Week 7 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Let’s Get Together Us Porcupines!

Week 7 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Let’s Get Together Us Porcupines!

Porcupines, the burnt potato chip tree and sap — what a fun and silly week we had with the Chickadee flock!

TUESDAY

Let’s get together us porcupines 

Catbirds, hawks and fishers 

We’ll climb tall trees where we’ll wait and linger 

And sing to the Hemlock Grove

The Chickadees sang the second verse of the Hemlock Grove song together after identifying the mysterious track Hannah showed them — it belonged to a porcupine! The prickle (what a group of porcupines are called!) put on their backpacks and made their way to Trillium Camp. Once there, the Chickadees helped us name two different kinds of trees based on what their bark looks like. They named a tall tree with dark colored bark the burnt potato chip tree, also known as a black cherry tree. The Chickadees also named a very important tree that we’ll get to know over the next few weeks — the green- gray mountain tree, more commonly known as a sugar maple! After they identified these trees, Eli and Sarah called out their names and the children had to run to the tree. In doing this, the Chickadees realized we have a lot of burnt potato chip trees in our camp! 

At slunch, Sarah told the story of how Willa the Winter Fairy met Peaceful Porcupine and how he taught her balloon breaths (“Everybody fill your balloon!”). After everyone had filled their bellies with food and water, it was time to do some exploring. The Chickadees headed up to the Horsey Log where they pretended it was a rocket ship taking them to new planets. The group then walked down the path leading them to the top of the Climbing Hill. Along the way they noticed two big green-gray mountain trees! They walked down the hill to feel their bark and look up their tall trunks. Eli shared that during this time of year, when daytime temperatures are above freezing and nighttime temperatures are below, that sap runs from the roots of these trees all the way to the branches where their leaves will start to grow again. “Should we tap this tree and try to collect some sap?,” Sarah asked. “Yes!,” exclaimed the Chickadees.

 

THURSDAY

The sun warmed the Chickadees’ faces as they gathered in Opening Circle on Thursday morning. Sarah had a mystery for them! This mystery fit inside a small box and used an important part of the animal we had been talking about this week — porcupine quill earrings! While traveling in Alaska in the summer of 2019, Sarah went to the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks. While she was there, Sarah signed up for a workshop led by an Alaskan Native who taught her how to make earrings using porcupine quills and moose hide. Sarah learned so much and was very appreciative that this special art was shared with her.

After singing the Hemlock Grove song again and putting on their bags, the children walked down to Trillium Camp. Along the way, they heard something…something that sounded like rushing water — the creek! The children noticed the creek had more water and guessed that it was because the snow was starting to melt. The Chickadees slid down the Climbing Hill on their bellies like otters and pulled each other around on sleds. When it was time for slunch, Hannah read a story called The Parrot and the Fig Tree by Michael Harman. The children had listened to part of this story on Tuesday during pick-up and were happy to hear the rest of it.

After slunch it was time to check the sap bucket! The Chickadees walked up the hill, past the Horsey Log and down towards the green-gray mountain tree. Nora helped the children take turns looking inside the bucket — no sap yet! The group will have to check again on Monday to see if any sap was collected over the weekend.

 

 

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week!

Week 7: Monday, Wednesday – A porcupine, a Sasquatch, and a maple tree

Week 7: Monday, Wednesday – A porcupine, a Sasquatch, and a maple tree

This week brought wind and warmer weather to our snowy forest. After an entire week off from preschool while 4-H Acres hosted Winter Camp, the flocks were excited to be back outside and explore what had changed in their camps. Their energy bounced and echoed off the treetops as they ran through the snow.

Chickadees

 As we gathered in the log circle on Monday morning, huge gusts of wind blew fine snowflakes into our faces. The trees rocked back and forth and the entire forest creaked and groaned. With the new week came a new set of tracks and a new mystery animal! This track had a big, flat, oblong foot. Sarah informed the Chickadees that the animal is brown and really likes to climb trees. It also has a very special defense mechanism when it is scared. 

How would this animal move? It waddles! Moving their right arm and right leg together, then left arm and left leg together, the Chickadees practiced moving like this animal across the front field, imaging what strange creature would move in such an awkward way.

