Acorns

Week 31: Last Acorns Class

IMG_0769We were a cozy group gathered together on the blankets under the portico. As we shared morning circle and sang our song, the storms decided to take a break so we were able to go on our hike in a light drizzle!

Squishy! After days of rain, the ground was delightfully squishy with puddles popping up in unexpected places. On our hike we jumped and stomped in the water, in mud, and explored the channels cut by running streams in the path.

Under a fallen tree that we have visited many times over the past year we found an enormous puddle! It’s never even been wet there before. We waded, we splashed, what a fabulous find.

The tree itself was sporting a new look with 6 inch mushrooms blossoming along the trunk and tiny, soft bubble-like growths. Are they eggs? Are they mushrooms that are supersaturated? So interesting to use our senses to learn more.

Continuing up the path we explored bird boxes, rolled logs and found worms resting on top of the sponge-like soil.

IMG_0760Hiking up the back we took a detour to check out the parking lot. Water was running down the drains, collecting in puddles, and streaming out of downspouts. With our trusty cups and large leaves, we dumped and floated and scooped.

Under the big, white tent we shed our raincoats and crawled through tunnels, scooped blue sand and even coated our feet in the gritty stuff, read books, played with musical instruments, and enjoyed a celebratory shared snack. So many goodies to taste!

We each received an earth ball bead necklace that we could take home and keep forever. We loved rolling the bead in our hands and examining the colors. A reminder of our wonderful year together.

Thank you for spending your Thursday mornings with us exploring Woodend! We’ve loved getting to know each of you and being able to be part of all the exciting changes in your lives this year!

Best wishes!  Miss Kristen, Miss Dusty & Miss Ruth

Week 30: Earth Beads

DSCF7851The sun was high. The day was bright. The Acorn class was in its element.

At morning circle, we carefully studied the cicadas and their shells in the bug boxes, flipping open the lids for a closer look.

We greeted the squirrel with lots of kisses and squeals of delight. We couldn’t wait to see what was hidden in the magic box… an earth ball and an earth ball bead necklace! Miss Kristen explained that because we’ve learned so much about the earth, today we would make beads that look like the earth to remind us that we are all pals of the planet! We sang our spring song along with the hand motions!

We grabbed a leaf from the pile to float on the pond and then took off for the jumping rock. As we ran, some of us explored using the leaves as fans, as wings, or tossing them in the air and watching them spiral down.

Down, down the hill we hurried and straight to the world’s greatest jungle gym and balance beam.

We rolled logs and saw worms, ants, slugs, beetles, and a daddy long legs.

We watched the ducks in the pond. Saw splashes from frogs, but their camouflage was so good, we never saw the frogs themselves.

At the picnic tables, we found buckets of water and an array of items. Will they sink or float? We dumped them in. We piled them on top of each other. We tried one bucket and then another. The cool water felt so nice.

Miss Dusty taught us how to use our hands to roll a ball. Fingers up, palm flat now you are ready to roll the clay on the table. With a pinch of blue, white, and green we made our miniature earth beads.

DSCF7868It was hard to leave them, but we knew that by next week, the soft clay would be hard and we would be able to wear our necklaces!

 

 

Week 29: Rainy Day Fun

IMG_0735It was a wet, soggy day, so the Acorns gathered with their blankets and books and nature items under the shelter of the portico. The steps proved excellent for jumping off and landing neatly in the puddles that were rapidly growing on the walkway.

We sang a song to Mr. Sun, encouraging him to come and visit us soon, and then headed out through the raindrops for our hike. First stop was the parking lot where the puddles were bigger and deeper and the water rushed down the storm drains and poured out of the downspouts.

In the forest, the leaves on the trees kept us drier. We rolled logs to find what critters were taking refuge out of the weather. We found potato bugs and beetles, centipedes and worms!

We slipped and slid over the platform and jumped from the edge.

Under a white tent we sat at picnic tables and smeared blue and green paint over white plates tucked inside Ziploc bags. The pictures looked like the earth! Clean hands painting!

IMG_0754We planted sunflower and bean seeds deep in the soil of our biodegradable pots, which we took out into the rain for their first drink of water.
Finding our way back to the portico, we snuggled down for a story. The Puddle by David McPhail of course! However, unlike the boy in the story, who was told to stay out of puddles, we had spent our morning splashing and playing in the rain.

Week 28: We’re Going on a Bug Hunt    

DSCF7779Under logs, beneath the leaf litter, in the tall grass, everywhere we looked there were bugs. Rolly pollies, centipedes, ants, butterflies, worms, spiders and other creepy crawlies, we found them all!

DSCF7805With our necklace magnifiers and bug catchers, we examined our finds up close. Shared them with friends. And then released them back to the wild.

At morning circle we played with plastic bugs, a warm up to the main event. We held them in our hands and put them on white paper, the better to see them, just like we would do on our hike.

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We started down through the meadow. The ground was littered with the holes from solitary bees. We saw them buzzing in the tall meadow grass.

At the bottom, we rolled logs and held worms in our hands. They were wiggly and danced in our palms.

At the lookout we found lots of places to picnic—a fallen tree, the lookout platform, an inviting circle of sticks.

With our digging sticks, we explored holes in trees, lifted the leaf litter to peer underneath, and pounded on branches for a satisfying drum.

We hurried back to the top to see if the white cloth we had spread with tasty bug treats—peanut butter, apples, oranges, and mango—had attracted any visitors. Only a few crawly and hoppy friends visited our feast. Guess they aren’t that hungry today!

One last time for the bug song and it was time to sing goodbye.

Week 27: Marvelously Messy Mud!

