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Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings. Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

Week 9: Monday, Wednesday – Beaver Chew and Blue Skies

Week 9: Monday, Wednesday – Beaver Chew and Blue Skies

The birds chirped and flitted through the trees as the sun came out to warm the woods this week. There was a warmth to the breeze that blew in the promise of spring, melting the snow in our camps and giving life to the first few buds on the trees. In our second-to-last week of the Winter session of preschool, the flocks were bursting with energy and ready to explore far and wide.


Monday started a little below freezing with a new mystery to discover this week. Eli played a sound for us… it sounded like a great big slap on water. What kind of animal would sound like that? It was an animal that likes to eat bark, has a big, wide tail, and swims and lives in the water. It also is really instrumental in changing and engineering its environment, just like people do! Suddenly, we all turned into this animal and learned that they live in small little lodges in the water. When we woke up in our lodges in the morning, we stretched and dove straight into the water. We swam over to a stand of willows for a tasty breakfast. What curious creatures we’re learning about this week!

When we got down to camp we noticed that there was new ice on the creek. Even though it was going to be warmer this week, it was still chilly in the early morning. But Sarah had an important task to keep us warm. At the end of last week, our old log shelter had collapsed, leaving a pile of leaves and a few standing logs. Just like our animal for the week, we needed to deconstruct our shelter and build our own environment. We got to work taking down the logs and moving them close to the creek, where we would use them later. While some Chickadees helped move the logs, others got to work exploring Trillium Camp for the day with a little free play.

A timelapse of deconstructing our shelter. The panning camera is due to the melting snow – spring is certainly coming!

After all the work with the shelter, the flock was hungry and ready for slunch! At slunch, we learned that our mystery animal for the week is a beaver! They are such unique creatures, and are even active on 4H Acres down at an area we call the Beaver Pond, which the Nuthatches visited on Monday (read more below). 

With full bellies, the Chickadees had lots of energy for some free play time around camp. We ventured up to the horsey log for some fun rides, racing across the top of the hill, and sliding down our big hill in the back of camp. We also were visited by Boxman, our favorite silly monster who has a box-shaped head and likes to chase Chickadees!

The day was almost over, so Sarah called us in to help sweep off the pavilion and get out the instruments for a really fun closing song. With everyone gathered together in the circle, Nora introduced us to the Beaver Song and its accompanying dance moves.

Beaver one, beavers all, lets all do the beaver crawl.

Ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch.

Beaver two, beaver three, lets all climb the beaver tree.

Ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch.

Beaver four, beaver five, lets all do the beaver jive.

Ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch.

Beaver six, beaver seven, lets all fly to beaver heaven.

Ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch.

Beaver eight, beaver nine, STOP! It’s beaver time.

Go beavers! Go beavers! Go beavers!

Ask your preschooler to show you the dance moves to the beaver song! Everyone loved this song so much that we sang it three times. 

Then Peter got out Gratitouille, our grateful grasshopper, and as we passed him around we each shared what we were grateful for about the day. It had been a really great day and we had so much to be thankful for.

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On Wednesday, we started out morning circle with the new favorite, the Beaver Song. Since we loved it so much, we did it multiple times at different speeds. It’s definitely a fun song to sing and dance to! Once we were finished with the song, we noticed that Sarah had something round hidden underneath her shirt. It was a beaver skull, whose teeth we had looked at on Tuesday. As we passed the skull around the circle, we got to examine the large eye sockets and the spaces where the teeth normally live inside the skull. What a cool way to get to know this animal!

It was time to grab our backpacks and head down to camp. Today was warm and sunny, and everyone was fully of energy and joy for the spring weather. When we got down to camp, we found a treasure map… little pieces of paper that were clues for a scavenger hunt! We hung up our backpacks and headed out of camp to find this mystery. 