But uncovering the mystery would have to wait. It was time to head down to our camp and explore the new snow on the ground there. The kids scampered up the big hill in the back of camp and slid down on their bellies or colorful bottom sleds. 

There was so much excitement that everyone was hungry by the time slunch rolled around. We spread out in the pavilion to shelter from the whistling wind and listen to Sarah’s story. She told us about the time when Willa the Winter Fairy met Peaceful Porcupine! 

Willa had followed some tracks to the base of a tree where she found a very sad porcupine. He described to her how he was ashamed of himself. He had gotten angry and pushed his grandmother accidentally, and he knew he had made her upset. Willa went with the porcupine to apologize, but when they arrived at his grandmother’s house, the fairy was worried he would be too upset. But when the porcupine’s grandmother came out, both of them started taking deep balloon breaths, in and out. It helped keep the porcupine calm while he apologized. And that was when Willa realized she’d met a Peace Superhero! It was Peaceful Porcupine, who used his balloon breaths to find inner peace when he was addressing conflict. Willa knew she could use this technique for other conflicts in the forest, and was a helpful tool for her in the future.

After our lunch sheltered in the pavilion, the Chickadees heard a strange noise coming from the woods. It sounded like a wild growl that they had heard before… it was our local Sasquatch! The Sasquatch was invading our camp, and the flock worked together to ward it off and safely hide from it in our shelter. We were able to chase the Sasquatch all the way up to North Trillium camp and up our big sledding hill back to the front field! That’s where we found the Sasquatch’s den… in the labyrinth of snow tunnels by the drop-off circle. We also found Eli, who looked very much like the creature we’d just chased off – glad he escaped safely from Squatch! We spent the rest of day exploring these tunnels and enjoying our time back at preschool.

Wednesday brought with it sunshine and warm temperatures. Everything was dripping and melting, and the entire forest was filled with renewed energy. The Chickadees ran and screamed with excitement about the sunny day. 

There was a very exciting surprise waiting for them at Morning Circle – a glass jar full of strange, toothpick-like objects. Sarah explained that she had found these on the back of an animal on side of the road. They were porcupine quills: hollow spikes made of keratin, the same material as our hair and fingernails. These quills are a powerful defense mechanism for a distressed porcupine. What a fascinating find!

As we made our way down to camp, we felt alive with the warmer weather and the sun filtering through the branches of the trees. We raced around Trillium Camp and played adventurously in the snow. When it was time for slunch, we gathered in a circle to hear fascinating stories, including Nora’s tale of a man who learned to sleep with one eye open to avoid being snuck up on by wolves! 

Once we were all packed up from slunch, Eli found something interesting in the snow. Were those porcupine tracks? We set out from camp to find this porcupine and see where it was leading us. We traveled up the hill, around the trees, through some bushes, through the deep snow, and spotted something at the base of one of the big trees. We had found the porcupine!

It had also left us a gift – a metal bucket, a hammer, a drill, and a spile. The porcupine had led us to the base of a very special tree. It was a sugar maple, and we were going to tap it to get some delicious sap. 

As we huddled on the slope, each Chickadee got a chance to help drill into the bark and hammer in the spile to release the sap. They all did a great job taking turns and helping the instructors with this activity. Then we set up a bucket and left gravity and the tree to do their work. What surprises might we find when we went back the next day?

Nuthatches

Monday welcomed us with wild winds that blew the snow across the field and brought a chill to the air. The day also brought two new faces to our flock: instructors Jed and Ariadne! Jed is our founding director, and we were very grateful to have him join us in the field to share his expertise. Ariadne will be joining the Nuthatches for the rest of winter and spring and we are excited to have her on board!

To welcome in the new week, the Nuthatches introduced themselves to Jed and Ariadne and learned about a new animal we rarely see around 4-H acres. This animal has a big brown belly, likes to hide in trees, walks with a funny waddle, and has spikes on its back to protect itself. You guessed it… our animal this week was a porcupine! 

We headed down to camp, playing in the snow along the way. Once we had gotten our backpacks hung up and were playing inside our shelter, Ian noticed some huge oval-shaped tracks in the snow. He had seen a giant porcupine earlier in the day and knew these were its tracks. We better go find it!