IMG_0718It had been raining. For days. The grounds at Woodend were muddy. The stream was full. And Acorns were ready to get dirty.

We learned a new mud song, jumped off our favorite rock, and headed out to slip slide down the hill toward the stream.

We kept on going, off the path, and into the water. With sticks and cups we drew in the mud. We poured water. We mixed water and mud. We shaped mud with our hands. We didn’t want to get out!

Promises of buckets and shovels at the pond enticed us onward. At the pond we discovered a mud flat, an area that was sometimes under water, was exposed and delightfully muddy. We could go right up to the pond’s edge and dip our cups into the water. We could wiggle our sticks through the mud and make designs on the ground. We dropped blobs of mud into the water and heard the thunk. Felt the water splash. And saw the circular ripples on the water’s surface.

At the picnic tables we discovered paper, brushes, and a thin slurry of mud. We dipped our brushes. Some added leaves to their pictures. Some added blobs of mud. Some painted a thin coating. Others made it thick. Some of us poured clear water over the picture.

DSCF7754We bounced back and forth between the mud painting and the trucks and boats we could drive over the ground and dunk into the big buckets of clear water.

We didn’t have time to make it back to the mansion, but formed our circle at the bottom of the meadow to sing goodbye. Until next week!

Week 26: Earth Day at Audubon

DSCF7664In honor of Earth Day, Mother Earth had some surprises planned for us. The day started with a downpour and the sky was still gray and drizzly as the Acorns gathered for morning circle. Was it a day for rainpants and raincoats or not? We couldn’t tell; although, some of us shed our extra layers before the sky could clear.

Acorns brought our squirrel friend gifts of cones, flowers, and kisses. We were thinking about how our choices and actions can help or hurt the plants and animals. We wanted to help!

DSCF7675The rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker sounded throughout circle time and we headed off down the meadow intending to find the woodpecker. We looked high and low, but got distracted by bright yellow dandelions and their transformation into white, puffballs of seeds. We tried blowing on the seeds, but learned that wet seeds cling together! We used our fingers to release the seeds from the stems and send them out on the breeze.

We sprinkled sunflower seeds on the ground to leave a tasty treat for the animals.

Checking out a birdhouse, we were startled to see three tiny, speckled eggs nestled into a soft pillow of feathers. The birds had laid some eggs! We checked out all the other birdhouses we saw on our hike, but it was only that first one that had been turned into a home.

With a quick turn on the climbing stumps, a peek under a log at the worms hiding there, and we were off to the pond.

Crossing the bridge, we looked down and saw the usually dry stream bed had water flowing through it. Hurrying onward, we found the pond was full again! Thanks morning rain!!

The sun had poked through the clouds, the day was warming up, and we enjoyed poking our sticks in the water, looking for signs of frogs, and watching leaves and seeds float after we tossed them in.

Before we knew it, we needed to pack up our snacks and head back to the mansion. We managed to dawdle long enough to explore the soft moss growing at the base of the tree trunks, watch an ant scamper across the rough bark, pretend to be birds, and check out some enticing holes in the trees.

Back at the mansion with the sun shining fully, we got out the parachute and ran under and around, helped hold the sides, and even went for a ride on top!

Week 25: Wet & Wild Woodend in the Rain

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The sky was a leaden gray and as the Acorns gathered, the clouds opened. It was raining!

Rain transformed Woodend. A parking lot became a destination. With funnels, cups, tinfoil boats, boots and raincoats, we were set.

We found a drain with water streaming down. Puddles everywhere. Soil combined with water to make mud. A worm floundered in a puddle. We rescued him.

Downspouts spewed water. We captured it in cups.

It wasn’t until the sky lit with lightening and shook with thunder that we grudgingly went inside.

We made rainsticks. We played with the parachute.

What a wonderful rainy day!

Week 24: Birds Fly Back

Spring is here and the birds are migrating back north. The helpful Acorns decided to create nesting bags full of things a bird might need to build its nest—leaves, twigs, and dried grass.

At morning circle we all had a chance to touch a real bird’s nest, read some bird books, and give a kiss to three, stuffed animal baby birds in our pretend nest. Then we were off on our hike, carrying bags to collect a few last bits of nesting materials before we created our bags.

We collected on the way to the jumping rock, as we walked down the hill, and along the path.

We paused to roll some logs and found worms to hold and a baby snake, which we studied with our eyes. We explored a deep crevice in a tree and the Acorn-sized birds’ nest.

At the pond we examined the leaves moldering in the water, added some sticks and watched them sink or float, and looked for the frogs’ eggs we had seen a few weeks ago. They were hard to find. Perhaps there were tadpoles in the pond now!

Some of us stayed to enjoy the serenity at the pond while others headed to the picnic tables at the bottom of the meadow.

Here we found lots of stuffed birds with which to play. Mesh bags and nesting materials to add to what we had collected on our hike. Bouncing vines to swing on. And of course, the stumps!

DSCF7661After we had filled our bags and secured them, ready to hang on branches for the birds to take what they needed, we headed back up the meadow, some of us flying the stuffed birds we had found.

Our group reconvened, some of whom had checked out a possum wandering in the forest, and then it was time for the good-bye song.

If you are curious to learn more about the solitary bee mounds that appeared throughout the lawn and meadow, here’s a link with some more information

http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/solitary-bees.html

Week 23: Sounds of Spring

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What sounds, smells, and sights signal spring? Acorns discovered chirping birds and tapping woodpeckers. We found pale green leaves budding on branches, newborn slugs, and mysterious eggs. There were even a few hearty worms.Thad
Although there were still some snow piles and we were bundled in hats, coats, and mittens, Monday was the official start of spring.

