Week 8: Monday, Wednesday – A Spring in our step

Week 8: Monday, Wednesday – A Spring in our step

Winter is coming to close and spring is just around the corner! The fluctuating temperatures and taste of spring in the air left everyone with extra energy this week. Both flocks raced around their camps and enjoyed being extra active.

Chickadees

Something big and fascinating was waiting for us in the circle on Monday morning. Pressed into a yellowing piece of plaster was a giant footprint of our mystery animal. It was much bigger than the Chickadees’ own hands, and included a big pad, five fingers, and some small holes at the very top of the track from the animal’s long claws.

This animal likes to eat berries and also sleeps during the winter. Peter taught us how to transform into this animal, growing those long claws and lumbering across the field to our backpacks. It was time to head to camp!

When we got to the bridge above Trillium Camp, we took a moment to observe how our space had changed since we last were here. Water rushed through the creek, spilling over the banks where we had stood on dry land in the fall. The sound of it gurgling quickly past filled the forest. The warmer temperatures, melting snow, and rain had nearly turned our creek into a river.

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There was something else we needed to check up on when we got to camp: our sap bucket! Had any sap dripped out of the tree over the weekend? 

As we lifted the lid and peeked in, there was no sap to be found! The hole we had drilled must not have been the best place on the tree. We needed to move our bucket. While Eli worked on moving the hole to the sunnier, untapped side of the tree, the Chickadees jumped on the horsey log and went for an adventure in their rocket ship. They raced and bounced around asteroids, then landed on the nearest planet to refill their ship’s batteries. Everyone hopped back on and blasted off to explore another part of the solar system.

With sap dripping from the maple tree from the new tap and our space exploration resolved, it was time to sit down for slunch. Nora told us a story about when Willa the Winter Fairy had witnessed a momma bear give birth during hibernation, and watched the little bear cubs open their eyes for the very first time. The tiny black bears revealed to us what our mystery animal is for the week: black bears!

After slunch it was time for some free play next to the rushing creek, peering over the bridge and using a big vine fishing pole to wrangle some big fish. The Chickadees laughed and screamed as they chased Nora and “Box Man” around the camp. 

At the end of the day, the sound of instruments drifted through the forest, echoing off the treetops. We sang songs and expressed our gratitude for the day, leaving full of energy and excitement for the rest of the week.

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As the Chickadees gathered in morning circle on Wednesday, Nora told us to close our eyes. She had a surprise that we couldn’t see, or hear, or touch, but instead had to solve the mystery with our noses! Since bears have such a great sense of smell, we were going to use our own sense of smell to guess what Nora had for us today. It smelled sweet and a little spicy… Cinnamon! The chickadees guessed it right away.

When we got down to camp, we found that we were going to need to use our bear noses once again. In the snow was a dusting of red-brown powder – a cinnamon trail leading into the forest. We followed it up the side of the creek until we found a big blue bucket in the snow. Inside the bucket was a bag of apples, but in order to get the apples, we had to open the lid first! 

The lid proved impossible to open, though every chickadee tried their hardest. Then Eli showed us a trick – you had to press down on the lid in order to open it. This was a bear canister, designed to keep the creatures out of your food! Once we’d successfully figured out how to open it, we headed back to camp.

During slunch, Sarah cut up the apples we’d found and gave them a dusting of cinnamon. Each chickadee enjoyed their sweet treat they’d collected from the woods while we listened to stories of close encounters with bears that the instructors had!

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After slunch, we set off on another adventure, this time up the other side of the creek towards Turkey Knoll and the Nuthatch’s camp. We wandered past the horsey log and the quinzhee huts in the open field, traveled through the horse barn, and even walked all the way past Red Squirrel Camp on the other side of the field. We found patches of ice to stand on and even saw some turkey tracks in the snow. We explored the bark on the trees and the way the snow piled over the logs. It was a big adventure!

By the time we got back to camp, we’d walked a long way during the day. However, the Chickadees were still as energetic as ever. The warm spring air fueled them as they raced around camp and helped sweep the pavilion. 

At the end of the day, we got to use our friends the Peace Superheros to solve a disagreement.

We couldn’t decide how to decorate the table in the pavilion, so Sarah brought out the peace stones. We used our finest words to express our feelings, thanks to Fine Words Fox, and found a compromise thanks to Unity Unicorn. 

This week was full of energy. The energy of the winds blew temperature changes and sun into our woods, and no amount of exploring the forest could quench that momentum. The Chickadees are excited for the changes spring brings!