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The clues led us all around, up past the horsey log to a big tree near Turkey Knoll, past the horse barn and across the field, then down to the creek. We were looking for something box shaped in the sunshine. Down by the creek, we found what looked like Boxman’s head! Underneath was a pinecone with our last clue – flames. We were going to have a fire today. But why would we need a fire on such a warm day? We had better head back to camp and find out.

We collected firewood along the way, and everyone helped carry a great big log that we will have to chop up for firewood.

When we got the log back to camp, we discovered Nora sitting next to a roaring fire. She had a special surprise for us. She said that when she had been making the fire, she found a bag of goodies in the firebox. There was some oil, a pan, a big silver bowl, some syrup, and a spatula.

The Chickadees guessed correctly – it was pancake batter! While Eli got to work cooking up some delicious banana pancakes, Nora told us that while we had been gone, she’d gotten a surprise visit. She’d been quietly tending the fire when she looked up and suddenly all of the Nuthatches appeared behind a tree! They had been very sneaky and had snuck right into camp with some firewood as a gift. We had plenty of wood to keep our fire going all afternoon.

As we sat down to slunch, Nora told stories of giants and huge stones that the giants threw to make bridges across the ocean. We watched Eli flip the pancakes as the fire crackled and gurgled. Sarah pulled down our sap bucket and to our delight we found that it was full of clear sap. She poured us each a glass, and we ate our pancakes and drank our sap in the warm sunshine.

When we were done eating, we enjoyed some free play by the creek and around camp. But soon it was time for the end of the day, and we gathered again in our circle around the fire to whisper our gratitude for the day to the trees and release our excitement for the coming spring into the golden air. Next week is our last week of Winter session, and it certainly felt like it in the woods this week!

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Monday came with warm sunshine and a little bit of a chill to the air. We had a surprise waiting for us in morning circle – Nora had grown a tail! It was big, brown, and flat like a canoe paddle. Ian told us the story of Nora’s morning. We watched as she crawled out of her lodge, swam around in the water near her home, and gnawed on some tree bark. She showed us how she can slap her tail on the water when she feels threatened, and how she can swim fast around her home. The Nuthatches guessed it correctly – Nora was a beaver! 

There are beavers who have called 4H Acres home in the past, and they’ve left a lasting mark on the terrain here. Just like humans, beavers are engineers of their environment. The instructors told us something very exciting. Today, we were going to make the trip all the way out to the Beaver Pond! It is a long way past Ash Grove and White Pine camps, out past a frozen creek and into some thick trees. We would be spending all day out there. We went over how to stay together as a group on this long journey, and headed off into the woods.

Along the way to the Beaver Pond, we stopped and took in our surroundings. We played hide and seek, where each Nuthatch hid from view of someone who wasn’t allowed to move, and see how sneaky they could be. They found really great hiding spots behind big trees and logs in the forest. 

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Then we headed underneath a low-hanging tree limb and onto a frozen creek. We skated and slid farther into the forest, until we turned off of the creek and headed into a big clearing. This was a perfect place to make our camp for the day. As we gathered some firewood and started eating our slunch, we noticed that off to our right was a big clear space in the forest. There were a lot of tall, dead trees and cattails growing all around. We’d reached the edge of the Beaver Pond, where they had built a dam and flooded out this area, killing some of the trees that lived there. This pond made a perfect home for cattails and other marshy plants to grow. 

While we ate, Nora told us a wonderful story about a beaver and a bear who were friends. They had a lot of differences, including what they liked to eat, how they moved around their homes, their pronouns, and the members of their family. But inspite of all the differences, they were still great friends. Even Unity Unicorn recognized how great they were at celebrating their differences!

With full bellies, it was time to head out to explore the Beaver Pond. Ian walked us past logs with beaver-chew on them and up to the dam itself. He described how it had changed the environment in this part of the forest. We got to play in the cattails and climb on old tree roots. There was lots of open spaces to spin and run around. We had so much fun exploring this new area, looking for new tracks and objects in the snow, and learning about the dam and marsh. But soon it was time to head back, so we packed our bags and made our way back through the forest, across the frozen creek, underneath the low-hanging tree, and out into the front field for the end of our day. It was such a fun adventure to see new parts of the forest we hadn’t been before!

