Thursday, December 6, 2012

Happy Holidays from TOP!

This is the last week of TOP till after the holidays. I am always a bit sad as this means some of our friends are moving on and another season is gone. But what a season it has been! The kids have learned so much about their forest. They can lead you to their pumpkins or their favorite climbing and hiding spots. They hold branches aside for each other and help show the way for their friends. Some of the kids who were quite tentative in the beginning of class are now leaders. And others have grown by being able to figure out how to climb under or over logs without the help of an adult-and exactly where do you do it! I can see that their sense of balance has grown and certainly their confidence in their own physical prowess.

Of course, that is not all the kids are working on and learning. They have had to practice how to sit in a circle and listen and take turns while their friends speak. They've had to raise their hands for their turn and sometimes they have to wait to speak. These are basic kindergarten skills-just all practiced out of doors. They've learned to help each other wash hands, speak respectably to their teachers and each other and to be aware of their body in space. (ie. Be careful waiving a stick or shovel around.)

Something we worked on this week were ASL signs. These signs will be especially useful to help keep interuptions to a minimum during storytime and circle time. You can see the kids practicing their signs in the photos above. Penton is showing "water", Cooper J "I have to pee" and Lochland the sign for "sit." We intend to incorporate these ASL signs into our day at TOP, adding more signs as the year goes on.
On Tuesday the kids were inspired to roll a hilly part of the path. Their spontaneity was captivating enough that soon most of the class was rolling! A little while later we "bush wacked" ( a new word today) through the forest and we came upon a very swollen stream. Since the air was relatively warm and it wasn't too long till pick up time, we let the kids walk through water that came over their boots. Some even sat down in the water! It was very exciting to see and experience all of that water! We always take the learning opportunities when they arrive. "Why is the water so high today? What has been happening lately?"

Today was such fun! We spent the gathering time preparing our gifts for the parents and then practicing our singing. We learned how to use our loud singing voices and to use big gestures for our performance.

During our hiking time we visited the goats and pigs and chickens, had snack in the outdoor classroom, went over and checked out the squooshed yellow pumpkin then hiked back around the park. An early lunch, our performance and popcorn ended the day.

And most of all, Thank you for lending us your kids 2 times a week this fall. It was an amazing time and we'll never forget their faces of pride when they figured out how to climb, hike or wade through water.

See you on January 8th, Tuesday for the next session of TOP-Winter Fun!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Butters" the snake comes for a visit!

Today we continued with our “sensory” lessons. This led us to a guest visitor-a snake named "Butters!" Our substitute teacher, Teacher Rhonda, brought in her pet snake. Butters is a Yellow Corn Snake and very tame. Every child in class was brave enough to touch the snake and many even put it around their shoulders! The kids were asked if Butters felt the same or different –comparing the "feel" or "touch" of a snake to cats or dogs.
The kids also learned about snakes.

Teacher Rhonda asked the kids what "What does a snake eat?"

Here were their responses:

mouse, birds, butterflies, snake food, grass, butterflies,dirt, food, dirt and melons!

Then we found out from Teacher Rhonda what her pet snake Butter actually eats: mice that she keeps in the freezer! When the mouse is all defrosted her snake eats the whole mouse in one giant bite!!!

Soon it was time to head down the trail and hike over to the Secret Grove for snack and stories. We read a “Sensory” Book about touch. Soft, hard, rough, smooth-lots of good words and descriptions for the sense of "touch".

After snack the kids decided to go hunt for ythe ellow group’s pumpkin. The kids used their maps in their heads to find the pumpkin and climbed off the trail to see it –there it was. Right where they had left it almost a month ago. It was really squishy and black. The kids were proud of themselves that they could find both of the pumpkins, even though they were well hidden!

After lunch some of the kids played in the field while others took the time to get to know butters a little bit more.

Thanks for bringing him to visit us Teacher Rhonda!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Freeze!" the game-not the weather!

We had fun with a visitor at TOP on Tuesday.  Teacher Ann was sick on Tuesday so we had a visit from Teacher Tami and all the kids did a fabulous job showing Teacher Tami all the TOP rules.  


We started out playing the "Freeze" game.  We all start out near each other and someone takes a turn yelling "Go" and then we run and dance around until the same person yells, "Freeze!"   Then it's time for everyone to hold really still.  A lot of kids like to freeze in silly poses.  By the time everyone had a turn to yell out commands we toasty warm and ready to sit down for circle time.  During circle time we continued to talk about our 5 senses and how we would use our senses on our walk in the woods.