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Nuthatches

What animal is big and furry, lumbers when it walks, and likes to sleep through the winter? In our morning circle on Monday we discovered that black bears were our animal for the week! This is a great week to learn about bears as they start to wake up from their hibernation as spring comes this way. 

When we got down to camp, we found that Ian had transformed into a bear and was just coming out of hibernation! He had a bowl of treasures next to him, but since he was so sleepy he couldn’t see us as we tried to grab things from the bowl. We would need to be sneaky! We hid behind trees and carefully walked through the snow, trying to be as quiet as possible. Eventually, we managed to get all of the treasures! We realized that he had been hiding the Peace Stones for our camp in his bowl.

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The Nuthatches gathered in a circle to look at the Peace Stones and go over each Peace Superhero – Fine Words Fox, Peaceful Porcupine, Unity Unicorn, Feel Better Butterfly, and their helpful friend Shadowtail. Each Superhero has something to teach us about conflict resolution and how to be kind while we disagree. When a preschooler has a conflict, they can go to the Peace Log to ask for help from the Peace Superheroes and talk out the problem with each other. We needed to find a home in our new camp for our Peace Superheros to live, so we headed just north of camp to find a new Peace Log. It was a nice, comfy log that the Nuthatches can sit on to talk moving forward. 

With our Peace Superheros safe in their new home, it was time to sneak up on Ian the bear again. This time, we had to work together to take a bandana from his feet and make it back across the field, passing it to each person along the way. Our teamwork helped us succeed in taking treasures from the sleepy bear once again.

During slunch, we sat around the fire to hear Ariadne, also known as Nani, tell a beautiful story about bears. The Nuthatches also shared their own stories. With full bellies and feeling a bit warmer, we once again raced out into the field for more snow play and to crawl in the quinzhees before the weather gets too warm and they melt.

On Wednesday, songs echoed across the field as the Nuthatches sang My Roots Go Down. We even added verses for bears and our favorite animal, dragons.

My roots go down, down to the earth.

My roots go down, down to the earth.

My roots go down, down to the earth.

My roots go down.

I am a bear looking for some berries,

I am a bear looking for some berries,

I am a bear looking for some berries,

My roots go down.

After our song, Astrid asked us what we were excited about for spring? With the warmth in the air, it seems like spring can’t be too far away. The Nuthatches are all very excited for the rain, flowers, and for the snow to melt. 

When we got down to camp, we checked how much sap we’d collected from our trusty maple tree behind our shelter. There was a layer of frozen sap in the bottom of the bucket. We’d have to wait a while before we’d have enough sap to use!

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We went out into Turkey Knoll and played bear-den Capture the Flag. Great big bears were hiding bandana balls inside of their quinzhee dens, and the Nuthatches had to run across from their base to steal them. The bears were quick and able to tag a lot of us, but eventually we managed to get all the way back to the shelter. 

We played in the snow in the field and the melting quinzhee huts until slunch time. We sat down around a beautiful fire and enjoyed our snacks with a lot fewer layers on then normal! After we were finished eating, Nani read us a lovely story that reminded us to listen, pay attention, and be mindful of the natural world around us. We stopped and listened to the sounds in the forest, and looked around at our environment. We practiced breathing and enjoying the calmness of the natural world. 

Then we ran back out into the field and finished the day with some free play, racing through the snow and crawling through the tunnels in the quinzhee huts. 

This week was full of changes and surprises in the weather every day. The lack of chill in the air promises some warmer days ahead, and the Nuthatches are excited to explore their natural world as it does.

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 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.

Week 4: Monday, Wednesday – Sparkling Snow and Cold Temps!

Week 4: Monday, Wednesday – Sparkling Snow and Cold Temps!

The sun shone in the cloudless sky and sparkled on the fresh snow as our flocks gathered on Monday for this week’s adventures. Bundled up in the cold morning air, the flocks did their best to guess this week’s mystery animal. What do you think it was?

Chickadees

During Opening Circle, Eli passed around a picture of a track. It had 5 long toes that kind of looked like fingers. Could it be a human print? Maybe a squirrel? The Chickadees got down on their hands. How would this animal move? They waddled over to the tree where their nest was. It was daytime, so it was time to sleep. This animal was nocturnal! When it was dusk, it was time to wake up and head over to some tasty looking trash bins full of delicious food to eat. After gorging themselves on human food waste, the Chickadees thought they had figured out which animal they were pretending to be. Was it a raccoon? You guessed it!