Our hike led us first to the jumping rock and then down the steep hill.

IMG_1853We paused to check on the bird boxes. No eggs yet.

We listened to our feet pounding across the bridge. Turned around and tried jumping off the bridge, climbed back up and did it again!

Rolling logs yielded a treasure trove of critters. We took turns holding the worms and slugs and discovered that slugs tickle!

 

DSCF7602Using handy sticks on a convenient downed tree trunk, we tap, tap, tapped in response to the woodpeckers that we could hear, but couldn’t see.

instrumentsWinding our way to the back meadow, we found a box of instruments and formed an ad hoc musical parade up the hill.

In celebration of the flowers just beginning to appear, we dipped bottles, Q-tips, and our fingers in paint and made flowers bloom across our paper.

Week 22: Artistry on Ice
graceTuesday’s storm gifted the Acorns a wonderful, white canvas on which to draw—Woodend’s snow-covered lawn. At first cautiously and then with energy and curiosity the Acorns ventured out on the slippery white surface. Using spray bottles and brushes they created colorful tableau. Some artists found an inspiring spot and stayed there, others ventured across the lawn in search of new, untouched snow.

Snow painting wasn’t their only outdoor activity. Acorns dug up hunks of ice. They filled buckets and created snow sculptures. They body slid, ice skated, and even took turns on a toboggan!

 

On the patio there were books to read, baking soda and shaving cream “snow” to play with, and pussy willows—those white fluff balls clinging to the branches were oh, so soft.

Eventually, the cold nipped even the hardiest toes and we were happy to take refuge in the mansion.

We built teetering towers from tree cookies, staged dramas with the toy animals, tried out new puzzles, and used Q-tips paintbrushes dipped in white paint to create more snow-themed art.

We squeezed in bites of snack to keep us going!

Will we be basking in the sun like lizards or bundled up in our winter gear next week?

Week 21: Totally Turtles

DSCF7464IMG_1791Big and small, hard and soft, yellow, green, or black, a wide choice of toy turtles awaited the earliest Acorn arrivals. Even the magic box had a turtle nestled inside! But wait, did the squirrel say that after our hike we would get to meet Boris, a real live turtle too?!

The sun was shining and a breeze just kissing our cheeks as we headed out on our hike. We took turns lounging, sitting, stepping, and jumping off of our rock.

 

Then it was down the hill. There was soft, green moss, starbursts of fluted lichen, and spongy fungi growing on logs. Teeny, tiny sticks made a nest in the birdhouse. Is there anything under that log?

 

Some of us explored the old well. Some of us checked out the fallen tree with the exposed roots making a natural climbing structure. We went down into the creek bed and then scaled the steep sides only to slide back down and do it all over again.

Where is the pond? Only a few puddles remained today. We explored the exposed muddy bottom and looked for signs of frogs and frog eggs. Who or what was making all those bubbles?

Cutting through the woods we rejoined the meadow path for a last trek to the top of the hill. There we met Boris. A totally terrific turtle!

Week 20: Rocks

dscf7429We looked in the grass.

dscf7425We looked on the path.

We looked on the hills.dscf7430

We looked everywhere…until we found our perfect rock.

A rock of our very own. That we could decorate with eyes, puff balls, yarn, pipe cleaners. It could be a rock friend, a rock car, whatever our imagination saw.

But first, how to carry our special rock on our hike?

We slipped our rocks into our pockets—pants pockets, hoody pockets, coat pockets. Some closed with a zipper or Velcro. Some had no seal at all.

We checked. Carefully we traced the rock’s shape through the fabric. Then we slipped our fingers back into our pocket to make sure. We couldn’t see it, but it was there.

We hiked through the hemlock grove. Ran along the paths between the bushes that towered over our heads.

We stopped at the bird blind. Climbed the ladder. Sat on the bench. Peered through the opening at the sunny meadow. Pulled out our trusty stick drill and made a few repairs. We eyed the scraggly cobwebs clinging to the corners.

We balanced on the low-hanging branch. Followed it from where it was close to the ground until it was high, high, above the adults’ heads. We straddled it and rode our train to the next station.

At the circle of stumps we stepped from one stump to the next. We balanced on the logs and rocking benches. We swooped down on the picnic tables for a snack. We stole off, through the woods, to another circle with the metal covered fire pit in the middle. If you bang on metal with a stick, it vibrates. It sings. We did it again and again.

dscf7461Back up on the terrace we dipped our hands back into our pockets. Still there. We pulled out our rock. We selected. We decorated. We glued on eyes. Would we keep our rock for ourselves or give it as a gift?

There were containers of water and brushes on the flagstones. For some, a spot to give our rock a bath before we decorated it. For others, the flagstones were our canvas. We swished the brushes through the water and then created masterpieces—water on stone.

We sang goodbye and a special happy birthday to one of our Acorn friends!

Week 19: Wonderful, wiggly worms

dscf7397It’s snowing! A blizzard of flurries greeted the Acorns who ran, with arms flung wide, to catch the elusive flakes.

By the time we sang our good morning song and our friendly squirrel had peeked into the magic box, the flakes were gone. Inside the box and on the blanket we found worms! Curled into balls or stretched out to their full length, we held them in our hands and observed them.

dscf7387We had a special treat today. Ms. Kristin brought her son Alden. He looked ready to join in all the Acorns’ activities!

Then it was off to the jumping rock, down the hill, and a chance to dig in the dirt and peer under logs. We found lush green moss, earthworms, centipedes, and delicate white snow drops.

dscf7391We climbed on fallen tree trunks, used sticks to dig, and got boosts to check out the birdhouses.

