Oaks News from the Wild #15

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If I had to choose one word that sums up what we do at Audubon, it would be

connections

We connect children to nature. We teach about the connections in nature. But also, we connect children to each other. We all live together on this planet. We share a place and a responsibility to each other. That’s what it means to be human, whether you are 5 or 50.

As I look at the pictures from our last two weeks, I see these connections so strongly. And as hard as it is to say farewell to children who will be moving on, I know we will always be connected to each other through this shared experience.

Team bird id

We’ve spent the past three weeks learning about birds. In addition to a person of the day, we introduced a Bird of the Day. We learned their calls, where they nest and what they eat. Knowing the most common birds adds strands to our human-nature web – suddenly the chirps, tweets and trills become not just pleasant background music, but old friends. “I heard tea kettle, tea kettle, tea kettle! It’s the Carolina Wren!” And the birds cooperated, with close-up encounters with pileated and downy woodpeckers, a wren nesting in the box on the Oaks play-yard, and of course the daily joy of watching our chicks grow up.

At Hilltop Home and on the Play-yard, the Oak’s cooperative play shows connections in action. Shared ideas, goals, stories, language, and skills. Constant negotiation, problem-solving and team-work.

Drawing and writing happen everywhere – they feel the power of putting their ideas down on paper, of making their mark.

We made a list of our favorite places at Woodend, so we would be sure to visit them all in the last two weeks of school. Right at the top of the list is the Creekbed. The Oaks LOVE the water, and the rains were welcomed  with whoops of joy. “It’s FLOWING!!! The creek is flowing!!!”

Connections – to each other and to nature. And stories to tell.

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Birds we learned

Robin

Cardinal

Blue Jay

Carolina Wren

House Sparrow

Mourning Dove

Downy Woodpecker

White-breasted Nuthatch

Chickadee

Some books we read:

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray

The Seven Ravens by Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm

The Six Swans by Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm

Tasty Baby Belly Buttons by Judy Sierra

Rumplelstiltskin by Paul Zelinsky

And many other informational books about birds and too many other books to count : )

Songs we sang

The Playground Gate

I saw a (name of bird) at the playground gate

That (robin) was my playmate.

That (robin) said, “Cheerup, cheerily, chirrup, cheerily, cheerily, chirrup!”

Robin Redbreast

Robin redbreast, crow flying round

Nuthatch hopping down the tree

Chickadee, dee, dee, dee, dee!!

 

 

 

 

Oaks News of the Wild #14

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What a magical spring the Oaks class has been enjoying!

Magical Tales

We have been reading magical tales (fairy tales and folk tales) indoors and out, and magical play abounds.  From mystery eggs, several baby dragons and unicorns have emerged.  The children have created dragon lairs and imaginary settings for magical creatures and royal folk, and they have dressed up and become those characters  The kids have also been working in pairs to create their own amazing magic tales and to perform their puppet shows for audiences on the playground.

On the Playground

Water Play!

Hot days call for getting wet!

Around Woodend

Spring Has Sprung!  Flowers are blooming, animals are out and about, birds are building nests, and the stream even has some flowing water from time to time.

The children have been enjoying splashing in the creek, finding critters, releasing our young wood frogs and newly emerged praying mantis babies, reading wonderful books outdoors, drawing imaginative pictures, and all sorts of adventures all around Woodend, including at our beloved Hilltop Home.

In the Classroom

The children’s creativity abounds inside the classroom. Building and drawing, often in collaborating with with friends. are favorite activities.

Planet Pals

We celebrated Earth Day (and Earth Month!) with a parade with the afternoon preschool class, complete with kid-designed planet pal puppets, fun songs and hand-made instruments.

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Guest Teachers

Carol, Nancy and Caroline continue to enrich the children’s experience at school through their warm guidance, nature expertise and mindfulness activities.

A Visit from “The Bug Lady#

Kay, the Bug Lady, visited the Audubon Nature Preschool, delighting the children with a variety of interesting insects.

Miniature Parks

The children worked in small groups to design miniature parks (for fairies and other little creatures) and create maps for visitors.