It was time to head to camp, so the chickadees made their way down the snow-covered, sunlit trail to the bridge. They observed that the creek looked different today: it was covered in ice once again! After carefully testing to see if the ice was thick enough, the flock got to play near the frozen stream and explore the many fresh tracks in the new snow. They found deer and squirrel tracks right in camp. There were so many fresh tracks to explore, leading in all directions around the forest! 

During slunch, Sarah kept the flock warm with a toasty fire. With full bellies and warm hands, the Chickadees headed up to the top of our big sledding hill and got to whiz down on the fresh blanket of snow again this week. At the top of the hill, Eli also built a jump for the sleds. 

“Are you ready?” “Ready!” They flew through the air and landed on the soft white ground.

On Wednesday, the sun hid from us again as fresh snowflakes fell from the sky. The flock practiced their animal walking around in the snowdrifts, and even got to slide down the Climbing Hill in Trillium Camp. Today, everything was thickly covered in snow, even the creek itself! Soon, the flock was also covered in snow from their morning romp.

While they filled their bellies during slunch, they learned about a wolf who loved cookies and learned to share them with a butterfly friend, and Nora told the story of how Pan played his pan pipes against the god Apollo. With magical music floating through their heads, the flock headed inside to warm up and then back to the sledding hill to try out the new snow that had fallen and get more air-time on the sled jump.

Though the week was chilly, the Chickadees stayed warm and enthusiastic as they learned about crafty raccoons and played in the deep snow.

Nuthatches

What has dexterous hands, a black mask, eats almost anything, and moves on all fours with a waddle? Why, a raccoon, of course! During Opening Circle, the Nuthatches got to experiment with their raccoon-waddles all across the field. When it was time to pack up and head to camp, the instructors gave the flock an important task on the sunny morning. We needed to collect as much firewood as we could for our special activity during slunch. The Nuthatches worked hard to collect lots of whispies, pencils, and markers (three good diameters for firewood) from the forest all around camp, and piled it up inside our shelter. While the flock worked diligently bringing sticks back to the nest, Ian had a special treat in store.

He built up a log-cabin fire that was soon roaring out of the snowy ground and placed a bag of round objects into a pan. Today was a day for roasting chestnuts! First, Nora had to cut a slit in the chestnuts so that they could cook on the inside. Then they were placed in boiling water for several minutes. 

While the chestnuts were boiling, Will told a story about how Jack the Raccoon helped the Peace Superheroes keep their tasty meal. 

A snow snake had snuck into camp and stolen all of the chestnuts from the Peace Superheroes. They didn’t know what to do, so they called on Jack the Raccoon. Since he was so crafty, he knew just what to do. He and Unity Unicorn tracked the Snow Snake through the woods, following the trail it made in the snow. They snuck up on the Snow Snake, and when Jack jumped out to surprise the snake, Unity Unicorn grabbed the chestnuts and took them back to camp. Thanks to Jack, the Peace Superheroes had a tasty treat to finish their slunch.

After boiling over the fire, it was almost time for our chestnuts to become a tasty treat for the Nuthatches! Ian finished roasting the nuts in a slotted pan over the open flame. Then, each member of the flock got to peel and try this new treat. Many nuthatches enjoyed the woody and sweet flavor so much, they asked for seconds. Everyone in the flock was very adventurous and tried the new snack, just like raccoons!

On Wednesday, the sun hid behind the clouds and soft snowflakes fell from the sky. After playing a fun running game and making animal sounds in Opening Circle, the flock headed out to camp where they found the field completely covered in a thick white blanket. They spent the morning working on sturdy walls for their snow shelter, using their hands, sleds, and shovels to pack down walls into the snow. They also found lots of giant snowballs that they could climb on and chip apart. There was so much snow cloaking the ground!

At slunch, the Nuthatches once again warmed themselves over a fire, huddled in close to dry wet mittens and keep their fingers toasty. After slunch, we had more fun in the deep snow with some free play time and lots of opportunities to explore our winter wonderland. Though the week was cold, fire, food, and friends kept these little raccoons safe and warm.

Week 3 Chickadees: Who-cooks-for-you?

Week 3 Chickadees: Who-cooks-for-you?

This week arrived with freshly fallen snow, new friends, and new mysteries to uncover for the Chickadees. Maddy, who worked with the Chickadee flock in the fall, came back for the day! The children were so excited to see and play with her. They also got to meet someone new — Edie! An intern who will be taking photos of the Chickadee and Nuthatch flocks this winter and writing blog posts to help share our stories with others. At Opening Circle, the Chickadees tried to figure out the mystery this week: What animal makes these strange noises, flies at night, and hunts small rodents? Then they flapped their wings and soared around in the snowy field, diving to catch their prey. What animal were they?

