Winter is coming to close and spring is just around the corner! The fluctuating temperatures and taste of spring in the air left everyone with extra energy this week. Both flocks raced around their camps and enjoyed being extra active.


Something big and fascinating was waiting for us in the circle on Monday morning. Pressed into a yellowing piece of plaster was a giant footprint of our mystery animal. It was much bigger than the Chickadees’ own hands, and included a big pad, five fingers, and some small holes at the very top of the track from the animal’s long claws.

This animal likes to eat berries and also sleeps during the winter. Peter taught us how to transform into this animal, growing those long claws and lumbering across the field to our backpacks. It was time to head to camp!

When we got to the bridge above Trillium Camp, we took a moment to observe how our space had changed since we last were here. Water rushed through the creek, spilling over the banks where we had stood on dry land in the fall. The sound of it gurgling quickly past filled the forest. The warmer temperatures, melting snow, and rain had nearly turned our creek into a river.

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There was something else we needed to check up on when we got to camp: our sap bucket! Had any sap dripped out of the tree over the weekend? 

As we lifted the lid and peeked in, there was no sap to be found! The hole we had drilled must not have been the best place on the tree. We needed to move our bucket. While Eli worked on moving the hole to the sunnier, untapped side of the tree, the Chickadees jumped on the horsey log and went for an adventure in their rocket ship. They raced and bounced around asteroids, then landed on the nearest planet to refill their ship’s batteries. Everyone hopped back on and blasted off to explore another part of the solar system.

With sap dripping from the maple tree from the new tap and our space exploration resolved, it was time to sit down for slunch. Nora told us a story about when Willa the Winter Fairy had witnessed a momma bear give birth during hibernation, and watched the little bear cubs open their eyes for the very first time. The tiny black bears revealed to us what our mystery animal is for the week: black bears!

After slunch it was time for some free play next to the rushing creek, peering over the bridge and using a big vine fishing pole to wrangle some big fish. The Chickadees laughed and screamed as they chased Nora and “Box Man” around the camp. 

At the end of the day, the sound of instruments drifted through the forest, echoing off the treetops. We sang songs and expressed our gratitude for the day, leaving full of energy and excitement for the rest of the week.

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As the Chickadees gathered in morning circle on Wednesday, Nora told us to close our eyes. She had a surprise that we couldn’t see, or hear, or touch, but instead had to solve the mystery with our noses! Since bears have such a great sense of smell, we were going to use our own sense of smell to guess what Nora had for us today. It smelled sweet and a little spicy… Cinnamon! The chickadees guessed it right away.

When we got down to camp, we found that we were going to need to use our bear noses once again. In the snow was a dusting of red-brown powder – a cinnamon trail leading into the forest. We followed it up the side of the creek until we found a big blue bucket in the snow. Inside the bucket was a bag of apples, but in order to get the apples, we had to open the lid first! 

The lid proved impossible to open, though every chickadee tried their hardest. Then Eli showed us a trick – you had to press down on the lid in order to open it. This was a bear canister, designed to keep the creatures out of your food! Once we’d successfully figured out how to open it, we headed back to camp.

During slunch, Sarah cut up the apples we’d found and gave them a dusting of cinnamon. Each chickadee enjoyed their sweet treat they’d collected from the woods while we listened to stories of close encounters with bears that the instructors had!

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After slunch, we set off on another adventure, this time up the other side of the creek towards Turkey Knoll and the Nuthatch’s camp. We wandered past the horsey log and the quinzhee huts in the open field, traveled through the horse barn, and even walked all the way past Red Squirrel Camp on the other side of the field. We found patches of ice to stand on and even saw some turkey tracks in the snow. We explored the bark on the trees and the way the snow piled over the logs. It was a big adventure!

By the time we got back to camp, we’d walked a long way during the day. However, the Chickadees were still as energetic as ever. The warm spring air fueled them as they raced around camp and helped sweep the pavilion. 