We raced out into the field, following the trail as it wove around the quinzee shelters and through the trees. We went past Turkey Knoll until we found something hiding in a tiny tarp shelter. Nestled next to some firewood in Red Squirrel camp was Jed with a big pair of snowshoes that looked suspiciously like the giant porcupine tracks. Excellent tracking, Nuthatches!

We ran back out into Turkey Knoll to play in the shelters and bury Ian in the snow. By the time slunch came around, we were hungry and ready to eat! We ate around our warm fire and even built a snow bench to sit on. 

After slunch, it was time for some more play in the snow. There was so much falling from the sky, it was fun to chase each other and play snow games. To wrap up the day, we sang songs around our fizzling fire and expressed our gratitude for being back out in the woods.

Wednesday dawned bright and warm. The higher temperatures lifted everyone’s spirits and energy as the Nuthatches raced around. As we gathered in for morning circle, the instructors reminded the flock about respect and how important it is to have respect for others and for yourself. With respect in mind, and wearing several less layers than usual, we headed down to camp.

Today’s trek to camp was a saunter, a meditative walk in the sun. When we were passing over the creek, Jed asked the flock to stop and close their eyes. Using just the sensations on their faces, could they locate the sun? Feeling the warmth on their skin, the Nuthatches smiled into the sun. It certainly felt like spring was on its way!

A little further down the trail, the flock stopped again. This time, Jed pointed to a fuzzy vine growing up one of the trees. What is it called? That’s right! Poison ivy! It is very important to respect this plant, especially as the warmer weather melts the blanket of snow and the plants come back to life.

Once we got to camp, the flock had a very important mission to accomplish. Nora held up a bucket of supplies. What could they be for? There was a drill, a bucket, and a spile. We were going to tap a maple tree and get some tasty sap! But first, the flock had to find a maple tree. We looked around, trying to use our tree ID skills as best we could. Just like ash trees, maple trees grow pairs of branches on the opposite sides of the trunk. But maples have very different leaves than ash trees. Where ashes are more ovular and pointy, maple leaves have five blades. 

After a helpful lesson from Jed and a little searching, the Nuthatches located a maple tree right in our camp! The big tree behind our tarp shelter is a sugar maple, and we got to work tapping the tree. Jed showed us how to drill a hole in the sunny side of the tree, then hammer in the spile. Within no time, clear sap was dripping out of the spile into our bucket! It didn’t take long to have our work pay off.

After all the hard work, it was time to play. We headed out into the field to play a game where the snow snakes had stolen eggs from the snow moles and hidden them in their dens – the quinzee huts. The Nuthatches had to run to the shelter, get the objects, and run back without being hit by a snowball. Those were some sneaky snow snakes!

Finally, it was time to rest around our fire for slunch. While the flock ate, the maple tree behind us was hard at work giving us tasty sap. By the time we were done with our meal, there was already a layer of sap in the bottom of the bucket! The flock was fascinated watching it drip onto our fire.

While we may not quite be out of the woods yet, the sunny weather and the warm breeze certainly did seem like spring was just over the horizon. As we warmed our bodies in the bright afternoon, the forest around us smiled and began to stir as well. If you listen, you can hear birds waking in the forest. You can hear the drip drip of ice turning to water. You can see the plants sigh in relief and get ready to bud. The forest is waking from its deep slumber, and our flocks will be watching and exploring it every step of the way.

Week 7 Nuthatches, Tuesday & Thursday: Mysterious Porcupines

Week 7 Nuthatches, Tuesday & Thursday: Mysterious Porcupines

Welcome back to preschool! We hope the Nuthatches and their families had a nice break. 

This week, the Nuthatches learned about Porcupines!

In circle on Tuesday, we learned that porcupines leave tracks that look kind of like big potatoes with claws. They also like to eat tree bark, so they leave big bare areas on tree trunks. We set off into the woods, keeping our eyes open for tracks and barked trees. Although we didn’t find any, we did notice something else: the voices of chickadees were calling to us from up high in the branches! Ian called back to them with a whistle. Sometimes it was hard to tell what was a chickadee and what was Ian! 

