Week 2 Nuthatches, Tuesday and Thursday: Settling In and Branching Out

Week 2 Nuthatches, Tuesday and Thursday: Settling In and Branching Out

Welcome to the second week of Spring, Nuthatch families!

This week the Nuthatches started to get comfortable with the spring: mud, water, and new friends were highlights!

Note: Big thanks again to Emily Rose and Jamie Eggleston for contributing pictures!

On Tuesday, the Nuthatches got ready for a big trek. The plan was to go to the Beaver Pond! The last time we went there, there was snow on the ground and a chill in the air. This time, the ground was muddy and the sun shone down on us. We played foxtail at arrival, and some of the Nuthatches turned into backpacks! At circle, the Nuthatches reminded each other of the Three Respects: respect yourself, respect others, and respect the earth. We decided that on the way out, it was important to stay with the group. Jamie said we could think of it like a sandwich: the instructors were “bread”, at the front and back, and the kids were the filling! Our sandwich had lots of cheese in it. 

 On the way out to the Beaver Pond, the Nuthatches had to be alert for some warnings. When the instructors yelled “Flash Flood!” everybody had to try to get off the ground to avoid the imaginary water. When they heard “Camouflage!” they had to hide in the forest. When they heard “T-rex walk!” they had to walk as quietly as they could as if they were a predator stalking its prey. The Nuthatches did a great job reacting to the warnings, and they used their five senses to make observations too. We found lots of beautiful clear puddles that we couldn’t resist stomping in. There was a newt floating silently in one! We also saw big birds soaring above us: a bald eagle and a red-tailed hawk!

At the Beaver Pond, there was a clearing with a shelter where we could have lunch. We set down our packs and were quickly drawn to the water, where we climbed walked along the dam, looked for snails, made splashes with sticks, and even collected some cattails. It was so peaceful and beautiful out there at the crystal clear water. Then we sat down to a yummy lunch in the clearing, and trekked back to the front field in high spirits. 

On Thursday, Mother Nature had played an April Fool’s joke on us: there was snow on the ground and in the branches! But the Nuthatches weren’t deterred. We played in the snow and made some big snowballs, which we rolled all the way out to camp with us. It was a good workout. We stopped by the creek to use our five senses to observe the landscape. Then we set our packs down in camp and ran out to the field for a rousing game of Hawks and Nuthatches! The Nuthatches tried to find as many pinecones as they could while avoiding the Hawks. When a Nuthatch got tagged, the Hawk asked a nature question. Some of the wonderful questions we came up with were: 

How does bark get on trees? How does dirt get underground? Where do humans come from? Why do people cut down trees? Why are leaves so thin and strong? Where do trees come from? What makes good packing snow? Why is snow so fluffy sometimes? 

Then we noticed that some of the Nuthatches had disappeared! Where could they have gone? We decided we had to track them to find out. We opened our eyes and ears: there was a soft drumming sound coming from the forest, and also some high-pitched calls. The first sound was a ruffed grouse! The second sound was the rest of our group! We followed the tracks and the sound until we found them, hiding under a white pine tree. Everybody at preschool sure is sneaky! We all came back to camp as a group, and Jamie showed us how to start a fire using flint and steel. Emily read the book “Penguin and Pinecone” by Salina Moon and we told some silly knock-knock jokes. Then it was time to head back to the field. 

Have a lovely spring break, Nuthatch families! We’ll see you in a week.

Week 1 Nuthatches: Warm Welcomes

Week 1 Nuthatches: Warm Welcomes

Welcome, Spring! Welcome, Nuthatches and Nuthatch families! 

This week the Nuthatches embraced the new season and some new faces with joy and enthusiasm. We met lead instructor Jamie Eggleston, assistant instructor Edie McRoberts, and two new students. We played name games to introduce ourselves!

Note: thanks to all the Nuthatch instructors (Jamie Eggleston, Emily Rose, and Ariadne Filothei Vazenios) for contributing photos for this week’s post!

On Monday, the Nuthatches went over our community guidelines, the Three Respects: Respect yourself, respect others, and respect the Earth. We shared our names, and our favorite plant. Some favorite plants were skunk cabbage, maple trees, and sunflowers. As the weather gets warmer, we’ll be looking out for green buds on our plant friends! We’ll also be using our senses to observe changes in the temperature, precipitation, and sky. Jamie led us in using colors to express our observations about the weather on our weather chart. 