We went on a long walk and found a great spot to have snack and play for awhile and then we set out to finish our hike and head back for lunch.  We were about to head out when we realized that Jayden's mitten was missing so we decided to head back the way we came and use our sense of sight to hunt for the missing mitten.  Unfortunately, we did not find the missing mitten. :(   It wasn't quite lunch time and several kids wanted to go check the pumpkins since we hadn't done so recently.  We only had time to visit one pumpkin and the "blue group" pumpkin was closest so off we went.  Many kids were fascinated to see how much our pumpkin had changed.  It really is starting to decompose and looked very slimy.  


Before we knew it, it was time to head back for lunch in the sun.  Many kids were quite warm after our fast paced hike and stripped of some layers while sitting in the warm sun.  After lunch we had time for a very quick turn on the swings and then it was time to head back to see moms and dads.


Thank you all for dressing your children in lots of layers and sending hats and gloves.  Please remember to put names or initials on all coats, hats and mittens.  Many of the black gloves all look the same when they are stuffed into our backpacks and fingers start to get cold.  Feel free to send your kiddos with hand warmers in their pockets on the really chilly mornings.  Sometimes they don't want to wear their gloves, but are happy to carry handwarmers while we hike.  (Teacher Ann and I always have some in our pockets for sharing, too).


Teacher Ann will be out again tomorrow, but a new friend Teacher Rhonda will be at TOP.


Don't forget the last day of this session is next Thursday.  All parents (grandparents...) are invited to come at 12:15 for a snack and to watch the kids perform 2 songs.  Bring your cameras, we've been practicing smiling for you!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Can you make sense of the 5 senses?


Since it was a clear, cold and sunny day, we headed out to the otherside of the park-in search of leaves to rake and a picnic in the meadow. Those rakes were heavy and the wheelbarrow awkward, but the kids worked together and cooperated to help push it all the way! Some kids had fun throwing leaves and Jake even made a leaf hat!
Can you play horsie with us?
The Meadow was lacking in leaves but the kids weren't lacking in imagination. The rakes became horses to ride or a way to make patterns on the grass. For snack time we were deep in the woods-climbing and exploring around ferns and over and under logs.

Our books continue to be about the senses. What do you hear? The waterfalling over rocks in the stream? A crow? What does the forest smell like? We'll continue with our senses until winter break.

Monday, November 12, 2012

TOP is tops!

It was a busy day at TOP. The kids began the day by playing a field game of brooms and balls. A game some of them picked up quickly and others weren't interested in. Since it was sunny out (yeah!) we also got out the chalk and the kids gradually shifted over to drawing on the pavement. We put all of the lunches into the wagon and chose to have lunch out in the back meadow.
Since we are talking about the senses, we have been spending time seeing, hearing, smelling and touching.
We have a new song we are learning about the senses. (Its a new song to me too-since my husband and I just finished it!)
You can see if the kids know some of it at home. We will be practicing it every day for the next week.

Sense 5 Senses

Can you make sense of the 5 Senses?
It’s easy as your ABCs
Can you make sense of the 5 Senses?
Just sing along with me.

1- I SEE you with my eyes (1 finger points to your eyes)

2- I can SMELL the air outside (Peace sign in an arch from nose)

3- I HEAR the words we sing (3 fingers point to ears)

4- I TASTE most everything (4 fingers point to stuck out tongue)

5- I bend and TOUCH the ground) (High 5 the ground)

The 5 senses help me get around……(turn around)
Can you make sense of the 5 Senses?
It’s easy as your ABCs
Can you make sense of the 5 Senses?
Just sing along with me.

(repeat hand gestures)

1- See

2- Smell

3- Hear

4- Taste

5- Touch (clap)

The 5 senses help me get around……(turn around)
c 2012 Tiny Treks

On our hikes the yellow group went the back way, around the parking lot, that they had explored on Tuesday. We found a big hole under a tree that according to the kids had "eyes" in it. I didn't get to see the "eyes" but I believe the kids may have seen an animal in there. Mountain Beaver perhaps? Raccoon? I'm not sure but I know that kids have great eyes...and imaginations, so who knows?
When we got to the designated meeting place for lunch, we "saw" the wagon but no kids. So we went exploring by the stream instead. The carpet of Big Leaf Maple leaves in there was resplendent! The kids tried floating 1 leaf at a time down the stream and watching where it went.

Blue group went "off trail" exploring and ended up in unfamiliar territory. They had to use their ears and eyes to choose the right trail back to our lunch spot. They were successful! Lunch in the sun under the maple tree was yummy!

Thanks for packing such healthy lunches for your active child. The kids need your good lunches after their physical excursions at the farm.