Heading up through the back meadow, we spied a hawk perched on the edge of a branch. He kept his perch and let us get close.

dscf7410We checked out the house made of tubes for mason bees, which don’t make honey or live in a hive, but lay their eggs in the tubes.

Back at the mansion we glued yarn worms to paper, checked out the live worms, colored, read books, and played with toy bugs and animals.

Next week is a teacher work day, so we will miss exploring Woodend together. See you in two weeks!

Week 17:  A Day at the Beach

On a cold and wintry day this week, the Acorns arrived to find seashells and books about summer scattered around the blankets. A clue about our theme for the day…   Then, our friend Squirrel opened the magic box to find another clue: sunglasses. It was Opposite Day – we were going to pretend it was summertime and have a day at the beach!

We bundled up and headed out on a hike to find our own special beach. Down the hill in the back meadow, we discovered a tree stump with a big hole and wiggly bark. At a large log, we dug for bugs (no bugs crawling around today!) and used sticks to scrape away pieces of decomposing wood.

Further down the path we found more large logs – perfect for balancing on and even climbing high. And – surprise! – a few tiny white flowers had popped up and begun to bloom!

Back up the hill, our path led to… the beach! On the mansion porch, we found a sandbox with shovels and pails, beach balls to toss around, playdough and shells for building sand castles, and a big box of shells to dig through. We examined the shells, explored their textures, and tapped and rubbed them together to make all kinds of sounds.

 

To take a break from the chilly wind, we ate snack inside – and we brought our beach along! Inside we continued building sand castles, playing beautiful music with our sea shells, reading stories about summertime, and tossing beach balls up in the air.  


And then, it was already time to sing the good-bye song! We’ll be back next week!

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Week 16:  Bears Are Sleeping

It is still wintertime, and this week we learned that in winter, bears are hibernating. They are sound asleep in their dens, waiting for springtime, when they can warm up and wake up!  On the blankets we found books about bears in winter, and lots of small fuzzy bear friends to play with.  

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And off we went on a search for cozy places where bears might make their dens.  First we discovered some stick-forts around the trees, perfect for Acorn-bears to tuck into.

Then we headed over to the jumping rock, down the hill, and around the corner, which led us to … more places for Acorn-bears to hide! We found den spaces inside the old well, inside the hollow tree, and inside the bird’s nest — which, this week, had a bright, colorful roof!  

 

 

We stopped by the pond to investigate.  No ice this week, but plenty of water for tossing in sticks and making a big splash.

 

Last, we gathered at the picnic tables at the bottom of the meadow to create our own bear dens to take home.  Using cups, craft sticks, and colored paper, we made mini-dens and bear puppets.  Our bears could go in the den to hibernate.  And when we called them — “Beeaaaarrrrrr!” — they popped back out!  

 

With our new bears, we marched back up the meadow the blankets for the goodbye song.  Happy hibernating!

 

Week 15: Nocturnal Animals

dscf7344When the sun goes down and we are snuggled up in our beds, nocturnal animals are just waking up. They are busy at night and sleep during the day! At morning circle we learned that foxes, owls, and bats are some of the animals that are active at night.

dscf7341We also met Miss Stephanie and Miss Carol. They were our teachers for the day along with Miss Ruth.
On our hike we brought along brown, paper bags. We were going on a stick hunt! The sticks would be for our mystery art project at the end of class.

We got off to a great start just looking around the blankets! There were lots of sticks to fill our bags as we hiked over to the jumping rock.

From there, we skirted the edge of the woods. We found sticks large and small. Some so big we could sit on them!

By different paths, we wandered over to the back meadow, pausing to check out beechnut shells, seeds that fluttered away on the breeze when we ran our fingers through them, fallen trees perfect for climbing on, and bird houses.

After a quick break to refuel and recharge, we headed back up the meadow and over to the woods where the flying squirrels live. Although we couldn’t see them (they’re nocturnal animals), we left them a tasty treat.

Three deer were grazing in the woods. We watched them and they watched us!

Winding our way back along the path, we ended at the picnic tables and …finally…a chance to use all of the wonderful sticks we had collected.

Spreading glitter glue over black paper, we added our sticks and googly eyes. Were those animal eyes peering back at us from the dark, star-filled woods we had created?

We also drew with white and yellow crayons and then painted over our drawings with watercolors. The paint only stuck to the paper! Wherever we had colored with our crayons, the paint slid off…like magic!

With a happy birthday song to our January birthdays to cap off the morning, we sang goodbye to each other.

Week 15: Worm Palooza!

img_1585There were worms in viewing boxes on the blankets. A worm in the magic box. And even a new song about a wiggly worm. We were going on a worm hunt!

After a short detour to the jumping rock, we hiked down the hill, eyes on the ground and magnifiers at the ready.

Under our first log we found worms! The recent rain and warm temperatures had brought them to the surface.

After a thorough examination, we continued hiking. Some of us enjoyed the view from the bridge while others went down to the creek bed and the remains of the old well.

Our magnifiers were useful for checking out moss and other interesting plants and bugs that we found.

We piled into the hollow tree—just how many Acorns can fit in there?! And climbed all over the nest.

The pond had completely thawed and we enjoyed poking our sticks in the water and tossing in mulch. We continued our successful rolling of logs and found some super big, fat, squishy worms. We held them in our hands and compared their lengths and girths.


At the picnic tables there were so many choices. Should we walk on the stumps?

Run our fingers through the slippery mass of spaghetti worms?


Squiggled spaghetti worms through boxes of sand?