The Nuthatches are getting very good at collecting dry firewood, of many different sizes. Even though the snow was still deep, we each collected a big handful of wispies and pencil sticks to bring back to camp. As we searched for firewood, we heard Ian shouting that he found something–something really cool that we had to come see! We followed him deeper into the brush, and there, fast asleep and oblivious to us, were two “snow-cupines”. They were so deep in their dreams that they didn’t notice when we poked them. Real, or not real? We may never know…

Before lunch, it started to snow again, so the Nuthatches got to go sledding again down the hill near our camp. The snow was deep, the hill was fast, and the Nuthatches did a great job taking turns on the sleds. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the field for pick up. 

When Thursday rolled around, the Nuthatches got right to work building a beautiful fairy house under the white pine tree. The sun came out in the afternoon and lit it up so bright it sparkled! When we got out to camp, we collected more firewood and built an amazing fire using only one match. The Nuthatches also worked on the shelters and played in the field. Finally, we checked on the bucket collecting sap at the maple tree we tapped–and it had about an inch of clear sap in it! We poured it into a container to take back. 

The Nuthatches left camp a bit early so that we could spend time with a special visitor: Elisabeth! It was so great to catch up with our old friend. We shared stories from our day and our lives, and she shared some porcupine food that she’d brought for us to nibble on! There were delicious “trees” (asparagus), “sprouts” (brussel sprout leaves), leaves (arugula), blackberries, and cashews! We had closing circle with Elisabeth and said goodbye, though we know she’ll be coming back to visit more in the weeks to come. 

Week 6 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Wild Weasels!

Week 6 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Wild Weasels!

Ernie the Ermine, quickly-evolving porcupines and a hidden treat. Week 6 sure was a wild one for the Chickadees!

TUESDAY

“This animal has five toes on both its front and hind feet. It’s a member of the weasel family and is related to otters and minks. It has a long body with short legs and dark brown fur. And it’s one of the few animals that eats porcupines.” The children listened as Sarah walked around the log circle on Tuesday morning showing them a picture of a five-toed track. Afterwards everyone transformed into this elusive animal and practiced walking on all fours through the thick, deep snow. Eli led the flock to the white pine tree where they pretended to climb it because this mysterious animal can also climb trees! The Chickadees enjoyed spending time as this animal but it was time to transform back into Chickadees and fly down to camp.

At the top of the bridge, the children called out what they noticed had changed since last week — there was more snow on the creek, more snow on the roof of the pavilion, more snow everywhere! The Chickadees used the plentiful snow to their advantage and opened up a bakery where they specialized in snow cakes, snow cupcakes, snow bread and even snow pizza!

The children adventured up the Climbing Hill and used slider sleds to slide down the hill. It was so much fun that even the instructors had to try it! The sleds made a smooth path down the hill and some Chickadees discovered that they didn’t even need a sled to move down the hill — they could slide on their bellies! They zoomed down the hill, just like some of the relatives of this week’s mystery animal!

 “It’s slunch time! It’s slunch time! It’s time to eat our slunch,” Hannah, Eli and Sarah sang. The children lined up to wash their hands, grabbed their packs and headed to the snow-covered log circle where blue pads waited for them to sit on and help keep them warm as they sat and ate their food. Sarah told a story about a special animal she saw over the weekend. She was getting ready to go snowshoeing in Monkey Run when she looked out her window and saw an animal with gray fur on its back, white fur on the sides of its face and pointed ears. It was difficult for her to tell what it was so she got out her binoculars and saw that it was a gray fox! And not just one gray fox, but two! Sarah watched them for about an hour and noticed that they kept disappearing into the side of a nearby hill. “Where do you think they were going?” she asked the Chickadees. Sarah has seen the gray foxes almost every day since and is hoping they stick around!

After slunch, the children transformed yet again into an animal that also climbs trees but has quills all over its back — porcupines! Hannah and Sarah pretended to be fishers, a kind of weasel with five toes and dark fur that likes to eat porcupines (sound familiar?). The children hid behind trees and practiced being quiet so the fishers wouldn’t find them. If they made a sound, the fishers could start chasing them but the porcupines could protect themselves by turning their backs and showing their quills. Eventually, the porcupines started chasing the fishers and they even evolved to “throw” their quills like arrows and eat the fishers! It was a silly and fun game that made everyone laugh!