This is a quick reminder that we DO NOT have preschool the week of Thanksgiving. That way-anyone who needs to travel for the holiday doesn't miss school. After that we have 2 more weeks of preschool before the winter holiday. Wow! This fall session is going so fast! Sign ups for next session will begin the week of Thanksgiving. That way you can have 2 weeks before TOP registration is open to the public. You will always have that extra time to get your child registered for the next TOP session. I will let you know the exact date soon. You will need to call the front desk at Redmond Parks and Recreation to register.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The 5 senses on a farm.

We went to a favorite climbing spot from years past that had been covered in nettles till the cooler weather took off.  It was amazing climbing!
There was so much to "sense" at Farrel McWhirter today.  The TOP kids are beginning a section on the senses.  Starting with a focus on the sense of smell,  we asked the kids: What do you smell?  The kids answers were: leaves, pancakes, the cat.  (Un)fortunately for us, Farrell McWhirter is a very clean farm and the farm smells aren't too pronounced so we had to go in search of smells that were more subtle. 

To augment the senses class, we began the day with the fine motor skill of putting cheerios on plastic string for a cheerio necklace.  This was the sense of taste as kids were putting one on the necklace and one in their mouths! Tasting! During circle time we talked about all of the senses and how we use them. 

The leaves were captivating. So fun to squish and crackle in.
On their hike, the blue group listened closely to see if they could hear the yellow group in another part of the park.  They passed by their pumpkin to say hello while they hiked the perimeter trail around much of the park.  They ended up in the prolific leaves in the back meadow which made great crunching and crackling sounds in spite of their wetness.

The kids found a pile of gravel and just had to march up and down it!  There was no shoving or being rough.  Just concentration.
The yellow group took a hike into a different part of the woods-where we had never been!  We passed a pile of gravel which just had to be climbed, shook leaves off of trees trying to catch them and ended up climbing on huge logs up and down.  Everyone was very brave and practiced their balancing and climbing skills. 

Back at lunch we shared with each other where we hiked and out experiences.  Angus told everyone how the blue's pumpkin was getting really yucky.  We were able to eat lunch under the open sky again! Yippee!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Maps in our heads...

Yellow Group re-finding their pumpkin.
Maps are for finding your way. We have maps in our heads.  The kids laughed and laughed with this.  "Maps in our heads!"  Well we have to know how to get places.  How will we find the pumpkins we hid on Tuesday?  Will we follow a map? Or will we remember the way?
So we looked at maps I brought from home and a map of Farrel McWhirter.  Then we made our own maps with pictures and drawings.  When we started off toward the Yellow Group's pumpkin we had to have a vote on the right way to go.  Which was the way?  We had 4 out of the 5 kids vote on the direction that would get us there the fastest.  (We could have gone the other way but we would have had to walk around the entire park to get to the pumpkin...) The Yellow Group led the way directly to our well-hid pumpkin.  Up a trail, through the outdoor classroom space, down a log, through the ferns and around a big stump.  And there it was!
The pumpkin is getting black inside.

 Then it was time for a book on a mouse who goes exploring, gets a bit lost and then finds his way home and back to the fields again.  A mouse on an exploration-just like our kids.  An it gave the concept of safety on a exploration.  How to not get lost!
What a fun story about a field mouse.

Now we were going to be guided by the blue group.  Did they know the way to their pumpkin.
Pretty soon we were climbing under a fence, over 2 logs (they had had to remember these instructions from Tuesday.)  Everyone had to learn some patience as the kids took turns leading the hike.  The fast kids have to learn to wait for the slower ones and the slower ones to keep up!  There is so much to learn on a hike with a group.  How to watch out for your group.  How to listen to directions and instructions.  And these are not arbitrary instructions,  they matter or you may fall into the stream or go the wrong way!

Go under the fence and over 2 logs to find the blue group's pumpkin.

At the end of the day we split up back into our color groups to hike back.  Both groups trail blazed and ended up back under a big leaf maple tree to play with the fall leaves. Next week-more work on maps, more time with the animals and still working on hiking rules.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Playing hide the pumpkin...

Teacher Ann got out a few handfuls of hay to feed the goats with.  Everyone was careful of their fingers.

The yellow group fed the goats and got to know the animals better.

Today was the day we promised to hide the pumpkins we carved last Thursday.  Each group took a pumpkin and began to walk into the woods.  The yellow group got a little distracted by a bleating goat and ended up feeding the goats some hay and listening to Sunny the Pig snort away.  Soon it was snack and story time. We read fun pumpkin books in the outdoor education area then explored the woods all around.  Pretty soon a spot was found for the yellow group's pumpkin.

The blue group hiked until they chose a perfect place.  Then hiked back out of the woods, popping out onto a different trail!  They came back and told the yellow group that there were two trails to get to their pumpkin!

