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.

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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!!

 

 

 

 

The Detective Post #16

Chirp, caw, tweet! All around Woodend, birds have been making their songs heard, and the Detectives have been immersed in a study to figure out who’s who!

From cardinals to bluejays, robins to wrens, the Detectives have been heading into nature to listen to the calls, peek at our feathered friends, and record which birds we’ve seen.

Bird Explorers

Equipped with binoculars and tip-toe feet, the Detectives made their way into the woods to find birds and bird clues. Bird boxes dotted along meadow pathways provided opportunities for us to make observations about a variety of building materials. One box revealed a lush mossy nest, and we imagined what the soft interior would feel like. Another was filled with a nest of twigs; “This one looks different!” announced one child. “How did they get the twigs inside?” wondered another.

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A pile of fresh wood shavings by a tree snag led us to the discovery of a different type of bird home. Following the clues, the Detectives looked high into the snag and were excited to find two perfectly round holes! A pair of red-bellied woodpeckers were hard at work taking up residence. The Detectives quietly watched, waiting for one to pop its head out and offering the occasional woodpecker call to coax it out. We made guesses about what could be inside the tree, with some imagining eggs, and some wondering what a baby woodpecker might look like!

A different day brought a close encounter with another woodpecker- the pileated woodpecker! As the Detectives quietly moved closer to this large bird, they were able to see its strong beak poking into decomposing logs. What might it be eating, they wondered? Would there be worms in a log, or seeds? Could it be searching for decomposers? Examinations into decomposing logs allowed us to look closely and make our own discoveries about what the bird might be finding.

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Baby Chicks!

Inside, we welcomed our own feathered friends into the world and our classroom. After weeks of waiting, our chicken eggs- kept warm in the incubator- were finally ready to hatch.

We watched excitedly as the baby birds made their first cracks in the eggs, and listened to the sound of peeping coming from inside. We were excited as we watched two, then four, and finally five chicks break out of their eggs, fluff up their feathers, and prepare for life outside the egg. With gentle hands and kinds words, the Detectives held the babies and tenderly cared for them, providing food, names, and love.

Salamander Eggs and Babies

The study into birds and their eggs allowed us to draw comparisons between different sizes, shapes, and colors of eggs. Still, they all had one thing in common: their tough exterior that provided protection to the baby inside. So when we discovered a bundle of  soft, jellylike eggs marooned on a mud patch by the pond, we knew that they must belong to someone other than a bird. But who? We recalled the animals that we’ve seen near the pond- frogs, toads, salamanders. Could one of these have laid the eggs?

After gently returning one egg bundle to the safety of the pond, we carefully placed one in a bucket and brought it to the classroom for observation. We looked at pictures of frog and salamander eggs and using clues- the presence of a stick and the thick jelly surrounding each egg- hypothesized that we had happened upon salamander eggs. Days passed as we observed the tiny black specks inside the jelly transform into black lines, and eventually what resembled little black C’s. Then one day as we peered into the bucket, we saw them: tiny baby salamanders!

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The Detectives celebrated the excitement, looked at the babies with magnifying glasses, and then joyously returned them to their home in the pond. We had seen the life cycle in action, from finding grown salamanders under logs to discovering their eggs in the pond and seeing the babies hatch from those eggs. After a gentle goodbye, we eagerly looked forward to possibly seeing the salamanders, grown, again next Spring.

As the birds continue to sing and as new birds hatch in their cozy nests, we look forward to hearing, seeing, and exploring with them!

Sneak Peak:

Next week we will be ponding!

Weekly Top Hits

The Egg (First Discovery Book) by Pascale de Bourgoing

In The Nest by Anna Milbourne

Whose Chick are You? By Nancy Tafuri

Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough

Counting is for the Birds by Frank Mazzola Jr.

Songs We Sang

Beaks, Feathers and Wings (Head, Shoulders, knees and toes)

Beaks, Feathers and wings, and wings!
Beaks, feathers and wings, and wings,
Hollow bones help us to fly,
Beaks, feathers and wings, and wings!

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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…

 

The Detective Post #13

Spring time has stumbled upon the Nature Detectives here at Woodend! With days full of sunshine, rain and snow, we got to enjoy the last wisps of winter while looking ahead to warmer weather! We observed new plants emerging, birds returning, as well as how the rain and snow effected our creek beds and pond.

Since the Detectives have become experts at being outdoors during school hours, we decided to examine what we might need to stay outdoors at night! With lots of evidence of nocturnal animals all around us, we compared and contrasted what we might need to help us camp! We met our old friend, Felicity Felt, who helped the detectives brain storm gear they might need to bring with them while camping.

We were excited to share our ideas on camping with our Naturalists as well! In the AM class, Ms. Julie taught us more about nocturnal animals, letting the students examine skunk fur before leading a hunt for stripes and spots in the woods! The PM class heard tales of Ms. Gail’s year long, bicycle camping trip around the world! She brought in photos of her trip, as well as gear she had used to camp in all different countries across the globe. What fun!