When we arrived in camp on Monday, the Nuthatches were bursting with energy. We showed our new Nuthatch and Jamie our favorite parts of camp: the sap tree, the shelter, the firepit, the seesaw, and more. The Nuthatches even helped Jamie draw a map with charcoal from the fire! Then we sat down to slunch around a warm fire that Edie built. Nora enlisted the Nuthatches to help her tell the story of the Peace Superheroes, which is an important story about animals with different problem-solving skills. We began by telling about Fine Words Fox, who helps people to use fine words in speaking about their feelings; Feel-better Butterfly, who cheers people up by painting his wings; and Shadowtail, who helps the animals by carrying them through the forest on her back. This story was originated by Melissa Blake, the co-founder of Ithaca Forest Preschool. 

On Tuesday, the Nuthatches started off the day playing “What time is it, Fine Words Fox?” in the front field. When the answer was “Lunchtime!” we ran very fast back to the starting line! During circle we played the name game super fast! Once we got out to camp, it was time to play “Seasons are Changing” in the big field. The Nuthatches were so good at escaping the taggers, and came up with some great questions to ask, such as “Does your animal fly?” and “Does your animal have claws?” Then we went on a search for Emily, our instructor who’d wandered off in search of firewood. We got a little off-track in our search, but we finally found her because she made crow calls through the brush. At slunch, Emily read two wonderful books to us: “Tico and the Golden Wings” by Leo Lionni, and “Bugs are Insects” by Anne Rockwell. We closed out the day by sharing gratitude and dancing!

Wednesday was a celebration of mud and rain! The front field was full of chocolate-colored puddles that the Nuthatches splashed in. At morning circle, Astrid led us in the song “Oh the Seasons Change”. We used our five senses to see, hear, touch, smell and taste the rain as it fell gently down on us. And we played the tickling game with white pine needles! We even found a dragon egg and put it in a dragon cave in a tree. Once we got to camp, the Nuthatches noticed that the Peace Stones were missing! Jamie showed us a map that had some clues to find them, and we set off to search. Finally we found all of them and returned them to the peace log, which is a special place a person can go if they’re feeling upset. Jamie made a fire to warm us up at slunch, and Nora continued the story of the Peace Superheroes to include Peaceful Porcupine, who reminds us to take a deep breath when we’re angry or frustrated. Astrid sat under an umbrella and read some clever and silly poems from the book “Soup for Breakfast” by Calef Brown. 

On Thursday the Nuthatches frolicked in the sunshine all day. We went over creek guidelines, and then trekked over to the creek, where there was a new bridge! While we were there we saw so many interesting things: two dark-eyed juncos playing, skunk cabbage popping up everywhere even in the water, a beautiful fossil, and even a crayfish that seemed to be wounded. The Nuthatches gently helped the crayfish get to a safe place to heal. We also saw a tick crawling around–we took a good look and then brought it to the water to drown. Nuthatch families, make sure to do a thorough tick check every day after program! We all shared a gratitude for the creek and the fun we had there. Then it was time for slunch, where Nora told the Peace Superheroes story again and Emily read a book about frogs! Jamie and Nora also made a special snack: popcorn, with salt and honey! What a nice way to end the first week of spring preschool. 

Week 10 Nuthatches, Tuesday: Gooses Getting Goofy

Week 10 Nuthatches, Tuesday: Gooses Getting Goofy

Our last Tuesday of winter preschool!

This was a week of celebration and fun (even more than usual)!

Note: Thanks again to Emily Rose for most of these photos!

On Tuesday, the Nuthatches started off by looking at a picture of a goose in a book. It was hard to think about geese without getting goofy! But Nora and Emily called the Nuthatches to a secret meeting while Ian went off to set up an activity and everyone focused their energy. It was time to say goodbye to our beloved instructor Ian Statema.  During the meeting, the Nuthatches brainstormed some ways that we could send Ian off and show him how much we appreciated having him as an instructor. We decided we could give him some air hugs and air kisses, sing the Birdie Song (taught to us by Ian), gather firewood as a gift to him, and share gratitudes about the time we spent with him. We planned to do all this at closing circle. But it had to stay a secret! The Nuthatches sealed their lips. 