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On Wednesday during morning circle, we looked at two strange objects. They were hard and orange and white, and were curved into a half-moon shape. They were beaver teeth! Beaver teeth are very long so that as they chew on wood and trees, their teeth get filed down. They were very cool teeth and very different from our own!

It was time to head down to camp in the glorious sunshine and warm weather. With tons of energy thanks to the warmer weather, we slid down the big hill and crossed the creek. While we were there, we took a minute to pause. We closed our eyes and listened to the sound of the rushing creek, full and roaring thanks to the melting snow, and the sounds of the birds in the trees. Nora asked us to feel for the sun on our skin and turn towards where the sun was in the sky. Today definitely felt like spring was coming!

When we got to camp, we found out that we had a very special mission today. We were going to sneak up on the Chickadees! We were going to have to be very quiet and head down the hill into their camp. But we couldn’t show up empty handed, so we all headed into the brush to find some good firewood to bring them.

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After the flock collected armfuls of great wood for their fire, we saw the Chickadees heading up the hill and across Turkey Knoll. Now was our chance! We all quickly and quietly moved down the hill through the snow, stepping carefully to make as little noise as possible. When we got into camp, we all hid behind a tree until the other Nora from the Chickadee flock looked up and saw us. She was startled – we’d been so sneaky she didn’t hear us coming! She was in the process of making a fire for the Chickadees and was very grateful for our gift. Before the rest of the flock came back, we snuck back up the hill into our own camp. It was so fun to see their camp and hang out with Nora Murphy!

It was time to settle into slunch around our own fire and tell each other stories. We really enjoyed hearing what each Nuthatch had to say as we munched on our food in the warm sunshine. After we had finished our meal, we headed into the field to play our game where the dragons have to protect their eggs in their quinzhee hut den from the Nuthatches as they try to steal them. We raced across the field, outrunning the dragons to get all of the eggs back into our own den!

Then we each took turns sliding down the slippery side of the quinzhee hut. Astrid took snowball tickets to allow us to ride, and vividly narrated each slide. The flock did a great job of taking turns and celebrating each slide. 

At the end of this warm day, we expressed our gratitude for the forest and celebrated the beautiful weather.

As the Winter session of preschool comes to a close, we all can feel the signs of spring in the air, hear the birds sing, and see the forest come alive again after its winter slumber. As the snow begins to melt and the mud comes out, the flocks are excited to see what the new season holds.

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Week 9 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Busy Beavers!

Week 9 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Busy Beavers!

The Chickadees were as busy as beavers this week! Read more to learn what they were up to…



A bracelet? A rattle? Teeth!— these were some of the guesses the Chickadees shared after feeling the contents of Tuesday’s mystery bag. After a loud drumroll, Sarah pulled out two half circles that were orange, white and black. “These belong to an animal that can be found around here. It can swim and it eats tree bark. It can use its strong teeth to chew down trees and carry limbs to make a dam and/or a lodge.” The mystery objects were teeth belonging to a beaver! The children learned that beaver teeth are orange because of iron in their enamel that helps keep their teeth strong (you’ve got to have strong teeth if you’re chewing wood!). 

On their way down to Trillium Camp, the flock stopped near a hole on the creekside of the path. Last week, the Chickadees spotted muddy five-fingered tracks leading to and from this hole. Sarah brought her trail cam and set it up on a nearby tree with the hope of catching a glimpse of the animal that’s living there. What do you think it could be? 

Once in camp, the Chickadees transformed into busy beavers! They worked together to carry sticks that were once a part of their shelter over to the creek where they planned to build a dam — just like actual beavers! This was tough work and the Chickadees did a great job working together, using their words and giving others space when they were carrying long sticks. 

