News from the Wild #20

Emotions always bubble at the surface when you are five or six. And now, with spring truly launched, there is change in the air. The children know by now what comes next. Spring means the school year is winding down towards summer. Then comes fall and the great unknown. What will Kindergarten or First Grade be like? Some of the children can and will tell you that’s what they are thinking about. Some of them just pick up a little anxiety like radio signals in the air. It flickers out, causing small social fires. They know some of what will be expected of them. “I don’t know how to read,” one tells me. “I can’t write it,” says another.

But you do. You can. Reading and writing are so much more than decoding the letters on a page, more than sounding out and printing words. Yes, that’s a part of it, but it’s like the turret on top of a indomitable castle. There’s a solid foundation, three-foot-thick walls, and buttresses holding the whole thing up. Before you read, you have to love stories, you have to have a sense of the way tales are spun. Before you write, you have to have your own story. Before you do either, you need words and ideas, lots and lots of them. In the words of British educator James Britton, “Reading and writing float on a sea of talk.”

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Notice how each of these children is doing his/her own thing? Some are weeding, some are eating the weeds, some are watching. Some aren’t even in the frame. They are each in their own story. And it’s all learning.

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The planting brings everyone together in the gardening story. First we weed, then we add compost, then we build the trellis, then we plant peas and we water…and hopefully for a grand finale, we eat!

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If you let them, children will create their own individual lesson plans: Notice plants growing in the bottom of the compost. Investigate clues. Identify sprout as a pumpkin “Look how it’s coming out of the seed!” Remember the Halloween pumpkins that got composted last fall. Decide to rescue sprout by planting it in the garden where it can get sunlight. Mark it with a sign. “How do you write pumpkin?” 

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It looks like a sunny day, but there is of course danger in this story. A hurricane or bad guys or both…where is the safe zone?

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This hideout is alternately a safe castle or a dungeon. It changes. They discuss it and come to an agreement – because play revolves around agreement on the story you are all in.

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It’s moments like this, bathed in light, together in a bush, immersed in a story of their own making.

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You are also safe if you can get into a tree that no one else can climb to. Perfectly safe, 10 feet off the ground. That’s his story.

We continue to talk about the important things in life: kindness, bravery, resilience, encouragement, respect, empathy.

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Wagon team getting up the hill

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The weatherman was wrong about clouds but no rain, so we huddled in a stick shelter for circle and story.

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Resilience is being wet and cold and squashed together and still being able to respectfully talk and listen.

We read a book that for me was love at first word. Mattland, by Hazel Hutchins. It’s about a kind of play that I fear is being lost – about creating something out of what you find. It’s about connection and friendship. A lonely boy builds his own small world in an empty lot, and without saying a word, makes a friend. We talked about going to new schools and different ways to make friends. Some people talk to new people right away. Some people wait and watch. Some people, like Matt, just start playing.  Then the waiting and watching children come closer and closer still.

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Building Oaks Land

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Some dive in, some wait and watch.

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Just look how many stories there are here. Dragon lair, tunnels, bridges, rollercoasters…and more. 

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Warming up with March Wind Blows. A game of connections.

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Once upon a time, I found a Giant Worm…

As far as the sea of talk goes, there is really nothing better than spending your days in nature. Always changing, always full of stories. As part of our Signs of Spring unit, we started looking at arthropods. This week, we built pit traps and went on a spider hunt.

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Digging an insect pit trap

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How much soil can we put in the bottom to make them comfortable, but not let them out?

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Language counts: We are scientists setting up a sampling site at our monitoring station.

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Look what we found!

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Every single pocket in this root ball has a resident spider!

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Look what I found! The treasure tree is full of stories.

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Confidence is one of those stalwart building blocks. “Belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities.”

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Visitors! The afternoon Saplings visit Hilltop Home. New people, new play, new stories.

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Kid-built obstacle course.

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What’s changed in the Blair Native Plant Garden in the last two weeks? A lot!

