocks, toy animals, little people, vehicles, puzzles, magnatiles, play dough, drawing and writing materials, books and more,

 

 

Reading Wonderful Books

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We read “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” at the “Troll Bridge” and then acted out our own versions of the story (with trolls, then cheetahs, and tigers and ninjas!)

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The Titanic book from a child’s home was fun to share with friends.

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Ahh.  Enjoying a book in solitude lying in a dry creek bed.

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Frog & Toad joined us at Hilltop Home for the story “The Surprise.”

Books We Read

Mattland by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert

If Everybody Did by Jo Ann Stover

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

How Full is Your Bucket by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

“The Surprise” in Frog and Toad All Year

Up, Up, Down by Robert Munsch

Do Unto Otters: A Book about Manners by Laurie Keller

& The Three Billy Goats Gruff

 

 

Songs We Sang

Fall is Here (Tune: Frere Jacques)
Fall is Here.

Fall is Here.

Time for Fun.

Time for Fun.

Piles of Leaves for Jumping.

Carving out the pumpkin.

Blackbirds fly.

Apple pie.

 

Here We are Together

Here we are together, together, together

Here we together at the Oaks Nature School,

with. (child’s name) and (child’s name).. etc.. and ____.

Here we are together, at the Oaks Nature School.

 

Class Rules (tune: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star)

Here are rules for you and me

See how useful they can be

Show respect, be safe and kind

Be responsible all the time

These are rules that we all know

and we follow these rules wherever we go

 

Clean-up Song

We looked at the clock and what does it say,

Now its time to put everything away,

Clean up time

Clean up time

Now its time to put everything away.

 

& “The Ants Go Marching One by One” & more!

The Detective Post #2

 

 

News from the Outdoors

The Nature Detectives kicked off the year with some wonderful, warm, fall weather! To start off school, the Detectives began to investigate our naturalized playground, our bird blind and the vast meadow. We have already begun to observe, examine and investigate the world around us!

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We learned our rules song, where the students sang along about being respectful, safe, kind and responsible! We practiced all of these outdoors, from using kind word and taking turns with treasure on the playground, to every child being responsible for their own bug catcher on hikes through the meadow.

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Noticing the fall flowers blooming in the meadow and the sound of the walnuts falling from the trees, the Nature Detectives naturally started thinking about what autumn looks like around Woodend! To celebrate fall, the Detectives started prepping for our fall field trip to Homestead Farms. We discussed what changes we’re noticing outside, comparing the walnuts and chestnuts to pumpkins and apples which are also growing in the fall.

The Detectives were thinking a lot about what animals they might observe on our farm field trip. To encourage this, both classes took a trip up to mansion to visit an animal that lives here at Audubon: Boris the Tortoise!  We discussed the differences between our wild animals and the domesticated animals we might see at the farm. It was also such a joy to watch the children use their gentle touches and respectful voices with Boris, and to hear observations such as, “her shell feels just like my fingernails!”

News from the Classroom

The Detectives brought nature inside as well, digging for bugs in the lab table, examining milkweed in the discovery table, as well as using binoculars and magnifying glasses to explore indoors.

During our meeting time, we met Chester the raccoon and Owlbert the owl! These puppet friends talked through our class rules, as well as took up residence in our cubby room. The Detectives also uncovered Chester’s story, The Kissing Hand, story boarded in our feelings den to enjoy at anytime!

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We started thinking about our farm field trip by adding farm cutters to the play dough, tractors and animals to paint table, as well as corn into the discovery table. We introduced our first block challenge on Monday, which was to build a barn for the animals!

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In the dramatic play, we saw farm stands pop up, as well as watched children create their own, multi colored corn art with the dot paints!

 

Books we Read

Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

Senses on the Farm by Shelley Rotner

Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough

Cock-a-Doodle Quack Quack! by Ivor Baddiel and Sophie Jubb

 

Weekly Top Hits

Here We Are Together

Here we are together, together, together

Here we together at the Nature Preschool,

There’s.. (child’s name) and (child’s name).. etc.. and everyone!

Here we are together, we are happy you are here!

 

Clean-up Song

We looked at the clock and what does it say,

Now its time to put everything away,

Clean up time (x2)

Now its time to put everything away

 

Goodbye Song

Goodbye, Goodbye, to you and you and you (x2)

A big goodbye, a small goodbye,

A high goodbye, a low goodbye,

Goodbye, goodbye, to you and you and you, cha-cha-cha!

Class Rules (tune: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star)

Here are rules for you and me

See how useful they can be

Show respect, be safe and kind

Be responsible all the time

These are rules that we all know

and we follow these rules wherever we go

 

Spoiler Alert: The next two weeks we will be learning about the farm and fall at Woodend!

