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!


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.


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


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



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.


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.




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.  : )


What fun to find animal tracks in the snow!

Fun in the Mud and Snow



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.




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.


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!



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.



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

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.”