Use our spaghetti worms to create art?

Or play with living worms?

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Or dig with spades?

Before we knew it, it was time to sing goodbye. We didn’t even make it back to the top of the meadow!

 

Week 14: Our 5 Senses

dscf7226Using our senses to learn about the world in which we live is what Acorns do best!

This week we celebrated these wonderful information-gathering parts of our bodies.

As we gathered for morning circle, we found on the blankets nature items and books, but there were also instruments! We explored them with our eyes, ears, and hands. We enjoyed using our ears to listen to the beautiful sounds from the triangles, xylophones, and wooden blocks we found.

When the squirrel opened the magic box, he found two, mysterious white bundles. What could they be?

We passed them around and used our noses to smell the wonderful spices wrapped inside.

Then we were off through the meadow. Some of us ran full tilt all the way to the bottom. Others paused to check out the grasses, seeds, and animal and people tracks in the soft earth.

At the bottom of the meadow we balanced on the logs, stepped from stump to stump, and climbed the trees. We also found more activities to engage our sense of smell, sight, and touch.

We spread glue on paper and sprinkled spices on top. The pictures delighted our sense of smell with their wonderful aromas and the colors dazzled our eyes. We agreed that paprika is an especially prettily colored spice.

We dipped our fingers and plastic animals in a slippery, bluish substance. Was it a liquid or a solid? It was hard to tell. Oobleck is a combination of water and cornstarch. It changed consistency depending on how we handled it.

We found ourselves so close to the pond that we couldn’t resist checking to see if the surface was still frozen. We tossed things in. Tapped with sticks. Looked at the cracks. And determined that parts were still frozen, but in other areas the water was pure liquid.

Continuing down the trail, we found a decomposing log with interesting critters to tempt us. We used our magnifiers to get a closer look.

We helped build up the Acorn-sized bird’s nest and snuggled into an Acorn-sized hole in a tree.

Then it was back to the blankets for the goodbye song. Some of us even squeezed in another story!

Week 13: Hibernation

When winter comes, it’s harder for animals to find food, so the Acorns decided to help by making two types of bird feeders!

dscf7158First we smeared pinecones with sunflower butter. Rolled the sticky pinecones in sunflower seeds. Tied a bright red piece of yarn to one end. And hung the feeder to the limb of a tree. Some Acorns hung their feeders near the mansion and some carried their feeders on the hike to hang on branches down by the pond.

dscf7162After morning song, Mr. Squirrel opened the magic box and found a hungry, red cardinal! Acorns greeted Mr. Squirrel—we hadn’t seen him since before the break.

On our hike we went down through the meadow. Past the long blades of grass. To the fox’s lair. We checked out both holes. Although we looked hard for paw prints, we didn’t see any from the fox in the frozen ground. We did find lots of deer tracks and tracks from people who had explored before the ground froze.

We peeked into the bird houses. We stomped on the chestnut shells on the ground. And examined one nut that was left behind.

At the bottom of the hill we found the climbing stumps. Had we grown? We tested ourselves stepping from one stump to the next.


We found the pond had partially frozen. We experimented with long sticks. Probing down through the water to the mud below in one spot and tapping our sticks against the hard icy shell in another. We sent mulch and wood chips sliding across the slick surface.

Walking over the boardwalk and through the woods, we climbed the hill, back to the mansion.

Inside it was toasty warm. We ate snack. Read books. Played with blocks and animals, and made our second bird feeder.

dscf7189We threaded cracklin’ oat bran cereal on to stiff pipe cleaners until we had a long string. Then we twisted the ends together. We took these feeders for our birds at home.

Then it was time to sing our goodbye song and bundle back up.

 

 

Week 12: Winter Solstice

Winter announced itself with a cold wind, but the sun was shining and the intrepid Acorns gloried in it all.

dscf7139We started in our indoor room for opening circle and songs. A quick peek at the room in which we would celebrate the solstice, and then we bundled up and headed outside.

What do you hear? We paused and listened carefully…the wind. Rushing and gusting, it was a great day for using our ears to hear and our eyes to watch the wind toss tree branches.

img_1323Down through the hemlock grove we paused to examine magnolia tree cones. They looked similar to pine cones, but were softer.

Further on we found baby pinecones. Perfect for collecting!

Along the way, we dipped our hands into bags of birdseed and scattered it on the ground. We wanted to be sure our friends the birds were well fed during this cold snap.

At the bird blind, we scattered seed on the ground, got boosts to put it way high up in the bird feeder, and kept our eyes and ears open for bird sightings.

Some of us used long sticks to fish for fallen leaves…and even a fallen mitten or two!

Back up the hill we climbed to our party room in the mansion. We shared yummy snack treats, built crazy structures with magnetic puzzle pieces and blocks, fashioned our own light torches to share during the long nights to come, cut out beautiful snowflakes, made music, and climbed through tunnels into a secret fort.

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. We’ll see you in the New Year!

Week 11: Habitats

img_1305“he weather’s getting cold so bundle up!” we sang at morning circle as we gathered in our snowsuits, hats, and mittens. The seasons have changed. On the blankets we found pinecones and sweet-smelling evergreens and Miss Ruth brought in a tiny acorn tree. It was neat to see the hard acorn sprouting roots, a trunk, and two tiny leaves.

Our hike led us to the jumping rock as we scoured the ground for tracks, holes in which animals could stay warm in the winter, and looked up in the trees for squirrel dreys.

Down, down the hill we walked, listening to the birdcalls and the sound of leaves crunching under our feet. We spied bright red berries in the bushes. Hmmm, I wonder if that’s some animal’s dinner?

