Week 1 Chickadees: Hello Spring!

Week 1 Chickadees: Hello Spring!

This week we welcomed spring, warmer weather and new and returning Chickadees! 

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The Chickadees were greeted by a warm and blue-skied morning on their first day of the spring session! During arrival, they ran in the front field, found deer scat here and there and noted how they were wearing fewer layers, all while finding the muddiest puddles to play in. They gathered in the log circle and welcomed a new chickadee to their flock and sang the “Welcome Song” to learn everyone’s names.

Welcome everybody, we’re so glad to see you 

Welcome everybody, we’re so thankful for you 

After singing the part above once, the Chickadees replaced the word “everybody” with each child’s name. They made music by clapping their hands, stomping their feet and tapping sticks against the log while waiting for it to be their turn to add their name into the song. Afterwards it was time to get their backpacks on and wait at the top of the trail leading to Trillium Camp. Let’s count to see how many Chickadees we have today! They counted together “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…10!”

The flock flew down the path and stopped at the trail cam, anxious to see what it had captured over the weekend. We scrolled through the photos but didn’t see any new ones of the groundhog or other animals that may have walked by. We’ll have to check again next time! The Chickadees stopped at the top of the bridge and instead of being asked “what’s changed?,” which they had been asked all Fall and Winter, they were asked “what’s growing?” Some children noticed tiny tree buds while others spotted bright, green moss. They also noticed something peculiar “growing” on top of the woodbox.

The children walked down the bridge, hung up their backpacks and went to investigate the strange white paper that was laying on top of the woodbox. Sarah joined them and explained that this was the “Daily Check.” The Daily Check includes 6 categories — the date, the temperature, a rain gauge measurement, creek depth, what the sky looks like and sightings. Sarah explained that several children would be picked each day to complete different parts of the Daily Check, but for the first day they’d do it all together. In the temperature square, they colored in light blue to represent “cold.” Next, they had to find a place to put the rain gauge and settled on a flat spot behind the Peace Log. Let’s go check the creek! The children walked to the edge of the creek and watched as Sarah showed them the large rock they’d placed their measuring stick next to each day. The creek was at “yellow.” Then they needed to record what the sky looked like. They all looked up and yelled “blue!” Last but not least was “sightings” and the children decided to draw something bright green they had noticed while stopped at the top of the bridge earlier — moss!

It’s slunch time, it’s slunch time 

It’s time to eat our slunch 

It’s slunch time, it’s slunch time 

It’s time to munch and slunch! 

The children washed their hands and sat in the log circle with their food and water. In order to “unlock” the day’s story, the children had to do a “tick scan.” The instructors role-modeled looking overtop their clothes and feeling in their hair for ticks. Some of the children shared stories of times they had found ticks on them and the instructors explained that if ticks bite us they can sometimes make us sick, so it’s important to look for them. They did a great job unlocking the story and spent slunch listening about the time the Peace Superheroes (Fine Words Fox, Peaceful Porcupine, Feel Better Butterfly, Unity Unicorn and Shadowtail) found mysterious pieces of birch bark in their home in the forest, all with the letter “r” written on them. Together the Peace Superheroes learned from a helpful chickadee that the r’s stand for the special “three r’s of the forest” — Respect yourself, Respect each other and Respect the Earth.

After packing up their food and backpacks, the Chickadees split up into a wandering group and a creek-splashing group. They gathered together for the end of the day which was marked by singing “The Day is Done Song.”

The day is done, the day is done 

Thank you for the day 

Let’s pack our bags 

And give air hugs 

And say thanks for the day 

All the pots, pans and buckets were put away while some children used brooms to sweep the pavilion. When it was time for closing circle, they met in the log circle in Trillium Camp and learned a new song called “The Kindness and Respects Song” that talked about the “three r’s” from the story they heard at slunch.

We show kindness to ourselves 

We show kindness to each other 

We show kindness to the Earth here at school 

(Repeat twice) 

We show respect to ourselves 

We show respect to each other 

We show respect to the Earth here at school 

(Repeat twice) 

They each played instruments while singing along and put them away when it was time for gratitude. Each child was asked to share (if they wanted to) something from the day they were grateful for. After each person had the opportunity to share, the children yelled “spring!” The children were grateful for all kinds of things — playing in the creek, the sun, playing with family members and food. The Chickadees put on their backpacks and flew together from Trillium Camp to the front field to end a great beginning to the start of spring!


During arrival, the Chickadees had the options of playing Foxtail — a fun game where one person tucks a orange bandana in their pocket and runs around while the others try to grab it — and coloring a picture of chipmunks waking up from their long winter’s rest and decorating with animal track stamps. The Foxtail players ran into the log circle and called “All-In” to let the others know it was time for them to come to opening circle. The Chickadees flew to the circle, had a seat and sang “The Welcome Song” from the day before and welcomed back a Chickadee who had been with us in the Fall!