On Thursday we will let the kids take each other to their pumpkins.  It will be fun to see who remembers where they hid their pumpkin. 

Friday, October 26, 2012


The kids were greeted Thursday with 2 orange pumpkins, ready for the carving to begin!  First we had the kids sketch out faces and then we began to cut.  The kids got to help with the carving by using special pumpkin carving utensils.  Many of the kids were engaged drawing, planning or carving the pumpkins.  We talked about the seeds and the pumpkin guts and during circle time we each got to hold a seed and then acted out the pumpkin growing big and strong.  We also started learning the words to The 5 little pumpkins poem.

After circle time,  the blue group was off and running into the woods.  They started through the meadow and then climbed through a big tree-taking turns, one at a time.  Snack and story time included a book about pumpkins and Halloween.

The yellow group hiked "off trail", through the forest, under and over trees until they popped back out into the meadow in time for some swinging on the tire swing in the sun. Hooray for bits of sun! 

The children are still working on safety and listening to the teachers' directions. When the kids get more able to know the boundaries of behaviors and safety they will get more freedom.  But all in all they are beginning to gel as a group.  I heard many of the kids talking and laughing together in the swing and discussing which way to go in the woods.  We had some leaders on the trails and some hangers back. Next week we will be hiding our pumpkins in the woods  and then throughout the year we will watch them as they decompose back into the ground.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I was at home this morning working on getting our ABC's curriculum up and running.  We've already done A for Apple and next was going to be B for Banana Slug.  But then I remembered the salmon were spotted in Bear Creek and we just had to go visit them!  So-not sure how Salmon fits into the ABC's but we sure learned a lot today about Salmon!

Everyone arrived today in their layers of clothes, along with hats and gloves.  As a teacher, I dressed not warmly enough for my class yesterday-so today I had on a turtleneck shirt, fleece, warm jacket and waterproof coat.  I didn't forget my hat or gloves, waterproof pants and fleece pants and waterproof boots. In the Northwest we are all about the right clothing!  But I know that it worked for me today.  I wasn't cold for a minute!  And I could take off a layer if I needed to.  Better warm and dry than not!

That said, we had some fun gathering today and playing with another set of cool blocks that Teacher Jen brought in.  Magnetic blocks.  We put the buzz in the kids' ears that magnets have two sides, positive and negative and need the opposite in order to stick together.  We believe that learning can take place anywhere and anytime and non-invasive learning is the easiest.  I'm not sure if anyone was listening today about plus and minus poles for magnets.  But my guess is that they will eventually hear it.

Circle time was all about salmon.  Some of the kids raised their hands and told us a little about their experiences at the salmon hatchery.  Some had seen the salmon in the stream nearby.  As we talked about the life cycle of the salmon, (ask your child about "it happens over and over and over again" and they may make a motion with their hands...) we learned how the female salmon lay their eggs in the gravel at the bottom of the stream and the male fertilize the eggs. Then both of the parents die and fertilize the forest.  We had fun acting out the life cycle by beginning as eggs, hatching as fry and growing in to smolt before we swam out to the ocean.  When we swam back up the rivers and streams to find our birth place in order to lay eggs, we followed our sense of smell.  The kids loved being salmon and "swimming" around. 

Then on to our long hike to Juel Park to see the salmon.  The kids were fast going there and very eager to see the fish.  On our way there we stopped for snack and a story called "Salmon Forest."  When we got to Juel we did indeed find about 5 salmon in the stream.  Bright red and beautiful.

 The hike back took a bit longer-but everyone persevered.  There weren't any tears just some tired kids.  It was exciting to see the special fish in our very own waters.  I hope you are hearing about the salmon at home too.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"You can't see me because I'm a tree!"

 Thursday was a chilly sunny day in the northwest. As the kids were gathering they searched out their friends and came up with games to play.  Anton and Jayden were intent on building a high tower-together. Jake, Tommy and friends were playing hide and seek. (Jake hid as a "Tree".  "You can't see me because I am a tree.") And others were playing tag in the crunchy leaves.  As the time progressed, the groups would morph-a child would decide they were done with blocks and wander out into the tag game or hide and seek.  I was pleased to watch the children welcome the new participants into their games.