Despite not getting to hold our campfire at the end of the week due to winds, the students still visited Audubon’s campfire ring and collected different sized sticks with which to create a fire. We discussed that just like cooking, fire needs its own ingredients to be created, as well as how to stay safe when toasting treats!

Inside the classroom, campsites emerged in every interest area! The students went on daily camping trips in dramatic play, as well as built their own tents in the block area. Every student also made a journal entry about what they might bring camping, it was so amazing to see their thoughtful and creative responses!

Since our campfire had to be rescheduled, we took to the woods instead for a story hike! We read the story, We’re going on a Bear Hunt, before taking to the trails to try and spot five bears hidden in the forest!

Indoors, we used instruments to recreate all the noises from the story, before enjoying the different habitats of the story in our interest areas around the classroom!

The classes enjoyed visits from Ann-Mari and Susan during our camping unit! Ann-Mari read the AM students one of her favorite stories titled, We were Tired of living in a House, while Susan brought the PM students camping gear to explore!

On our hikes, we couldn’t help but notice the buds returning on branches, the snow drop covered grounds, as well the return of our American robins! With Spring time upon us, we embarked on an investigation of spring clues around Woodend. However, this would quickly be put on pause due winter’s final snow gust!

One SUPER exciting sign of spring has been our discovery of salamanders around Woodend! We uncovered a beautiful, yellow spotted salamander hanging around our pond! Salamanders lay their eggs in water during the spring, so discovering one by our pond was a very exciting sign of spring for the detectives! We revisited her log, discovering her over a few days, before finding she had moved on to a new spot! We also discovered a leadbacked salamander another log later in the week, further propelling our interest in our amphibian friends!

Indoors, we learned a new salamander song, as well as created salamanders to sit on top of our spring celebration crowns! To prep for the party, the students also created coffee filter rain drops as decorations.

Spring had other plans however, ushering in days of cold rain and snow! While we postponed our spring celebration, the Detectives had lots of fun experimenting with rainy day soups and snowball creations!

Books we Read

Night Lights by Susan Gal

S is for Smores by Helen Foster James

Bailey goes Camping by Kevin Henkes

We were tired of living in a House by Liesel Moak Skorpen

We’re going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

And Then its Spring by Julie Fogliano

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer

Weekly Top Hits

The Camping Pokey

You put your tent up,

You put you tent down,

You put your tent up,

and you gather all around,

You do the camping pokey and you turn yourself around,

That’s what its all about!

(Shine your flashlight up, shine your flashlight down)

(Move your marshmallow up, move your marshmallow down)

 

I’m a Little Salamander (I’m a little Teapot)

I’m a salamander with spots on my back,

See if you can find me, I’m pretty hard to tack!

When the spring is here I go to the pond,

to lay my eggs now that the cold is gone! 

Spoiler Alert: When we come back from break we will be learning about bugs!

 

The Detective Post #12

Stomp stomp ROAR! The Detectives came back from the classroom to be greeted by some oversized, stomping reptiles: the dinosaurs! Through digging, observing, and of course, playing, we explored connections between the dinosaurs long ago and the plants, fossils, and animals that we see today.

We began our investigation by thinking about what we already know about dinosaurs. We heard lots of museum connections, tales of dino storybooks, and ideas about dinosaur toys. After plenty of thoughts and roars, we all reached a conclusion: we have never seen a real live dinosaur! How, then, do scientists learn about dinosaurs? We set out to answer the question.

The Detectives learned about fossils, and how scientists can use these to investigate creatures from long ago. Complete with our own paleontology dig site in the classroom, we uncovered bones, carefully dusting off sand to reveal the dinosaur underneath. We talked about how fossils formed, and even created our own bubbling volcano. Heads Up: lava alert!

While we learned about the dinosaur clues left from long ago, we kept returning to one question: do we still have a connection to our dinosaur friends? The answer? Yes! We learned about living fossils- ferns, moss, dragonflies, ants- creatures and plants that lived among the dinosaurs. Carrying miniature toy dinosaurs, we stomped through the forest on search of these living fossils and imagined what it might be like to be a dinosaur stomping through the same woods millions of years ago.

We learned about the dinosaurs’ habitat, and discussed how dinosaurs, like all reptiles, were cold-blooded creatures. In order to understand a bit more about reptiles, we dove into an investigation, meeting not one, not two, but THREE reptile friends here at Woodend!

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The Detectives spent time investigating Boris the tortoise, Sunny the bearded dragon, and Stormy the snake, and made connections between the various reptiles and the dinosaurs that used to walk the land.  We felt Boris’s shell, and thought about how it helped to protect her. We made connections to dinosaur skeletons, and how the plates and crests or certain dinosaurs would also work to protect them. In comparison, Sunny was covered in spikes and had a strong tail for protection. “Just like stegosaurus!” exclaimed one child. “Or ankylosaurus!” said another.  We thought about what all of these reptiles would eat, noting the differences in diet between the herbivorous tortoise, omnivorous lizard, and carnivorous snake, and the Detectives discussed how these compared to the different diets of their dinosaur ancestors.

