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!

Office Location:
Cornell Cooperative Extension, 615 Willow Ave., Ithaca, NY 14850
607-272-2292 | email Us

Preschool Location:
4-H Acres, 418 Lower Creek Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850

Ithaca Forest Preschool is a nature immersion program for children ages 3-5. Our program is run in cooperation with Primitive Pursuits, a project of Cornell Cooperative Extension.