A spontaneous game of tag.
Oh-did I mention that each child also got to pick an apple from the apple tree and munch on it?  The apples are finally ripe and sweet and the kids loved choosing an apple to grab with the long apple picker.
Soon it was time to become a group and sit quietly.  Each TOP class day has a circle time. After all of the children help to clean up whatever manipulatives we have used that day; blocks, balls, rakes, shovels or pails, Teacher Jen and I sing the circle song.  As the group becomes a circle you can watch them quiet down their bodies and minds.  Circle time is an important learning tool for our kids.  They have had some good running around and now it is time to sit quietly, raise their hands to add to the conversation and quiet their hands and feet.  This is a harder accomplishment for some children then others-but as we practice it each day at TOP, they get better at following the directions we lay out for them.  Some people might say that this is restrictive and can't they sit there with a stick in hand or tearing at grass?  But we feel it is important to learn how to sit-even for a few minutes.

Thursday, we thought that the kids were ready for a name game during circle time.  We played a favorite of ours-Who stole the apple from the apple tree?  With this game there is a call and response that every child can help with and every child gets a turn.  As your child gets picked by another child there can be shyness or reluctance or too quiet of a voice to be heard.  As teachers we encourage the child to speak out but we know that not every child is comfortable yet.  We will be helping those kids who get stage fright and those who speak too softly to be heard.   We were able to help the kids with names-but we were also happily surprised at how many kids knew some of their new friend's names.  We also sang a spider song-referring to our last class on spiders.

Since it wasn't wet and there are lots of fall leaves we headed out to the meadow to rake leaves and play in the sun.  The blue group pulled the wagon first and the yellow group pulled it on the way back.  Our shovels and rakes were in the wagon and at times it seemed quite heavy to pull.  But with our friend's help we made it both ways and back in time to celebrate Jake's 5th birthday.  Happy Birthday Jake!

We are so enjoying the nice fall weather-thank you for sending your children dressed appropriately for the weather.  This coming week is supposed to be in the 40's in the morning.  Brrr! But we'll be ready for it with our hats and gloves and mittens.

You can send your child's hats and mittens along if they won't wear them in the morning.  Just please make sure to label them.  We will put out the clothing that has been taken off during the class on the counter or table next to the sign out sheet.  Please check this pile each day to make sure you get your child's clothing back.  If you can't find something-it may be in one of the teacher's backpacks.  Although usually we put the discarded hats and gloves into your child's hood so they carry it around with them.

Your child will need waterproof gloves.  You can send them to class in knitted gloves or mittens and send another pair along in their lunch.  Their hands usually get wet during the class-this way they will have a dry pair for later. Knitted gloves will work for a bit longer-then they will need the waterproof variety.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Itsy Bitsy Spider!

A fun way to make spider webs pop is to spray them with water.  So-since it is spider season (lots of spiders in the woods) we went on a spider hunt.  Spider webs were hidden in stumps and on bushes. A big ENORMOUS spider watched us from the rafters of the picnic shelter while we read all about spiders.  Ask your child how many legs a spider has and he will make a spider with his fingers and no thumbs-yes eight is the correct answer!  And bugs only have 6.  An easy way to tell the difference.

There were some new puddles for us to splash in and everyone had on waterproof pants and their Bogg boots so we were ready for the rain!

Teacher Jen brought in some cool building blocks.  Many of the kids were spending time building together.  I overheard them asking if they could borrow a certain color or size of block.  The blocks come with cards to follow-so some of the kids were following directions while building.
Cooperation, sharing, turn taking, refining fine motor skills & following directions all disguised as play!

 On our hikes today the yellow group played pretend games in the holes of the trees.  Some were squirrels, flying squirrels, moles and a few were storm troopers.  We had climbers and we all had a long hike.
The blue group used their ears to follow he sounds of the yellow group until they found them. This reminded the kids of the book we read at snack time:  The Listening Walk.  We will be working on the kids senses throughout the year-so don't be surprised if your child makes you stop and listen closely to a sound they hear!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stop, Drop and Roll!

This week is Fire Prevention Week so its a great time to teach the kids about fire safety.  We don't have real fires here at TOP but we are really good at pretending.  We began by having everyone find 2 sticks.  Then we went looking for a safe place to have our pretend fire.  We decided that the grass wasn't a good place because the grass could catch on fire.  Then some kids thought of the dirt under the monkey tree.  But when we got there we decided that our beloved tree might catch fire.  Finally, someone pointed out an area of dirt with no trees near it or branches above it.  We discussed how using stones to surround a fire pit is a good idea but since there weren't any stones nearby that will have to wait for another day.  Some of the kids knew that leaves would be a good substitute for newspaper to start a fire.  So we began with dry leaves and then everyone put in the sticks they had gathered.  The kids were eager to talk about when they had experienced fires in their fireplaces at home or out camping.  As we spoke about fire safety we talked about having a pail of water near by,   calling 911 if there is a real fire and to never play in an old fire pit as it may still be hot.  Then we had some fun pretending to roast marshmallows and hot dogs.