Garden Visits

We worked with Jenny at the Children’s Garden to begin planting a three sisters’ garden inspired by a Native American tradition.  We made mounds of soil (“volcanoes”, buried fish heads and planted popcorn!  We also checked on our peas and greens and measured the growth of the plants.

We visited the Blair Native Plants Garden again, and each child drew another picture of their chosen plant in their spring garden journal.

Birds, Birds, Birds!

We began our bird unit this past week, and the wild birds cooperated perfectly.  On the first day of this new investigation, we discovered a Carolina wren nesting in the birdhouse on our playground with 5 tiny eggs, and we watched a pileated woodpecker as it traveled all around our lunch spot.

Incubating Eggs & Our 5 Little Chicks

On the morning of May 1st, after incubating for 21 days, our 5 little chicks hatched from their eggs.  We were able to witness some pipping and unzipping their shells.  Throughout the morning, they emerged one by one.  We are in love!

Books We’ve Read

As always, we have been reading lots of books inside and outside.  We have enjoyed many magical tales including classic fairy tales and stories of adventures with dragons.  We have also been perusing information books about birds.

Songs We’ve Sung

Over the past few weeks we have sung songs about fairy tales, dragons, planet pals, birds and more!

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Oaks News from the Wild #13

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The week before spring break brought us a last blast of winter. Finally, snow and school together. The Oaks enjoyed a just-right sledding hill and learned to roll giant snow balls to make a fort. A few children shaped snow into their special animals, including a chomping crocodile, a panda playing with a ball, and a 2D colobus monkey. Snow play is so great for gross motor development, along with all the social skills practice in negotiation, turn-taking, communication and more.

 

We finished up our long-term animal project before break, putting finishing touches on murals and animal books. The children were overjoyed to learn they could take their animals home to KEEP!

 

Inside, stories flow through the children’s minds and into their dramatic play, building and art. Talking with each other and with adults about their stories and ideas is so important to development at this age.

Outside, Hilltop Home is HOME, a place they know as well as the classroom, and a place where they turn to each other in cooperative play. Games that started there a week ago pick up and shift with new ideas. Lava, ice and fire ninjas have given way to Lizard Ninjas. Powerful Cats can be found prowling and making homes here, on the play-yard and in the classroom.

After a week home with family, the Oaks returned to Real Spring.

 

We spent an afternoon at the Children’s Garden, where we planted the kale, chard and lettuce we started from seed a few weeks ago, checked on our pea sprouts, and enjoyed the smells and feel of freshly turned earth.

 

The children love the area around the Tree-Friendly Rain Garden and the magnificent walnut tree. At least two different group games got going involving panthers, lizard ninjas, and many other changing roles and rules. Negotiating these games with each other, without adults directing the play, is so important for both social emotional growth and for language development. The story-lines are rich and completely theirs. And this space is so enticing for both the open space to run AND all the hiding places.

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Decorating the classroom for our Spring Celebration was one way the children thought about symbols of spring. They made flowers for our branch, and created a flower for our window.

Caroline continues to guide the Oaks in weekly mindfulness lessons. She read Anh’s Anger and Steps and Stone to talk about how to calm your mind and body when feelings are overwhelming.

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This week we started a magical tales (fairy tales, myths and legends) unit. We’ll be talking about story elements, like characters, setting, plot. The children will be working together to create their own tales to share with the class.

The Spring Celebration brought families together to celebrate the warmth of the returning sun and the warmth of community.

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Songs we sang:

Books/stories we read:

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

When Spring Comes by Kevin Henke

Anh’s Anger and Steps and Stones by Gail Silver

The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci

Sleeping Beauty

Signs of Spring (adapted from an Equinox reading)

And many, many more…

 

Oaks News of the Wild #11

During the past 2 weeks, the Oaks class enjoyed daily excursions into the wild and lots of time for creative play, plus a trip to an art show a the mansion, a day in Rock Creek Park, a visit from a corn snake, the 100th day of school, a camp fire with families, and more!zB4KBghPTu+M6rOq22opHw

Outdoor Adventures

After a very windy weekend, the children were excited to discover a fallen tree next to Hilltop Home.

 

We took hikes all around Woodend, including the pond and the children’s garden. We enjoyed a nature math activity with our fabulous intern (Meredith) and enjoyed another visit with Cosi, a goldendoodle belonging to one of the teachers.

