Oaks News from the Wild # 5

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When environmental conservationists were asked what factors influenced their life’s work, one thing stood out: many childhood hours spent in nature with a caring adult. We teach them about seasons and spiders, but mostly we let their hearts fill with love, knowing that’s what they’ll carry with them.

Looking at the photos from the last two weeks, I am also awed by the creativity we see, inside and out. We provide some interesting things and watch the play explode.

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Tunnel bridge

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Power ring

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Making a “bamboo crusher machine”

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Man and machine

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Ship captains

And the play continues inside…

And it’s easy to see how work is play and play is work.

As the leaves burst into color and then fell, the Oaks explored, learning about why leaves change color, how to find spiders, and the best places for slugs, worms, millipedes and Bess beetles.

At Hilltop Home, we played Meet a Tree, worked on the fairy playground (the fairies write back!), settled into Sit Spots, and played, played, played.

At the end of this week, we made Journey Sticks. The children each chose a special stick, added rubber bands and cloth. We went on a longer hike around Woodend, collecting small memories as we went. We added a colorful leaf or a turkey tail mushroom or a piece of licheny bark to our Journey Sticks, and then told our stories at closing circle and in journals the next day.

We celebrated a birthday, with a Circling the Sun ceremony. We read, and read and read some more.

We had a visit from our first Planet Pal, Mother Earth, who rapped about being green, then led the Oaks in a lively discussion about things we can do to take care of her. “Pick up trash!” “Take care of the animals!” “Drive an electric vehicle!” As a first step, we decided to let our class toads go live a happy toad life in the woods, so they have time to get ready for winter. This was hard, but we read the marvelous book The Bog Baby and got some encouragement from Mother Earth. Then the Oaks found some choice spots near the pond and stream bed and watched Mama and Papa Toads hop away.

Since Mother Earth also reminded the Oaks that their first job is to love her,  we gave them lots of time to do just that. And no outdoor play in Autumn would be complete without some flying leaps into piles of leaves!

The Detective Post #5

How time has flown by! We are so thrilled to be getting the chance to sit down with all of you to discuss our adventures with your little ones. The Nature Detectives have been busy in the woods these last two weeks, rounding out our fall unit with squirrel dreys, less sunlight, and colder temperatures! With parent-teacher conferences this and next week, this post will be a picture rich documentation of our most recent adventures inside and outside the classroom. Enjoy!

Animal Dress up day was a blast! The Detectives were excited to take to the woods as their different, respective animals.

We enjoyed visits from Ms. Julie and Ms. Gail, learning about camouflage and owls!

Both classes enjoyed fall scavenger hunts in the woods, looking for some of our toy stuffies, as well as colored leaves, pumpkins, spiders and more!

We enjoyed some much needed rain- creating puddles for stomping and lots of water play ideas.

With the advent of daylight savings, we noticed less sunlight during our days, and more moonlit nights. The detectives took our parachute to the woods, pretending it was a moon, cut into many wacky tasting slices of moon pie!

The detectives were also introduced to two, larger scale outdoor games this week- What time is it Mr. Fox (or, What time is it Simon Squirrel), and Duck, Duck, Goose.

Indoors, we created squirrel drey’s in the block area, making snug, warm, winter homes for the toy squirrels.

With less daylight upon us, the Detectives enjoyed learning a silly song about the moon entitled Moon, Moon, Moon, loosely based on said song by the Laura Berkner Band. To accompany the song, we also learned a few sun, star, and moon inspired yoga poses!

The estimating jar returned last week, full of small, toy pumpkins! The detectives were excited to see the pumpkins resurface in our discovery table, where they were used to investigate cause and effect with the class scale.

The students also worked hard this week on creating their self portraits. Given mirrors and markers, the detectives created their visions of themselves!

We couldn’t round out a fall unit without breaking out a class favorite- Sneaky Snacky Squirrel! The students practiced turn taking and fine motor movements when embarking in this silly game to fill their stump with colored acorns!

Spoiler Alert: Next week we embark on our Planet Pals unit!

Oaks News from the Wild # 4

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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.


Fall Celebration

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.

Pumpkin Carving

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.

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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.

Indoor Time

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.

Artist’s Visit

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.

