Oaks News from the Wild #7

 

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Life is precious. This time of early childhood is precious. We feel so grateful to share the children’s joy at such a magical time in such a magical place.

The Oaks have been practicing mindfulness. We ring a chime inside or chant an ohm outside to start and end our morning circle meeting. When we line up to go inside, we practice breathing visualizations to slow our engines down for inside time. At Hilltop Home, the children have quiet Sit Spot Time. And to bring this all together, parent volunteer Caroline has been leading the class in mid-day mindfulness sessions. The children have practiced having mindful bodies (still and quiet), and mindful listening. While children are often naturally “in the moment”, the language we use with them helps them pay attention to what’s happening in their brains and bodies. This is one of the important components of self-regulation  – one of the most important skills young children are working on developing.

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Mindful listening with Caroline

Our adventures outside have included exploration of the pond before and after the hard freeze.

With the cold, we also had our first campfires. We talked about fire safety, roasted apples and bananas, and enjoyed stories around the fire. The area around the campfire circle is also full of fun places to explore and climb.

At Hilltop, new forts arose and the fairy playground got spruced up for winter.

We’ve been talking about animals preparing for winter the last two weeks. Nature is the best teacher, so we were thrilled when the children discovered a hibernating bat inside a new tree cave by the pond!

With our guest naturalist, we learned about which birds stay around for the winter, and which fly south. The children made suet bird feeders as a gift to our resident Woodend birds.

Inside, we worked on habitat murals. Together the children made the Meadow, Pond and Creekbed, and Hilltop Home/Forest. Each child chose a stuffed Audubon animal, drew it’s picture, cut it out and found it a snug hiding place in one of the murals. Puffy paint snow turned our murals into winter wonderlands.

Lots of animal play ensued inside the classroom, including the construction of a natural history museum with the animals sorted into taxonomic groups. A pet shop opened, selling all kinds of wildlife (I know! But I promise these children will grow up loving and doing right by wildlife…). This kind of play springs entirely from the children’s imaginations, aided by props we bring. A new cash register and money appeared when the “shop” play arc began, and the new props sparked new play and drew in new children to dramatic play. Outside, we retold the story of the The Mitten with our Audubon animals.

We created beautiful snowflakes to decorate our classroom for our Winter Celebration and winter cards. A Gingerbread family moved into the classroom and left notes for the children each day. They also hid the children’s special animals each night. The Gingerbreads had to move to a bigger house to make room for a gingerbread baby, so the Oaks got to eat their old house at our final campfire.

The play-yard is always a great place for imaginative play.  We had fun with ice and snow, forts and obstacle courses get built and rebuilt, and we even built a “telephone” to send messages between two forts. When play inspires the need to write, that’s emergent literacy at its best!

And in a final burst of love and light, we gathered with families for the Winter Celebration. We sang songs, decorated lanterns and star cookies, and walked with our lights through a sparkling star labyrinth singing “This Little Light of Mine.” May the light of your little ones always shine brightly in your lives.

Oaks News from the Wild #6

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“Tree Caving’

 

Joy and Wonder

We spend our days as a class laughing, exploring, reading, wondering, talking, climbing, drawing, writing, singing, building, counting, imagining, creating, observing, playing, and otherwise living and learning joyfully.

Giving Thanks

Before Thanksgiving, we read beautiful books including “Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message” and drew and shared about what we are thankful for.  We sang “Oh, the Earth is Good to Me,” and we each made our own version that included some things we are thankful for.  The children also made beautiful cards for their families.

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Sunny Ray Planet Pal

We introduced a 2nd planet pal this week- Sunny Ray.  We talked about her “super powers,” sang a song about her (based on the Raffi song “Mr. Sun”), played a sun ball game, traced our shadows in chalk, made solar prints with natural objects, and enjoyed the folktales “Grandma Spider Brings the Sun” and “The Story of the Sun.”

 

 

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Telling the story “Grandmother Spider Bring the Sun”

Indoor Experiences

 

We introduced some new materials this week; the marble race tracks were definitely a hit!