Down to camp they went after stopping at the trail cam (still no new photos) and at the top of the bridge (more green moss). They completed the Daily Check while others checked the sap bucket and saw that it was close to overflowing! The rest of the Chickadees played on the climbing hill, by the creek and on the horsey log.

Time for slunch! The children washed their hands, grabbed their backpacks and did a tick scan all before listening to Nora’s magical tale about Sylvia the Spring Fairy and her friend Jewelweed, who we’ll see growing by the creek soon!

The Chickadees enjoyed another warm day and spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the creek and making “magic potions” and “soup.”


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Wednesday sure was a rainy day! The Chickadees arrived in rain gear, ready to jump in every puddle they could find — which they did! There were puddles here and puddles there and mud, lots of mud. The children played in puddles and made mud balls while waiting for everyone to arrive. In opening circle, the Chickadees continued to practice learning everyone’s names but this time they also got to share their favorite animal! After each person said their name and favorite animal, the children moved like that animal. So if someone said “cheetah” then everyone ran fast like a cheetah. The Chickadees had fun doing this and the instructors enjoyed hearing what animals they like!

During Wednesday’s Daily Check, the Chickadees noticed that the creek was deeper — it had moved from yellow to blue! Even though it was raining, the rain gauge had very little water. They made predictions about how much water would be in the rain gauge the next day. The flock spent their rainy day listening to a story about Peaceful Porcupine and enjoying all the wonderful things that rainy days bring: mud, puddles and worms!


The sky cleared and the sun came out for a gorgeous and warm Thursday at Ithaca Forest Preschool! During arrival, the children met Barbara Ann, a Primitive Pursuits instructor who was spending the day with the Chickadees. She brought supplies to make face paint: charcoal and rock paint and willow branches for paintbrushes. Together Barbara Ann and the children painted their faces to look like different animals and also drew designs on their hands.

All-In to the log circle! In Opening Circle, Barbara Ann asked the children to share their names and move their bodies to show how they were feeling and to then move their bodies for how they wanted to feel. The Chickadees jumped, spun and stomped their feet — it was lots of fun! Once in Trillium Camp, the children did some more face painting, the Daily Check (we had 0.2 inches in the rain gauge!) and took a peek in the sap bucket (today it was empty!).When it was time for slunch and the flock was doing their tick scan, Barbara Ann found a small tick on her shirt! She walked around the circle to show the children what they’re looking for when we do tick scans. Afterwards the Chickadees played a game where they each had to think of an animal but keep it a secret. An instructor then said something about different kinds of animals (if your animal can swim, for example). If what was said was true about the animal they picked, then they took a sip of water. At the end, the children excitedly shared their animals: cheetahs, cats, kangaroos! 

After everyone had packed up, the Chickadees worked together to carry buckets over to the creek, which they filled with water and then carried over to the pavilion. On the count of three, the children poured the water over the pavilion and used brooms and brushes to help scrub away all of the dirt and mud — spring cleaning in Trillium Camp! The instructors are so thankful for all of the help — thank you Chickadees!


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Thank you for reading our first blog of the spring! See you back here next week!

Week 10 Chickadees, Tuesday: Migrating Geese!

Week 10 Chickadees, Tuesday: Migrating Geese!

Our last Tuesday of the winter session included an epic wander, a very silly story and lots of geese honking. The day was so busy that Sarah didn’t take any photos!


The Chickadees played in the front field on a cloudy Tuesday morning. While walking around, they noticed numerous piles of deer scat and ran from each pile they found shouting “scat!” The children contemplated if this scat was fresh or old and noticed that some of the piles were different colors. Was some of this scat buried underneath all of that snow we had? 

The flock wandered over to “Tamarack Island” and collected sticks that had fallen from the trees for firewood. They noticed that many of these sticks had tiny pinecones attached to them! There was so much to see on this tiny island and the Chickadees spent some time exploring here when they suddenly noticed a narrow path leading to a place they had never been to before. Let’s go check it out! 

They walked together down the path until it opened up to a small camp with a fire circle and a shelter. Many of the Chickadees believed this shelter was Sasquatches’ home! They even found some large footprints they were convinced belonged to the mysterious creature. The flock didn’t stop here long because just beyond the trees they could see an open field that looked fun to run in, and that’s exactly what they did!

After running through the field and finding some special sticks, the children noticed another trail — the Chickadees sure are an adventurous bunch! Together they explored the camp that the path led them to and even found a white pine tree with two, slightly separated trunks that the children could walk between. They took turns doing this and then found another special white pine tree that had low branches which they could hold on to. When Eli asked the flock if they’d like to come back here in the spring, they shouted YES!