The flock worked up an appetite after all that heavy lifting! At slunch they listened to a story called Turtle’s Race with Beaver by Joseph and James Bruchac and got to help tell part of the story. When all the animals of the forest gathered at the pond to watch turtle and beaver race, the animals started chanting — “Turtle! Turtle! Turtle!” and “Beaver! Beaver! Beaver!” The Chickadees did the same and if there were any beavers nearby, I’m sure they heard us! Eventually the chanting turned to silly words and the forest was filled with laughter. 

At Closing Circle, Tali, who is joining the Chickadees on Tuesdays and Thursdays until the spring starts, taught us a new song called “Land of the Silver Birch.” This song is a traditional Canadian folk song. The Chickadees played their instruments while singing:

Land of the silver birch 

Home of the beaver 

Where the mighty moose 

Wanders at will 

Blue lake and rocky shore

I will return once more 

Boomdiddyatta, Boomdiddyatta, Booooom

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Thursday brought blue skies, warm sunshine and lots and lots of MUD! The Chickadees gathered in the log circle, which was really just one giant mud puddle. While singing “Land of the Silver Birch” and Nora’s silly beaver song, the children (and instructors!) squished their boots in the mud. Some even rolled pieces of mud in their hands to make smooth mud balls that were almost like clay! 

The path to Trillium Camp was clear of snow for the first time in several weeks. The Chickadees stopped at the trail cam to see if it had taken any pictures and it had! Sarah showed the flock a picture of someone walking by on the trail — it was Eli! There were no pictures of the mysterious animal living in the hole yet but we’ll check next week to see if it took any new pictures over the weekend. 

After walking down the bridge and hanging up their backpacks, the children were excited to see mud puddles everywhere! The Chickadees flew through camp, jumping in every puddle they could find. They even went in the creek and splashed and played. Some children started working together to make a big pot of soup! They took turns carrying the pots to and from the creek, filling them up with water and dumping the water in the big pot of soup while other children stirred and added other ingredients (sticks, rocks, slushy snow). 

When it was getting close to slunch time, Nora smelled something and needed the help of some coyote pups to sniff it out. After some searching, which led them around camp and up a nearby hill, they found a small container of something sweet! What could it be? Nora said she would reveal this special treat at slunch. The children washed their hands, brought over the food and water to the log circle and Nora showed them what was in the container — maple candy! Nora explained that she made this candy using the sap from the trees we tapped! Each child and instructor got to try the sweet and smoky candy that came from the green-gray mountain trees! 

The children spent the rest of the day climbing up and sliding down the Climbing Hill, which became Mud Mountain. A giant puddle sat at the bottom of the hill, which the Chickadees took turns jumping in. It was a beautiful day and while we have all enjoyed the wonders of winter, we are excited for the magic that lies ahead in spring.


Thank you for reading! We’ll see you next week for the last week of the winter session!

Week 9 Nuthatches, Tuesday and Thursday: Building like Beavers

Week 9 Nuthatches, Tuesday and Thursday: Building like Beavers

This week the Nuthatches got to play in the snow and the mud! 

What an exciting week to be outside at preschool. We all had so much energy to run and explore in the sun. 

Shout out to Nuthatch instructor Emily Rose for most of these wonderful photos!!

On Tuesday, the Nuthatches started off the day by passing around a beaver skull that Sarah Chaffee had found on a hiking trip. We peered into the big holes where the eyes would have been, the little holes where the teeth used to be, and the medium-sized hole where the brain was. Ian got us thinking about how beavers often change the landscape around them by building dams and flooding streams, which creates a wonderful habitat for many fish, waterbirds, and other mammals like muskrats. What are some ways that humans change the landscape? What can we do to respect this land? 