 

 

 

Playground Activities

Creative and cooperative play abounds on the Oaks’ playground and on our Friday morning visits to the Saplings’ playground.  Sure, conflicts do occur, but we work through them together.  And there are opportunities for alone time as well (whether it’s coloring ginkgo leaves to make fairy fans, being a planet pal superhero complete with cape, or concocting a dish in the mud kitchen).

 

 

Exploring more of the 40 Acres of Woodend

We continue to love going to Hilltop Home 2-3 times a week.  Fairies, ninjas, transformers and aliens continue to visit there as well.  : )

This week we ventured to the Far Corner of Woodend to the hollow log and the hollow tree (or the “possum pouch” as one child dubbed it).  What a unique and amazing adventure.  Many, but not all children, climbed into the tree to explore the “tree cave” inside.

 

 

Exploring the hollow tree and log made for a truly amazing day, and just when we thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, the Pied Piper of Audubon appeared and serenaded us through Woodend!

 

 

That was the best day ever!  Except maybe for this day…

It was a perfect fall day at Woodend, under a red canopy of Japanese maple tress.. Some children explored, climbed on logs, swung on branches, while others sat by a tree observing insects and creating little nature books.  At the end of the day, the children lay down and looked up at the wondrous sight of the fall leaves overhead.

 

 

Finding Animals and Mushrooms

 

Volcanoes at Audubon!

Some students have expressed interest in volcanoes, so we decided to make our own with sand and pieces of bamboo and with baking soda and vinegar “lava.”  Many volcanic eruptions occurred that day at Audubon!

 

 

 

We have begun to learn about ways that animals prepare for and adapt to winter.  We are looking forward to continuing this study and also learning about nocturnal animals.  And our winter celebration with families is just around the corner!

Books We Read

Every day we read wonderful books throughout the day.  A typical morning might start with a group of kids gathering around a teacher singing from song books on the Oaks playground.  Later in the classroom, other children perch on a counter top window seat and share giggles over an Elephant and Piggie book.  In the afternoon at Hilltop Home, a master naturalist volunteer shares a beautifully illustrated nature book, and later on, next to the fairy house, a few children listen again to the story of “Twinkle”, the fairy who causes quite a ruckus when trying to cast spells with her wand for the first time.  Some favorite books we have read recently include:

“I’m Thankful Each Day!”  by P.K. Hallinan

“Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message”by Jake Swamp

“Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun” (Cherokee story)

“The Story of the Sun” retold by Ned Jensen

“Moon Glowing” by Elizabeth Partridge

“Time to Sleep” by Denise Fleming

“Miss Suzy” by Miriam Young

 

Songs We Sang

“We’ve Got the Whole World in our Hands” (with signs and gestures)

“Oh, the Earth is Good to Me” (with signs and gestures):  Oh, the Earth is good to me.  And so I thank the Earth. For giving me the things I need- the sun and the rain and the apple seed. Oh, the Earth is good to me.

“The 4 Seasons Song” (with gestures)- Winter, spring, summer, fall. Winter, spring, summer, fall. Winter, spring, summer, fall. There are 4 seasons in all.

In addition, we sang “Sunny Ray” and many songs from song books including “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “Catalina Magdalena,” “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed” and “5 Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree.”

 

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!

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

Oaks News from the Wild # 3

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The very tricky lava ledge pass.

One day we headed out to a “mystery location” in Woodend. Last year’s class had a name for this particular tumble of fallen logs, but we have purposefully NOT named some favorite destinations yet this year. The children will find their own names, and in the naming, make these places their own. They are not the same places after all. Wood decomposes and bark falls off, new trees fall, new animals move in, and the children bring their own transformative ideas.

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There are definitely zombies living inside this hollow tree. But they are apparently known to bury treasure right at the just-safe-enough-just-scary-enough opening.

As teachers, we bring our own ideas, but we also leave big spaces open for the children to explore. We often find something interesting and bring it to the play-yard or the classroom – a new wooden pallet, flexible tubing, stumps, boxes, concrete blocks. “What is this for?” a child asks. “I don’t know. What would you do with it?” And his face lights up, and the ideas pour out. And then another child joins, and the ideas join and change. And at some point, the whole thing comes down to make space for something new.

We went on our first class field trip, to the Patuxent Research Refuge and the National Wildlife Visitor Center. Highlights of the trip included a tram ride around the refuge’s wetland habitats, an education program on otters, and a hike to a pond.