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These connections extended not just to reptiles, but also to our feathered friends, the birds! The Detectives spent time thinking about how all of these creatures build nests to lay eggs in, and even imagined what these nests might look like. Nests small and large, built from blocks, filled the classroom along with exclamations about dinosaurs hatching from eggs!

 

After hearing about so many different types of dinos- two-legged, four-legged, feathered, and scaly- the Detectives imagined dino creations of their own. Pictures were drawn to depict the diosaurs along with their diets, habitats, and other fun facts. Dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes, from the ferocious Chicken-Nugget Eating dinosaur to the oversized Tree-Crane dinosaur now line the classroom walls in our very own dinosaur museum exhibit!

Weekly Top Hits

Baby Dinosaur (Itsy Bisty Spider)

The little baby dinosaur climbed up to the top,

Of a Volcano that was ready to pop!

Down came the lava so very, very hot,

And the little baby dinosaur ran home without a stop!

 

Willaby Wallaby (Dino remix)

Willaby, wallaby wou,

A dinosaur sat on you,

Willaby, wallaby wee,

A dinosaur sat on me!

(Insert names for Dino rhyming fun!)

 

Books We Read

If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most

What Happened to Patrick’s Dinosaurs? By Carol Carrick

Tadpole Rex by Kurt Cyrus

Dinosaurs Don’t have Bedtimes! By Timothy Knapman

T is for Terrible by Peter McCarty

An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Austen

Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner

 

Sneak Peek: Next week, we will be thinking about camping! 

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 #8

 

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Despite some missed school days due to snow, ice and a burst pipe (!), the Oaks forest kindergarten class has enjoyed many great experiences at Audubon since winter break.

MAPPING

After spending time focusing on animals in winter, we have now begun a new unit on mapping.  This focused unit will continue for a few weeks, but we expect these mapping skills to be used throughout the year (and beyond).  Shannon created a 3-D model map of the Oaks playground with interested children.  The teacher worked with small groups of kids to become familiar with the playground model, and then they all enjoyed a treasure hunt!  Each child was shown a sticker on the model and got to then go find where their golden nugget was hidden.  The children got excited and began placing stickers and hiding treasures for friends to find.  Additionally, an model map was created in the Oaks classroom and similar treasure hunting activities were enjoyed.

We have also begun using maps, such as a home-made one of a nearby portion of Rock Creek Park which helped us on a walk.  A compass, given to us by one family, helped us in our travels as well.  In addition, we are reading a delightful book, My Father’s Dragon, which contains a map of 2 fictional islands.  We are following the main character on his adventures on the map around Wild Island as he goes to save a baby dragon.

 

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HABITATS

Related to the mapping unit and to our new animal project, we are learning about different habitats at Audubon and beyond.  We read the book Going on a Bear Hunt and went on a walk, telling a revised version of the story as we went to the meadow, forest and pond… and eventually a bear (tree) cave!  After our walk, some children found a hibernating woolly bear, so it seems we actually went on a wooly bear hunt.  : )

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

What fun to find animal tracks in the snow!

Fun in the Mud and Snow

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ROCK CREEK PARK

Last Friday morning we walked across the street to Rock Creek Park for the very first time.  It was a delightful, drizzly day.  We followed a hand-made map and added additional landmarks as we explored.

 

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PLAYGROUND ACTIVITIES

Ice Art:  When we went on our habitat walk, each child collected things from nature to bring back to the playground to place in a container of water to freeze.

CAMP FIRE FRIDAYS

Every few Fridays the class enjoys the morning down at the fire pit.  This past Friday we enjoyed a delicious snack of roasted bananas and bagels and Jiffy Pop popcorn.  The kids helped build the fire, and then they climbed, built forts, listened to many silly stories, and more.  To help put out the fire, they had a blast spitting water from their water bottles onto the fire!  Fun times!

CLASSROOM FUN

GUEST TEACHERS

We are fortunate to have 2 gifted master naturalists and an amazing mindfulness teacher (mom) who visit our classroom often.

COMING UP:  We are beginning a very special animal project. Each child has chosen a favorite animal (with beanie baby).  For the next 2 months, each child will study their animal, create art work, and make their own animal book!  Their animals will be incorporated into stories and songs as well.

BOOKS We Have Read

We enjoy reading inside and outside every day.  Below are the books that we read to the whole group recently, but there are so many other wonderful stories being enjoyed by the Oaks, including Julie’s box-o-silly-books and Shannon’s stash of scary ones.

Books about animals in winter

Brr and other James Stevenson books

Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci

Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

My Father’s Dragon (chapter book) by Ruth Stiles Gannett

 

SONGS We Have Sung

“Come Sing a Song of Winter”

Come sing a song of winter, of winter, of winter,

Come sing a song of winter, the cold days are here.

With winter winds blowing and rosy cheeks glowing

Come sing a song of winter, the cold days are here.

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Childhood friendship is the most beautiful memory that can’t ever be replaced.