Birthday Celebration

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

& more
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”

& more

The Detective Post #4

News from the Outdoors

As the autumn leaves began to fall, the nature detectives took to the woods to search for seeds, fruits, and brightly colored leaves! As the school year has progressed, we have begun exploring deeper into the trails and wooded habitat that Woodend has to offer. We have continued our observational learning by comparing and contrasting different  sized acorns, to seeing how different leaves floated in our pond.

With the gorgeous fall days, the Detectives decided to spend a few days all outdoors! We did out meetings outdoors, and enjoyed tasty snacks on the stage. The students took art outdoors as well- creating squirrel puppets to scurry around the playground, along with drip-drop leaves with which to decorate our classroom!

Both classes enjoyed visits from our naturalists, Ms. Julie (AM) AND Ms. Gail (PM). Ms. Julie brought in her magnifying glasses, and the detectives took to the woods to investigate log dwellers. Ms. Gail brought in her giant measuring stick, and helped the detectives measure leaf lengths, as well as the rain fall in our pond. Both classes enjoyed seed/fruit hunts, where each child was given a bag to fill with seeds, fruits, and anything else falling from the trees that a squirrel might enjoy munching on!

As you can already tell, the Detectives were thinking a lot about squirrels with the advent of the fall weather!  Seeing them scamper around Woodend is very exciting, so we dug a little deeper into the science of squirrels and their food. We learned about the differences between red and grey squirrels, that while grey squirrels scatter their food and share it between friends, red squirrels hoard their food in one spot for the winter. The Detectives turned into squirrels on our hikes, collecting acorns and hiding them respectively, even hiding the treasure in our sand box like different colored squirrels!

On one of our all outdoors days, we introduced our estimating jar. This time, the jar was filled with- you guessed it- acorns! The students became squirrel detectives, each making a hypothesis to how many acorns could fit into our special jar. The guesses ranged from 1 to 131, after counting discovering 30 acorns fit just right.

One of the most exciting parts of our last few weeks at school has been all the construction happening around Woodend! We noticed the different machines around to build the new gates, as well as getting to see some tree workers taking down large branches! After some tree work was done in the woods, we noticed there were some new, fallen tree logs to balance on by our eagles nest. Both classes immediately jumped into action, clearing brush, rolling stumps, and building new forts in which to play! We organized many games of hide and seek, and even brought the toy squirrels out to practice balancing on the large logs.

News from the Classroom

With our multiple all outdoor days, we spent less time inside the classroom these last two weeks. Our indoor time was spent getting the classroom ready for our ever exciting- fall celebration!

Through our meetings and stories, we continued our fall exploration. The classes learned three new songs, I’m a Nut, Grey Squirrel and Falling leaves, which corresponded to our observations outdoors as well as our stories indoors.

Introducing our squirrel blocks to the block area gave the detectives a chance to practice that squirrel balance indoors as well as outdoors! After floating the fallen leaves in our pond outdoors, also introduced ideas of sinking v. floating in our lab table.

Noticing the different colored leaves outdoors, we conducted a leaf experiment with some Japanese Maple leaves inside the classroom! We used a coffee filter to extract different colors hiding inside the still green leaves. Upon checking the following day, we found brown and yellow stripes on our paper- who knew those colors were hiding under the green all along!

To top off this past week, we spent two days creating our very own acorn hats to sport at our fall celebration! To start off, every child rolled acorns and paint over brown construction paper to make the base of our hats. Once the paint had dried the following day, we cut our acorn art into strips, before stapling them together to create an acorn hat!

On our celebration day, every child got to be their very own acorn- and grow right in front of our eyes! We had such a blast singing, snacking and creating with all who were able to join, a huge thanks to everyone who helped out! Whenever grown ups and families are able to come to school is so special for the kids, we couldn’t have had such a successful celebration day without all of you!

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

Swirling, Twirling, towrads the ground

Falling, falling, falling leaves

Mother Nature did you sneeze?

ACHOO!

 

I’m a Nut

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!

 

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel, Grey Squirrel, shake your bushy tail, (x2)

Use your paw to grab a nut,

Use your teeth to munch it up,

Grey Squirrel, Grey Squirrel, shake your bushy tail!

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!