The birds chirped and flitted through the trees as the sun came out to warm the woods this week. There was a warmth to the breeze that blew in the promise of spring, melting the snow in our camps and giving life to the first few buds on the trees. In our second-to-last week of the Winter session of preschool, the flocks were bursting with energy and ready to explore far and wide.

Chickadees

Monday started a little below freezing with a new mystery to discover this week. Eli played a sound for us… it sounded like a great big slap on water. What kind of animal would sound like that? It was an animal that likes to eat bark, has a big, wide tail, and swims and lives in the water. It also is really instrumental in changing and engineering its environment, just like people do! Suddenly, we all turned into this animal and learned that they live in small little lodges in the water. When we woke up in our lodges in the morning, we stretched and dove straight into the water. We swam over to a stand of willows for a tasty breakfast. What curious creatures we’re learning about this week!

When we got down to camp we noticed that there was new ice on the creek. Even though it was going to be warmer this week, it was still chilly in the early morning. But Sarah had an important task to keep us warm. At the end of last week, our old log shelter had collapsed, leaving a pile of leaves and a few standing logs. Just like our animal for the week, we needed to deconstruct our shelter and build our own environment. We got to work taking down the logs and moving them close to the creek, where we would use them later. While some Chickadees helped move the logs, others got to work exploring Trillium Camp for the day with a little free play.

A timelapse of deconstructing our shelter. The panning camera is due to the melting snow – spring is certainly coming!

After all the work with the shelter, the flock was hungry and ready for slunch! At slunch, we learned that our mystery animal for the week is a beaver! They are such unique creatures, and are even active on 4H Acres down at an area we call the Beaver Pond, which the Nuthatches visited on Monday (read more below). 

With full bellies, the Chickadees had lots of energy for some free play time around camp. We ventured up to the horsey log for some fun rides, racing across the top of the hill, and sliding down our big hill in the back of camp. We also were visited by Boxman, our favorite silly monster who has a box-shaped head and likes to chase Chickadees!

The day was almost over, so Sarah called us in to help sweep off the pavilion and get out the instruments for a really fun closing song. With everyone gathered together in the circle, Nora introduced us to the Beaver Song and its accompanying dance moves.

Beaver one, beavers all, lets all do the beaver crawl.

Ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch.

Beaver two, beaver three, lets all climb the beaver tree.

Ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch.

Beaver four, beaver five, lets all do the beaver jive.

Ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch.

Beaver six, beaver seven, lets all fly to beaver heaven.

Ch ch ch, ch ch ch, ch ch ch.

Beaver eight, beaver nine, STOP! It’s beaver time.

Go beavers! Go beavers! Go beavers!

Ask your preschooler to show you the dance moves to the beaver song! Everyone loved this song so much that we sang it three times. 

Then Peter got out Gratitouille, our grateful grasshopper, and as we passed him around we each shared what we were grateful for about the day. It had been a really great day and we had so much to be thankful for.

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On Wednesday, we started out morning circle with the new favorite, the Beaver Song. Since we loved it so much, we did it multiple times at different speeds. It’s definitely a fun song to sing and dance to! Once we were finished with the song, we noticed that Sarah had something round hidden underneath her shirt. It was a beaver skull, whose teeth we had looked at on Tuesday. As we passed the skull around the circle, we got to examine the large eye sockets and the spaces where the teeth normally live inside the skull. What a cool way to get to know this animal!

It was time to grab our backpacks and head down to camp. Today was warm and sunny, and everyone was fully of energy and joy for the spring weather. When we got down to camp, we found a treasure map… little pieces of paper that were clues for a scavenger hunt! We hung up our backpacks and headed out of camp to find this mystery. 

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The clues led us all around, up past the horsey log to a big tree near Turkey Knoll, past the horse barn and across the field, then down to the creek. We were looking for something box shaped in the sunshine. Down by the creek, we found what looked like Boxman’s head! Underneath was a pinecone with our last clue – flames. We were going to have a fire today. But why would we need a fire on such a warm day? We had better head back to camp and find out.

We collected firewood along the way, and everyone helped carry a great big log that we will have to chop up for firewood.

When we got the log back to camp, we discovered Nora sitting next to a roaring fire. She had a special surprise for us. She said that when she had been making the fire, she found a bag of goodies in the firebox. There was some oil, a pan, a big silver bowl, some syrup, and a spatula.

The Chickadees guessed correctly – it was pancake batter! While Eli got to work cooking up some delicious banana pancakes, Nora told us that while we had been gone, she’d gotten a surprise visit. She’d been quietly tending the fire when she looked up and suddenly all of the Nuthatches appeared behind a tree! They had been very sneaky and had snuck right into camp with some firewood as a gift. We had plenty of wood to keep our fire going all afternoon.

As we sat down to slunch, Nora told stories of giants and huge stones that the giants threw to make bridges across the ocean. We watched Eli flip the pancakes as the fire crackled and gurgled. Sarah pulled down our sap bucket and to our delight we found that it was full of clear sap. She poured us each a glass, and we ate our pancakes and drank our sap in the warm sunshine.

