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!