At the end of the day, we got to use our friends the Peace Superheros to solve a disagreement.

We couldn’t decide how to decorate the table in the pavilion, so Sarah brought out the peace stones. We used our finest words to express our feelings, thanks to Fine Words Fox, and found a compromise thanks to Unity Unicorn. 

This week was full of energy. The energy of the winds blew temperature changes and sun into our woods, and no amount of exploring the forest could quench that momentum. The Chickadees are excited for the changes spring brings!

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What animal is big and furry, lumbers when it walks, and likes to sleep through the winter? In our morning circle on Monday we discovered that black bears were our animal for the week! This is a great week to learn about bears as they start to wake up from their hibernation as spring comes this way. 

When we got down to camp, we found that Ian had transformed into a bear and was just coming out of hibernation! He had a bowl of treasures next to him, but since he was so sleepy he couldn’t see us as we tried to grab things from the bowl. We would need to be sneaky! We hid behind trees and carefully walked through the snow, trying to be as quiet as possible. Eventually, we managed to get all of the treasures! We realized that he had been hiding the Peace Stones for our camp in his bowl.

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The Nuthatches gathered in a circle to look at the Peace Stones and go over each Peace Superhero – Fine Words Fox, Peaceful Porcupine, Unity Unicorn, Feel Better Butterfly, and their helpful friend Shadowtail. Each Superhero has something to teach us about conflict resolution and how to be kind while we disagree. When a preschooler has a conflict, they can go to the Peace Log to ask for help from the Peace Superheroes and talk out the problem with each other. We needed to find a home in our new camp for our Peace Superheros to live, so we headed just north of camp to find a new Peace Log. It was a nice, comfy log that the Nuthatches can sit on to talk moving forward. 

With our Peace Superheros safe in their new home, it was time to sneak up on Ian the bear again. This time, we had to work together to take a bandana from his feet and make it back across the field, passing it to each person along the way. Our teamwork helped us succeed in taking treasures from the sleepy bear once again.

During slunch, we sat around the fire to hear Ariadne, also known as Nani, tell a beautiful story about bears. The Nuthatches also shared their own stories. With full bellies and feeling a bit warmer, we once again raced out into the field for more snow play and to crawl in the quinzhees before the weather gets too warm and they melt.

On Wednesday, songs echoed across the field as the Nuthatches sang My Roots Go Down. We even added verses for bears and our favorite animal, dragons.

My roots go down, down to the earth.

My roots go down, down to the earth.

My roots go down, down to the earth.

My roots go down.

I am a bear looking for some berries,

I am a bear looking for some berries,

I am a bear looking for some berries,

My roots go down.

After our song, Astrid asked us what we were excited about for spring? With the warmth in the air, it seems like spring can’t be too far away. The Nuthatches are all very excited for the rain, flowers, and for the snow to melt. 

When we got down to camp, we checked how much sap we’d collected from our trusty maple tree behind our shelter. There was a layer of frozen sap in the bottom of the bucket. We’d have to wait a while before we’d have enough sap to use!

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We went out into Turkey Knoll and played bear-den Capture the Flag. Great big bears were hiding bandana balls inside of their quinzhee dens, and the Nuthatches had to run across from their base to steal them. The bears were quick and able to tag a lot of us, but eventually we managed to get all the way back to the shelter. 

We played in the snow in the field and the melting quinzhee huts until slunch time. We sat down around a beautiful fire and enjoyed our snacks with a lot fewer layers on then normal! After we were finished eating, Nani read us a lovely story that reminded us to listen, pay attention, and be mindful of the natural world around us. We stopped and listened to the sounds in the forest, and looked around at our environment. We practiced breathing and enjoying the calmness of the natural world. 

Then we ran back out into the field and finished the day with some free play, racing through the snow and crawling through the tunnels in the quinzhee huts. 

This week was full of changes and surprises in the weather every day. The lack of chill in the air promises some warmer days ahead, and the Nuthatches are excited to explore their natural world as it does.

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.