As we set off to camp, the Nuthatches noticed a mysterious pile of wood shavings on the ground. Then we saw another one up ahead. And another! It was a trail–could it be leading us somewhere? The Nuthatches looked carefully to figure it out. We followed the trail over the stream and off the main path, leading us to camp via a shortcut. We decided to pick up some of the shavings to give to Ian!

Once we got to camp, we took a look into the sap bucket. It was heavy and full–of ice! Some of the Nuthatches spotted some bugs in there too. As we looked at the sap, we could hear a sharp beat made by two sticks. The noise was coming from Ian, who was waiting for us in the field. Behind him were four structures made of sticks leading together. Ian explained that these were the guardians, and he challenged us to use throwing sticks to knock them down, and then we could see what the guardians were guarding. The Nuthatches took turns hurling the throwing sticks towards the guardians, and waited patiently for somebody to knock them down. Finally, it happened! When we looked behind the guardians, we found a basket of firewood and a teapot full of hemlock needles! Just what we needed for some delicious tea. 


The Nuthatches led the way in collecting firewood for our slunch fire. Ian worked to set up a tripod, where he hung the teapot with water and hemlock needles. Soon the fire was roaring and the tea was bubbling. Emily read the book “How Chipmunk Got His Stripes,” by Joseph Bruchac and James Bruchac, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey. She used a squeaky voice for Chipmunk (or Brown Squirrel, as he starts out), and a gruff voice for Bear. The Nuthatches loved it so much that they asked her to read it again! After slunch we sipped some delicious hemlock tea with honey. 

Then it was time for some free play! The Nuthatches climbed on a balancing log and slid down a tree like a fire pole! They ran in the field like dragons! They made faces and gave great guffaws! And then we all came together for closing circle, where we sang the Birdie Song for Ian, gave gratitude for him, and did some air hugs. We closed out our circle by doing the sneaky clap, which Ian taught us and is always a hit. Thanks Ian for being with us this winter! We’ll see you aroung 4-H acres on Thursdays. 

Nuthatch families, thanks for reading! We’ll see you in the spring!

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 Nuthatches, Tuesday & Thursday: Black Bears Waking Up to Sweet Treats

Week 8 Nuthatches, Tuesday & Thursday: Black Bears Waking Up to Sweet Treats

Did you feel spring approaching this week? The Nuthatches sure did!

This week we learned about black bears, who like to eat many things including berries and honey. 

During morning circle on Tuesday, we passed around a plaster cast of a bear track, noticing the five “fingers” and the deep claw marks. Ian described how bears hibernate in the winter, get a slow start in the spring, are very active in the summer, and slow down and eat a lot in the fall. On our way out to camp, we tried being like bears in the different seasons.
Once the Nuthatches got to camp, we turned our attention to Ian as he told us all about the life of bees. It turns out that bears can muscle their way into hives, but they often get stung on their noses and eyes. After playing in the quinzhees (a kind of snow shelter used by many people in snowy climates), we went on a scavenger hunt to find some comb honey that Ian had brought us, and we enjoyed chewing it around the fire at the end of the day. It was sweet and golden and oh so delicious!

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On Thursday, the Nuthatches learned a song about trees and sap, which is flowing more and more with each sunny day. We played on the quinzhees out at camp, and then trekked over to Hearth Camp where the homeschoolers were boiling sap! Sean and Wren (the homeschool instructors) welcomed us to their camp and we listened as the homeschoolers described the set up: a long oven of cinder blocks over a roaring fire, with a chimney to draw the air up and out, and pans of sap set on top. At times we were engulfed in clouds of steam! What a fascinating process.
At lunch, Emily read a picture book about porcupines getting ready for winter! Then we packed up and headed out of camp early, because a special visitor was waiting for us at the picnic tables. It was Elisabeth! She had brought the Nuthatches some mysterious objects that we had to use our five senses to figure out. They were brown and circular, and smelled kind of good. We decided that they weren’t bear scat even though they kind of looked like it. When we tasted them, we knew for sure—they were delicious cookies! We closed out our week by munching on cookies, catching up with Elisabeth, and sharing gratitude.

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