We checked out the soft, spongy fungi growing on fallen branches and found one branch with all the fungi nibbled off. There were just faint marks were it had been previously.

img_1288Peering under logs, we wondered if the worms and bugs would’ve buried into the ground to keep warm. But no, we were in luck, we found lots of worms to touch and hold in our hands. Big and small, and one newborn, tiny white worm too!

With our eagle eyes we were on the lookout for tunnels burrowed under roots and enticing hollows in trunks. Miss Kristen shared a toy beaver and we placed him in the many animal homes we spotted and fashioned a blanket and nest for him out of leaves. The soft green moss we found on many trees and logs also looked like it would make a nice bed for a critter.

Back up through the meadow, we marveled at the carpet of new fallen pale green gingko leaves. Some looked like flowers and others had fingers like the ones on our hands. Some of us chose to snack here and explore under the leaves in search of tracks.

dscf7129Others continued up through the meadow, watching the birds flitting in the bushes and running our fingers through the downy soft white seeds and releasing them in puffs to the breeze.

At the top of the hill, we turned back toward the woods. A few of us, took refuge in our room in the mansion where we found tunnels to burrow through, and blocks to create a village for the toy animals.

In the woods, we ate snack on the benches, built snuggly warm caves out of boxes and scarves, and climbed into leaf bags for our own winter hibernation.

Peek-a-boo. We were out again and exploring. The backs of benches also proved great for hiding behind as we continued our game of peek-a-boo!

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From the different directions our rambles had taken us, we all reconvened at the blankets to sing goodbye.

Next week will be our last class before winter break. We will celebrate with a solstice party, brining light into our lives, as the days get shorter.

Week 10: Trees

Today we welcomed our new teacher, Miss Dusty, as we pondered why some trees lose their leaves and some don’t. The Acorns learned a new song about pinecones and pine trees (which keep their leaves), touched the bark on trees, gazed up into the leafless branches of some trees, and examined the leaf litter.

Of course, we also found time to play hide and seek, run through the paths in the bushes, and peek at each other through the branches. Some of us discovered that shaking the branches caused the leaves to fall and also made a nice rustling sound.

Some of us climbed trees, slid down the side of stairs, or checked out the activity at the bird blind.
At the bottom of the meadow we used brooms and rakes to push long swathes through the leaves and make leaf piles. In buckets of water, we experimented with what sinks and what floats, floated different-sized sticks, and used long sticks to stir up the resulting stew of leaves and twigs.

Rubbing chalk over paper, we revealed the shapes and textures of the bark or leaves underneath. We also experimented with coloring in the leaves themselves!

dscf7082Somewhere in all this activity we found time for a few bites of snack too!
Then we spread our wings and flew to the top of the meadow, pausing to checkout seeds and long blades of grass.

A quick recap of our new pinecone song and it was time to sing goodbye!

Week 9: Squirrels

dscf7019For the last time, Miss Katrina and her friend, Mr. Squirrel, greeted the Acorns and opened the magic box to share a clue to the day’s class. And how fitting it was. We found a little squirrel inside!

First stop, two squirrel dreys (squirrel nests made from leaves) high up in the trees. Of course, there were many things to see on the way to the dreys. We rubbed the rough bark of trees. Touched fuzzy buds. Examined bright red leaves. And made rustling sounds as we dragged our feet through the leaf litter. Eyes, ears, and hands, we were using our exploring tools to learn as much as we could about our surroundings.

The deys were hard to spot, but we craned our heads way back and gazed up and up and up until we spied them. How could that bundle of leaves support a squirrel’s weight?!

At the patio we discovered the maze-like shrubs. Towering over our heads with paths winding in and out, we ran, we hid, we explored.

Some of us ventured over to the bird blind. We found spiders’ webs glinting in the sunlight and heard birds chirping, but we didn’t see any. We climbed on the horizontal branch and tried riding it like a horse too.


dscf7041Then we hurried down the hill for our Thanksgiving feast! Yum…so many delicious goodies. We enjoyed sampling the treats while we climbed on the stumps, balanced on a rocking bench, swung on a U-shaped vine, and repaired and cleaned the trees using our bark tools. We also discovered some Acorn-sized squirrel dreys and some of us even ventured inside to see what it would be like to curl up in a nest of leaves.

Spreading our wings, we flew up the hill, stopping to check out the seeds on the long blades of grass, to enjoy the colors on a few lingering flowers, and to pick up some intriguing pebbles.dscf7054

We sang goodbye to each other and a special goodbye to Miss Katrina. We gave her the beautiful leaf book we had made for her, some potted plants, and posed for a group picture.

In two weeks we’ll be back together again with Ms. Kristin, Ms. Ruth, and we’ll meet our new teacher, Ms. Dusty.

Have a wonderful break!

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Week 8: Leaves & Trees

dscf6978The fall colors were in full bloom. Acorns were reaching for branches and leaves, stooping to pick up rocks and seeds, and glorying in the warm sun and the open expanses in which to run.

We learned two new leaf songs, picked up a bag for collecting, and immediately started filling it with the beautiful leaves around our feet. So many sizes, colors, and shapes!dscf6992

 

We paused from collecting, to jump off the big, white rock, then it was down the hill. We found red, star-shaped leaves blanketing the path. We added them to our bag.

dscf6997We paused to examine bright red berries, fuzzy green moss, and spongy lichen.

Stomping over the bridge, we continued collecting and peeked under some logs. Most of our bug friends appeared to be making plans to survive the winter, and were not hanging out to play.

As we walked, we watched the leaves drifting down around us.

