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!

Week 6 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Wild Weasels!

Week 6 Chickadees, Tuesday & Thursday: Wild Weasels!

Ernie the Ermine, quickly-evolving porcupines and a hidden treat. Week 6 sure was a wild one for the Chickadees!


“This animal has five toes on both its front and hind feet. It’s a member of the weasel family and is related to otters and minks. It has a long body with short legs and dark brown fur. And it’s one of the few animals that eats porcupines.” The children listened as Sarah walked around the log circle on Tuesday morning showing them a picture of a five-toed track. Afterwards everyone transformed into this elusive animal and practiced walking on all fours through the thick, deep snow. Eli led the flock to the white pine tree where they pretended to climb it because this mysterious animal can also climb trees! The Chickadees enjoyed spending time as this animal but it was time to transform back into Chickadees and fly down to camp.

At the top of the bridge, the children called out what they noticed had changed since last week — there was more snow on the creek, more snow on the roof of the pavilion, more snow everywhere! The Chickadees used the plentiful snow to their advantage and opened up a bakery where they specialized in snow cakes, snow cupcakes, snow bread and even snow pizza!

The children adventured up the Climbing Hill and used slider sleds to slide down the hill. It was so much fun that even the instructors had to try it! The sleds made a smooth path down the hill and some Chickadees discovered that they didn’t even need a sled to move down the hill — they could slide on their bellies! They zoomed down the hill, just like some of the relatives of this week’s mystery animal!

 “It’s slunch time! It’s slunch time! It’s time to eat our slunch,” Hannah, Eli and Sarah sang. The children lined up to wash their hands, grabbed their packs and headed to the snow-covered log circle where blue pads waited for them to sit on and help keep them warm as they sat and ate their food. Sarah told a story about a special animal she saw over the weekend. She was getting ready to go snowshoeing in Monkey Run when she looked out her window and saw an animal with gray fur on its back, white fur on the sides of its face and pointed ears. It was difficult for her to tell what it was so she got out her binoculars and saw that it was a gray fox! And not just one gray fox, but two! Sarah watched them for about an hour and noticed that they kept disappearing into the side of a nearby hill. “Where do you think they were going?” she asked the Chickadees. Sarah has seen the gray foxes almost every day since and is hoping they stick around!

After slunch, the children transformed yet again into an animal that also climbs trees but has quills all over its back — porcupines! Hannah and Sarah pretended to be fishers, a kind of weasel with five toes and dark fur that likes to eat porcupines (sound familiar?). The children hid behind trees and practiced being quiet so the fishers wouldn’t find them. If they made a sound, the fishers could start chasing them but the porcupines could protect themselves by turning their backs and showing their quills. Eventually, the porcupines started chasing the fishers and they even evolved to “throw” their quills like arrows and eat the fishers! It was a silly and fun game that made everyone laugh!


The Hemlock Grove, the Hemlock Grove 

Where trees stay green all through the winter 

The swamp will freeze and we’ll find the fisher 

Climbing over fallen trees 

The Chickadees sang this song in Thursday morning’s opening circle to unlock the mystery that was hidden behind Sarah’s notebook. After singing “The Hemlock Grove” written by Felicity Holmes (a former Ithaca College intern), Sarah revealed a small animal with a long body, very short legs and white fur everywhere except for a tuft of dark brown fur on its tail. “Is it a baby bear?” asked one Chickadee. “Is it a mouse?” said another. This animal was actually an ermine, a small member of the weasel family! Hillary-Joy, the Homeschool instructor who shared her fox bone collection and fox hide with Ithaca Forest Preschool a few weeks ago, let the Chickadee flock borrow it. She said that the taxidermy ermine was named Ernie. The children each got a chance to feel Ernie’s soft fur, and they noticed that you could see its sharp teeth and whiskers. Hannah explained that, like fishers, ermines are carnivores and need sharp teeth to eat their prey. Thank you Hillary-Joy for sharing Ernie with us!

The Chickadees traveled down the path Eli had made earlier in the week using his snowshoes. They stopped at the top of the bridge, shared their observations about what had changed and were about to walk down the bridge when Nora revealed she had a surprise for them! “You will find it near something dead. You might feel leaves on your face. If there weren’t so much snow, you would be able to hear the creek from where it’s hidden.” The children rushed down the bridge and hung up their backpacks, eager to find this hidden surprise. Several children noticed the two trees that lay dead over the creek — one upstream and one downstream. They decided to check the fallen oak upstream with leaves still on some of its branches. They climbed over part of its trunk and saw something buried in the snow — a pot! Nora helped them carry it to a place where everyone could see what was inside. She pulled out green cups, a strainer and honey. What do you think the Chickadees are going to make?

