Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hands, tall grass and tadpoles

The joy of watching the kids become good friends and chatting while hiking and exploring. We are such lucky teachers! We've had an amazing spring with real heat making all of the plants at Farrel McWhirter grow to amazing heights!  The grass is already over the kids's heads and they had such fun today walking through it.
 But we were headed to one of our furthest destinations today; the forest at Juel Park.  If you haven't seen the wonderful wetlands there, it is worth a saturday visit.  We told the kids to stay out of the water in order to look for tadpoles and to not disturb the animals living in the slow moving and shallow stream.  Pretty soon Conrad spotted a frog hiding under a log. Most of us peered under the log and saw it's hiding place.
We also watched a few tadpoles darting through the water, also hiding from our shadows.  We sang "One Little Speckled Frog" while we waited for them to show themselves. We ate a quick lunch on the side of the forest and then high-tailed it back to meet the parents by 1230pm.

What I noticed today:
Kids were very attached to their friends.
Some kids were very intent on pulling the wagon and very proud of their work.  (Clara, Sruthi)
Some kids got hot but no one complained that it was too far to walk.
Everyone was very busy and intent on what they wanted to see, look at and explore.
Everyone was careful to stay out of the stream and jumped across the water when they wanted to cross it.
Some people remembered going to Juel Park in the beginning of the year-others were amazed and said they had never seen it before.  (everyone had but September is a long time ago when you are little!)

Parents:  It is almost the end of the year!  What an incredible year it has been!  Roo and I have watched these kids become avid, eager explorers.  A wonder to behold!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Water Play Teaches Concepts of Volume!

 Today was a warm and sunny day.  A perfect day for water play!  The kids learned how to use the water faucet and how to turn it on and off. They carefully filled up buckets and spray bottles and then were ingenious on how to use them. Some kids "painted" the park bench with water and watched how the wood changed colors.  Others created a puddle in a hole in the grass and made potions and "poisons".  Many kids harmlessly sprayed each other and the teachers with spray on our waterproof boots and pants.  There were huge giggles and laughing along with very concentrated carrying of full buckets to their special destination.  The play went on for a whole hour before we interrupted them for snack and stories.  Everyone was engaged in the water play.  Everyone was a bit wet-but no more wet then a regular rainy day in the Northwest!  Pretty soon we were taking off layers and enjoying our stories about frogs and rabbits on the grass.

We expect Thursday to be hotter then today.  Please send your child in a t-shirt underneath whatever layers you choose so we can get down to the lowest layer easily.  Please DO send them in boots-but you do not need waterproof jackets or pants.  It just may be too hot!  ( I don't say that too often!)

Have I mentioned lately all that your children are learning at TOP?  Today we had a special lesson on nettles since they are prolific this time of year.  We learned how to identify them :  Heart shaped with sharks teeth on the outside .  We learned that you can use the underside of a sword fern that has spores to help get the sting out if you get nettles on your skin.  Or you can use the slime from a banana slug to anesthetize your skin.

We also learned about volume.  Filling containers up with water, watching it pour out, water the water go down in the spray bottle.  These actions all teach about volume.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Earth Day at TOP

The sun and the water and sticks.
We celebrated Earth Day at TOP by creating some "earth art" with coffee filters, markers and spray bottles.  Everyone was enthusiastic about the project.  Flora said "Earth!!  My mommy and daddy and grandma and grampa live there!"  We learned 2 songs about the world and will continue to sing them as our new circle time songs.

Reduce Reuse Recycle Song ( sung to the tune of Have you ever seen a lassie)

Reduce Reuse Recycle, recycle recycle
Reduce Reuse Recycle It's easy to do.
Cause your wold is my world, and my world is your world.
Reduce Reuse Recycle It's easy to do.

We've got the whole world, in our hands
We've got the whole world, in our hands
We've got the whole wild world, in our hands
We've got the whole world, in our hands
We've got the whole world, in our hands

We've got the little bitty babies, in our hands
We've got the little bitty babies, in our hands
We've got the little bitty babies, in our hands
We've got the whole world, in our hands

We've got the Outdoor Preschool, in our hands
We've got the Outdoor Preschool, in our hands
We've got the Outdoor Preschool, in our hands
We've got the whole world, in our hands

(then we make up our own verses!)

A new place to climb.
 Hiking on Tuesday was exciting.  Everyone was glad to be back from spring break.  There were lots of changes in the forest.  The water was high and rushing along.  We looked for the owls but didn't see them.  We saw lichen and moss and new fern fronds.  The kids found secret places to climb on top of and scampered up familiar climbing areas.  The sun was shining on the stream in places making it a cool place to  watch how the current changes with sticks.  The sun came out and pretty soon jackets and hats were off and everyone was happy to have lunch in the sunlight.

When the sun came out, we got to have a picnic!

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!