After we stood up and sang the TOP song we practiced STOP< DROP AND ROLL.  The kids were very good at running around, stopping, dropping and rolling.  We continued to practice this throughout the class and will continue as the year goes on.

Stop, Drop and Roll!

Our hike today was to our "digging" spot out near the meadow.  The kids took turns pulling the wagon with our shovels and pails the whole way there.  Then it was snack and story time.  We read an important book about listening to your mom called Come Along Daisy. The book has some good lessons on not getting lost or separated. 

Then it was exploring and digging time.  The kids are starting to make friends and are beginning to play together.  Some of the boys found a new climbing spot and were supervised by Teacher Jen and others made ice cream or pizza (cups of dirt) for Teacher Ann to sample.

As always, Jen and I are ready to explain when kids have questions. This little guy was interested in the different leaves he found.  There is so much learning to happen in a classroom without walls!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Deliberate Learning Outside

 When someone comes to observe at The Outdoor Preschool it may appear that we don't have much planned.  But there is a rhyme to our reason.  We begin the day with a gathering which encourages the children to work together and get to know one another.  We give them choices; some active and some more cerebral.  On Tuesday the children could play with small plastic animals on the picnic tables, dig with spoons and cups or play with balls in the field. 

We are already seeing the development of the concepts of what a child does at preschool.  Some kids stick close to the teachers, while others wander away.  Our job as teachers is to bring in the wanderer and help the quiet child to expand their horizons. 

After our gathering activity we had our circle time again in the middle of the lawn.  We know that soon we will be having circle time in a sheltered area, perhaps under the monkey tree or in the woods.  But for now, we are in the middle of the lawn.  We began to learn a new song, "SLUG! " We will be working on the words and hand signs in the coming days.

We played a new game; Duck, Duck Goose!  And the kids had fun running around the circle.  Some were more familiar with the game than others!  But rest assured, EVERYONE played!

After our TOP song we split into the blue and yellow groups.  The yellow group went over to see Daisy the Cow.  Teacher Ann knew that she was soon to go to another farm to live-and alas-she was gone!  We will soon get another, smaller cow for Farrel McWhirter to take care of.

Scratching at roots with sticks makes dirt clumps fall!
Then we were off into the woods.  We didn't make it far before everyone found a cool place to explore.  There is a very large downed tree and the roots and dirt were intriguing to dig into.  Many of the kids joined in to this dirt activity. 
Was there a fire here too?

 Some other kids found a tree that had been burnt.  They were wondering why there had been a fire.  I didn't know the history but they were soon finding other evidence of a fire in the woods there.
Definitely a fire here!
 We ended the yellow group's activity with a stomp in the stream. Almost everyone had on their Bogg boots so we could wade and splash at our leisure.

 The blue group went on a long hike.  There was so much to be seen, but they kept moving for much of their exploration.There was a fun book to read in the woods and still more hiking to do after snack!

You may be bringing home a very tired child these first weeks.  But soon, their legs will adjust to the hiking and they will be able to hike further and further.  We are so enjoying watching your children become part of the TOP family!

Friday, September 28, 2012

A is for Apple!

Our second day at TOP and we are already getting it together!  Most of the kids were OK with their parents leaving and the ones who are still having a hard time-were able to sing and talk during circle time.  

This year our curriculum is based on the alphabet. We will be speaking about nature while going through the letters of the alphabet. Our curriculum at TOP is flip-flopped so that a child who wants to stay 2 years doesn't have a repeating program.    A is for Apple is an easy way to start-since we sit under the apple tree!

During circle time Thursday we opened with the poem we are learning:

Way up high in the old apple tree.
2 Little apples smiled at me!
I shook that tree as hard as I could.
Down came the apples.
MMM were they good!

We have motions for this and your child is beginning to learn the hand signals.
We also explain that we are doing the American Sign Language sign for "apple".

We also did silly versions of this poem-going through bananas, mangoes, plums-as the children came up with suggestions of other fruits.  We are very pleased to see that the children are speaking up-and we are working on the raising of hands during circle.  That is coming along too!  Already!  Yeah!

Then we went over some of the safety rules again and soon it was time for the TOP song and hiking!

We began our hike together as a group of 12.  During the beginning of the hike we found the following:

  1. a dead mole on the trail
  2. a pile of feathers from a black and white spotted bird
  3. a pile of fur from an unknown source
  4. a slug in a tree
  5.  another pile of feathers

There was a lot to observe Thursday!  We looked at the mole, picked up the feathers, touched the fur and some people had to be redirected from poking at the slug!

When we found the feathers the 2nd time we had a talk about what probably happened to the bird. We spoke about how the bird probably did not survive losing this many feathers! In some research on the web I found that the bird feathers may have come from a European Starling.
Then it was time for snack and stories.  We always bring hand sanitizer so everyone was cleaned up before they put food into their mouths!

