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

 

Detective Post #22

News From the Outdoors:

The past two weeks at Nature Preschool have been fun-filled and full of exciting nature adventure.  Birds were on our minds as we went off on a circuitous hike around the grounds looking in the many bird boxes that are scattered about. We brought along a map of Woodend and when we found a box we checked it for any bird nesting activity, then labeled on the map where it was located. We’ve found as many as eighteen bird boxes around the grounds, with more yet to be discovered for another time.

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The discoveries didn’t end there. While hiking with the Naturalist, Hummingbird the kids looked for seeds that the birds might like to eat, and found two fascinating animal homes! The first animal home discovery came when some of the Nature Detectives were checking out what was once a den used by a groundhog…but now is the home of a fox! The kids spotted LOTS of fox scat, left over bones, fur and feathers from some past feasts!  No sign of the fox (so far) but we’re keeping our eyes open! The second discovery came when we got word of a mother raccoon and some baby raccoons that are nesting in a hollow at the top of a tree near the snake nest. We trudged over there on a rainy day and sure enough, spotted a little raccoon face peering out at us! No sign of the babies yet, but our fingers are crossed for an less obscured sighting!

To make our bird week extra special the PM class got a rare daytime sighting of a large Barred Owl. It was perched in a tree near the bamboo forest, and then soared over our heads! The true icing on the bird study cake was our family bird walk. Thanks to some nice spring weather, we spotted lots of birds and the kids got to share their bird knowledge with their families!

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We followed up our bird unit by talking about planting. With Hummingbird, the kids got to plant some radishes in the planter boxes in the outdoor classroom. We also collected seeds from nature to study more in the classroom and checked out the compost bins to check in on the worms. With some heavy rain at the end of the week, we capped off our outdoor adventures with a slog through the muddy trails to look for waterfalls along the creek. We even spied the ducks having their lunch at the pond!

News from the Classroom:

The nature detectives were equally busy in the classroom as well. They clipped out photos of birds and pasted them to giant sky murals (now on display in the cubby room), used the build-a-bird toys, measured their block creations by using cut-outs of bird wingspans and made bird feeders out of cereal. The kids also made paper towel tube binoculars for easier bird-spotting, and used tongs and tweasers of  various sizes to simulate bird beaks and pluck plastic worms out of bark mulch in the lab table. The kids also worked diligently on bird journals, and got plenty of practice with the “I Met a Bird at the Playground Gate” song for the family bird walk.

The Nature Detectives also revisited an activity from earlier in the year by drawing  new self-portraits! They also wrote a message on their artwork about something they can do now that they couldn’t do back in the Fall when we did our first round of self-portraits. We look forward to showing families both versions of the self portraits at the conferences.

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The kids found lots of other cool planting and flower-themed activities in the classroom this past week. They played a seed matching game in the discovery table, did some still-life drawings of a potted plants, and made flowery creations with the Magic Nuudles.

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There were butterfly wings, puppets and flowers to pollinate in the dramatic play area and kids even made giant flowers out of tangram shapes in the block area. All told, it was an exciting and busy two weeks of indoor exploration and learning!

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Weekly Top Hits:

I Met a Bird at the Playgound Gate

Books We Read:

Planting a Wild Garden by Katherine Galbraith

Oh Say Can you Seed by Bonnie Worth

Have you Heard the Nesting Bird by Rita Grey

The Birdwatchers by Simon James

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Spoiler Alert:

Pond Exploration

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News from the Wild #22

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“That’s so cool! I love nature. It’s my favorite place in the whole world,” said an Oak today. I had just shown the children how water beads up on the leaves of jewelweed down by the pond. It reminded me of a t-shirt I saw recently of a tiny bird, that said, “The little things are the big things.” Here are these small humans, learning about a new plant, with wonder in their eyes. Here are their small muddy hands holding a giant worm so gently. Here are their fingers, pointing at a flash of red – “Cardinal!” Here they are, in shock and awe, watching a snake trying to eat a toad, and a frog trying to eat a dragonfly. Here they are, exploring, climbing, creating, discovering. Each moment, one could say, is a little thing. But they all add up to minds full of connections and hearts full of love. Each child, one could say, is a little thing. And yet, they will grow as surely as the seasons turn. And we will send them off into the wide world, with nature as a life-long friend.

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Playing “Follow the Bird”

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Bamboo forest meditation

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We brought a camp stove to Hilltop to cook up some invasive bamboo shoots.

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The verdict: YUM! The proposal title: Invasives Eradication by Hungry Kids (Extra kids courtesy of Take Your Child to Work Day : )

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Potion-making never gets old –  the ingredients on offer are constantly changing!

