Saturday, March 29, 2014

Inspiration from Norway!

What path is this?

Teachers Roo and Ann had an amazing week with a continuing education seminar at UW.  There were 2 professors visiting from the University of Queen Maud in Trondheim Norway.  We had about 30 professors, preschool teachers and students come and visit TOP last week.  We got some great feedback about our program.  People were impressed with our kids and all that they get to experience with TOP.  They loved our circle time and how the kids use the forest as their playground.  It was reassuring to get this good feedback and now we are invited to come to Norway to see their program there!

So you can see what they do in Norway, here is a fun video of preschoolers in an outdoor preschool in Norway.

So, you ask: What did we learn at this seminar?

1. Risk taking is good for children.  It is important that children get the chance to try and sometimes fail at climbing, hiking, running, exploring.  This way they learn how far to push themselves and what their limits are without someone telling them.  They learn intrinsically in a way that is a much deeper learning.

2. In Norway babies are put outside to sleep, even in the extreme cold weather.  They believe that the fresh air is important for their health.  They put them in very warm sleeping bags and put them outside under a covering.(!!)

3. In Norway the preschools have cross country skis to use and sleds play with.  (Too bad we don't have more snow!)

Roo and I ended up inspired to let our kids do lots of exploring and climbing.  Of course we already do this!  But some of the things we are trying that are new:
  • The kids are making their own rules during circle time.  We vote on the new rule to see if we all agree whether it is a good rule or not.  They can also be revisited in the future if we need to. (Just so you know-the kids restated all of the rules we already have and voted they were all good ones.  The only one we changed was letting the kids hike with sticks.  We will revisit this rule if it doesn't work out.)

  • We are letting the kids have more autonomy in their choices and decisions of where they want to explore for the day or what they would like to do.

  • We are letting the children work out their differences more.  We will be intervening less to see if they can figure out what is going on with their friends.  More speaking to each other about what they are unhappy about or how that person made them feel and less coming to us and telling us what happened.  We will help to facilitate the discussions as needed but be stepping in less.

And to you parents: Thank you for letting us have your children each week and letting them have these amazing outdoor experiences with TOP

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Littlest Explorers!

Scrambling off trail.
The kids this week were so adventurous and ready to explore everywhere in the park.  Here we are after scrambling under and over branches and bushes to find this new spot for snack.  As I stumbled through the bush trying to keep up the kids kept saying "can we have snack here Teacher Ann?"  and  Flora said to  "This is so fun!"  They carefully balanced on this log to eat their snack and hear a story about Curious George and There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.

Exploring the new swampy area.
 There is a new swampy area at FM Park that we had lots of fun exploring this week.  There was good deep mud to squish in and get stuck in.  It is an area we haven't explored this year (isn't it great that we still have new areas to find!) plus since there has been so much rain the grass has turned to new streams and squashy-ness.
Getting through the mud by climbing on the log.

 And I can't end this blog without mentioning the physics lesson we worked on while swinging.  Conrad asked why the tire swing didn't stay as high as when I first pushed the swing.  We had a lively discussion about what that might be. We did an experiment-Conrad thought if I pushed the swing more than the usual 10 times-we might get the swing to stay high.  So I pushed 15 times and the swing again gradually slowed down.  Conrad thought and thought and then decided the tire "gets too heavy."  We didn't get into gravity-but that was pretty close!
A lesson in gravity.
If you plan on coming back to TOP in the fall of 2014-Sign up for fall is March 18th. There is no preferential registration for current TOP families.  The registration turns on at midnight (March 17th).  It may behoove you to sign up then-or at least first thing in the morning of March 18th.  We have a number of new families who are ready to join us in the fall!

There have been requests for the Water Cycle Song.
Here are the words and the link:

Clouds fill up and the rain falls down
Water fallin down to the ground
Big drops small drops all around
This we call precipitation

When the water hits the ground and runs off to the sea
Fill the water way past your knees
Sunshine comes and heats it up
And this we call evaporation

It is a perfect cycle
And it happens every single day and
its called the water cycle

When the mist rises up from the sea
It goes against the force of gravity
Lots of drops and Great big clouds
And this we call condensation

When the Clouds get heavy with all those drops
The cloud will fill till it pops
Clouds burst open and the rain falls down
This we call precipitation

It is a perfect cycle
And it happens every single day and
its called the water cycle

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


The Outdoor Preschool found out today what happens when there are big winds at Farrel McWhirter Park!  The TOP kids snuck up on a big tree that had been blown over this weekend.  Wow!  Luckily there weren't any winds today-just lots of rain!

TOP had its own Olympics today!  We learned about the 5 Olympic rings-some people colored their own rings and we also had our own mini Olympics.  The kids had to balance on a log, jump off a rock, run around a tree and find a spider web to name a few.  We had fun with our Olympic games as we hiked through the park.

Oh yeah!  We also found an animal skull and jawbones with teeth intact.  Teacher Ann will be trying to figure out what animal they might be from!  If you have any suggestions or knowledge it will be appreciated!  The teeth are really sharp and the jaw is quite big.  Opossum has been suggested.  Hmmm....