On our return we lucked into some rain and a lot of puddles. The children are learning to manage their outdoor gear, and to assess their own comfort level with exploring nature’s gifts of water and mud. Some jump right in, while others watch and dip their toes.

We enjoyed our first visits with our volunteer naturalist Nancy, who joins the Oaks on Wednesday mornings to explore Woodend. A parent volunteer, Nikki, demonstrated a home-made water rocket, which shot high above the Oaks play-yard to squeals of amazement and delight.

Our program is so much about choice, about honoring children’s interests while at the same time offering them space to stretch and grow. On a visit to the “Pooh Tree” the children remembered learning about beech trees on their field trip. They noticed that people had carved letters and names into the tree, and were inspired to make signs to protect the tree. This is emergent literacy – seeing a reason to write, wanting to write, making your mark (just not on the tree!).

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At the same time, some children just need to climb the tree and give it a hug. All are equally important!

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We continued to explore the theme of friendship through stories, games, and of course play – inside and out. It is primarily through play that children gain the robust oral language that underlies literacy, along with key social emotional skills – self regulation, collaboration, negotiation, empathy and much more.

We have some avid artists in the Oaks class, so drawing happens anywhere, anytime. Lately, they’ve been working on large-format collaborative art. Just imagine the discussions as they each add their piece and explain how it all comes together in a story. Emergent literacy again.

On one hike, we collected acorns, chestnuts, redbud seed pods and many other natural treasures. Back in the classroom, the Oaks sorted and counted their finds. Math foundations at this age include counting with one-to-one correspondence, sorting items, recognizing and making patterns, being able to know how many items are there without counting, one-digit addition and subtraction, and numeral recognition. Any time you can count things with children, do!

This week, we started a unit on insects and other arthropods. They are the creatures we see most often at Woodend, so we wanted to learn a bit more about them. We sang the Insect Body Parts song, adding new verses each day. We searched for insects in the woods, under logs, in the meadow and even in the trees using a “beater tray”  –  a white sheet on a frame that catches insects as they fall from tree branches.  We observed insects in the classroom with magnifiers. The children made fingerprint bug art, play-dough insects, and wrote about their favorite insect in their journals.

We conducted a science lab on pill bugs, practicing asking questions, making testable hypotheses, setting up an experiment, recording our observations and making conclusions. One Oak stated, “I think pill bugs will like the dark more than the light, because when I find them, they are usually hiding underneath things like logs.” How can we find out? We used a special tray and covered one side, then counted the pill bugs. This led to more and more questions, as science often does. Do they like sand? Or sand and soil? Or just soil? How about wood? How about plants and soil together? How moist do they like the soil? What do they eat?

The children take time each day at Hilltop to visit their “Sit Spots”, observing what has changed, and taking a few minutes to sit in silence outside.

If you visit Hilltop Home, you will find an elaborate and ever-changing fairy adventure playground. The project started with a few Oaks and some stumps and twigs, and has now expanded to a whole-class design crew armed with color, sparkle and a lot of ideas. There are swings, a zip line, a tight rope, slides, bridges, a ladder, an underground lava-heated pool, and even anchors to keep it in place until the builders return. Notes have been left for the fairies who are sure to have a great weekend of play.

And then we explored, and played and climbed some more!

SONGS We Sang

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

The Insect Body Part Song (to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes)

Head, thorax, abdomen

Six legs!

Head, thorax, abdomen

Six legs!

Compound eyes and an exoskeleton

Head, thorax, abdomen

Six legs!

(additional verses)

Some have wings and antennae too

Head, thorax, abdomen

Six legs!

They come from eggs and

Most have a larval stage

Head, thorax, abdomen

Six legs!

 

Books we read:

Wetlands

Rain Song by Lezlie Evans

The Surprise (Frog and Toad) by Arnold Label

Big Wolf and Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Olivier Tallec

I Will Surprise My Friend (Elephant and Piggie) by Mo Willems

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder

Bug Hunt by Neecy Twinum

Bugs – A Closer Look

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

Hank’s Big Day  – the Story of a Bug – by Evan Kuhlman

Fly Guy stories by Tedd Arnold

The Amazing Book of Insect Records

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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

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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