Week 5 Nuthatches, Tuesday/Thursday: Sun and Rain

Week 5 Nuthatches, Tuesday/Thursday: Sun and Rain

It really felt like spring this week! We enjoyed learning about robins, the perfect spring animal. Here’s to longer days and greener forests!

The Nuthatches explored the woods and creek as the leaves burst out and the worms wriggled. 

Note: many thanks again to Emily Rose for some beautiful photos!

On Tuesday, the Nuthatches learned a robin song and everyone helped to sing it at opening circle! Then we reviewed the 3 Respects to set us up for a smooth day. We even noticed a worm in the middle of our circle, and we tried to listen to it like robins do. It was a good test of our listening skills. Then it was time for a wander! Emily led us in a wiggly worm line that made loops and curves as we explored a new path.

On our wander, we came across giant skunk cabbage, a sparkling creek, and a big striped turkey feather! We also happened upon a few camps with some interesting structures. Finally we found a good spot to settle down for lunch. But first—camouflage! The Nuthatches found some great hiding spots. At lunch, we told some really silly knock-knock jokes and just couldn’t stop laughing! Some of the Nuthatches finished lunch early and practiced their climbing and building skills. Then we noticed that Nora had disappeared! But there was a call “All-In!” coming from the hemlocks! The Nuthatches followed it and found Nora hiding by some ramps. We spotted an owl pellet there too! We played one last game of camouflage to close out the day, and Jamie challenged us to hide in places other than behind the trees. The Nuthatches got creative and some of them almost turned invisible under the leaves!

On Thursday, there was rain all day, but that didn’t stop the Nuthatches from having fun! It was Nora’s last day at preschool, and while she went to get some materials, the Nuthatches huddled up for a secret meeting. They decided to make Nora a card to send her off–but they couldn’t tell her! When she came back, everyone was acting so normal she had no idea what was going on. Once they got to camp, Nora set up a throwing stick range, and the Nuthatches had some time to work on the card. They also got to enjoy the bouncy log! When they went up to the field to practice throwing sticks, everybody did a great job taking turns and listening to directions. We had some great throws! Whenever somebody knocked over one of the targets, or “guardians”, they unlocked something special. One of the things they unlocked was a visit from our old friend Cesca! It was great to see her. They also unlocked some silly dances, games, and sneaky claps. 

Before lunch, the Nuthatches noticed that Cesca had disappeared! They found her again by listening for her “All-In” call. Then everybody gathered for lunch, and Jamie told a spooky story about crickets. One of the homeschool groups was playing nearby and doing some strange things like meowing at us…and then they came and stole Cesca away! What an exciting morning. Before it was time to go, the Nuthatches gave their beautiful card to Nora and everybody posed for a photo. Then Jamie led us in a sneaky clap and we headed back to the front field. 

Thanks for being so wonderful to work with, Nuthatches and your families! Nora will miss you a lot and hopefully she’ll see you again around Ithaca!

Week 4 Nuthatches: Celebrating the Earth

Week 4 Nuthatches: Celebrating the Earth

The Nuthatches had to use fire to stay warm this week! Maybe Spring is feeling a little shy…

Even though it was chilly, we did see some wriggly worms. We learned a fun song called “Spaceworms” by Susan Marcus and April Kassirer. By the end of the week, the Nuthatches could sing this song super fast and it was stuck in everybody’s head. 

On Tuesday, Jamie led us in speaking more about the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ (Cayuga Nation), whose unceded territory our program takes place on. We thought about how instead of being forced off their land in 1779, it would have been better for the early American settlers to find a way to share the land with them. The Nuthatches thought of some ways that we can try to take care of the earth, like the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ have done for hundreds of years. 

When the Nuthatches got out to camp, they noticed that Jamie had disappeared! But there was an “All In!” call coming from behind a white pine tree. There was Jamie, and he said it was time to go on a wander! We crossed the creek and stopped at a fallen log, where we played a sneaky game called “Keeper of the Keys” and another sneaky game called “Camouflage”! While we were hiding, it was so silent that we could hear the birds chattering in the swamp nearby. Then we headed back to camp (by way of the mud puddles), where we gathered some firewood and sat down to lunch. Some of the Nuthatches entertained us with spectacularly spooky stories, and then Jamie read a book called “Whose Tracks Are These?” by James Nail. 

The Nuthatches started off the day on Thursday by working more on the shelter made of wood cookies, and looking at a tick. The tick was moving very slowly because it was cold, but it reminded us to keep looking out for ticks every day. In opening circle, we spoke about how today is Earth Day, and as we honor the Earth we can also look to the example the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ set in taking care of this land. Once at camp, the Nuthatches broke up into groups to make some art to show our gratitude for the Earth. We used many different natural materials, and our creativity and thoughtfullness really shone through! Then we gathered a lot of firewood for a lunch fire. Nora got in some good practice using a bow drill kit but we ultimately ended up lighting our fire with a match. Emily read the story “How Chipmunk got His Stripes” (a Nuthatch favorite) by Joseph Bruchac and James Bruchac. We love it when Emily does different voices for brown squirrel and bear! Before leaving we made sure to do a good tick scan! 

Week 3 Nuthatches, Tuesday/Thursday: Great Grouse and Growing Things

Week 3 Nuthatches, Tuesday/Thursday: Great Grouse and Growing Things

Did you know that the ruffed grouse puts out special bristles on its feet in the winter to help it maneuver over the snow? It’s just one of the special things about the bird of the week!

This week, the Nuthatches went in search of the ruffed grouse they’d been hearing all spring. They also played some fun running games!

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

On Tuesday, Nora Fox shared a special mystery object during opening circle. It was wrapped in a bandana and made a sound when you shook it. Some of the Nuthatches guessed acorns, marbles, and very tiny cats. It turned out to be peanuts that Nora had grown in a garden! When we opened the shells, the peanuts were salmon pink. Jamie used a special drum to mimic the sound the ruffed grouse makes when it flaps its wings. After circle, the Nuthatches set out for camp, but we didn’t stay there long. We had an exciting mission ahead of us: to track down the ruffed grouse, whose drumbeat wingflap we’d been hearing for a few weeks! We remembered it had come from the other end of the field. We practiced freezing and listening as hard as we could–and there it was! The boom, boom, boomboomboomboom that you can almost feel more than hear. The Nuthatches followed the sound into the sunny woods, letting it lead us to the creek. There we saw that the skunk cabbage had grown big green leaves! On the other side, we played camouflage and left some peanuts for the grouse to find. Then it was time to return to camp for slunch. Nora Murphy joined us for a fun game of “Seasons are Changing”. 

On Thursday, Nora Murphy joined us for the whole day! We started off by doing a bandana challenge, and playing our favorite game, Foxtail. When we got out to camp, Nora led us in a fun hydration game where we had to take a sip if the animal we were thinking of had fur, or feathers, or something else. Then we played “Seasons are Changing” and the All-In game, where we had to hide and find each other. The Nuthatches found some very tricky hiding spots! At slunch, we enjoyed a warm fire and had a discussion about the Haudenosaunee and Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ, the First Peoples of this land. Nora Murphy also told a wonderful version of the Ancient Greek myth about Narcissus. The Nuthatches were spellbound as they listened to how that arrogant man became a flower looking at his reflection in the pool. Finally, the Nuthatches made their way back to the building, where they sheltered at the picnic tables and made some pinecone birdfeeders! 

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. 

Office Location:
Cornell Cooperative Extension, 615 Willow Ave., Ithaca, NY 14850
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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.