If you guessed tea, you were right! The Chickadees separated into two groups. A small group stayed in Trillium Camp with Nora where they took turns pulling each other on the orange sled. One child even pulled Nora all by himself! They also did some climbing and sliding on the hill. The second group, with Hannah and Sarah, made their way to the front field in search of a special tree. “White pines have five needles that grow in a cluster,” Hannah explained. She held up a pine needle cluster and the children counted to five together. Sarah added that the white pine tree is a symbol of peace to the Haudenosaunee.

The Chickadees led the way to the large white pine tree that grows in the front field. Its branches were heavy from snow and Hannah gently shook them and the children watched as snow rained down on their heads. They had brought along two baskets and proceeded to fill them up with needles from the tree to flavor their tea.

White pine, oh white pine 

We love you 

We offer you thanks for all you do 

So please, please, please, grow 

Sarah shared that it’s nice to thank the plant you’re harvesting from. “This ‘thank you’ can look however you want it to look. You can say ‘thank you, tree.’ You can sing to the tree. You can do anything!” She taught them the song above that was taught to her by Melissa Blake. The children shared other things they wanted to say ‘thank you’ to — snow, the sun, and other trees! When their baskets were full of green white pine needles, they walked back to camp, excited to eat some slunch, have a fire and drink some warm tea. 

Nora and Hannah worked together to start a fire at slunch while the children sang fire songs to help them.  

The fire in the sun 

Makes the fire in the trees

Makes the fire that we light tonight 

(Repeat twice)

Fire, fire

Burning brightly 

Fill us with your light 

The fire in the sun 

Makes the fire in the trees

Makes the fire that we light tonight 

(Repeat twice)

When the fire was lit and starting to warm the white pine tea, Nora shared some stories about her cats, Mango and Tango, and about how one of them had brought a bat into her house!  

Soon the tea was ready and it was time to go home. The Chickadees gathered in the log circle, sipped on some tea and sang the “The Hemlock Grove” song again. Afterwards they were asked to put their hand on their heart, feel it beating and think of one thing from the day they were grateful for. Together they pulled that special thing out of their hearts and held it tightly in their hands. On the count of three, they released their gratitudes into the universe — “One, two, three…” 


Thank you for reading! We will miss the Chickadees this coming week and can’t wait until we are back in the forest together!

Week 5 Chickadees, Thursday: Swimming in Snow!

Week 5 Chickadees, Thursday: Swimming in Snow!

A big storm brought lots of snow to our area this week and even canceled prescool for three days! We were so happy to see the Chickadees again on Thursday for an execptionally epic day of tunnel-making, belly-sliding and exploration in the deep snow!

A deep blanket of snow greeted the Chickadee flock as they arrived at preschool on Thursday morning. After getting out of their cars, the children had to wade through thick snow towards the red oak tree to drop off their backpacks. Thankfully, Wren, Primitive Pursuits Program Director and Homeschool instructor, used their snowshoes to make paths for us — thank you, Wren!

When it was time for Opening Circle the children realized the log circle had disappeared! They worked together to brush away some of the snow to find the logs that were buried underneath. But there was something else missing! “Where’s Hannah?” asked some of the children. The Chickadees looked around but didn’t see Hannah anywhere. Hmmm, where could she be? Suddenly, a pile of snow that was sitting in the middle of the circle came to life — it was Hannah! The children screamed and laughed in surprise and Hannah said that Nora had taught her that foxes, wolves and huskies actually sleep in the snow! Even though snow is cold to the touch, it is a good insulator and traps heat. Sarah taught the group a fun song about snow falling down and covering the Earth in a warm, thick blanket. The lyrics and movements to the “Snow is Falling” by Melissa Blake are below. 

The snow is falling, falling, falling (Wiggle your hands like softly falling snowflakes and lower them to the ground)

The snow is falling down on the land (Repeat previous movement again)

A blanket is building, building, building (slowly start to stand upright from your crouched position)

A blanket to cover and keep Earth warm (stand up and cross arms around your body like you’re giving yourself a hug)

After Opening Circle, the Chickadees headed over to a giant snow pile that was left behind from the plow. During arrival, Hannah had started working on a tunnel and the children helped her finish it. They took turns crawling through the tunnel. Others pretended to be mountain climbers, climbing on snowy peaks and then sliding down on their bellies.

Before they knew it, it was slunch time! After washing their hands and grabbing their backpacks, they took a rest in the log circle and listened to Nora tell a Haudenosaunee story called “How the Rabbit Lost Their Tail.” During the story, the sun came out from behind a cloud and the children celebrated its warmth and the presence of a clear blue sky. 

The Chickadees spent the rest of their day playing in the snow and built a “snow chicken” with the help of Nuthatch instructor, Will. When asked what the snow chicken’s name was, a child said “Gerbert.” You can see a picture of Gerbert below with her eggs!


Thank you for reading! We’ll see you next week for more fun in the snow!

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.