When we arrived at camp, the first thing we did was check on the sap bucket. There were a few inches of clear liquid (with some bugs too). Then Ian drew our attention to some pieces of paper with mysterious drawings on them–clues to a scavenger hunt! The Nuthatches put their minds together to figure out each step in the adventure, leading us into the brush to a tree with a long basket hanging from it. When we looked inside, we saw an object that looked like a bow, and some other pieces of wood of different lengths and thickness. Ian told us that these were tools for making fires–one was called a bow drill, and the other was called a hand drill. In order to make our fire though, we had to gather a lot of firewood! The Nuthatch kids raced to gather more wood than the instructors.  

Back in our circle, Ian demonstrated the hand drill for us and made a coal in only a few minutes! We were very impressed. Ian said that he’d practiced this skill for months before he was able to successfully start a fire using a hand drill. As we basked in the warmth of the fire, Emily read a sweet book to us called “Planting the Wild Garden,” by Kathryn Galbraith. To end the day, the Nuthatches played on the seesaw and in the field, where the snow shelters were still standing.  

On Thursday, the Nuthatches were overjoyed to see the muddy rivers crossing the front field at arrival. Some of the mud was so deep that when we stepped in it, our feet disappeared! It really felt like spring as we stomped around under a blue sky. As we walked out to camp, we also noticed that the creek was rushing with a lot of power! When we arrived at camp, some of the Nuthatches checked on the sap bucket again–today it was almost half full! And we could see the clear liquid drip-drip-dripping out of the spile. The trees are ready for spring too! 

Some of the Nuthatches got right to work collecting firewood, while the others played a rousing game of Beavers vs Dragons in the field, where the snow shelters were just barely standing. And then it was time for a little adventure–to the creek! We trekked to a section that wasn’t roaring so ferociously, and tested the waters. We splashed around and even built a dam out of sticks and mud, just like beavers do! It was so fun that nobody got upset over the water in their boots. Back at camp, we had lunch around a fire that warmed our feet and hands. Cesca told us a story about a time she saw an otter, and Emily read a book called “Bugs for Lunch,” by Margery Facklam. We started to notice bugs all around us…

The Nuthatches spent the rest of the day sneaking up on the Chickadees. We were so sneaky that they didn’t see us even though we were really close! 

Week 8 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Black Bears and Long Trails

Week 8 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Black Bears and Long Trails

A week of surprises and “see you laters!” Read more to learn what the Chickadees were up to this week in the woods.


The Chickadees gathered in Opening Circle on a windy Tuesday morning. Eli showed them a picture of a five-fingered track with long claws. The flock listened as Eli shared some clues about this animal — it’s a large mammal that can be found in North America, it’s an omnivore and it has black fur on its body. What animal do you think this could be?

Wake up all you black bears 

You’ve been sleeping the winter through 

It’s time to wake up and do the things you do! 

The  children sang the song “Hibernation” by Annie Nixon while pretending to be hungry bears waking from a long winter’s rest. The bear cubs crawled their way to the red oak tree, put on their backpacks and headed down the snowy trail to Trillium Camp. The Chickadees checked the sugar maple they re-tapped on Monday and were excited to see some frozen sap! Eli brought supplies for the Chickadees to tap a second tree but first they needed to identify another “green-gray mountain tree.” The Chickadees moved from tree to tree in Trillium Camp and the hillside, looking for one with areas of smooth, gray bark with furrows and peaks that look like mini mountains. After some searching, they found a tall tree growing behind the woodbox. The children and instructors took turns drilling a hole into the tree and were able to hang the bucket to start collecting sap all before slunch time.

It’s slunch time

It’s slunch time 

It’s time to eat our slunch! 

