During the past few weeks, the Oaks class has enjoyed many wonder-filled fall days at Woodend. We have gotten to explore even more of the 40 acre grounds, though we make sure to return to our favorite outdoor space, Hilltop Home, several times each week. When we go to Hilltop Home, we always start by gathering to share a carefully chosen book. After the read aloud, the children visit their “sit spots” to have a little peaceful time alone in nature. When play time begins, children are free to explore, build, create and imagine however they like. Often small groups of children play/work together on projects, such as constructing the fairy playground, writing notes to the fairies, building forts, digging for critters, pretending to be ninjas, aliens and more. None of us want this time to end, and we always look forward to returning to continue playing in this special place.
Trees, Leaves and Fun in the Fall
In support of our study of trees in the fall, several master naturalists, Carol, Nancy, Ann-Mari and Barbara, shared their expertise with the Oaks class. How fortunate we are to have these wonderful volunteers at Audubon! Nancy led us on a leaf collection and tree identification walk. Using the leaves we found, we made beautiful leaf rubbings, and Ann-Mari helped the children create lovely leaf prints. We also made our own fall leaves using droppers of watercolor paint on coffee filter paper leaf shapes, and then hung them on a tree branch in the classroom. Then Barbara read a book about trees chasing through the seasons, and she took us on a nature walk measuring the circumferences of different sized trees and doing bark rubbings.
All last week our class prepared for our celebration of fall. We made leaf decorations for the classroom, wove natural materials and little decorations into crowns, and practiced singing and signing seasonal songs. Before the parents arrived Friday morning, the children created hiding places on the playground and made notes to trick their parents into thinking they were “eaten by black mambas,” “flamed by fireball,” and “lost in the woods.” When the celebration began, the parents and children shared laughs as the children were found on the playground. Next we gathered in a circle and shared three beautiful seasonal songs with the parents (using voice and American Sign Language)- “Round and Round the Seasons Go,” “Fall is Here,” and “The Leaves on the Trees are Falling Down.” Following the singing, the children enjoyed a picnic snack with their families. Next we all went inside where everyone was enthralled by the book “Leaf Man,” read by a parent. Inspired by the leaf collage art work in the book, the children made their own leaf creations by placing leaves and other natural materials on contact paper. The celebration concluded with a closing circle outside, and the singing of “Go Now in Peace,” as each child received a little golden acorn and walked carefully with family members through our bamboo labyrinth.
On the day before Halloween, we carved a pumpkin, saving the seeds and roasting them for a delicious snack. The children drew jack-o-lantern designs, and we combined ideas and carved our class jack=o-lantern. The children then added pipe cleaner spiders and shells for teeth.
Animal Dress-Up Day on Halloween
What fun we had dressing up as animals for Halloween! In the morning, the children drew and dictated their thoughts about their animals in their journals with Carol’s help. After lunch, we acted out the story of “The Enormous Pumpkin” with the children dressed up as animals becoming the characters in the story. In the afternoon at Hilltop Home, some children enjoyed making dens for their animals, and at the end of the day, we played a hide and seek animal camouflage game. What a great day!
Beetles and Salamanders and Chicks- Oh My!
The children continue to find lots of creatures around Woodend. They look under logs, dig and search for the animals living in the great outdoors. Just today the children found our first salamander and discovered that bess beetles make sounds. And, on this same day, Shannon brought her family’s baby chicks, much to the children’s surprise and joy! The children observed these precious little creatures and loved touching their soft feathers and laughing as a few chicks lightly pecked at their fingers.
We spend around an hour and a half in our beautiful indoor classroom space everyday (except Friday). When we first go inside after playing on the Oaks playground, we gather on our campfire rug for our morning circle. After that, the children draw and share their thoughts and stories, read books, chat and eat snack, build ships, rockets, and parking garages, count, sort and make patterns with natural materials, engage in pretend play (often with toy animals and dress ups), and enjoy special projects. Happy chatter fills the room and teachers guide children in resolving conflicts when help is needed.
We are fortunate that a father of one of the children is an artist, and he offered to come to Woodend to paint and share his skill and love of art with the class. The children got to see his beautiful painting and then climb up on his stool to look at the painting and see the mansion and grounds from the same perspective. The children learned about looking closely at what they see and mixing paints to match what is seen. Then the children chose things around them to look at carefully and draw.
We had our first birthday celebration at school! The birthday child made a crown and got to play with “Birthday Raccoon” all day. We read a silly book, Elephant and Piggie’s Happy Pig Day book and giggled as we sang the tune of the birthday song using pig language- “oinky oink oink oink oink….”. All the children contributed a page to make a book for the birthday boy which we read aloud when it was complete. And at the end of the school day, the birthday child held an Earth ball and walked in a circle around a sun candle for each year he has been alive as we all looked at his growing up photos that his dad shared with us, and we sang, “The Earth goes round the sun. The Earth goes round the sun. The Earth goes round the sun, and ____ turned five!”
Books, Books and More Books
The Oaks enjoy reading lots of books at school, inside, on the playground and out in the woods.
BOOKS We Read
Round and Round the Seasons Go by Rozanne Williams
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlers
Ska-tat by Kimberly Knutson
Big Wolf & Little Wolf, The Leaf that Wouldn’t Fall by Nadine Brun-Cosme & Joy Sorman
Pumpkin Trouble by Jan Thomas
Elephant and Piggie’s Happy Pig Day by Mo Willems
Ish by Peter Reynolds
There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly
A Special Story We Told
We told the children the story of “The Enormous Pumpkin” (a version of the folk tale “The Enormous Turnip”) and the children helped us act it out with puppets for the characters of a farmer, his wife, their daughter, a dog, a cat and a little mouse. Then on Animal Dress-Up Day, we told the Oaks’ version of the story with the children dressed up as animals becoming the characters that “pulled and tugged and tugged and pulled” until all together they snapped the pumpkin off the vine and turned it into a jack-o-lantern.
SONGS We Sang
“Round and Round the Seasons Go”
Round and round the seasons go. Winter comes, cold while snow. Round and round the seasons go. Spring comes, flowers grow. Round and round the seasons go. Summer comes, hot and slow. Round and round the seasons go. Fall comes, leaves blow.
“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.
“The Leaves on the Trees” (Tune: “London Bridge is Falling Down”)
The leaves on the trees are falling down, falling down, falling down. The leaves on the trees are falling down, red, yellow, orange and brown.
“There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly”