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

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spring Fever at TOP!

Maya making a face in the dirt with rocks and Jake "planting" flowers.

There is some speculation about the correlation between spring and children's behaviors.  It has long been known that in the spring children get restless to get outside and be free. So in a class that is only outside, what might happen?  

Today the children seemed itchy even within their light confines of the rules of TOP.  We have many safety rules but at the same time lots of freedom.  The rules are simple: run ahead only when allowed, stop at bridges and signs to wait for the rest of the group, don't carry sticks on hikes-and then the usual-no pushing, hitting, and no mean words.

Water painting by Max.
I think all of those rules were broken today.  We had pushing and shoving while hiking on the trail.  Some kids tried to run through those who were holding hands while hiking.  We had a couple of pile ups and children ran right by the signs and bridges.  We had screaming. We don't usually police their voices.  Since we are already outside - can I say use your indoor voice? But screeching at the top of your lungs is unpleasant at any time.  When I asked kids why they ran ahead and didn't stop, they gave me a blank stare-like they wanted to say-what rule is that?

I am going to put this down as spring fever.  We all have it.  Faces turning towards the sun just like the sunflower tracks the sun's path across the sky. The desire to shed layers of clothes even when the thermometer reads in the 50's.  So, as a teacher I need to figure out how to approach this natural desire of spring freedom.

The way I handled it today was to have sit down discussions in the middle of the trail going over our TOP rules and behaviors.  That seemed to work only for the following few minutes.  So, next week will be devoted to going over not only The Outdoor Preschool rules but a bit of the philosophy.  Don't worry-we'll still play, climb and explore,  but while playing we'll be working on how to play safely and how to include other children in a way that isn't pushy.  While it may be over the children's heads, we can speak about our policy of "You can't say, you can't play."  It will be an interesting experiment as we work within the trappings of their Spring Fever!

Moles asleep in their holes.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Arts go marching one by one...

Watching ants
 It is amazing how long children can watch an animal.  Ruby and Tyler were fascinated by a stream of ants in the bricks while everyone around them played with water, chalk and paint brushes.  We started with chalk and a little bit of water in cups to "paint" with water or wet chalk.  But the demand for water was so high, and the weather so warm. that pretty soon everyone had a water bottle ready to be filled at the water jug or the hose.  Then it just became a line at the hose as excited children ran back and forth to their project with water.  The play and creativity went on and on  and we so rarely get a warm day, that we let it continue as our biggest experience for the day.  We watched new alliances being formed, new friendships as new ideas of how to use the water came up.
We played so long and hard that it was soon time for an early lunch on the grass.  The grass was dry, which almost never happens and we sat and listened to Daisy the Cow mooing and a very loud woodpecker peck in the trees behind us.  Teacher Ann read a story about a garden with a repeating line that by the end of the book everyone knew. 

Then it was time to plant.  Last week we prepped the hay bales for planting. Now we turned the hay bales into an herb garden.  We planted basil, rosemary and oregano.  Everyone enjoyed using their nose to sniff what each plant smelled like. We ended the day with everyone helping to clean up the shovels, dirt and weeds we pulled.  You should see how helpful your kids are!

It will be fun to watch our plants grow.  We will be taking turns watering the plants (as needed...)

Digging holes to plant in.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Germinating is a hoot!

Todays theme was seeds and growing. Teacher Jen helped each child plant a seed in a bag to take home and watch how it will grow. You can put the bags near a window or you can tape it into the window. If it looks like it is drying out-add a little bit of water. In about 4-7 days the beans should germinate. We are also sprouting some at TOP so we can look at them as a class and dissect them.

During our gathering time-the first 20-30 minutes of class-we often put out different tools for the kids to use. What is interesting is how they use them! Since they love digging into the mole holes-this time the broom handles helped them to get down to the tunnels the moles make. It was a creative use of the broom handles. They were careful not to damage the brooms and got to see where the critters live under the ground.
We had circle time under the monkey tree since it was raining. We impressed a visiting potential parent for the fall with the kids command of "our" songs and the way they took turns speaking about school.
We had a funny experience with snack today. The snack bags were mixed up in the teacher's packs (oops Teacher Ann!) and so the blue group came to find us on the trail. They had no problem following my text directions..."We are up where the kids played airplane on the rim trail." We hid behind the enormous nurse log to surprise them when they got there!
Snack Time and stories were enchanting for all as we were ready for a rest and a refreshment with our nature book.
On the way back, we decided to hike to where the Great Horned Owlet was spotted. We discussed what was the best way to hike around an owl would be. "Quietly!" "On tiptoes!" Said the kids. As we hiked slower than usual in order to be quiet the kids decided that they should hoot like owls to bring them to us. We didn't see the owls but the kids were so kind and loving to each other and the woods. Many of them walked holding hands, their friendships growing as the year comes to a close.
FYI TOP PARENTS! Please put on your calendar the last day of May. May 31st will be the end of the year picnic for The Outdoor Preschool. You can join us as we gather, hike and then have a tractor ride and a picnic. You can bring a lunch for you and your child. We will have popsickles for a treat. Your children will also have a little "show" for you with their spring songs. Hope you can make it!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It's May Day!

Today is the first day of May.  I grew up in a little town in Minnesota where the tradition was to make construction paper baskets and fill them with flowers and candy.  We don't promote candy here at TOP but we have dandelions in abundance!  Many of the children enjoyed filling their "May Day baskets" with flowers. 

Don't be too sad if you didn't get one.  This was not a mandatory activity!  Other kids were busy playing a pretend game with brooms, riding in the wagon or climbing the tree. Also-they were fun to wear as hats!  We encourage creativity-and they were having fun using their imaginations.
Today we learned a new song. 
Oats Peas Beans and Barley Grow.

Then we were off to garden!  We have a patch near the old farmhouse.  We were preparing the soil to plant a herb garden next week.  The kids were very engaged with getting rid of the weeds.  ("A weed is any plant you don't want in your garden!")

We took buckets of weeds to the compost bin.  We are excited to plant and then watch our garden grow.