THURSDAY

The Hemlock Grove, the Hemlock Grove 

Where trees stay green all through the winter 

The swamp will freeze and we’ll find the fisher 

Climbing over fallen trees 

The Chickadees sang this song in Thursday morning’s opening circle to unlock the mystery that was hidden behind Sarah’s notebook. After singing “The Hemlock Grove” written by Felicity Holmes (a former Ithaca College intern), Sarah revealed a small animal with a long body, very short legs and white fur everywhere except for a tuft of dark brown fur on its tail. “Is it a baby bear?” asked one Chickadee. “Is it a mouse?” said another. This animal was actually an ermine, a small member of the weasel family! Hillary-Joy, the Homeschool instructor who shared her fox bone collection and fox hide with Ithaca Forest Preschool a few weeks ago, let the Chickadee flock borrow it. She said that the taxidermy ermine was named Ernie. The children each got a chance to feel Ernie’s soft fur, and they noticed that you could see its sharp teeth and whiskers. Hannah explained that, like fishers, ermines are carnivores and need sharp teeth to eat their prey. Thank you Hillary-Joy for sharing Ernie with us!

The Chickadees traveled down the path Eli had made earlier in the week using his snowshoes. They stopped at the top of the bridge, shared their observations about what had changed and were about to walk down the bridge when Nora revealed she had a surprise for them! “You will find it near something dead. You might feel leaves on your face. If there weren’t so much snow, you would be able to hear the creek from where it’s hidden.” The children rushed down the bridge and hung up their backpacks, eager to find this hidden surprise. Several children noticed the two trees that lay dead over the creek — one upstream and one downstream. They decided to check the fallen oak upstream with leaves still on some of its branches. They climbed over part of its trunk and saw something buried in the snow — a pot! Nora helped them carry it to a place where everyone could see what was inside. She pulled out green cups, a strainer and honey. What do you think the Chickadees are going to make?

If you guessed tea, you were right! The Chickadees separated into two groups. A small group stayed in Trillium Camp with Nora where they took turns pulling each other on the orange sled. One child even pulled Nora all by himself! They also did some climbing and sliding on the hill. The second group, with Hannah and Sarah, made their way to the front field in search of a special tree. “White pines have five needles that grow in a cluster,” Hannah explained. She held up a pine needle cluster and the children counted to five together. Sarah added that the white pine tree is a symbol of peace to the Haudenosaunee.

The Chickadees led the way to the large white pine tree that grows in the front field. Its branches were heavy from snow and Hannah gently shook them and the children watched as snow rained down on their heads. They had brought along two baskets and proceeded to fill them up with needles from the tree to flavor their tea.

White pine, oh white pine 

We love you 

We offer you thanks for all you do 

So please, please, please, grow 

Sarah shared that it’s nice to thank the plant you’re harvesting from. “This ‘thank you’ can look however you want it to look. You can say ‘thank you, tree.’ You can sing to the tree. You can do anything!” She taught them the song above that was taught to her by Melissa Blake. The children shared other things they wanted to say ‘thank you’ to — snow, the sun, and other trees! When their baskets were full of green white pine needles, they walked back to camp, excited to eat some slunch, have a fire and drink some warm tea. 

Nora and Hannah worked together to start a fire at slunch while the children sang fire songs to help them.  

The fire in the sun 

Makes the fire in the trees

Makes the fire that we light tonight 

(Repeat twice)

Fire, fire

Burning brightly 

Fill us with your light 

The fire in the sun 

Makes the fire in the trees

Makes the fire that we light tonight 

(Repeat twice)

When the fire was lit and starting to warm the white pine tea, Nora shared some stories about her cats, Mango and Tango, and about how one of them had brought a bat into her house!  

Soon the tea was ready and it was time to go home. The Chickadees gathered in the log circle, sipped on some tea and sang the “The Hemlock Grove” song again. Afterwards they were asked to put their hand on their heart, feel it beating and think of one thing from the day they were grateful for. Together they pulled that special thing out of their hearts and held it tightly in their hands. On the count of three, they released their gratitudes into the universe — “One, two, three…” 

 

Thank you for reading! We will miss the Chickadees this coming week and can’t wait until we are back in the forest together!