When we were done eating, we enjoyed some free play by the creek and around camp. But soon it was time for the end of the day, and we gathered again in our circle around the fire to whisper our gratitude for the day to the trees and release our excitement for the coming spring into the golden air. Next week is our last week of Winter session, and it certainly felt like it in the woods this week!

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Nuthatches

Monday came with warm sunshine and a little bit of a chill to the air. We had a surprise waiting for us in morning circle – Nora had grown a tail! It was big, brown, and flat like a canoe paddle. Ian told us the story of Nora’s morning. We watched as she crawled out of her lodge, swam around in the water near her home, and gnawed on some tree bark. She showed us how she can slap her tail on the water when she feels threatened, and how she can swim fast around her home. The Nuthatches guessed it correctly – Nora was a beaver! 

There are beavers who have called 4H Acres home in the past, and they’ve left a lasting mark on the terrain here. Just like humans, beavers are engineers of their environment. The instructors told us something very exciting. Today, we were going to make the trip all the way out to the Beaver Pond! It is a long way past Ash Grove and White Pine camps, out past a frozen creek and into some thick trees. We would be spending all day out there. We went over how to stay together as a group on this long journey, and headed off into the woods.

Along the way to the Beaver Pond, we stopped and took in our surroundings. We played hide and seek, where each Nuthatch hid from view of someone who wasn’t allowed to move, and see how sneaky they could be. They found really great hiding spots behind big trees and logs in the forest. 

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Then we headed underneath a low-hanging tree limb and onto a frozen creek. We skated and slid farther into the forest, until we turned off of the creek and headed into a big clearing. This was a perfect place to make our camp for the day. As we gathered some firewood and started eating our slunch, we noticed that off to our right was a big clear space in the forest. There were a lot of tall, dead trees and cattails growing all around. We’d reached the edge of the Beaver Pond, where they had built a dam and flooded out this area, killing some of the trees that lived there. This pond made a perfect home for cattails and other marshy plants to grow. 

While we ate, Nora told us a wonderful story about a beaver and a bear who were friends. They had a lot of differences, including what they liked to eat, how they moved around their homes, their pronouns, and the members of their family. But inspite of all the differences, they were still great friends. Even Unity Unicorn recognized how great they were at celebrating their differences!

With full bellies, it was time to head out to explore the Beaver Pond. Ian walked us past logs with beaver-chew on them and up to the dam itself. He described how it had changed the environment in this part of the forest. We got to play in the cattails and climb on old tree roots. There was lots of open spaces to spin and run around. We had so much fun exploring this new area, looking for new tracks and objects in the snow, and learning about the dam and marsh. But soon it was time to head back, so we packed our bags and made our way back through the forest, across the frozen creek, underneath the low-hanging tree, and out into the front field for the end of our day. It was such a fun adventure to see new parts of the forest we hadn’t been before!

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On Wednesday during morning circle, we looked at two strange objects. They were hard and orange and white, and were curved into a half-moon shape. They were beaver teeth! Beaver teeth are very long so that as they chew on wood and trees, their teeth get filed down. They were very cool teeth and very different from our own!

It was time to head down to camp in the glorious sunshine and warm weather. With tons of energy thanks to the warmer weather, we slid down the big hill and crossed the creek. While we were there, we took a minute to pause. We closed our eyes and listened to the sound of the rushing creek, full and roaring thanks to the melting snow, and the sounds of the birds in the trees. Nora asked us to feel for the sun on our skin and turn towards where the sun was in the sky. Today definitely felt like spring was coming!

When we got to camp, we found out that we had a very special mission today. We were going to sneak up on the Chickadees! We were going to have to be very quiet and head down the hill into their camp. But we couldn’t show up empty handed, so we all headed into the brush to find some good firewood to bring them.

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After the flock collected armfuls of great wood for their fire, we saw the Chickadees heading up the hill and across Turkey Knoll. Now was our chance! We all quickly and quietly moved down the hill through the snow, stepping carefully to make as little noise as possible. When we got into camp, we all hid behind a tree until the other Nora from the Chickadee flock looked up and saw us. She was startled – we’d been so sneaky she didn’t hear us coming! She was in the process of making a fire for the Chickadees and was very grateful for our gift. Before the rest of the flock came back, we snuck back up the hill into our own camp. It was so fun to see their camp and hang out with Nora Murphy!

It was time to settle into slunch around our own fire and tell each other stories. We really enjoyed hearing what each Nuthatch had to say as we munched on our food in the warm sunshine. After we had finished our meal, we headed into the field to play our game where the dragons have to protect their eggs in their quinzhee hut den from the Nuthatches as they try to steal them. We raced across the field, outrunning the dragons to get all of the eggs back into our own den!

Then we each took turns sliding down the slippery side of the quinzhee hut. Astrid took snowball tickets to allow us to ride, and vividly narrated each slide. The flock did a great job of taking turns and celebrating each slide. 

At the end of this warm day, we expressed our gratitude for the forest and celebrated the beautiful weather.

As the Winter session of preschool comes to a close, we all can feel the signs of spring in the air, hear the birds sing, and see the forest come alive again after its winter slumber. As the snow begins to melt and the mud comes out, the flocks are excited to see what the new season holds.

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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 program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and is run by Primitive Pursuits, a 4-H Program.