We paused for snack at the bench circle, then it was up through the back meadow.

We were still and quiet as two deer grazed nearby. We ran our hands through the grasses and watched the seeds float away.

Back at the top, there were crunchy leaves to rustle through and kick into piles.

Then it was off to the picnic tables where we dumped out our leaf bags and turned our collections into beautiful pictures with the addition of glue, googly eyes, markers and paint.

We were having so much fun we didn’t even make it back to the blankets before it was time to sing goodbye!

Week 7: Slugs and Snails

dscf6920Slugs and snails were the order of business today. We revisited our bug song and learned a new snail song. Pressing our palms together to form the head of a snail,  we fell in line behind Ms. Kristin as she zig zagged across the upper meadow.

dscf6931First stop,  the jumping rock. Acorns took turns climbing up and jumping and stepping off before heading into the woods.

The leaves were in full color—red, yellow, and orange. They drifted down around us as we explored. Some of us heard the crickets singing too.

We spied a toppled tree and discovered its exposed routes made a wonderful jungle gym.

Then it was on to the pond. We saw bubbles on the surface and wondered what critters were hiding underneath the water’s smooth surface.

We tossed in leaves.

Rolled logs.

And discovered ants, centipedes, and yes…even slugs! With gentle fingers we touched it and discovered its soft, squishy, damp body.

dscf6938We found eggs a slug or bug had laid and watched a worm wiggling. We could see in its belly bits of dirt it had eaten.dscf6945

Following the stream, we took a detour toward the platform. Some of us climbed to the top for snack and stayed to watch all the activity below.

We dug through the leaf litter, investigated under rotting bark, and added our own sticks to the bird’s nest.

What works best for digging? We tried craft sticks, twigs, our hands, rocks, and chunks of wood.

Heading up the meadow we used our eagle eyes to spot the toy bugs Ms. Katrina had hidden. Some of us created houses and hiding places for them. Some of us examined each one and then put it back down for the next person. And some of us enjoyed filling our hands with the bugs.

Back at the top, we sang goodbye. Until next week!

Week 6: Hibernation
Ms. Kristen, Ms. Katrina, and Ms. Ruth gathered as usual Thursday morning to explore Woodend with the Acorns. But very few Acorns showed up. Instead, there were rescue workers, construction workers, cats, planes, pumpkins, railroad conductors, and more! Hmmm, wonder what happened to the Acorns?!

At morning circle we couldn’t find our friend the squirrel to open the magic box. Ms. Ruth helped and inside we found a hibernating bear snug and warm in his bed! Perhaps the squirrel went off to hibernate also.

We learned a new song about what different animals do to prepare for the cold days ahead and with a promise of trick or treating with Ms. Stephanie, we headed down through the meadow.

We shook the grasses and listened to them rustle. Pulled down the towering stems of plants, examined the flowers going to seed at their tops, and delighted in watching them spring back up when we let go. We saw flowers bravely fighting the cold. And, of course, relished the freedom of running down the hill.

At the bottom, a surprise waited—caves big enough for us to climb in.

Then it was off to the climbing stumps, snack at the picnic table, a tree that one of our railroad conductors repaired with his handy tools, and a swing made out of vines.

Across the bridge, we headed to the platform. On top, more animals were nestled in blankets, getting ready for their long winter’s nap. We played with them, in the Acorn-sized bird’s nest, and around the many fallen logs with enticing nooks and crevices to explore.

dscf6914On the way back to the blankets, we visited Ms. Stephanie at the preschool. She had tiny pumpkin gourds for us!

Another round of our hibernation song and the goodbye song and it was time for our newfound friends to go. Maybe next week the Acorns will be back….

Happy Halloween!

Week 5: Seeds

dscf6813“It looks like a crab!” exclaimed an Acorn, as he reached for the unusual object. Sprouting a profusion of white roots, the avocado pit did look like a crab. But sprouting avocados were not the only seeds we examined during morning circle. There were sprouting acorns, split okra with their white seeds nestled inside a slimy pod, and colorful peppers. Today we were learning about seeds and would get to plant our own radishes!

dscf6822With tape, sticky side out, wrapped around our wrists to catch seeds, we headed out. First stop, the stump. Taller than an Acorn, with a hollow core, we encircled it, climbed its sides to peer in at the profusion of plants growing inside, and pressed our fingers against the rough bark on the outside and the soft, springy decaying inside.

From there we passed through the gate into the secret (native plants) garden. Red berries, spider webs, yellow and purple flowers, gravel, and rough and smooth leaves caught our attention.

We circled back to the woods and the amphitheater for snack on the benches, rolling logs, hopping like bunnies over the crackling fallen leaves, and jumping from the stage.

The only thing that could’ve torn us away from these attractions was the promise of planting our own radish. We decorated the pots with stickers, filled them with soil, pushed in the teeny, tiny seeds and doused it all with water. Can’t wait to see the first green shoots!

dscf6834Other children had been hard at work gardening, so we toured their planting beds. Herbs, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, and more!

With the sun now beating down on our heads, we were happy to pull the blankets into the shade and settle back for a recap of our morning song, a chance to learn another planting song, a last look at the seeds, and, of course, a rousing chorus of the goodbye song!

Week 4: Leaves & Squirrels

dscf6768Red, yellow, brown, and green leaves are falling from the trees, swirling and twirling through the air, and carpeting the ground. With sticky tape and a paper plate with the middle cut out, the Acorns set off into the forest to make our very own leaf wreaths.

Instead of running down through the meadow, we cut across the mansion’s lawn, made a detour to enjoy jumping off the great, white rock, and then headed down, down, down the path into the woods.