 

Playground Fun

 

Rock Creek Park

The class spent one full day outside exploring Rock Creek Park, adding to our map and knowledge of the area.  Together we enjoyed another chapter of The Night Fairy, played at the Purple Playground, climbed a huge hill and had a picnic lunch in the woods.

 

A Visit from a Corn Snake

One of our fabulous master naturalists, brought a snake to the Oaks classroom.  Nancy arrived at school singing “I’m Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor!”  We got to touch the snake, learn about it, and watch it make its way through a maze to get to its food.  This experienced tied into our animal project in which we were learning about how animals including how they move and what they eat.

 

 

Classroom Experiences

The children continue to enjoy playing and engaging in various projects while in the classroom.  In the photos you can see children engaged in creative play, building activities, math activities with manipulative, intricate constructions, reading books and telling stories, imaginative and detailed drawing work, collaborative storytelling with toy ninjas, making clay creatures, decorating toy snakes,  caring for our seedlings, and enjoying a special snack for the 100th day of school, and more!

 

Mindfulness Lessons

We are very fortunate to have a parent lead weekly mindfulness lessons.  Through books and activities, we are learning to use our mindful bodies, eyes and ears.  We have practiced different breathing techniques and are learning how to understand and manage our emotions.

Art Show

The children were mesmerized by the nature art show at the mansion.

Family Campfire

We enjoyed a wonderful Friday night campfire with families.  We enjoyed each other’s company and cooked hotdogs over the fire.  We gathered together singing the song “Flicker” and told the story of “How Animals Got their Tails.”  After that, we roasted marshmallows and snacked on s’mores.  What fun!

Some Books & Stories We’ve Read

The Night Fairy (chapter book)

The Hat

Inch by Inch

“How Animals Got their Tails”

“Lion at School”

Oaks News from the Wild #11

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Someone asked me recently, “How do you plan lessons that reach all the children, with such a big age and developmental range?” So many thoughts flew through my brain as I figured out my response. Part of me wanted to say, “I don’t plan lessons” and this is both true and not true. We do plan some teacher-directed learning activities that are what would be traditionally recognized as lessons. But mostly, we plan experiences that create opportunities for learning.  We take the children to the garden with a plan to plant peas. We go on a long walk to look for signs of spring. We spend an afternoon at the pond. These experiences create opportunities to wonder, to think, to ask questions, to explore and yes, to learn.

But not necessarily to learn what we plan for them to learn. As teachers, we bring our knowledge and ideas to the children all day long – but we are also listening to theirs. We ask questions, we explore together, we drop new words and concepts into their open minds, we observe and guide. We support the children who need support, we challenge the ones who need to stretch. We know and love the children.

I could have spent several days talking educational philosophy, but instead gave the example of the gardening experiences we include in our spring curriculum. This week, we went to the garden, harvested compost, prepared the garden bed by turning over the soil. We looked for critters in the compost and in the soil, we noted what had decomposed and had not, we examined sprouting pea seeds for roots and shoots, we measured the depth and distance for our holes, we felt the damp soil, we set up a trellis, we planted peas. We also looked at the plants that had made it through the winter, tasted sorrel, imagined what our peas would look like. On the side, rousing imaginary play soared and crashed and soared again as roles and story-lines were negotiated. Some children stayed with every moment of the gardening experience, others popped in and out.

Back on the play-yard, we started some kale, chard and lettuce seedlings in pots. Some children planted two seeds, some twenty. Some wrote labels, others went back to play. To keep track of our seedlings, we made a grid to match our planter and mapped the location of all our seeds with a K, C or L. This mapping component was not planned – the experience called for it. Now we watch our seedlings – planted in soil and in the children’s minds and hearts – grow!

Outside on the play-yard, we set up an obstacle course for the children’s return last Monday. The children, of course, altered the course and added important story elements – a bridge over poison water and lots of hot lava.

Inside, a newly expanded dramatic play structure, new peg dolls and construction materials sparked new play. The Reggio Emilia philosophy recognizes the environment as the Third Teacher. By offering new materials, new spaces or twists on the known environment, we create new opportunities for play and learning.