Jen and I then divided the group into the Blue Group (Teacher Jen's group) and the Yellow Group (Teacher Ann's group).  As we headed different directions the Yellow Group wanted to stop and the other kids!  They are already learning to use their senses to listen and observe.  They are becoming nature scientists!

The Yellow Group ended up at the playground and enjoyed the sun.  The Blue Group ended up playing in the stream and learning how we stay safe with rocks and sticks!

Lunch was fun in the sun and everyone had something to say about their day at TOP!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

First day at TOP 2012 is TOPS!

We had a great start to The Outdoor Preschool 2012!  This is our third year, so our third group of kids!  We have all boys this year-so Teacher's Ann and Jen have to get used to not saying "Boys and girls!"  Otherwise we have an awesome group of kids eager to be outdoors learning about themselves and each other.

We began the day picking apples and some kids chose to make apple prints, others chose to play balls in the field. On these warm, non rainy days, we will often spend more time in the open since soon we will be hidden deep in the forest most of the day hiding from the rain!

The kids practiced stopping and going by playing Red Light, Green Light with the teachers using hand signals for stop and go-that we will use out on the trails.  We also practiced calling their names and having them say "I'm here!" or "Here I am!" or something like it.  We don't care what they say when we call them-as long as they vocalize.  This is another practice for playing in the woods.  At times kids can walk behind a tree and "disappear".  When we call them they need to answer!

We spent part of circle time having the kids come up with rules for safety in the woods.
There were some "don't hide from the teacher" and some "don't run ahead".  So these kids are well on their way to hiking safety.  You can ask your child about teacher sandwiches-and I don't mean our lunches!
Having a hiking partner is fun and a great way to get to know one child.
On the hike we gave each child a partner.  They were to stay with their partner and hold hands while moving. Many of the children have already made a friend at TOP with their partner!  We will continue with partners for a few more days and then reintroduce it at various times during the year.  Right now we are going out on the trail as a group of 12.  When the children get more accustomed to the safety rules and the flow of the class, Jen and I will separate out into the Yellow Group and the Blue Group.  Creating two different, smaller groups allows us to lead them into more sensitive spaces in the woods and creates stronger bonds between the children.

Soon it was time for snack and stories.  We read Ten Apples Up on TOP!  As you can see from the photo, everyone was very engaged with the silly counting book.

Lastly we went over the rules to visiting the animals.  Angus was able to tell us how horses like to be visited.  He said we should be quiet and not move our hands around as the horses can get scared.  I couldn't have said it better myself!  So we went and petted Daisy the Cow and saw the chickens and bunnies.

Lunch entailed more learning.  Washing up outside is different than at your house.  And also getting out your own lunch and putting it all away afterwards was a new thing for many kids.  We also chatted during lunch about each child's favorite part of the day.  I heard "The hike!" and "Snack!"  And also visiting the cow. 

So, we're off to a great start of the year!  Thank you for entrusting Teacher Jen and I (Ann) with your children!

PS The weather is getting cooler.  Soon you will need to send your child in waterproof pants and a gortex level of jacket.  You will also need to send your child with Bogg Boots.  No other boots work for the hiking and wet we have.  Bogg boots keep feet not only dry but warm!  I also have resourced some good gloves that I will send out information on.  Keep posted!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


"I'm an old man with a cane."
The theme today was sticks!  Well-it didn't start out that way-but after practicing for our "show" for the parents on Thursday, we told the kids that today they could choose a stick to walk with and then use it for "fishing". 

Usually sticks are verboten during our walks.  They are always allowed when we stop and play but as teachers we found that generally walking with sticks could be problematic.  And that running with sticks was a disaster!  The TOP  kids have learned to pick up sticks when we find a special place to play.  Now we find that kids rarely get bonked by other kids' sticks  The children are aware of where their stick is in space at all times.  They are taught to ask themselves- are you far enough away from others?  Have you left enough room to play with your stick so that no one gets hurt from it?  Are you using your stick in a safe way?

Just imagine all that playing with a stick can teach a child:  Be aware of your surroundings. Your actions do effect others.  Play is available at almost any time outside.  That imagination is fun to use and can keep us occupied!

"These are crutches."
The TOP kids know how to have fun!  The sticks became a "cane" for an old man, crutches for "broken legs" and then fishing poles-sometimes with lines attached on both ends of the stick!  The kids were so occupied with their fishing that they didn't want to leave for lunch. 