Look up, look down, the leaves were all around. We moved slowly as we stooped to pick up prizes for our wreaths.

At the bottom of the path, we turned right and explored lichen growing on a fallen branch. It looked like many petalled flowers blooming. It was surprisingly springy and soft to the touch.

Some of us stomped across the bridge, enjoying the sounds our feet made on the boards and headed to a small clearing with an enormous fallen tree and many enticing stumps and logs. We rolled a few to see who lived underneath. The first few were home to roots and lichen, but we rolled another and found worms and millipedes.

Even with a touch by a careful finger, we discovered that the millipedes curl up into tight balls and look like they have settled down for a long sleep. But our patience and careful watching paid off as we saw them gradually unfurl their bodies again.

For others the call of the stream and the woods was strong. These Acorns navigated a stone crossing and found an area with fallen trees, perfect for straddling, rolling, and making a picnic spot in which to enjoy snack.

Others enjoyed their snack on the stump and log benches and tables in a wooded clearing.

Up through the meadow and across the road we ducked back into the forest. An amphitheater was hidden in the woods. We scattered birdseed for the squirrels.

Back to the blankets we trotted, some of us wearing our wreaths like crowns. A few more rounds of the leaf song we learned that morning and then it was time to sing goodbye!

Week 3: Birds

dscf6761The weather’s getting colder and the birds are on the move. Acorns cuddled the stuffed birds on the blankets at morning circle, were engrossed by the bird books, and were eager to find some of our fine, feathered friends on our hike

Rain had made the meadow slick, so we turned instead to the hemlock grove. Along the way we found fuzzy, soft buds on the magnolia tree, star-shaped leaves on the sweetgum tree, moss growing on tree trunks and in-between the flagstones, and rocks and pebbles buried everywhere! Of course, we also touched bark—rough and smooth, hard and softly decaying.

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By the bird blind we spied stuffed birds hidden in the trees and used our beaks—tweezers and our fingers—to pick up toy bugs, just like the birds do.

We spied birds in the brambles, heard them calling from the surrounding trees, and watched them visiting the feeders.

We collected bright red berries, leaves, and bugs to feed our birdy friends and chestnuts for the deer.

We found a log perfect for climbing over and on and made a train on it with our friends.

The teachers shared a real nest that a bird family had abandoned and we tried out our words explaining that the birds like to “nap” and “eat” in it.

dscf6752A stag strolled by to visit us and we watched from a respectful distance.

Some of us built a kid-sized house with stick and branches.

Then it was down to the climbing stumps, snack at the picnic tables, and some of us ventured deep into the forest to roll logs and say hello to the pond.

Peering under a log covered by tan mushrooms, we found three slugs, and lots and lots of worms. We stopped counting at 10! Some of us even felt comfortable touching the slugs and worms!

After flying up through the meadow, our wings spread wide, we saw birds fly by.

Week 2: Bugs

dscf6734Swish swish, swish swish. The tall grass bordering the meadow path swayed as Acorns swept their arms through the stems. Pulling their arms out, they examined the sticky, inside-out tape bracelets on their wrists. Clinging to the surface were tiny brown, green, and yellow seeds!

We progressed slowly down the meadow path, swishing our arms through the grasses, stooping to examine pebbles, gently patting the purple, yellow and white blossoms, and always, on the lookout for ants and other bugs.

dscf6695Some of us dug for bugs and uncovered daddy bugs and mommy bugs. Some of us took a detour out of the meadow and discovered a set of stone stairs. We experimented with taking the stairs or walking and sliding down the flagstones edging the steps and forming enticing ramps.

Acorns used great words to describe the plants and rocks and bugs they found– heavy, bumpy, soft, spiky, smooth, fuzzy.

At the bottom of the meadow we climbed on the stumps, ate snack, and followed a track through the trees. It led to a fire pit surrounded by benches. We walked the circle on top of the benches and pounded the metal cover to the fire pit. It makes a great drum!

Back on the main trail we crossed the stomping bridge and wandered down a new path. There were lots of logs to roll, a lookout to climb, pedestals to jump off, and an Acorn-sized birds’ nest to explore. We did it all. We even found a tiger slug under one log.

Back up through the meadow, we checked on the nests in the bird boxes and kept our eyes open for bugs—real and pretend—that were hidden in the grass.

It was hard to say goodbye to all of our new Acorn friends!

Week 1: Colors

dscf6675Trees to touch and try to climb, books to read, flowers to smell, nametags to wear, new people to meet … so much was going on as the Acorns gathered for the first time on Thursday.

We sang good morning, met a squirrel who opened the magic box and revealed yellow and green leaves! Today we were thinking about all the colors in nature.

With a color swatch in our hands, we set off down the meadow to look for color matches and go on our first hike.dscf6662

 

We ran our fingers over plants and watched seeds drop off. We felt smooth, shiny, leaves and bumpy brown seedpods. We shook tree trunks to see which ones moved and which resisted our best efforts.

 

We jumped off logs. Rolled over logs to see bugs scurrying away. And, balanced on top as we carefully stepped from one stump to the other or walked across a fallen branch like a balance beam.
At the pond we lay on our tummies and threw leaves and sticks into the water or looked over and under the railings. Some of us saw a brown frog in the water, paw prints in the mud, and even a deer.

 

All too soon it was time to flap our wings and fly up the hill. We stopped along the way to check out the nesting boxes, look at the purple and white flowers, and run our fingers through the long blades of grass.

Back at the blankets we sang our color song and the goodbye song.

The time had flown. It was hard to believe class was over. Did we really have to leave?!

 

 

 

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