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Demolition team

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The treasure tree is laden with treasure!

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“Ninja Warrior” is all the rage, so we built a course at Hilltop

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Ninja in training

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Happy swinging climbing. Patient turn waiting.

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Bird nest at Hilltop. With door mat.

On Friday, we went on a long hike to the Rock Creek side, turned left instead of right, and were glad we did!

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Wetland wonders: turtles sunning, green heron fishing

We realized the path was leading to….a playground! Field trip within a field trip.

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Field trip to civilization! Learning to pump on the swings.

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The Oaks’ favorite snack.

Once we left the playground, things got wild quickly!

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Garter snake snacking on a toad.

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Hard to watch. Hard to walk away. Lots to think about. An experience that calls for some comfort from a friend. 

With such an audience, the snake gave up. “We saved the toad!” But what will the snake eat? Nature is not all flowers.

Part of feeling at home in nature is knowing you have friends there. The Oaks became  enthusiastic birders over the last two weeks, learning bird calls, sighting birds on the wing and in the trees. We made bird food, created bird-inspired art, and played bird games.

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Birdathon!

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Painting with feathers and writing with quills.

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Self-portrait, with bird and love.

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Making “bird pudding”. Look at all those hands sharing space and resources!

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Bird chefs

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Hanging the treats

We played bird call hide and seek, with paired musical instruments. Bird one hides. Bird two calls and listens for the answering call, before trying to find her partner.

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Hiding bird makes her call

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Seeking bird calls back, and is off!

We wrapped up our Spring Journals in the Blair Native Plant Garden. Each child chose a plant and followed its changes over six weeks.

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Final documentation of their chosen plant

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“You can use the colors you see and the colors you imagine.”

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Focus

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Careful details

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Using teamwork and a lever to break off a coveted branch.

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“Look at all the eggs!”

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A huge goal achieved- getting inside the lunch spot silver maple!

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Taking a peek into the deep

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All the way in!

 

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Listening to the story of Herman the Worm

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Getting reading for ponding

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“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

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“The worm will feel right at home here!”

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Time and space to just be.

The Detective Post #21

News from the Outdoors

The Nature Detectives returned from Spring break with gusto, examining Woodend to see what had changed since we had been gone! We noticed buds on the trees, birds singing, as well as frogs and ducks in the pond.

The Detectives were excited to prep for Earth Day at Audubon, thinking about all the ways we know how to take care of the planet! On the sanctuary, the Detectives dove deeper into natures recyclers on a Naturalist hike with Hummingbird. We visited the compost station, and went on a hunt for decomposers in the forest. The Detectives have become expert slug, worm, and millipede wranglers!

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Slugfest

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Hands on Learning

 

We also thought more about the word conservation, and how we are mindful experts of the world around us. We expanded those thoughts onto the idea of invasive species, and took to the trails to hunt for a local invasive- garlic mustard! The kids filled an entire trash bag (no small feat) of the plant, and were quite proud of themselves!

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Conservation Connections

 

We ended that week with our very own Earth Day celebration, in the form of a Planet Pal parade! Each kid got create their own Planet Pal cape and recycled instrument, with which we marched and sang at the Mansion!

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AM Planet Pal Parade

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PM Planet Pal Parade

 

The Preschool also partners with the Audubon Birdathon this time of year! Both classes embark on a birding unit, where the children learn to identify different birds by their colors and calls! We began the unit by discussing things we already know about birds, constructing a giant birds nest in the Amphitheater!

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Nest in Show

 

On our Naturalist Hike with Hummingbird, she introduced us to different types of bird beaks- and how they can be used to identify what different birds eat! The Detectives hiked around Woodend, looking for different types of bird foods, and discerning which type of bird beak might enjoy said food as a tasty snack.

Both classes also enjoyed a birds of prey lesson, thinking about which hooked beak and talon sporting birds we have here at Audubon. The AM class enjoyed bringing a stuffed, great horned owl down from the Mansion, while the PM classes played a giant game of Hawk-and-Seek, where the seekers transformed into hawks, while the hiders pretended to be mice!

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Wingin’ it!

 

News from the Indoors

Inside the classroom, we had a variety of recycled art and bird themed projects! In preparation for Earth Day, the Detectives were greeted by two new Planet Pals during meeting. We met a super decomposer named Squirmy Wormy, as well as an expert in mindfulness- Peace Pal!

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The Great Detective Caper

 

The students had lots of fun creating their capes for our Earth Day celebration. By adding fabric scrapes and paint, the kids transformed into their very own planet pals! To add to the excitement, the kiddos were also able to create shakers out of recycled cardboard tubes and seeds!