There is so much more to the story of building the foundations for literacy. There are chapters on core strength and fine motor skills, on crossing the midline, on understanding symbol, on sequencing, on making connections, and yes on awareness of phonemes. But mostly it’s about making meaning from the story and have a deep well of words from which to draw upon. So, parents, be aware of your own anxiety about what comes next. The best thing we can do for both literacy and emotional growth is to talk and to read and to talk some more.

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The pond finally looks like a pond!

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A little help for a friend

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We made an island and a lake.

Thunderstorms were forecast today, so we headed inside for an indoor arthropod hunt, some games and indoor play.

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There is an evil queen in this castle land, and booby traps…

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Snail’s Pace Race

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Small world dramatic play – who’s in the animal family? What will happen? (characters and plot) What is that cat (?) up to?

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Tall tall towers. Patterns in construction…math in play is another story.

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New partnerships form when you both love the same game: Obstacles. Games can also be stories and this one is one of the best. How will we use these tools to get past the obstacles and back to home?

Books we read:

Equinox story (oral) from A New Beginning by Wendy Pfeffer

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano

Finding Spring by Carin Berger

Mattland by Hazel Hutchins

Spiders Spin Webs by Yvonne Winer

How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer,

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder

 

The Detective Post #19

News from the Outdoors

March has been a wacky month for the Nature Detectives at Audubon! While we prepped for our Spring Celebration, Mother Nature had a different idea. Since we follow the seasons, the class pivoted, to experiment and investigate the incoming snow.

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Ice See You!

After Audubon was covered in a sheet of white snow, the Detectives had an amazing time exploring the melting and slippery aspects of the snow fall. We pretended to be penguins, sliding down hills on our tummies, as well as watched as the snow became easier to manipulate with the help of Sunny Ray!

We took our art projects outdoors, using paints to create patterns on the white snow! The snow was transformed into a color-mixing art museum,where the snow was white no more. The children also chiseled the ice and snow into different tools with which to use in different ways on the playground.

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Oh snow you didn’t!

After the snow, Spring finally started to arrive! This past week we began our investigation of bugs around Woodend. With the snow melting off, we were overjoyed to see our pond water levels return to normal. We cannot wait to investigate and find more frogs and pond bugs once the weather gets even warmer.

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Muddy Buddies

The kids had bugs on the mind, finding places to creep and crawl all around Woodend. The Detectives pretended to be worms and millipedes by crawling through tunnels, and spiders and ants on top of large logs!  We also took to the trails for some log rolling, spying slugs, spider webs, worms and even a salamander!

We enjoyed our last visit from our winter Naturalist, Blue Crab, where he took us around Woodend to explore signs of spring. The Detectives showed him “the far corner” where the kids enjoyed some log tunnel fun.

News from the Classroom

The snow prompted some chilly day indoor activities, including cooking up warm treats in the dramatic play, as well some snowy shaving cream.

The classes enjoyed a Mindful Monday game this go around, practicing our mindful eyes with a What’s Missing style game. The Detectives had to focus and try to spy which items were moved around. It was quite a hit!

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Mindful Monday

Once the snow melted, we jumped straight into our bug unit inside the classroom. Bugs found their way into every area of the classroom, prompting much insect inspired play! Spider webs were found covering our carpets, and the bug puppets were spotted hopping all around.

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For your flies only

The Detectives dug for worms in the discovery table, created their own bug inspired creations with the play dough and made their own small worlds with the toy bugs in our classroom bug hotel!

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Insector Gadget

Many bug creatures emerged  from the art table this week. The Detectives enjoyed creating their own bugs with Popsicle sticks and pom-poms, as well as decorating many legged spider hats.

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Creature Creation

We introduced a new game this past week at preschool- Buggo! It is a combination of a memory and counting game, and the kids were excited to rack up the bugs and look for that tricky, spider buggo card.

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Playing Buggo!

Books we Read

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The Mitten by Jan Brett

Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel

I Love Bugs! By Philemon Sturges

Bugs are Insects by Anne Rockwell

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A very realistic painting

Weekly Top Hits

Little Groundhog (I’m a Little Teapot)

I’m a Little Groundhog, furry and brown,

I pop my head out of my hole and look around,

If I see my shadow I’ll go back down,

For 6 more weeks of Winter underground!