It was time to head back to the front field where we left our backpacks but how should we get there? The children stood near the creek and contemplated how they could cross without getting wet. They pointed out some logs and rocks they could step on and proceeded to cross the creek. The Chickadees found so many cool things while they walked downstream — partially frozen sticks, pieces of ice, crunchy mud, puddles of water. After our creek wander, the Chickadees had to climb a tall hill to get back to the trail. They used their hands and sticks to make it to the top and some exclaimed “I did it!” when they reached the top.

The children grabbed their packs and flew down the trail to Trillium Camp like a flock of geese. They played in camp before slunch while Eli built a fire and Sarah helped some children change their socks and boots, which had gotten wet in the creek. When it was time to eat, the Chickadees gathered in the log circle and listened to one of Eli’s famous three word stories. To do this, Eli asked the flock for three words and he used those words to tell a story called “The Cookie Supreme.” While Sarah missed part of this story, she could hear lots of laughter coming from the log circle so it must have been pretty funny!

After singing “The Day is Done,” cleaning up camp and packing up their bags, it was time for Closing Circle. The flock sang some of their favorite songs from the fall and winter (“Jingle Bells” was one of them!) and then shared some gratitude for the day. After each person said what they were grateful for, the children “honked” like geese in agreement; this was really silly and something we’ll continue doing in the spring. We said goodbye to Trillium Camp and walked together back to the red oak tree — another special ending to a fun winter day!


Thank you so much for reading our posts this winter! We’ll see you in spring!

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 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!

Week 7 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Let’s Get Together Us Porcupines!

Week 7 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Let’s Get Together Us Porcupines!

Porcupines, the burnt potato chip tree and sap — what a fun and silly week we had with the Chickadee flock!


Let’s get together us porcupines 

Catbirds, hawks and fishers 

We’ll climb tall trees where we’ll wait and linger 

And sing to the Hemlock Grove

The Chickadees sang the second verse of the Hemlock Grove song together after identifying the mysterious track Hannah showed them — it belonged to a porcupine! The prickle (what a group of porcupines are called!) put on their backpacks and made their way to Trillium Camp. Once there, the Chickadees helped us name two different kinds of trees based on what their bark looks like. They named a tall tree with dark colored bark the burnt potato chip tree, also known as a black cherry tree. The Chickadees also named a very important tree that we’ll get to know over the next few weeks — the green- gray mountain tree, more commonly known as a sugar maple! After they identified these trees, Eli and Sarah called out their names and the children had to run to the tree. In doing this, the Chickadees realized we have a lot of burnt potato chip trees in our camp! 

At slunch, Sarah told the story of how Willa the Winter Fairy met Peaceful Porcupine and how he taught her balloon breaths (“Everybody fill your balloon!”). After everyone had filled their bellies with food and water, it was time to do some exploring. The Chickadees headed up to the Horsey Log where they pretended it was a rocket ship taking them to new planets. The group then walked down the path leading them to the top of the Climbing Hill. Along the way they noticed two big green-gray mountain trees! They walked down the hill to feel their bark and look up their tall trunks. Eli shared that during this time of year, when daytime temperatures are above freezing and nighttime temperatures are below, that sap runs from the roots of these trees all the way to the branches where their leaves will start to grow again. “Should we tap this tree and try to collect some sap?,” Sarah asked. “Yes!,” exclaimed the Chickadees.



The sun warmed the Chickadees’ faces as they gathered in Opening Circle on Thursday morning. Sarah had a mystery for them! This mystery fit inside a small box and used an important part of the animal we had been talking about this week — porcupine quill earrings! While traveling in Alaska in the summer of 2019, Sarah went to the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks. While she was there, Sarah signed up for a workshop led by an Alaskan Native who taught her how to make earrings using porcupine quills and moose hide. Sarah learned so much and was very appreciative that this special art was shared with her.

After singing the Hemlock Grove song again and putting on their bags, the children walked down to Trillium Camp. Along the way, they heard something…something that sounded like rushing water — the creek! The children noticed the creek had more water and guessed that it was because the snow was starting to melt. The Chickadees slid down the Climbing Hill on their bellies like otters and pulled each other around on sleds. When it was time for slunch, Hannah read a story called The Parrot and the Fig Tree by Michael Harman. The children had listened to part of this story on Tuesday during pick-up and were happy to hear the rest of it.

After slunch it was time to check the sap bucket! The Chickadees walked up the hill, past the Horsey Log and down towards the green-gray mountain tree. Nora helped the children take turns looking inside the bucket — no sap yet! The group will have to check again on Monday to see if any sap was collected over the weekend.



Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week!

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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.