 

Oaks News from the Wild #1

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As we launch our Forest Kindergarten year, we are fully focused on connections. We weave together activities that will connect the children to each other and to their school home at Woodend. “Is this my school?” asked one child as we hiked from the Ultimate Climber to the Mansion and back through the Meadow to the Oaks classroom. Yes! How lucky we are. We have a beautiful new classroom AND we have 40 + acres of wild space full of wonder.

And what better way to connect to the wild than through some forest friends…so we started our year with Mama and Papa Toad in the classroom, and soon the Oaks were finding toads of all sizes wherever we went.

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We also found many slugs, a box turtle, a big millipede, centipedes and dragonfly larva.

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Making a “home” for the turtle (with a few doors). There are pointy sticks to protect it from predators.

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All you need is a giant slug!

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“Look at this bug I found!”

We made ourselves at home in the Oaks play-yard and at the Oaks’ home base Hilltop Home. After reading the book Happy, the children made mud faces to show how they were feeling on the first week.

 

In just two weeks, we’ve also explored the Children’s Garden, Rain Garden, Bamboo Castle, Fire Circle and Chestnut Tree, the Meadow, the Pond, the fort woods near the mansion and the Ultimate Climber. And there’s still so much more to come!

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“We made it through!”

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Teamwork pulling the wagon up to Hilltop

 

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“Watch me jump!”

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Mud = Happy

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Ponding

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The Chestnut Tree – big enough for everyone

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Tigers prowling in the tall tall grass…

While we help connect children to their home in the wild, we also support them as they forge connections to each other. Through play, they make plans, share ideas and language, negotiate roles, set limits, take turns, form friendships and so much more. Shared stories are one way we help connect children to each other and begin building our class community.

 

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Reading Jack and the Beanstalk

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Reading together

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Reading with a friend

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Who will be Jack? Here are some beans.

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Acting out the story – What happens next?

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Stories of their own outside

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Stories of their own inside

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Building the Titanic. “I can read you the story of the Titanic without the book!”

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Friendship

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Snakes and cars in a castle, what could be better?

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The wild cat and his caretaker in their den.

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Story time at the garden, after picking cucumbers, sorrel and tomatoes for our snack.

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Bonding at the Dig Pit

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Friends on a journey.

We read the book Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis, talked about ways you can play with sticks (and ways you can’t), then the Oaks wrote their own book showing what they would do with sticks.

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Storytime at Hilltop – Not a Stick

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Teamwork: first stick fort

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“It’s NOT a stick…it’s a horse! His name is Johnny.”

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Storytime – Not a Stick, written and illustrated by the “Nature Kids” (aka Oaks)

There is time for solitude. Children also need space and time to listen to their inner voices, to observe, question, experiment, wonder, and express their own stories.

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Making a home for the animals

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Vehicles are actually characters too…

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“I’m a boat and these are my jet engines to move me forward.”

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Checking out the “Feelings Den” at Hilltop

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Personal expression through art and writing

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Quiet reading time

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Creating his own “small world”

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Experimenting with ramps

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Small world play

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What happens if we overfill the jug? Fountain!

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“I have to put the same number and same kinds on each one.”

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Patterning

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The best hiding space!

We brought two kinds of caterpillars into our classroom for the first day. The children observed the caterpillars over the last two weeks, drew pictures, and found their habitat in the meadow. They then imagined what the butterflies might look like and drew and painted pictures. And in the highlight of our week, we got to watch one monarch butterfly emerge today!

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Observational drawing of caterpillars

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Butterfly, imagined

I

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Butterfly, imagined

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“It’s a monarch butterfly!”

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Wonder

Books we read: 

Happy by Miles van Hout

Up Down and All Around by Katherine Ayres

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran

Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis

Jack in the Beanstalk

Play with Me by Marie Hall Ets

A Year Around the Great Oak by Gerda Muller

 

The Detective Post #1

What an amazing start to the school year! From catching rain on tongues to meeting best beetles and millipedes, the Detectives jumped rain boots first into Nature Preschool. We had so much fun exploring outside and inside, a few highlights being climbing at the bird blind, digging for treasure in the sandbox, and decorating our detective bags and cubby tags! In the weeks to come, we will be writing posts in full about our adventures, so stay tuned!

The Detective Post #23

Wild places are closer than you think! As we finish up the school year here at Audubon, we couldn’t be more thankful for all of wonderful families and fun-filled adventures we had this year. We finished the year with some wet weather- accompanied by our stuffy, wheels and water days! Thursday we were overjoyed to see you all at our Summer Celebration, and cannot wait to hear about all the adventures you all have in store for the coming months. Although school may be ending, Audubon is always open- and we hope to see you all at weekend walks in the woods, summer camps and other preschool events in the near future! Thanks again to everyone for an amazing school year!

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Specials Days!

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Summer Celebration!

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News from the Wild #23

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We started out for Far Corner one day, but never made it past the giant Beech Tree (aka Pooh Tree). And that’s okay. Magic happens along the way.

