Welcoming Fall at Ithaca Forest Preschool
It’s the second week of September and the preschool year has just begun at Trillium Camp.
On Thursday, September 16th I spent my morning at Trillium Camp. I had visited 4-H Acres once before when summer camp was still in progress, but this was my first time there during the school year. I hiked the small trail down to the camp with the preschoolers. On our journey down, we came across a tree covered with tiny slugs. This was exciting for the kids to discover and the older ones excitedly counted the slugs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. In addition to the fun discoveries along the way, it was amusing watching them walk down the dirt trail with backpacks (bigger than their small bodies) weighing them down.
As soon as we got to the small site that is bordered by a creek where the preschoolers play, they quickly jumped into their normal routine.
I started off standing to the side so I could watch them play. Some students chose to play in the sandbox. They had various pots and pans that they were filling up with dirt and leaves. When I asked them what they were making, excited voices told me donuts. They were kind enough to let me help, so I got to join in on their dirt playing.
When “slunchtime” (a combined snack and lunch) came around, I sat in a circle with everyone while they all tried to find their seats to eat. Some kids were eager to eat while others were lured reluctantly from the sandbox.
Nora Fox, one of the instructors, filled the time by telling a story about a fawn. The students jumped at any chance to participate and answered any questions thrown at them. The story was very interactive and kept all of the students involved with chances for them all to participate.
After the story, we went around and introduced ourselves. I got to go to tell all of the students that I would be writing stories about their time at school and they all seemed excited about it.
Slowly, kids began packing their lunch back up and running to get back into the dirt. I stayed back with the slow eaters who were still only halfway through their lunch. We chatted about their favorite lunches and the worms and how much fun they were having.
The students were able to spend the last hour of the day doing whatever they wanted, but we ended the day in a circle again. One of the teachers suggested that we go around in a circle talking about something we were all grateful for. Some students were shy and did not know what to say, but some of the other students were eager for their turn. It was a nice way to end the day.
Honestly, it’s hard to admit that I was so afraid that a bunch of preschoolers wouldn’t like me. Would they invite me into the sandbox? Would I have someone to sit with at lunch? My first day of preschool went so much better than expected.
This Thursday started with lots of rain. I got to 4-H Acres with my rain jacket and boots and saw all of the students also decked out in their rain gear. Some had full suits that I had never seen before, but they were definitely the most prepared. When I got there at 10:00, the students were already soaked head to toe, but to them, it was like it was not even raining. Together we took the slippery hike to Trillium Camp. This time though, we had to wait for Lyla to pour sand over the bridge so no one would slip. The students waited eagerly for it to be safe so they could get started with their day.
The kids separated into different activities and I found myself in the sandbox again. We were making cupcakes and soup today. I sat there in the sandbox as the rain poured down on us and watched as everyone got into their digging. I could not tell if they were getting as cold as I was because I was drenched very quickly.
Despite the rain, some of the kids felt the need to get even wetter and stomp in the puddles and tiny little stream that flows behind the sandbox. They even thought that the sand wasn’t wet enough and had me scooping up water to pour over their sand, despite the heavy amount of rain falling out of the sky.
By the time slunch came around, I was completely soaked through my pants. So was everyone else which made slunchtime a bit more hectic than my first experience. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the rain until they got out of it. Luckily, we were able to have a dry lunch under the pavilion. Lunchtime was mixed with getting everyone out of their wet clothes and into dry clothes. Who needed new socks or who needed a new mask was the main priority of lunch. While some students were changing and others were sitting down to eat their lunch, Nora Fox told another story. It was slightly hard to hear her over the aggressive rain, but everyone was as eager as last week to be a part of the story.
By the end of slunch, all of the kids were happy in their dry clothes and with their full bellies. Despite the dry clothes they just changed into, they were ready to throw their jackets back on and run right back into the rain. One student asked me to help her put her jack back on, but as soon as she realized how wet it was, she changed her mind and said “I don’t think I want to play in the rain anymore.” I was on the same page as her. Some of the students loved the idea of spending hours in the rain, but others seemed to be ready to get out of the rain and into a warm place
A little about me:
I’m Julia DiGeronimo, a junior writing and environmental studies major at Ithaca College. Over the past three years I have found a love for creative nonfiction writing and like to combine this with my passion for the environment and environmental change. I’m originally from New Jersey where I live during breaks with my parents and younger brother. Moving to Ithaca introduced me to a different type of wild nature that I am not used to seeing back at home. At school I do research with the apiary on campus and am learning how to work with bees. I am hoping that I will get to be the head bee keeper on campus this summer. I’m an avid reader and tend to gravitate towards fantasy novels, specifically ones with faeries in them. I have never worked with an outdoor education organization before and am very excited to see what I learn.