 

Never Ever Squash a Bug (Row, Row, your Boat)

Never ever squash a bug,

They’re Mother Nature’s friends,

Catch them in plastic jar,

And let them go again! 

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Spoiler Alert: The next two weeks we are finishing our Bug unit and prepping for the Spring Celebration!

News from the Wild #19

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Creating a challenge – one child tied a vine up high, the rest had to try to work together to pull it down. All their idea.

We started these last two weeks welcoming spring, and ended up saying hello again to winter. Be ready for what comes your way. A life lesson – one of many we learn in Forest Kindergarten. Its important to shine the light on these lessons as they happen, with the children. Look what you are learning RIGHT now. Look how hard you worked on that. Look at that teamwork. See it. Name it. Celebrate it.

There is a big difference between praise and encouragement, between saying, “good job” or “you’re so brave (smart, strong, etc)” and giving specific observations about what you see a child doing or trying to do.

What is bravery actually? What does it look like? For one child, it is crawling through a hollow log. For another, it is sounding out words and writing. For another, it is reaching out to play in a new way, or with a new person. We gave a journal prompt “Tell about a time you felt brave during Oaks.” And they all started, “I felt really scared…but then I ….” Yes, you did. Shine that light.

Spring was lovely, while it lasted. We kept adding, “plant peas and greens” to our plan…and then decided we’d better just wait. We started Spring Journals, where each child chose a plant in the Blair Native Plant Garden to observe and document each week. Not this week. Flexibility is another goal!

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Weeding and tasting the spring greens

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Spring Journals

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Observe, document and question…how do you think your plant will change?

We took advantage of a fabulous fiber arts exhibit on birds in the Mansion and went on a private guided museum field trip. No bus required. Note the “Art Critic’s Poses” (hands behind backs to remember not to touch) I learned from Lesley Romanoff at the Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School.

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Private art gallery tour!

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Magpie nest – so shiny!

We enjoyed some Hilltop time, finding yet again how the addition of new props, loose parts and tools can shake up the play in fabulous ways. The buried bones from the week before started a cooperative digging frenzy, attracting children who are not the usual dig pit customers. After the new outdoor kitchen became a hit in the preschool play yard, I drew a cook top on an old shelf we’ve had at Hilltop for ages, placed it just so on a log with the kitchen pots below, and added some shiny glass tiles. Now that’s a kitchen!

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Checking on the wood frog eggs we are hoping will hatch.

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Journal time with Carol. First you have to think of the story you want to tell. See the thought in your head, find the words to express your idea, and at the same time, think forward to what comes next. Writing is so much more than putting letters on a page.

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Team shoveling. How deep can they go?

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Happy chef in the kitchen

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Double, double, toil and trouble

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Playing Camouflage (a version of hide and seek). You have to be able to see the seeker but not be seen yourself.

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Seeking a challenge. “That was a really tricky part. How did you feel crossing it?”

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And a challenge of a different kind – learning how to draw a cat, by reading steps in a book. “Look, you are reading! You followed the directions. You drew a cat.”

On winter’s first day back, we planned a stream bed hike, from one end of Woodend to the other. It’s not very far, actually, but an hour’s not even enough time. When you “hike” with young children, there is no need to rush. There is so much to see right where you are, always.

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Walking the stream bed from Jone’s Mill to Brierly

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Lots of “obstacles” (AKA points of interest) along the way

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Hail! It bounces! It’s ice! It tastes cold.

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Testing a bouncy rotting log. “It’s like a trampoline!”

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Sometimes you have to lie down to be fully in it.

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Pause. Look up. Just be.

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We made it to the other fence!

And since 90 minutes in the wet and cold is a lot of hardiness (Look how resilient we are!), we headed in to the Mansion to warm up.

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With a snack…

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A game of Obstacles (a highly recommended cooperative game that celebrates creativity)

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And a visit from Maisie the friendly corn snake. Bravery of yet a different kind.

Then winter REALLY arrived (finally!). We decided to go sledding, because we could. I honestly hadn’t thought about all the educational value there would be in getting 11 children with 11 sleds safely up and down a very slippery meadow hill (we had a few guests). I just thought it would be fun. But actually, it was a giant lesson in all kinds of essential skills. From gross-motor coordination (climb a slippery, snowy hill pulling a sled) and planning (how do I lean my body to steer and when?),  self-regulation (I want to just go NOW, but I have to wait until it’s my turn. Or, my sled won’t go where I want it to!), multi-step direction following (walk up in the grass on the right, wait your turn, make sure the path is clear, sit securely on the sled, push off, stay in the path, roll out if you head the wrong way), risk-assessment (What is safe? If we start from too high up, we get going too fast. If you are heading for the woods, it’s time to bail out), communication (what does “bail out!” mean?), teamwork (“Hold my sled while I get on” “Do you want to ride with me?” “Can I go in the back?” “Are you ready?”), spatial awareness and topography (Actually, your sled won’t go uphill. If you start here, where will your sled go? Where does the hill go? Where are the trees?). And more. Wow. Who knew all the things you need to learn to sled safely? (Stephanie, actually). Then just think about how those skills translate to life. There are not a lot of pictures – the three adults were too busy!

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We christened the new classroom with a picnic lunch!

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Learning where to walk up the hill (not in the sledding path)

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You have to wait your turn. You may need help from a friend to get started…

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Staying near the edge of the pond – how frozen is it?

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Luge or half-pipe…it was slick and just right for body-sliding

We ended up our week with a campfire day and more fun with the icy snow.

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Story time in the relaxing tree 

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Building a fortress/castle/museum for the jewels

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Safe from thieves

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Campfire treats

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Snowman!

Books we read:

 

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

Stone Soup by Jon Muth

Brave Irene by William Steig

Detective Post #18

News from the Outdoors:

The Nature Detectives have spent the past two weeks doing what they do best, exploring nature at Woodend…except with a twist, and a trip down a time tunnel to the age of dinosaurs! You may not know, (or were recently informed by a small child) that millions of years ago Maryland was home to dinosaurs, (triceratops on the beltway!) and even though dinos were here long, long ago, there are still distant relatives of dinosaurs and a few living fossils right here at Woodend that we can explore.

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Tree Rex

 

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Putting the Spy in Spinosaurus

 

We began our dino exploration by talking about how dinos and birds have a lot in common, and are more closely related than one might imagine. Egg laying, foot shape, feathered bodies, the power of flight are a few connections the two creatures share. With these dino-bird connections in mind our Naturalist, Blue Crab led us to a cache of hidden snake eggs to talk about these connections.

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Boris the Tortoise in the classroom!

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Boris the Tortoise on our hike!

 

The fun really erupted when Nature Detectives constructed their very own volcanoes near the bamboo forest, then filled them with red watercolor paint, baking powder, and vinegar then stood back and watched as the lava flowed down the mountainside! There was more great dinosaur fun to be had outside as buried dinosaurs were found in the sandbox, games of dino hide and seek were played at the bird blind, and baby dinos were hatched out of ice cubes.

On their latest hike with Blue Crab, the nature detectives searched around Woodend for living fossils, (plants and animals that were around in the time of dinosaurs). They found ferns, moss, looked for salamanders and got to meet Boris the Tortoise who is another distant relative to dinosaurs. The Nature Detectives capped off their outdoors dino-adventures by going on a dinosaur hunt to find some hidden dinosaur toys around the trails.

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Nature Preschool is Rexcellent!

 

 

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Jurra-stick Park!

 

News From the Classroom:

With the dinosaur exploration in full swing, the Nature Detectives found that every corner of the classroom was covered and smothered in dino-goodness. They found dino books in the Book Nook, a dinosaur island in the block area, T-Rex footprints covering the carpets, a mini dino world in the Discovery Table, a Paleontologist work site in the Dramatic Play, and bones and treasure in the Lab Table. They also got to explore some cool animal x-rays on the light table and use pattern blocks with the playdough to make dinosaur creatures.

A quick visit to the cubby room or classroom will show that the Nature Detectives were also quite busy on the artistic front these past two weeks as well. There is an amazing, creative and hilarious dinosaur museum display in the cubby room of real and fantastical dinos the kids drew. In the classroom, the kids quickly filled our two new bulletin boards with art. There’s dinosaurs with pasta skeletons on one and dinosaur footprint paintings on the other.

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Dino-mite Zoob Creations!

 

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Dino Island

 

The Nature Detectives also made their own triceratops masks, made fern prints with Ann-Mari, and worked on Dinosaur Journals as well! Additionally, the kids also made nests for dinosaur eggs with the blocks, started a new daily question answering activity at circle time, and created dinos, robots, spiders and more with the zoobs.

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Dinosaur Memory Game

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This eggcellent nest is no yolk.

 

If all that wasn’t enough, the Nature Detectives learned about their Brain House on Mindfulness Monday, had their regular, exciting weekly visits from Ann-Mari and Ms. Susan and to add in an extra dash of fun and youthful energy, the Oaks and the PM nature detectives had a special visit from Sam, a volunteer who has been helping out for the past two weeks. Sam’s vast wealth of dinosaur knowledge, dino games and willingness to give epic sled rides in the kayak has added an extra dimension of fun to the dinosaur unit. We’ll miss her for sure and hope she comes for a visit soon!

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Budding Florists.

 

Weekly Top Hits:

The Little Baby Dinosaur (Tune: The Itsy Bitsy Spider)

The little baby dinosaur climbed up to the top

of a volcano that was ready to pop

out came the lava so very very hot

and the little baby dinosaur ran home without a stop!

 

Dinosaur Friends (Tune: Twinkle Twinkle)

Dinos, dinos lived long ago

some ran fast and some ran slow

some ate plants and some ate meat

some were fierce and some were sweet

some that ran and some that flew

dinos, dinos we love you!

Books We Read:

T Is For Terrible by Peter McCarthy

Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner

Fossils Tell of Long Ago by Aliki

Bones Bones Dinosaur Bones By Byron Barton

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So. Much. Fun.

 

Spoiler Alert:

Next week we’ll prepare for our Celebration of Spring

 

Oaks News from the Wild #18

The psychologist Alfred Adler believed that the primary goal of all human behavior is social belonging. Young children often try on roles to see how others react. “Will this help me belong?” As teachers we want the children to find the connection between kindness and belonging. These past weeks, as we dip into and out of spring, we’ve also been digging a little deeper into what it looks like to be kind and how it feels to be included or excluded.

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Playing “The March Wind Blows.” Group games can bring children together.

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“The March Wind Blows for anyone whose favorite color is red!”

Books are one of the great ways to get the wheels turning in children’s minds and spark conversations. We read two great books about bullying and belonging this week. In Willow Finds a Way, Willow has to learn to stand up to a classmate who is using her birthday party list to manipulate friends. In One by Kathryn Otoshi, RED bullies all the other colors to make himself feel big, until 1 comes along. When we returned to our chapter book, The Night Fairy, Flory gave us lots of opportunities to talk about prejudice, grudges, manipulation and (eventually) finding forgiveness and kindness in your heart.

I have found it interesting to see how much the environment affects the way the children interact with each other. At Hilltop Home, they know every nook and cranny of those woods. They have well worn paths and stomping grounds. They make bee-lines to their current projects or favorite activities. They find their friends and fall right into play. As teachers we can tweak the environment by bringing in new items or digging out forgotten ones. We often don’t have to say anything – just put something new out, and suddenly new ideas emerge, the play changes course, and children connect in new ways.

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Some well-placed old bones under the dig pit = paleontologist heaven. The bones brought together the regular diggers with some who rarely touch the shovels.

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I left out some sandpaper, and that simple addition sparked a new play arc: Fairy Cheese Shop. You have to sand the pieces of cheese of course, before anyone will buy them. There is stinky cheese and cheddar.

Adults can also purposefully scaffold children’s play and learning, through questions and planted ideas. Scaffolding brings what the children are doing naturally to the next level.

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“You could make a love potion.”

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Potion party

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“What are the ingredients in your potion?” Writing as a part of play.

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“How is this dirt different than the other dirt? Let’s add water.”

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“You can use mud to draw.”

When we go exploring, the focus is different. The children’s attention is on the newness of the environment, on discovery. What’s over here? What can I do here? Their attention on their peers is focused on what friends may have discovered in this new place. It takes a while for them to turn back towards each other in play. The setting is too new. The new place is like a new character they have to get to know.

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Skunk cabbage! 

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The fairies left a map to hidden treasure at the Far Corner. Kindness Jewels!

Now of course, there are not many places at Woodend that the Oaks have not explored…but we’ll still find some. After a few visits The Far Corner is already becoming a comfortable friend. After checking on the fox den (they are still digging), it was time to turn the children towards each other. So this week, we brought a few props. Digging tools, a bucket and a rope. The excavators got to work making the tree cave a little bigger.

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Of course, it’s not yet too comfortable. With the addition of a headlamp, two more children made it all the way through the log tunnel. And a few more can now climb in and out of the tree cave independently.

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We returned this week to one of our autumn haunts, the garden. We harvested compost, found compost critters, and prepared a garden bed for planting next week..when spring will hopefully be here for good!

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Worms and centipedes, oh my!

Physical challenges continue to attract and bring the children together. We never need to set up an obstacle course  – the children do it for themselves!

While we want the children to feel connected, we also honor their need for alone time. Part of belonging is also having a sense of self – knowing how you are unique and special.

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Today, we’re heading off to explore The Other Side (Aka Woodend on the other side of Jones Mill) and all the way to Rock Creek. Going on an adventure with a destination that feels farther or more challenging is another way to bond. We are all in this together.

Songs for February and March

Loving Kindness Song

May (I, you, we) be happy, may we be well.

May we be safe and sound.

May we be peaceful, may we be at ease.

With love in our hearts and all around.

Spring is Here (to tune of Frere Jacques)

I see robins,

I see birds nests,

Butterflies too,

Flowers too.

Everything is growing,

The wind is gently blowing.

Spring is here, spring is here.

Poems

Spring waits in the wings

Out of the Earth, overnight,

One perfect Snowdrop.

 

Winds of March, we welcome you,

There is work for you to do.

Work and play and blow all day,

Blow the winter cold away.

 

Books we’ve read

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

Willow Finds a Way by Lana Button

One by Kathryn Otoshi

The Detective Post #17

News From the Outdoors

The Nature Detectives experienced it all in the last few weeks at preschool, from t-shirts to snowflakes! The wacky winter weather provided lots of interesting ways to explore Woodend as well as the opportunity to hunt for more fairies and gnomes.

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Gnoman Empire

 

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We explored the sanctuary looking for winter fungi and fairy and gnome homes. We discovered gnomes hiding all around Woodend including the lookout, the meadow and the amphitheater! For one of our naturalist hikes, we hiked around Woodend spying different types of fancy fungi. We found lots of different types of shelf fungi and the children enjoyed loudly gobbling whenever we found colorful turkey tails!

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Wherever I may gnome

 

Both classes enjoyed building large gnome homes next to the mansion. The kiddos worked on building structures they could fit into as well as transforming them into space ships and bear hibernation stations!

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Another exciting addition to our outdoor play has been the Red-shouldered Hawk that has taken up Woodend as its new home! “Hawk Alert” has become an often overheard phrase as we have seen it perched in trees as well as soaring above the meadow.

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Can you spy the hawk?

 

We also enjoyed playing in snow this week! With the flurries of snow we learned more about the snow drops that have been popping up all over Woodend. Blue Crab led us on a naturalist hike where we learned that these little flowers are not only poisonous to the deer, but also split like garlic bulbs to reproduce.

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Sherlock Gnome and the case of the sneaky snow drops

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News from the Classroom

We continued our fairy and gnome fun indoors this week, examining rainbows and learning about kindness and love. For our Mindfulness Monday lessons, we learned new ways to calm our bodies, as well as talked about filling our kindness buckets through the story, How Full is your Bucket?

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We did two experiments this week at preschool. First, we created rainbow artwork on which we placed four large mushrooms over night. The kids observed the mushroom spores fall onto our artwork, leaving brownish prints behind. Our second experiment also involved rainbows. The kiddos hypothesized what would happen to five white carnations when they were each left in brightly colored water. Each child made a guess and we watched them over the week soak up the watercolor paint and slowly change color.

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At the art tables, we created two class books this week. In tune with our kindness ideas, the classes created Helping Hands stories. Each child came up with an idea of how they can use their hands to help those around them to which they added a set of their hand prints. On our last day at preschool, the now resident fairy and gnome experts created field guides from our studies. Both classes also enjoyed our recycled rainbow project in which students sorted and pasted recycled objects from home on the corresponding color of the rainbow. The beautiful creations are displayed on our classroom door.

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Somewhere over the recycled rainbow…

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Around the classroom these weeks, we played with rainbow color connects, as well as opened up the light table to experiment with colored cups and gems. We created magic potions in the lab table, as well as built on our fairy and gnome homes in the block area.

We celebrated love at preschool this past week by mixing up a batch of Love Potion #9 to sip on! The kids worked together to add all of the smoothie ingredients before watching it all mix together in the blender. The creation station open for kids to make cards to send out love into the world!

Books we Read

Charlotte and the Quiet Place by Deborah Sosin

Children of the Forest by Elsa Beskow

No, No, Gnome! By Ashlyn Anstee

Slop by Margaret Reed MacDonald

Rainbow Fairies by Nicola Baxter

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Weekly Top Hits

Deep and Wide

Deep and wide

Deep and wide

There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide (da, da, da, da, da, da)

Deep and wide

Deep and wide

There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide

 

Rainbows in Bubbles (Tune: She’ll be comin’ round the Mountain)

I’ve got rainbows in my bubbles yes, I do!

I’ve got rainbows in my bubbles yes, I do!

When I look up towards the sun,

I see rainbows everyone,

I’ve got rainbows in my bubbles yes, I do!

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Spoiler Alert: When we come back, we will be learning about dinosaurs!

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Oaks Forest Kindergarten News from the Wild #17

These last two weeks the Oaks made me think a lot about framing – about knowing yourself and knowing the children you teach, about how to find the right angle and choose the right word to light the right spark. It’s one of the key skills to scaffolding children’s play and learning.

We started out last week building fairy houses. At least that’s how we first described the activity. I spent my childhood building these houses in the roots and hollow places in trees. It’s one of my favorite things to do, still.  Though some of the Oaks had built a few other small world creations, including fairy playgrounds, it wasn’t an activity that ever  took off like fort-building or potion-making. But with the Fairies and Gnomes unit going strong in Saplings, it was time.

The girls took right to it. There was a hollow tree at the entrance to Hilltop that had been begging all year to be a fairy house (at least to me!). We scavenged some great bark and an empty knothole and even a coconut shell bed; they made a throne, tables, bedding, a toilet and a shower. The house had multiple levels and a pretend elevator. It was homey upstairs with space for a ball in the entrance hall. They left notes asking about fairy water and food sources and fairy families and fairy locomotion. Exactly what I imagined.

A few of the boys groaned. They had BIG forts to build and holes to dig. So I said, “What if it were a Fairy Fortress?” “Wait,” they asked,”are there Elves here too?” Soon a super secret fortified Elven city was under construction. Part of it was underground. It had sharp stakes for protection. It was so secret, we had to promise that if we teachers mentioned it, we’d say it was, “100 miles away from Audubon.” Key words changed the framing. Fortress. Secret. Elves. On it!

Then the fairies, gnomes and elves WROTE BACK! This was gender-neutral magic. Tiny handwritten scrolls on aged paper were found tucked into both fairy and elf homes. Children who had not yet built anything joined in writing questions.

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Why all the magic on top of this already magical place? Magic touches the heart. And this is the age of magic and make-believe. Amping up the excitement and wonder is like extra fuel for their emotional connection to the natural world and to each other.

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We looped back to our cartography exploration by introducing a big laminated map of Woodend. The Oaks had been fascinated by the map in My Father’s Dragon, and were equally drawn to the modified Woodend map. Maps have magic too.

 

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Map of Wild Island

Some key landmarks were on the map, including the waypoints to Hilltop we mapped the week before. But many were intentionally missing. The map now travels with us, so the Oaks can add in their points of interest. So far, they’ve added the Outdoor Classroom and Playground, the Campfire Circle, the Workshop (their name for the area full of bush honeysuckle past the campfire), the Ultimate Climber, the Castle Climber, three fox holes and the new nature see-saw. We’ll continue to add to this map until it truly represents the Oaks’ Woodend.

This week we introduced the concept of protected areas. What if the fairies, gnomes and elves wanted to visit a park? How big would it be? What would they do there? What would they see? We led the children through an activity usually called Micro-Parks or Micro-Trails – but we had to call them Fairy Parks. With toothpick flags, yarn and lots of imagination, the children worked on their own or in pairs to design miniature protected areas. Each needed to have boundaries, trails, a viewpoint, a flora/fauna point of interest, a water feature, a physical challenge, a bridge, and a picnic area.

Again, the Oaks divided themselves into girls and boys. The girls laid out beautifully designed parks with swimming holes and cicada shell interpretive stops and bridges to picnic area view points.

The boys chose the tangly rooted end of a giant fallen log. It’s a favorite play spot, because of the tunnel underneath and the nice loose soil you always find around root balls. It would also look pretty exciting if you were fairy-sized. Having learned my lesson the first time round, I re-framed my description of the activity slightly. The key term to engage the boys was “physical challenges.” Their park had a dark cave, high narrow promontories, rope ladders, an ice waterfall, and of course a ranger station in case of inevitable injuries. There was also an avalanche zone, which sparked discussion about the difference between a hazard and a challenge. A second park (also on a root mass) had an active volcano, steep cliffs, and a thorny vine to climb. Either way, they used up all the red and yellow flags. Those parks weren’t as pretty to look at, but they were treasure troves of imagination and language.

The next step was to make a map of their parks, using a key to show all the points of interest. We were lucky to have a few warm finger-friendly days for outdoor drawing and writing before winter returned.

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Even with scaffolding, not all of the children built houses or parks or made maps. But they watched, shared ideas, and asked questions. Participation is a continuum, not just in or out. Making a map or sounding out words is intellectual risk-taking. Just like climbing up or into a tree, some children are ready to jump in right away and others need to observe from the edge until they are ready.

At the end of the week, we set off to explore one of the edges of Woodend that is new to us and off the beaten track. It is wondrous to me that we can spend every day exploring these woods, and still find something new and AMAZING. We had been calling this area the Far Corner (there is magic in names too) and had been meaning to head that way to find some “hidden” fox dens, but somehow never made it that far. This week, we found the dens (fox and groundhog), and much, much more.

It was epic nature explorer MAGIC. It blew our minds. There is no other way to describe it. I’ll let the photos tell the story.

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Nature see-saw. We found this one, a gift from the woods!

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So good, we had to build a few more in other places…

Then there was this…

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A 30-foot hollow log!

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Yes, they can fit inside. 

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Thinking about it

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All the way through!

And it gets even better…right next door we found a giant hollow tulip poplar.

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The teacher goes first to make sure we can get in AND out.

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You can only see her because she is standing on a stump inside the tree

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Tree home, with room to stand. 

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Tree caver

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“We are really inside a real tree!”

We’ll be back. And we might even make you a map!

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