Our marvelous intern Meredith has been working on math games with the children, which in turn sparked independent math play. Each child also added a page to their animal research project book about their animal’s body parts.

And since the interest in Ninjago is still going full force, some children offered Ninjago drawing lessons. Just in time to make a birthday book that doubled as a Ninjago manual for the birthday girl. (ps, Ninjago is a Lego ninja storyline, brought from home and fully owned and expanded by the children’s imaginations)

We celebrated two half-birthdays in this short week, celebrating the children’s trips around the sun with their families.

Books we read:

Inch by Inch: The Garden Song by David Mallett

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz (a new chapter book)

Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain: Stretch it, Shape it by Dr. JoAnn Deak

And many many books about animals and animal body parts

Songs we sang:

The animal body parts song (to the tune of She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, and sung cumulatively):

Some animals have very special parts,

yes, some animals have very special parts.

I have fingers, I have toes

On my face I have a nose,

but some animals have parts like their…

teeth – chomp, chomp

fins – swish, swish

wings – flap, flap

tails – wag, wag

We also sing versions of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and Boom, Chicka Boom for each Person of the Day’s animal.

 

 

 

 

 

Oaks News from the Wild #10

What fun times the Oaks class has had in different kinds of weather- rain, ice and sunshine- all in a 2 week period!  We are even beginning to see some signs of spring.

Playground Fun

When the temperature got below freezing, the kids had a wonderful time playing with the ice on the playground.  One day we got out magnifying glasses and directed the sunlight to melt a hole in a piece of ice.

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Dog Day with Cosi

Julie’s dog, Cosi, came to visit the Oaks playground one Friday.  What fun the kids had throwing the ball for her to catch and patting her soft fur.  We read lots of fun books about dogs that day.

Woodend Walks

Every afternoon we walk and explore different parts of Woodend.  We went on our winter journey stick hike, collecting little mementos from nature.

As you see above, the class worked hard to build a bridge across the creek bed after a nice rain fall.  What great team work and problem solving skills!

Rain and Mud Play

We were excited to get some rain and enjoyed water in the creek bed and mud puddles all around.

Rock Creek Park 

The Oaks class when to Rock Creek Park for the second time.  We used a map and noticed landmarks (and stomped in puddles) along the way.  We enjoyed a snack and story and explored a new area for us- a peninsula in the creek with sliding and climbing hills, animal tracks, a praying mantis egg case, and lots of water and mud to enjoy.

While in Rock Creek Park, we read the beginning of chapter 6 in A House at Pooh Corner about the game of pooh sticks.  After the story, the kids found sticks of all sorts and sizes, tossed them off one side of the bridge, and watched them come out from the other side.

Our Mapping Unit

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Valentine’s Day

On February 14, we celebrated love and kindness.  We enjoyed a special snack that included heart shaped cookies and Love Potion # 9 (banana and berry frozen drinks), read the book Plant a Kiss, and make cards for others.  We also finished making our kindness rocks and placed them in special spots on the grounds of Woodend (making the locations on our map).

The Animal Project

We continued our animal project, including learning about the life cycle of animals.  We sang songs and learned about the life cycle of penguins, squirrels and frogs as well as each of the children’s chosen animals.

Nancy lead a game about the life cycle of a frog and told the hilarious story of “The Wide Mouth Frog.”

Classroom Experiences


BOOKS We’ve Read

We read books on the playground, inside the classroom and in locations around Woodend.  Here are some of the whole group read alouds from the past 2 weeks.

As the Crow Flies (Mapping)

Winter Walk

Plant a Kiss

Draw the Line

Always in Trouble (a book about a dog like Cosi)

One Smile

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne.  Chapter 6 “In Which Pooh Invents a Game and Eeyore Joins In”

SONGS We’ve Sung

“Life Cycles”

“A Ram Sam Sam” adapted to include each of the kids’ chosen animals as we gather for our morning circle

A ram sam sam, a ram sam sam
Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam

A ram sam sam, a ram sam sam
Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam

A rafi, a rafi
Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam

A rafi, a rafi
Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam

“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”  with different versions for each of the kids’ chosen animals developed with the person of the day

Ex:  Stingray (with gestures)

Body, flippers and long tail, long tail.