During slunch, Willa the Winter Fairy visited the flock once again as Maddy told the story of how Willa helped the forest by giving a lesson to Athena the Owl. 

Willa is at home in her ice castle sipping on some peppermint tea when she hears a knock on her door. She opens it to find her friends Greta the Gray Squirrel, Ringo the Red Squirrel, Rosa the Red Fox and others! They told Willa they needed help — their friend Athena the Barred Owl had been bragging to them about how good of a flyer she was, how she could fly silently through the forest at night without anyone hearing her. She was also constantly bragging about how good her eyesight was, how she could turn her head all the way around, how she was the best hunter in the forest with the sharpest talons, how she was wise and that no other animal in the forest was as good as she was. While Greta, Ringo, Rosa and the others thought of Athena as their friend, it was getting hard to be around her. They each had special gifts of their own and they felt like Athena didn’t care about them because she thought she was “the best.” But Willa had an idea! At dusk Willa and the animals traveled to Athena’s home where they waited for her to wake up. When she did, Greta and Ringo showed her how fast they can climb up and down trees and how they cache food they found in the fall to help them survive in the winter. Rosa showed off how silently she can walk in the snow. They also went down to the creek where Willa talked about the salamanders and frogs and how they bury themselves underneath rocks and mud until winter melts away into spring. All of this helped Athena realize that, while she has a lot of amazing skills, so do others! At dusk the next day, Willa and the animals visited Athena again and she said this — “Until yesterday I thought there was no other creature as cool as me, as wise as me, as fast as me, as smart as me, and as quiet as me. I thought there was no other creature in the forest who could even compare to me. But now I really appreciate what all of you can do. I appreciate how fast you can run, squirrels, and how hard you work to get your food in the winter. And how quiet you can be, fox. I appreciate that the frogs and the salamanders can do incredible things, too. I’m still going to appreciate all the things I can do but also what you can do too!”

Listen! Did you hear that? A hoot sounded from the other side of the ridge. Where is that sound coming from?

The Chickadees headed up the hill and around the big tree to find Maddy hooting like a barred owl. With Willa’s introduction to this week’s mystery creature – owls – the flock was learning lots of interesting things about the wise birds. They learned how to make a barred owl call: who-cooks-for-you. The forest echoed with these owl calls as they played hide-and-hoot.

Wednesday morning greeted us with falling snow and beautiful winter weather. As the big flakes came down around us, the Chickadees were surprised to head to a big hill after Opening Circle instead of Trillium Camp. What did they find there? A bright orange sled and lots of snow to slide on! The morning was spent flying down the hill in the winter weather and playing in the falling snow.

After all the activity the Chickadees settled in for slunch, where Eli told the story of the time he thought he was being followed by a pack of baboons that turned out to be a barred owl calling from the other side of the woods. Then Nora told the flock about the time Willa the Winter Fairy told young owlets a traditional Haudenosaunee story about how owls gained their wisdom and wide eyes. Owls weren’t always so wise and patient! But when owl made the Creator very mad by being insistent and impatient, Owl learned to keep his eyes and ears open and use his wisdom to stay out of trouble.

Afterwards the Chickadees went inside to warm some chilly fingers and toes (this was our coldest day of preschool yet!) and discovered three small oval-shaped objects covered in aluminum foil. Eli explained that these were owl pellets! He said that since owls swallow their prey whole (bones, fur and all!), they have to regurgitate the parts they can’t digest. The flock divided into three groups and each got to help take apart the owl pellets. Inside they found fur and small, delicate bones. The Chickadees would like to give a special thank you to Elisabeth from the Nuthatches for ordering these for us! 

“Everyone close your eyes. What do you feel?” In Opening Circle on Thursday, Hannah brought a brown-striped mystery for the Chickadees. It was a secondary flight feather from a Great Horned Owl! There were so many types of interesting owls to learn about this week. The flock practiced being owls today by playing “Owl Spy” and using their owl eyes to find different objects around the front field.

After warming up at a toasty fire at slunch, Hannah explained that the flock was going to become owls again! This time they had to use their owl eyes as they flew through the forest, looking for objects hidden in the woods. Along the path to Trillium camp, the Chickadees took turns walking with their eyes wide open, finding colorful scarves, snakes, and even tiny owls hidden in the trees! They weren’t allowed to touch the object or say what they found out loud and had to glide past as silently as an owl. The Chickadees gained lots of wisdom from their owl friends this week.

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.