Isn't it wonderful that these children know how to have fun outside, with each other and just playing the way children have played for thousands upon thousands of years? You gave them that gift when you chose The Outdoor Preschool this year. Our hope is that it is a gift that will be imbedded in their soul for the rest of their lives. That a part of them will always know that there is peace and comfort in nature along with exploratory fun.

"We're catching fish!"
As the year comes to a close-Teacher Jen and I want to say again how grateful we are for our TOP parents!  You have been such a support to us;  offering help when needed and kind words of encouragement.  We have so enjoyed getting to know your children.  Don't be surprised if you see Jen and I saying goodbye with tears in our eyes.  I hope that you and your family have enjoyed being involved with TOP.  Thank you for giving us your children 2 days a week.  They have been a wonder and a joy to behold.  

Thursday May 31st is the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL! 
Please come at 10am and plan on staying the whole time if you can.  The kids will be taking you on a special hike in the forest and leading the way.  They are very proud of the fact that this is their woods and they know the way around all of the trails.  

You are welcome to bring grandparents, aunts, small children-whomever you would like to bring.
If you have someone who can only come to part of the day-have them come from 1130-1230pm.  At 1130am we will have tractor rides - at noon the kids will sing their 2 songs.  Then you can get out your packed lunch and we'll all eat together ending the day with Popsicles.

See you Thursday!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flatosaurus egg!

We are talking about spring and growing things and hopefully you have a sprouting seed at your house.  Some of the kids chose to make a seed progression book and some didn't.  That is ok!  We had coloring and scissor practice.  Some kids said "We're digging a tunnel!" and others said "We're being cats!"  And there were "eggs" (rocks) being collected that were from a "flatosaurus dinosaur." The main thing we are seeing is friendships forming and groups moving around and changing. 

We had such a fun time  that it was soon time for snack.  We read a cool book called Vegetable Soup.

We played one of our favorite games of "Hansel and Gretel" which involves one group making a trail for the other to follow.  The yellow group led the way and the blue group found us even when we went off trail!  We met up for a quick play by the stream before the blue group led us down to the bridge.  We have such fun with our TOP games!

As we near the end of the year, one thing I really notice is how the children interact with each other.  There is a lot of talk and conferencing when they want to play something.  They also know that we will be having a talk when someone has been hurt or slighted.  And they come and speak almost willingly.  The groups are welcoming to whomever wants to play their game even if there are definite favorite playmates.  These are all important skills as they move forward.  Negotiating, voting - we do all of this at TOP.  All with the fun of the outdoors.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ducks, Mud and Beans...Oh My!

Quacking along the trail.
Oh-we are loving the warm weather and hot sun here at The Outdoor Preschool.  We began the day chasing bubbles with nets.  Sometimes the nets filled up with little flowers instead.  During circle time we learned a new song about birds then talked about bird's songs.  We stopped and listened really closely to the birds singing in the woods and wondered which birds we were listening to.  Many kids had ideas:  hummingbirds, chickadees, crows, woodpeckers.

Today at snack time the blue group heard the story Make Way for Ducklings" by Robert McCloskey.  They so enjoyed the story that we spent the rest of the hike pretending to be baby ducks and walking (and running) in a line.  Each of the kids picked a "duck name" , some from the story and some from their imaginations: Pack (Noah), Quack (Nina), Jack (Ruby), Snack (Isaac), Short Sleeve and Shorts Duck (Tyler), Snack 2 (Nicholas) and Mr. Mallard (Henry) and Mama Duck (Teacher Jen).  Quack!

Measuring the depth of the water.
On yellow's hike we first went and checked on our herbs planted in the garden.  They were really thirsty after the hot weekend.  I hope they make it!  Some kids did more weeding and we had a few trips to the compost pile with weeds.  We'll keep that garden looking pretty!

Then we found some amazing mud and water in a flooded area north of the meadow.  Maya carefully checked the water depth to see if it was too deep to walk in.  We are careful not to let the mud go over our Bogg boots!  It was a little spooky in the woods there with all of that water and lots of high weeds and plants.  Some kids were a little scared at first-but then it became a big adventure!

Observing sprouted beans.
We ended the day observing with our magnifying glasses the sprouted beans.  I'm wondering if your beans sprouted at home?  We'll have to ask the kids on thursday!

PS: I hope the 31st of May is on your calendar!  Picnic-arrive at 10am and stay till 1230pm.  The kids will show you around the park, sing for you and then we'll all eat lunch together.  Bring your own lunch please!

PSS:  There are still a few spaces in the Tiny Treks Preschool camp that I am leading in June.
Please join us!  Also-there are drop off camps for 4-7 year olds that I will be leading this summer.
Go to Redmond Parks and Rec and look up camps: Tiny Treks