Owls Hooting in the Woods!

We heard the hoo hoo-ing of owls today.  As we walked through the forest we tried to find them.  We looked up high into the trees and hooted back at them hoping they would respond.

This website has what I think is close to the sound we heard.  Possibly a Great Horned Owl.  And here is what their hooting sounds like.

As we walked along the trail, stopping to play in new and old favorite places, we began to hear the sound of voices, children voices.  And there was the blue group-hidden among the downed trees and bushes.  We had to climb over and under trees to get to them.  The kids were excited to find each other and I could hear the talking about the owls hooting in the trees above.

There was some stump climbing,
 and mud stomping along the way also!
 Oh-and we got to have lunch in the sun!  Hooray for the sunshine!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day fun!

It's the day before Valentines Day and The Outdoor Preschool is ready!  We began by stamping and gluing and cutting to make special valentines for whomever-some for their mommies and some for "me!"  Then we sang a Valentine themed song: The Beatles "All You Need Is Love."  So if your little one is singing "Love, Love Love" -that is what they are singing about.  Next we voted on where to hike to.  It was almost unanimous to go explore the stream/trail over by Mackey Creek.

We headed over there with 10 very excited preschoolers.  When we got to our special stream trail we found that we could get through further then we usually could.  We all decided to plunge through the mud and brambles and see where it would go.  Teacher Roo said that we were like Lewis and Clark on a big adventure.  At the end of the trail we found hummocks of dead grass to play in.  (see the video above)  It was like walking or jumping on a trampoline and so soft to fall into!

After lunch we gave out valentines and then were treated to Menchie's Frozen Yogurt for free!  Menchie's is promoting their new location in Redmond near Whole Foods and gave us all free frozen yogurt to try!  Thanks Menchie's!  We all enjoyed the treat!
Attn TOP Parents:
Next week on February 18th begins the early registration for spring TOP.  Current families have 2 weeks before new people can sign up for spring.  If you want to register your child for next fall, 2014, registration will begin on March 18th.  You can register at midnight if you want to be sure to get a spot....

PSS: I just want to remind TOP parents that we have a 15% discount at Oakiwear.  You type in TOP to the discount section.  They make great waterproof pants and boots and other outdoor wear for kids.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bothy Bags to keep us warm.

Bothy bags are survival tents and last week we used one!  Teacher Roo brought her Bothy Bag to TOP thinking that we might want to warm up since the weather was in the low 20's.  After making our valentine bags inside our own little Farrel House, we marched outside to run around and have fun with the balls and wagon.  Soon it was time for circle time and Teacher Roo taught us all how to set up the Bothy and get inside it.  It seemed like a magic trick to get all of us into that small space.  We crowned in and put the sides of the Bothy under our bottoms.  Not everyone was keen on the idea of squeezing in there-but we all managed.  Pretty soon we were singing the Good Morning song and taking off our gloves and hats. The Bothy held in our natural warmth making it possible to tell stories and sing many songs in spite of the fact that the ground below us was frozen.

After coming out of the Bothy and getting everyone's gloves and hats situated again, we headed out together to find the frozen parts of the park.  There was ice to break and smash and slide over.  There was our favorite hill to slide down, logs to balance on and cool bubbled frozen bits next to the streams.
Everyone kept moving and no one complained about the cold!  We did eat lunch indoors-the first time in 2 years. These kids are hearty, dressed warmly and fun to be around!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bellis the Cow, Mud and Ice!

We were lucky to have a special time with Bellis the cow and Farmer Elise today.  Farmer Elise talked to us while she brushed Bellis and changed out her water.  Bellis seemed to enjoy being taken care of and we enjoyed watching her use her long tongue to lick the clean water.  Bellis is pregnant and due to give birth any day now.  One of these days we will arrive at Farrel McWhirter to meet a new calf!  How exciting!

There was ice on the mud and mole hills today.  The kids picked up ice crystals and some wanted to take their ice home.  I wonder how long it lasted in the car?
Some of the kids found the mud and tromped around in it.  Others wanted to climb on the "castle."  The castle is a big Douglas Fir stump with lots of climbing possibilities. 

The blue group today ended up on a very long hike around the perimeter of the park.  Don't be surprised if you little blue TOP kid is very tired today!

We ended the day eating in the mild sunshine.  Please know that we are doing our best to keep the TOP kids warm.  We kept on the move today with fun games like Red Light, Green Light, Blue Light and Yellow Light!  (You can ask your kids what we do when the other colors are called! ) We also learned to swing our arms around and did some jumping and dancing.  If the weather gets too cold on Thursday we have the option to eat lunch indoors.  If you have hand warmers I recommend you open them at home before you leave so they are starting to get warm when you arrive.  They can take an 1/2 hour to warm up.  Then they last for 4-8 hours afterwards!

Thank you for trusting your kids to TOP during this winter session!  We are still having lots of fun in the cold!