Week 6: Monday, Wednesday – Sunlight and Snow Trails

Week 6: Monday, Wednesday – Sunlight and Snow Trails

Sunlight poured into the woods at 4-H acres, shining on the two-foot thick blanket of snow that had fallen last week. Our trails around the front field had become solid and the deep untouched snow gained a crust of ice. It was a beautiful morning to explore our camps for the first time in over a week and see what gifts the snowy weather had brought us.

Chickadees

On Monday, the Chickadees squealed and laughed as they played in the deep snow before morning circle. When they heard “All in Chickadees!” everyone headed over to our log circle to find a new mystery waiting for them. It was a new track with five-clawed toes and an arc-shaped pad. What strange creature could have made this? Moving around like the animal, the flock learned that it had sharp claws, short legs, and a long body.

But the mystery animal would have to wait to be uncovered. It was time to head down to camp! The Chickadees excitedly gathered at the top of the trail and looked down to the creek. It was covered in a deep layer of snow. Everything sparkled and glittered in the sunlight as the flock followed Eli down to the bridge. The snow was so deep and difficult to trudge through that it was exhausting to get to camp.

Once we were there, the children wasted no time getting to know their new environment. So much had changed since we were last here! The morning was spent running through the snow, throwing it in the air and watching it glitter in the light, and digging as deep as we could into the whiteness.

At slunch, Nora told the story of how Winnie the Welcoming Weasel helped Willa, our winter fairy friend who looks after the forest in the winter. Winnie helped us discover what our mystery animal for the week was: it’s a fisher, a carnivorous member of the weasel family! 

After slunch, we continued to find fun ways to experience the camp in the snow. The flock played a game called ‘porcupine and fisher tag.’ It started off with the children pretending to be porcupines hiding in a tree. Sarah was a hungry fisher looking for porcupines to eat. If they were quiet, it was harder for her to find them. But even the tiniest noise could alert Sarah, and suddenly the hungry fisher was chasing the porcupines around camp! The porcupines defended themselves by turning their backs to show the fisher their quills. Eventually, the porcupines started chasing the fisher and even evolved to throw their quills at the fisher! The forest was full of laughter as the Chickadees romped through the snow.

On Wednesday, we had the most exciting surprise of all. Instead of heading to Trillium Camp like usual, we were taking a long trek over to Hearth Camp. With a sled of firewood and a mysterious bowl and pan in tow, we trudged through the front field, headed down our big sledding hill, crossed the creek, headed up another hill, and walked back to another part of the creek. It was slushy and watery in this section, so we carefully stepped on some stones in the creek to keep our feet dry and listened to the trickling water. We could see a shelter peeking out from the top of the hill. Hearth Camp is home to a small wooden shelter with a cob oven inside of it. The packed-clay structure is named Sea Moon and was built by the Homeschool group a few years ago. The Chickadees very gently introduced themselves to her and gave her a careful hug. Then we set to work exploring our new camp.

What are those lumps in the snow over there? We dug deep into the snow and found the sitting stumps that campers at Hearth Camp use during less snowy weather. Meanwhile, some of us helped Nora saw some big logs to fuel our fire, and helped Eli dig out a spot to start it. By the time slunch rolled around, a crackling fire was roaring in our new fire pit and the flock was enthralled by the contents of our strange mystery bowl. What were we about to cook? Chestnuts? Pancakes?

Eli had brought some banana pancake batter to make over our fire! As the pancakes cooked, Sarah told us about a strange animal she’d seen right here on 4-H acres! She described this strange track that an instructor had seen down by the creek that looked like an animal had slid on its belly. A few days later, as she was walking by herself down through Trillium Camp, Sarah spotted a small brown animal. It had sleek fur and a long body with short legs. It was a mink! What a special treat to see down in our forest home! Mink are part of the weasel family, just like fishers, and make very interesting tracks around our camp.

It was time to try our delicious pancakes as Nora told us a spooky story. The yummy pancakes were such a treat and everyone wanted seconds. After our bellies were full, it was time to clean up and make our long journey back to the front field. We trudged down the snowy slope; crossed the clear, sparkling creek; headed past the open field near the Nuthatches camp, then back down the hill; then up our tall sledding hill back to the front field. What an expedition! This was certainly a very adventurous week at preschool!