Body, flippers and long tail, long tail.

It has a spine with venom inside.

Body, flippers and long tail, long tail.

“Boom Chicka Boom” with adaptations for each of the kids’ chosen animals as we celebrate the person of the day.  This is a call and response chant

I said a boom chicka boom.  (I said a boom chicka boom.)

(Louder) I said a boom chicka boom.  (I said a boom chicka boom.)

I said a boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom. 

(I said a boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom. 

Uh huh. (Uh huh).  Okay (Okay).

Let’s do it again, the _______________ way.

Ex:  Let’s do it again, the stingray way.

I said a boom swisha boom.  (I said a boom swishy boom.)

(Louder) I said a boom swisha boom.  (I said a boom swisha boom.)

I said a boom swisha rocka swisha rocka swisha boom.

(I said a boom swisha rocka swisha rocka swisha boom.)

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Oaks News from the Wild #9

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Woodend continues to provide endless opportunities to explore and learn. From the icy pond to the inside of a giant tulip tree, there is always something new in nature.

Animals, Animals!

We’ve been learning about habitats as part of our on-going animal project. Each child learned about the habitat of their chosen animal, added a habitat page to their books, and created habitat paintings. The paintings were created by looking at pictures in their animal books, then drawing what they saw and imagined of their animal’s habitat. Afterwards, they painted their habitats, then cut out and added collage elements. Next up, life cycles!

We played a few animal games, including one we called Habitat, Habitat based on Mother May I. “If your animal lives in the ocean, swim three times. If your animal lives in the trees, move two times.”  Fox (and Hawk) and Rabbit was fun to play in the tall meadow grass. Rabbits had to decide whether to hide and freeze, or try to bolt for the rabbit warren.

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Our guest naturalist Nancy brought us a real squirrel drey to examine, then we went out drey-hunting on our longest hike to date. The Oaks spotted 15 dreys in the tree-tops on a full-circle hike of Woodend.

Mapping

After mastering 3D model maps, the Oaks moved on to 2D maps on paper. We created a map of the play-yard, and played the treasure hunt game again. The children hid small animals, marked them on the map, then sent their friends off to find them. Pretty soon, they could play the game completely independently. Taking it to the next step, the Oaks created a map of the preschool playground. Each child added elements to the map, talking with the teachers and each other about where things should go and how big they should be. “The stumps are actually behind the play structure.” “Where should this tree go?” Then they hid shiny gemstones for the Saplings to find, added Xs to mark the spots on the map, and got some help from a visiting third grader to write a poem with clues.

After a rain, we donned our gear and decided to hike the creek bed from one side of Woodend to the other. We brought along a laminated map of Woodend, so the children could check our location in the creek bed as we went along and add important missing elements to the map, like the one part of the creek that usually actually has water (or at least mud!).

Next up with mapping: creating sequencing maps of the route from the Oaks classroom to Hilltop Home.

Play!

In the classroom and outdoors, the Oaks continued the real work of early childhood – play! So much negotiation, problem-solving, language development, risk-taking, creativity and imagination.

Read, Read, Read

The Oaks LOVE books, anywhere, anytime, any kind. So we bring along stories wherever we go. We’ve really enjoyed our person-of-the-day favorite book parent visits. Nothing is better than your favorite story read by your favorite person and shared with friends.

This week, we started reading a series of books dealing with social emotional issues. These stories sparked animated discussion and sharing about feelings and how to manage them. We’ll continue with these books next week, giving us a shared language to use when problems arise.

Inside the classroom, the Oaks waited excitedly for the Mr. and Mrs. Penguin to lay an egg. Then they waited patiently for the egg to hatch. After three days, Little Waddle emerged from his/her shell! S/he is being well taken care of by the children, who are fully immersed in the magic.

Mindfulness is part of every day, as we learn to slow our engines down with breathing exercises, visit our sit spots at Hilltop Home, and practice mindful bodies, mindful listening, mindful seeing and mindful breathing.

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Books we read:

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

The Hat from Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel (in honor of a class birthday)

Various books on the children’s individual animals and their habitats.

And many many more!