The seasons they go round and round, and suddenly we find ourselves with summer round the bend. We asked the Oaks where they wanted to be sure to go, and what they really hoped to be able to do in our last two weeks of school. We made a list and day by day have been visiting those special places. The Ultimate Climber, The Campfire Circle, The Workshop, Far Corner and the Hollow Tree, the Pond, and Hilltop Home, of course. Choice is such a powerful thing to offer children. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do there?

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On a thunderstorm day, we started out in the Mansion, but as the storm passed, we offered a choice: go out in the rain or stay in?

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Thunderstorm day, playing the bird beak game (different beaks for different foods), after a tour of all the stuffed birds in the library to observe their beaks.

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After the storm passed, some Oaks chose to take stock of the creek in flood, while a few chose to stay dry inside the Mansion

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Dam removal engineers discuss the plan and roles

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Oaks visitor #1 swings across!

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Oaks visitor #2 builds a bridge

We have been talking to the children about their favorite places at Audubon. Some of the destinations above were favorites, but the one that surprised us was our Lunch Spot  – AKA The Stumps and Wobbly Logs. I had just read a blog post about the value of returning with children to the same place in nature over and over. To me, this was our outdoor classroom, Hilltop Home. And yet, our lunch spot is the place we spend the most time. We go there almost every day. We eat together and then as they finish eating, the children move off in twos and threes. They climb trees. They play in the old foundation. They look for tiny critters and mushrooms. They become superheroes or other imaginary characters. They play. And by playing in this one little patch of semi-wild, day after day, in all seasons, it becomes dear to their hearts. “There are so many different things to do there.”

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Time together in a tree

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Taking turns

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Teamwork to roll the wobbly log

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Hollow Tree acrobats

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Pirate captain on the lookout

There is value too in the new and unexplored. We found a few stones still left unturned..

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The Rock Mountains!

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Playing 1,2,3 Tree!

 

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Exploring leaves, all shapes and sizes.

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Favorite garden leaf – sorrel

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Tasty tulip petals

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Ants, birds, and butterflies like nectar and the Oaks do too!

Meanwhile at our other favorite haunt, Hilltop, new loose parts sparked new play.

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A bundle of hardy kiwi vines…

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Transformed this fort into a dragon…

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and these Oaks into equestrian princesses

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A stick makes a most excellent steed!

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We brought some math skills into the play at Hilltop. Cookies arranged just so.

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Patterning

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Patterning

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And counting

One of the children wished to go to the Ultimate Climber, and another wished for a game of Camouflage, so we hid and sought among the fallen trees. But first, we read one of the children’s favorite books, brought from home, about a tortoise whose burrow shelters many other living things. The story brought up the concept of a keystone species, and a discussion of intrinsic value (does it matter to humans that this special tortoise is so important to other animals?). Forest Kindergarten philosophy.

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You can read a story anywhere!

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Playing Camouflage. The seeker must stand in one spot and try to see the hiders.

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Entering the age of rule-bound play. They are using “eenie meenie” to choose who gets to be the seeker next. Their idea, their negotiation. Ready for the playground.

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“In the Workshop, we can build.” Adding a roof.

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Up in the Oaks-built roof under a leafy roof

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Favorite story time, about how you never forget a friend.

A fascinating thing happened at the Workshop this week that speaks to this sense of place, to the magic that happens when you return to a particular spot. This little corner of Woodend is likely only ever visited by the Oaks (and critters). It’s a hidden alcove with a few fallen trees surrounded by bush honeysuckle. You have to wade through tall grass to get there. Way back in October, a child started a simple game called Wheat Store. Collect grass seeds and “sell” them. Others joined. I introduced the idea of grinding the “wheat” on a stump. Today, as soon as they saw that particular stump, the game jumped back to life. Only this time it was bigger and better. More children got involved. The story grew. “We are a family living in another country and we have go gather the wheat and then grind it and then bake it and then take it to market to sell it. I’m the sister.” Each child had a role, in the family and the narrative. They added an oven, collecting bags, and myriad details, all negotiated with each other independently. It was beautiful and a testament to how much these children have grown.

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Gathering “wheat”

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Grinding wheat. This particular stump is linked in their collective minds to this game.

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The stump that started it all.

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You will need pouches to carry the grains to the shop and to market. “I know how to make a bag!”

With the warm weather, wildlife discoveries abounded.

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Garter snake!

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Brood X Cicada (visiting, not found at Woodend)

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Releasing wood frog tadpoles

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Checking for signs of the fox family

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Box turtle!

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Pride of the finder

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Pride of the finder

Opening Song: Make New Friends

Closing Poem: 

I’m unique.

In this whole world

There is no one else

Just like me.

Books we read:

The Adventures of Sophie Mouse: A New Friend by Poppy Green

Bimwili and the Zimwi by Verna Aardema

The Empty Lot by Dale Fife

At Home with the Gopher Tortoise – the Story of a Keystone Species by Madeleine Dunphy

Forget Me Not – Friendship Blossoms by Michael Broad

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin