The Detective Post #2

 

 

News from the Outdoors

The Nature Detectives kicked off the year with some wonderful, warm, fall weather! To start off school, the Detectives began to investigate our naturalized playground, our bird blind and the vast meadow. We have already begun to observe, examine and investigate the world around us!

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We learned our rules song, where the students sang along about being respectful, safe, kind and responsible! We practiced all of these outdoors, from using kind word and taking turns with treasure on the playground, to every child being responsible for their own bug catcher on hikes through the meadow.

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Noticing the fall flowers blooming in the meadow and the sound of the walnuts falling from the trees, the Nature Detectives naturally started thinking about what autumn looks like around Woodend! To celebrate fall, the Detectives started prepping for our fall field trip to Homestead Farms. We discussed what changes we’re noticing outside, comparing the walnuts and chestnuts to pumpkins and apples which are also growing in the fall.

The Detectives were thinking a lot about what animals they might observe on our farm field trip. To encourage this, both classes took a trip up to mansion to visit an animal that lives here at Audubon: Boris the Tortoise!  We discussed the differences between our wild animals and the domesticated animals we might see at the farm. It was also such a joy to watch the children use their gentle touches and respectful voices with Boris, and to hear observations such as, “her shell feels just like my fingernails!”

News from the Classroom

The Detectives brought nature inside as well, digging for bugs in the lab table, examining milkweed in the discovery table, as well as using binoculars and magnifying glasses to explore indoors.

During our meeting time, we met Chester the raccoon and Owlbert the owl! These puppet friends talked through our class rules, as well as took up residence in our cubby room. The Detectives also uncovered Chester’s story, The Kissing Hand, story boarded in our feelings den to enjoy at anytime!

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We started thinking about our farm field trip by adding farm cutters to the play dough, tractors and animals to paint table, as well as corn into the discovery table. We introduced our first block challenge on Monday, which was to build a barn for the animals!

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In the dramatic play, we saw farm stands pop up, as well as watched children create their own, multi colored corn art with the dot paints!

 

Books we Read

Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

Senses on the Farm by Shelley Rotner

Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough

Cock-a-Doodle Quack Quack! by Ivor Baddiel and Sophie Jubb

 

Weekly Top Hits

Here We Are Together

Here we are together, together, together

Here we together at the Nature Preschool,

There’s.. (child’s name) and (child’s name).. etc.. and everyone!

Here we are together, we are happy you are here!

 

Clean-up Song

We looked at the clock and what does it say,

Now its time to put everything away,

Clean up time (x2)

Now its time to put everything away

 

Goodbye Song

Goodbye, Goodbye, to you and you and you (x2)

A big goodbye, a small goodbye,

A high goodbye, a low goodbye,

Goodbye, goodbye, to you and you and you, cha-cha-cha!

Class Rules (tune: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star)

Here are rules for you and me

See how useful they can be

Show respect, be safe and kind

Be responsible all the time

These are rules that we all know

and we follow these rules wherever we go

 

Spoiler Alert: The next two weeks we will be learning about the farm and fall at Woodend!

 

Oaks News from the Wild #1

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As we launch our Forest Kindergarten year, we are fully focused on connections. We weave together activities that will connect the children to each other and to their school home at Woodend. “Is this my school?” asked one child as we hiked from the Ultimate Climber to the Mansion and back through the Meadow to the Oaks classroom. Yes! How lucky we are. We have a beautiful new classroom AND we have 40 + acres of wild space full of wonder.

And what better way to connect to the wild than through some forest friends…so we started our year with Mama and Papa Toad in the classroom, and soon the Oaks were finding toads of all sizes wherever we went.

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We also found many slugs, a box turtle, a big millipede, centipedes and dragonfly larva.

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Making a “home” for the turtle (with a few doors). There are pointy sticks to protect it from predators.

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All you need is a giant slug!

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“Look at this bug I found!”

We made ourselves at home in the Oaks play-yard and at the Oaks’ home base Hilltop Home. After reading the book Happy, the children made mud faces to show how they were feeling on the first week.

 

In just two weeks, we’ve also explored the Children’s Garden, Rain Garden, Bamboo Castle, Fire Circle and Chestnut Tree, the Meadow, the Pond, the fort woods near the mansion and the Ultimate Climber. And there’s still so much more to come!

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“We made it through!”

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Teamwork pulling the wagon up to Hilltop

 

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“Watch me jump!”

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Mud = Happy

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Ponding

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The Chestnut Tree – big enough for everyone

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Tigers prowling in the tall tall grass…

While we help connect children to their home in the wild, we also support them as they forge connections to each other. Through play, they make plans, share ideas and language, negotiate roles, set limits, take turns, form friendships and so much more. Shared stories are one way we help connect children to each other and begin building our class community.

 

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Reading Jack and the Beanstalk

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Reading together

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Reading with a friend

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Who will be Jack? Here are some beans.

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Acting out the story – What happens next?

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Stories of their own outside

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Stories of their own inside

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Building the Titanic. “I can read you the story of the Titanic without the book!”

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Friendship

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Snakes and cars in a castle, what could be better?

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The wild cat and his caretaker in their den.

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Story time at the garden, after picking cucumbers, sorrel and tomatoes for our snack.

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Bonding at the Dig Pit

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Friends on a journey.

We read the book Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis, talked about ways you can play with sticks (and ways you can’t), then the Oaks wrote their own book showing what they would do with sticks.

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Storytime at Hilltop – Not a Stick

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Teamwork: first stick fort

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“It’s NOT a stick…it’s a horse! His name is Johnny.”

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Storytime – Not a Stick, written and illustrated by the “Nature Kids” (aka Oaks)

There is time for solitude. Children also need space and time to listen to their inner voices, to observe, question, experiment, wonder, and express their own stories.

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Making a home for the animals

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Vehicles are actually characters too…

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“I’m a boat and these are my jet engines to move me forward.”

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Checking out the “Feelings Den” at Hilltop

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Personal expression through art and writing

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Quiet reading time

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Creating his own “small world”

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Experimenting with ramps

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Small world play

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What happens if we overfill the jug? Fountain!

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“I have to put the same number and same kinds on each one.”

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Patterning

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The best hiding space!

We brought two kinds of caterpillars into our classroom for the first day. The children observed the caterpillars over the last two weeks, drew pictures, and found their habitat in the meadow. They then imagined what the butterflies might look like and drew and painted pictures. And in the highlight of our week, we got to watch one monarch butterfly emerge today!

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Observational drawing of caterpillars

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Butterfly, imagined

I

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Butterfly, imagined

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“It’s a monarch butterfly!”

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Wonder

Books we read: 

Happy by Miles van Hout

Up Down and All Around by Katherine Ayres

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran

Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis

Jack in the Beanstalk

Play with Me by Marie Hall Ets

A Year Around the Great Oak by Gerda Muller

 

The Detective Post #1

What an amazing start to the school year! From catching rain on tongues to meeting best beetles and millipedes, the Detectives jumped rain boots first into Nature Preschool. We had so much fun exploring outside and inside, a few highlights being climbing at the bird blind, digging for treasure in the sandbox, and decorating our detective bags and cubby tags! In the weeks to come, we will be writing posts in full about our adventures, so stay tuned!

The Detective Post #23

Wild places are closer than you think! As we finish up the school year here at Audubon, we couldn’t be more thankful for all of wonderful families and fun-filled adventures we had this year. We finished the year with some wet weather- accompanied by our stuffy, wheels and water days! Thursday we were overjoyed to see you all at our Summer Celebration, and cannot wait to hear about all the adventures you all have in store for the coming months. Although school may be ending, Audubon is always open- and we hope to see you all at weekend walks in the woods, summer camps and other preschool events in the near future! Thanks again to everyone for an amazing school year!

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Specials Days!

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Summer Celebration!

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News from the Wild #23

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We started out for Far Corner one day, but never made it past the giant Beech Tree (aka Pooh Tree). And that’s okay. Magic happens along the way.

The seasons they go round and round, and suddenly we find ourselves with summer round the bend. We asked the Oaks where they wanted to be sure to go, and what they really hoped to be able to do in our last two weeks of school. We made a list and day by day have been visiting those special places. The Ultimate Climber, The Campfire Circle, The Workshop, Far Corner and the Hollow Tree, the Pond, and Hilltop Home, of course. Choice is such a powerful thing to offer children. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do there?

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On a thunderstorm day, we started out in the Mansion, but as the storm passed, we offered a choice: go out in the rain or stay in?

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Thunderstorm day, playing the bird beak game (different beaks for different foods), after a tour of all the stuffed birds in the library to observe their beaks.

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After the storm passed, some Oaks chose to take stock of the creek in flood, while a few chose to stay dry inside the Mansion

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Dam removal engineers discuss the plan and roles

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Oaks visitor #1 swings across!

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Oaks visitor #2 builds a bridge

We have been talking to the children about their favorite places at Audubon. Some of the destinations above were favorites, but the one that surprised us was our Lunch Spot  – AKA The Stumps and Wobbly Logs. I had just read a blog post about the value of returning with children to the same place in nature over and over. To me, this was our outdoor classroom, Hilltop Home. And yet, our lunch spot is the place we spend the most time. We go there almost every day. We eat together and then as they finish eating, the children move off in twos and threes. They climb trees. They play in the old foundation. They look for tiny critters and mushrooms. They become superheroes or other imaginary characters. They play. And by playing in this one little patch of semi-wild, day after day, in all seasons, it becomes dear to their hearts. “There are so many different things to do there.”

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Time together in a tree

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Taking turns

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Teamwork to roll the wobbly log

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Hollow Tree acrobats

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Pirate captain on the lookout

There is value too in the new and unexplored. We found a few stones still left unturned..

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The Rock Mountains!

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Playing 1,2,3 Tree!

 

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Exploring leaves, all shapes and sizes.

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Favorite garden leaf – sorrel

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Tasty tulip petals

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Ants, birds, and butterflies like nectar and the Oaks do too!

Meanwhile at our other favorite haunt, Hilltop, new loose parts sparked new play.

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A bundle of hardy kiwi vines…

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Transformed this fort into a dragon…

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and these Oaks into equestrian princesses

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A stick makes a most excellent steed!

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We brought some math skills into the play at Hilltop. Cookies arranged just so.

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Patterning

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Patterning

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And counting

One of the children wished to go to the Ultimate Climber, and another wished for a game of Camouflage, so we hid and sought among the fallen trees. But first, we read one of the children’s favorite books, brought from home, about a tortoise whose burrow shelters many other living things. The story brought up the concept of a keystone species, and a discussion of intrinsic value (does it matter to humans that this special tortoise is so important to other animals?). Forest Kindergarten philosophy.

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You can read a story anywhere!

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Playing Camouflage. The seeker must stand in one spot and try to see the hiders.

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Entering the age of rule-bound play. They are using “eenie meenie” to choose who gets to be the seeker next. Their idea, their negotiation. Ready for the playground.

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“In the Workshop, we can build.” Adding a roof.

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Up in the Oaks-built roof under a leafy roof

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Favorite story time, about how you never forget a friend.

A fascinating thing happened at the Workshop this week that speaks to this sense of place, to the magic that happens when you return to a particular spot. This little corner of Woodend is likely only ever visited by the Oaks (and critters). It’s a hidden alcove with a few fallen trees surrounded by bush honeysuckle. You have to wade through tall grass to get there. Way back in October, a child started a simple game called Wheat Store. Collect grass seeds and “sell” them. Others joined. I introduced the idea of grinding the “wheat” on a stump. Today, as soon as they saw that particular stump, the game jumped back to life. Only this time it was bigger and better. More children got involved. The story grew. “We are a family living in another country and we have go gather the wheat and then grind it and then bake it and then take it to market to sell it. I’m the sister.” Each child had a role, in the family and the narrative. They added an oven, collecting bags, and myriad details, all negotiated with each other independently. It was beautiful and a testament to how much these children have grown.

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Gathering “wheat”

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Grinding wheat. This particular stump is linked in their collective minds to this game.

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The stump that started it all.

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You will need pouches to carry the grains to the shop and to market. “I know how to make a bag!”

With the warm weather, wildlife discoveries abounded.

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Garter snake!

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Brood X Cicada (visiting, not found at Woodend)

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Releasing wood frog tadpoles

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Checking for signs of the fox family

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Box turtle!

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Pride of the finder

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Pride of the finder

Opening Song: Make New Friends

Closing Poem: 

I’m unique.

In this whole world

There is no one else

Just like me.

Books we read:

The Adventures of Sophie Mouse: A New Friend by Poppy Green

Bimwili and the Zimwi by Verna Aardema

The Empty Lot by Dale Fife

At Home with the Gopher Tortoise – the Story of a Keystone Species by Madeleine Dunphy

Forget Me Not – Friendship Blossoms by Michael Broad

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin

 

Detective Post #22

News From the Outdoors:

The past two weeks at Nature Preschool have been fun-filled and full of exciting nature adventure.  Birds were on our minds as we went off on a circuitous hike around the grounds looking in the many bird boxes that are scattered about. We brought along a map of Woodend and when we found a box we checked it for any bird nesting activity, then labeled on the map where it was located. We’ve found as many as eighteen bird boxes around the grounds, with more yet to be discovered for another time.

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The discoveries didn’t end there. While hiking with the Naturalist, Hummingbird the kids looked for seeds that the birds might like to eat, and found two fascinating animal homes! The first animal home discovery came when some of the Nature Detectives were checking out what was once a den used by a groundhog…but now is the home of a fox! The kids spotted LOTS of fox scat, left over bones, fur and feathers from some past feasts!  No sign of the fox (so far) but we’re keeping our eyes open! The second discovery came when we got word of a mother raccoon and some baby raccoons that are nesting in a hollow at the top of a tree near the snake nest. We trudged over there on a rainy day and sure enough, spotted a little raccoon face peering out at us! No sign of the babies yet, but our fingers are crossed for an less obscured sighting!

To make our bird week extra special the PM class got a rare daytime sighting of a large Barred Owl. It was perched in a tree near the bamboo forest, and then soared over our heads! The true icing on the bird study cake was our family bird walk. Thanks to some nice spring weather, we spotted lots of birds and the kids got to share their bird knowledge with their families!

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We followed up our bird unit by talking about planting. With Hummingbird, the kids got to plant some radishes in the planter boxes in the outdoor classroom. We also collected seeds from nature to study more in the classroom and checked out the compost bins to check in on the worms. With some heavy rain at the end of the week, we capped off our outdoor adventures with a slog through the muddy trails to look for waterfalls along the creek. We even spied the ducks having their lunch at the pond!

News from the Classroom:

The nature detectives were equally busy in the classroom as well. They clipped out photos of birds and pasted them to giant sky murals (now on display in the cubby room), used the build-a-bird toys, measured their block creations by using cut-outs of bird wingspans and made bird feeders out of cereal. The kids also made paper towel tube binoculars for easier bird-spotting, and used tongs and tweasers of  various sizes to simulate bird beaks and pluck plastic worms out of bark mulch in the lab table. The kids also worked diligently on bird journals, and got plenty of practice with the “I Met a Bird at the Playground Gate” song for the family bird walk.

The Nature Detectives also revisited an activity from earlier in the year by drawing  new self-portraits! They also wrote a message on their artwork about something they can do now that they couldn’t do back in the Fall when we did our first round of self-portraits. We look forward to showing families both versions of the self portraits at the conferences.

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The kids found lots of other cool planting and flower-themed activities in the classroom this past week. They played a seed matching game in the discovery table, did some still-life drawings of a potted plants, and made flowery creations with the Magic Nuudles.

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There were butterfly wings, puppets and flowers to pollinate in the dramatic play area and kids even made giant flowers out of tangram shapes in the block area. All told, it was an exciting and busy two weeks of indoor exploration and learning!

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Weekly Top Hits:

I Met a Bird at the Playgound Gate

Books We Read:

Planting a Wild Garden by Katherine Galbraith

Oh Say Can you Seed by Bonnie Worth

Have you Heard the Nesting Bird by Rita Grey

The Birdwatchers by Simon James

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Spoiler Alert:

Pond Exploration

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News from the Wild #22

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“That’s so cool! I love nature. It’s my favorite place in the whole world,” said an Oak today. I had just shown the children how water beads up on the leaves of jewelweed down by the pond. It reminded me of a t-shirt I saw recently of a tiny bird, that said, “The little things are the big things.” Here are these small humans, learning about a new plant, with wonder in their eyes. Here are their small muddy hands holding a giant worm so gently. Here are their fingers, pointing at a flash of red – “Cardinal!” Here they are, in shock and awe, watching a snake trying to eat a toad, and a frog trying to eat a dragonfly. Here they are, exploring, climbing, creating, discovering. Each moment, one could say, is a little thing. But they all add up to minds full of connections and hearts full of love. Each child, one could say, is a little thing. And yet, they will grow as surely as the seasons turn. And we will send them off into the wide world, with nature as a life-long friend.

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Playing “Follow the Bird”

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Bamboo forest meditation

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We brought a camp stove to Hilltop to cook up some invasive bamboo shoots.

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The verdict: YUM! The proposal title: Invasives Eradication by Hungry Kids (Extra kids courtesy of Take Your Child to Work Day : )

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Potion-making never gets old –  the ingredients on offer are constantly changing!

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Demolition team

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The treasure tree is laden with treasure!

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“Ninja Warrior” is all the rage, so we built a course at Hilltop

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Ninja in training

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Happy swinging climbing. Patient turn waiting.

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Bird nest at Hilltop. With door mat.

On Friday, we went on a long hike to the Rock Creek side, turned left instead of right, and were glad we did!

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Wetland wonders: turtles sunning, green heron fishing

We realized the path was leading to….a playground! Field trip within a field trip.

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Field trip to civilization! Learning to pump on the swings.

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The Oaks’ favorite snack.

Once we left the playground, things got wild quickly!

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Garter snake snacking on a toad.

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Hard to watch. Hard to walk away. Lots to think about. An experience that calls for some comfort from a friend. 

With such an audience, the snake gave up. “We saved the toad!” But what will the snake eat? Nature is not all flowers.

Part of feeling at home in nature is knowing you have friends there. The Oaks became  enthusiastic birders over the last two weeks, learning bird calls, sighting birds on the wing and in the trees. We made bird food, created bird-inspired art, and played bird games.

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Birdathon!

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Painting with feathers and writing with quills.

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Self-portrait, with bird and love.

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Making “bird pudding”. Look at all those hands sharing space and resources!

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Bird chefs

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Hanging the treats

We played bird call hide and seek, with paired musical instruments. Bird one hides. Bird two calls and listens for the answering call, before trying to find her partner.

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Hiding bird makes her call

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Seeking bird calls back, and is off!

We wrapped up our Spring Journals in the Blair Native Plant Garden. Each child chose a plant and followed its changes over six weeks.

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Final documentation of their chosen plant

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“You can use the colors you see and the colors you imagine.”

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Focus

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Careful details

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Using teamwork and a lever to break off a coveted branch.

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“Look at all the eggs!”

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A huge goal achieved- getting inside the lunch spot silver maple!

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Taking a peek into the deep

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All the way in!

 

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Listening to the story of Herman the Worm

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Getting reading for ponding

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“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

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“The worm will feel right at home here!”

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Time and space to just be.