Nuthatches

Monday brought lots of fun in the snow to the Nuthatches! Before our morning circle, we explored the tunnels we made in the piles of snow in the parking lot last week. They’d solidified over the weekend and made awesome ice caves to slip and slide around in. When it was time to circle up, Nora showed us an interesting track in the snow. What could that strange animal be that had five toes and a rainbow-shaped pad? It was a fisher! Nora told us that fishers are rare to see around here. They had to move out of this area but are now slowly coming back. It’s very special to see these beautiful, fuzzy creatures!

It was time to head down to camp. But wait, what was that strange paper that Ian had with him? It had black drawings on it… a group of trees, a structure, a stump with a sombrero on it? It must be a treasure map! We followed the map through the woods, finding that it led past our camp. As we trekked through the deep snow, we spotted a wire running above our heads that matched one drawn on the map. Nearby, we noticed a cluster of three trees like the ones drawn in the corner. Over there! There was something strange and dark on that stump in the distance. It looked like that odd drawing of a tree with a sombrero on! It turned out it wasn’t a hat, but a pot lid. Below, there was a pot with oil and a bowl full of kernals. It was popcorn! Excited about our slunch treat, we headed back to camp searching for good firewood to cook the popcorn.

As Ian got the fire ready for our tasty snack, the flock tramped through the snow, twirling in circles and falling onto the soft snow banks. It’s exhausting walking through so much deep snow, and we were ready to sit down and enjoy our slunch. 

Pop, pop, pop! We listened as the popcorn cooked over our roaring fire. Once our bellies were full, we headed over to the open field near camp to explore some interesting snow structures that had appeared over the weekend. One of them was built with sticks, covered in snow, and dug out to create a roomy shelter. Even Ian and Edie could crawl inside! There were snow structures and fun piles of snow to explore everywhere, and we raced around the field, sliding down the mounds and basking in the sunlit afternoon.

Wednesday brought lots of excitement and change to our flock. We started the morning with our song of the week, The Wolf, the Fox and the Weasel. It went like this:

I hear the Wolf and the Fox and the Weasel,

I hear the Wolf and the Fox singing.

(repeat both lines)

And in ten years, I will come back.

I hear the Wolf and the Fox singing.

(repeat both lines)

Then the flock learned some bittersweet news – it was Will’s last week at preschool! He was going back to college and would be leaving after Thursday. We decided to make the most of his last couple of days, so we headed to camp.

But instead of heading down the hill to our new camp, we turned left and headed back to Ash Grove, our camp from the fall. It was so exciting to be back in our old home and climb on our shelter covered in snow. It turned into a pirate ship and the flock became pirates, riding on the tall masts and jumping off into the ocean. We ran around camp and found lots of fun games to play. We even buried Will in the snow a few times. 

Astrid made a beautiful fire and we all huddled around to eat our slunch. Then we saw someone approaching our camp in a pink sweater and overalls. It was Sarah, coming to pay us a visit! It was so exciting to have her with us in camp and be able to talk and play with her. We would bury her under the snow, then she would become a monster and jump out to chase the Nuthatches around. We all took turns being covered in snow, and the sun and fun games kept us very warm all through the afternoon.

When it was almost time to leave camp, we gathered around the fire once again. Since a few Nuthatches wouldn’t be at preschool for Will’s last day, we wanted to show our appreciation of his time with us before he headed off to college. Every member of the flock told Will something they were grateful for about him or their fun memories from the season. He was also presented with some good luck snowballs to take with him to school. It will be very sad to see him go – he is such a light and leader in our flock, but we wish him the absolute best!

When we headed back to the front field, we ended the day the way we started the week – in our fun snow tunnels in the mounds of snow in the parking lot. This week was full of new discoveries, new landscapes, and new changes to our flock, and it was exciting to be able to explore our forest home in winter.

Office Location:
Cornell Cooperative Extension, 615 Willow Ave., Ithaca, NY 14850
607-272-2292 | email Us

Preschool Location: 
4-H Acres, 418 Lower Creek Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850


Ithaca Forest Preschool is a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and is run by Primitive Pursuits, a 4-H Program.