Once all the Chickadees had gathered in the log circle, Hannah told a fantastic tale about a bear named Betulah who was afraid to climb trees. After befriending a wise raven named Rocky, Betulah goes on a long journey through the Appalachian Mountains. Along the way she learns how to be courageous with each mountain she summits. During this story, Hannah told the Chickadees that, like Betulah, she too will be climbing the Appalachian Mountains. In fact, Hannah will be hiking the Appalachian Trail! She unrolled a long, vertical map of the east coast and walked around the circle pointing out the trail that connects Georgia to Maine — 2,190 miles! When Hannah told the Chickadees this would be her last week at Ithaca Forest Preschool, they peppered her with questions about her next big adventure. “How will you survive?” “Will you see bears?” “Where will you sleep?”




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On Thursday, Hannah answered some of those questions when she brought the biggest mystery in the history of mysteries at preschool — a large red backpack! “This will be my home on the trail.” Hannah started unpacking her bag to show the Chickadees what was inside. She passed around a long, tube-shaped bag that held her tent and showed them her med kit and headlamp. The children were especially interested in a small green object hanging on the front of her backpack. They each got a turn to practice digging with it in the icy snow — it was an ultralight trowel! Hannah even blew up her sleeping pad to show the Chickadees what she’ll be sleeping on each night.

The children put on their slightly smaller backpacks and walked down to Trillium Camp while listening to the sounds of the creek and looking for fresh tracks. Little did they know, that a busy day full of surprises lied ahead! After hanging up their backpacks, Nora got a whiff of something smelly! She asked for the bear cubs’ help since they all have an excellent sense of smell. They took turns smelling a tree with bark that smelled like — “onion!”  The smell was everywhere! The Chickadees followed the pungent smell up the hill, past the Horsey Log and to Turkey Knoll. Along the way they not only followed the smell of onions but also the sight — onion skins and even pieces of an onion hung on the branches of a honeysuckle bush. Where were the onions taking them? Suddenly, the children found themselves at the base of a large white pine and in its branches was a tall blue container that looked a lot like something Hannah had shown us from her backpack just that morning. The children each tried to open the bear canister but it was tough! After lots of turning, twisting and wiggling, the container remained locked. Nora gave it a try and showed the Chickadees these two raised pieces of plastic along the rim of the lid that have to be pressed in order for it to slide off. “It’s hard for even adults to open!” The Chickadees learned that it’s not good for bears to eat human food and that Hannah will be using her canister to store all of her food with the hope that bears won’t be able to open it and eat what’s inside. 

While the Chickadees played underneath the white pine, they noticed a lot of what looked like steam coming from Hearth Camp, a site located across the creek. They could see that one of the homeschool flocks were there so the Chickadees decided to go over and say hello. One by one, the children balanced on the rocks to avoid getting their feet wet while crossing over the creek. Before they entered Hearth Camp, the Chickadees were reminded to stick together and give the homeschool flock (the Juncos) space. Steam continued to rise from a cinder block structure off to the side of their fire circle. Wren and Sean, the two Junco instructors, explained that they were heating up sap they had collected from maple trees and evaporating the water to make syrup! Some members of the Juncos were excited to show us the fire that was burning beneath the cinder blocks to keep the sap hot. 

The Chickadees thanked the Juncos for showing them their special project and headed back to Trillium for a late slunch and a special treat they had found in the opened bear canister — popcorn! While the children got out their food and water, Nora built a fire to cook the popcorn and Hannah read a story called How Chipmunk Got His Stripes by Joseph and James Bruchac.

The day is done

The day is done

Thank you for the day 

The Chickadees packed up their bags, helped clean up camp and gathered in the circle with Hannah to share some gratitude for her and all she has shared with the preschool community. One child said that he liked when Hannah brought in her special box of nature treasures (feathers, butterflies and all kinds of wonderful things!) And another child shared that she hopes she has fun on her adventures with the red bag. We will miss you, Hannah! Happy trails <3


Thank you so much for reading! We’ll see you next week for more stories, songs and silliness!

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 nature immersion program for children ages 3-5. Our program is run in cooperation with Primitive Pursuits, a project of Cornell Cooperative Extension.