The Detective Post #8

The Detectives returned from our long break to be greeted by some chilly, wacky, Winter weather! Bundled from head-to-toe in cold weather gear, we set out to explore the changes around Woodend, and to observe all of the changes that Winter has brought our way.

One particularly cold day, with the frigid air tickling our noses and cheeks, we set out to explore one of Audubon’s most changing features: the pond! Upon our arrival, we were amazed to see not one drop of water; instead, sticks, rocks, and leaves lay on top of a white backdrop. The pond was frozen solid! After carefully testing the ice for safety, the Detectives stepped on and enjoyed an afternoon of skating and sliding. “I think I see a frogsicle!” exclaimed one child. Another shouted “Look at the bubbles frozen in the ice!” Mostly though, we heard the children collapsing into piles of giggles as they enjoyed their own winter wonderland.


The wacky weather brought us some days where we were not able to be at school. Naturally, this led to lots of conversations: Who did you play with while you were away? What kind of fun adventures did you have? One of the most exciting questions launched us into our newest exploration: What were the animals doing at Woodend while we were away? We began thinking about the nocturnal animals that we have here, and about the ways that they spend their days.

To be able to be awake in the nighttime, we concluded, animals must have special super senses. The first animal we thought about, the raccoon, uses its five-toed feet for a super sense of touch! Mimicking the raccoon, we used our own sense of touch to explore, feeling the sticks, leaves, and icy ground around us. We searched for signs of raccoons around the pond, and even got a classroom visit from Chester the Raccoon!


The following day, we began thinking about foxes, and learned about their super sense of hearing and smell! We imagined what their underground dens might look like, and thought about how they use their hearing and smell to decide which of their two “doors” they use to exit their den. A visit to our meadow fox den allowed the Detectives to search for the two holes of the den. Afterwards, back on the playground, we popped on fox ears and imagined ourselves as foxes as we crawled through a tunnel! “Tickle the top!” exclaimed one child. “It’ll sound like a rabbit running above me!”


Our next nocturnal animal, the owl, flew in without a sound and gave us an opportunity to explore our sense of sight! We thought about the owl’s huge eyes and amazing vision as we headed into the woods, equipped with a list of pictures, to find various items on a Winter scavenger hunt. The children spied around, searching for various plants, tracks, and animals, and even has a visit from Owlbert the Owl.


Back in the classroom, we enjoyed making animal tracks in playdough, singing nocturnal animal songs, and playing with various animals in dens.

A particular highlight has been hearing about the adventures of our two resident nocturnal animal stuffies, Chester Raccoon and Becca Bat! These two friends have been heading home with different Detectives each day, and then coming back to school for us to hear about their exciting nighttime adventures! We are so excited to hear about what fun they’ll get into next!


Spoiler Alert: In the upcoming weeks, we will continue learning about nocturnal animals!

Books We Read:

Daft Bat by Jeanne Willis

I’ll Always be Your Friend by Sam McBratney

Songs We Sang:


I am Nocturnal: Fox Edition (Tune: You are Sunshine)
I love the night time,
The dark, black night time,
And that is when I sniff around,
I am nocturnal,
I love the nighttime,
‘Cuz I’m a fox,
I sniff without a sound!

I am Nocturnal: Owl Edition (Tune: You are Sunshine)
I love the night time,
The dark, black night time,
And that is when I swoop around,
I am nocturnal,
I love the nighttime,
‘Cuz I’m an owl,
I swoop without a sound!

Oaks News from the Wild #7



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.


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


“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.



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.”




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.”


The Detective Post #6

What a busy couple of weeks it’s been here at Audubon! After the long break for conferences, we were so glad to see the Detectives back in action. Along with the Detectives, we also welcomed some new friends to our days at school: the Planet Pals! Members from this group of eco-friendly superheroes have been making their way into our classroom each day and bringing us helpful information about how we can use our powers to help protect the Earth!


Our first Planet Pal, Mother Earth, taught us about the ground beneath our feet. We thought about the soil that helps to nourish and grow plants, and which gives us a space to walk and play.


With this idea in mind, the Detectives hiked around Woodend searching for different types of soil, and even made their way to the compost station to think about how soil is created. In the classroom, we read a poem about the earth, made a fresh batch of Earth-colored play dough, and decorated our own version of Mother Earth!




Breezy blew into our classroom with a message about the air we breathe, reminding us of the importance to keep the air clean and fresh. The Detectives, eager to spot this invisible pal, set out on a hike to listen to the rustling of leaves on a blustery day, and even made some breezy movements of their own with the parachute. Some kids played a game of A Big Wind Blows, and imagined a strong wind blowing them across the meadow! In the classroom, we explored different ways to use the air we breathe by making bubble art with straws!



Our search for Mother Earth and Breezy made us eager to find more Planet Pals out in nature. The Detectives activated their “green plant detectors” and set out on a search for plants growing out of the ground. We found huge trees, teeny tiny sprouts, and plants of all sizes in between! Inside the classroom, a letter from our pal Green Bean let us know that we can help take care of the growing plants, and the in return, we’ll have fresh oxygen to breathe! What a team!




The short week brought us two Planet Pals who arrived together: besties Fluffy and H2O! The Detectives got to know this dynamic cloud-and-water duo as they learned about the water cycle, and imagined turning into little water droplets that evaporated, condensed into a cloud, and then precipitated down as rain.img_0022-4

We searched for different cloud types in the sky, followed water trails through our woods, and ran down the meadow while pretending to be rain, making our way from the highest to the lowest point. Along the way, a Detective eagerly exclaimed, “Look, I see Green Bean! She’ll be happy to have this rain!” With more and more knowledge about how to protect the earth, these Detectives are turning more into eco-heroes of their own each day!


Songs We Sang
We Are The Planet Pals
We are the Planet Pals, the mighty mighty Planet Pals
Everywhere we go, people want to know
Who we are
So we tell them:
We are the Planet Pals, the mighty mighty Planet Pals
GO-O-O Planet Pals!

Water Travels in the Cycle
Water travels in a cycle, yes it does
Water travels in a cycle yes it does!
It goes up as evaporation
Forms clouds as condensation
Falls down as precipitation
Yes it does!

Books We Read
Why Should I Protect Nature? by Mike Gordon
Gilberto and the Wind by Marie Hall Ets
The Rain Stomper by Addie Boswell
It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw

Spoiler Alert: Next week we will continue to meet Planet Pals!



Oaks News from the Wild # 5


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.


Tunnel bridge


Power ring


Making a “bamboo crusher machine”


Man and machine


Ship captains

And the play continues inside…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Detective Post #5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oaks News from the Wild # 4


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.



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.


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.



“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