For our Mindful Monday lesson this go around, the Detectives learned a new mindful game to play! The kids had to practice their mindful bodies, while passing claps, silly noises, and even imaginary balls around the circle.

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Pumpkin the Bunny visits the AM

 

Birds found their way into the classroom this past week, by building nests in the block area, finding worms in the lab table like robins, and practicing our identification skills with a bird matching game!

Continuing our beak investigations, we created hummingbird inspired art with water colors. The students were able to emulate how the hummingbird drinks its nectar by using eye droppers to paint their creations!

Both classes were very interested in the birds of prey lesson, creating paper airplanes and hawk/owl/eagle kites to take to the skies! It was so interesting to watch the children work, meticulously adding different colors to create Red shouldered hawks, great horned owls, and even golden eagles!

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Prey it Forward

 

Books we Read

The Peace Book by Todd Parr

Duck and Goose by Tad Hills

Have you Seen Birds? by Joanne Oppenheim

ZooBooks about Birds of Prey

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Weekly Top Hits

Reduce, Resuse Recycle (The More we Get together)

Reduce, reuse, recycle, recycle, 

Reduce, reuse, recycle, recycle, 

It’s easy to do!

Cus’ your trash and my trash

Make up way too much trash! 

Reduce, reuse, recycle, recycle, 

It’s easy to do!

 

This Old Earth (This old Man)

This old earth, needs our help,

to stay fresh and clean and green,

with a pick it, pitch it in, toss it in the can,

this old earth needs a helping hand!

 

I met a Bird

I met a Cardinal at the playground gate,

that cardinal was my playmate,

that cardinal said..Birdie Birdie Birdie (x3)

…Woodpecker…Peck Peck Peck…

…Dove…Coo Coo Coo…

…Robin…Cheerup Cheerily…

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Spoiler Alert: The next two weeks we are finishing our bird studies and examining planting!

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News from the Wild #21

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Spring has fully sprung. Woodend is painted twenty shades of green and alive with insects, snakes, turtles, frogs, and birds. Foxes, raccoons, and deer leave their prints for us to follow. Dens are dug, nests built. And everywhere the children explore, discover, ask questions, and play. Each day there is something new. Each day new words and new ideas flow all around us in a never-ending stream. We pluck them from the warm spring air and add them to our webs of knowledge. Learning is as simple as opening your eyes and wondering. We feel so lucky to have this bounty around us.

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What will we find today?

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Wood frog and catcher. You can’t see the frog, but you can see the pride.

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Dragonfly nymphs (think about the concepts within concepts to talk about with just this find – metamorphosis, life cycles, habitat, classification (“It has six legs!”), predator/prey (right after this find, we found a wood frog trying to eat an adult dragonfly!), and on and on. Language, language and more language.

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“The skunk cabbage is almost as big as me!”

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Time to be together

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Time to be alone

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Water and sunlight and time for quiet reflection

With this bounty all around us, we are experimenting with shortening the formal teacher-directed time in our program. The children need the time to revel in all there is to see, and time to “get up steam” in their play. There is still never enough time.

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Using rotting wood to clean the tadpole tank.

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Teamwork to carry heavy tiles

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Building a world in the dig pit. So much negotiation.

The Oaks have been building their own obstacle course at Hilltop. They talk about where it starts and ends, what else is needed, and how to make it even more challenging.

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Obstacle course: Rock hop

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Obstacle course: through the tree

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There is a plan here, you can be sure.

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There is so much you can do with bamboo, like form a band of two.

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Watching a pileated woodpecker eat a snack (look closely at the pointy standing stump!)

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Snacking on wild edibles – greenbriar tips and garlic mustard

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“Is this actually good for me?”

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The foxes have been hard at work

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Using a “beater tray” to study arboreal insects. You whack the branches with a stick, holding the tray beneath to catch what falls. Science is fun!

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Lunch perch

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Into the hollow tree

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What child?

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Climbing out by himself – this takes serious upper body strength!

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Cozy friends inside the tree

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Now for the next tree-caving expedition…

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Getting used to the ladder. Waiting in line is a thing you have to learn…

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Spring journalling in the Blair Garden. So much change, you might have to document three plants or four…

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Slug trails on thunderstorm/tornado day

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Does Lesser Celandine make yellow? Yes! What else could we use?

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Colors of Spring: Violets, Lesser Celandine, Garlic Mustard, Redbuds

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In celebration of Earth Day, we went on a long hike around Woodend to look for spring wildflowers and…garlic mustard (an invasive plant). Chelsea taught the Oaks a new word: eradicate. They are now master garlic mustard eradicators!

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Earth Day Garlic Mustard Hunt

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“We filled two whole bags!”

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“I found some that didn’t even have flowers on it yet!”

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