Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Muddy, Mucky Algae!

It was a sunny day in the northwest and the kids enjoyed having a potato stamp of deer prints to make in addition to the other gathering activities. We worked on a new song during circle time. Doe a deer!

Doe, a deer, a female deer
Ray, a drop of golden sun
Me, a name I call myself
Far, a long long way to run
Sew, a needle pulling thread
La, a note to follow sew
Tea, a drink with jam and bread
That will bring us back to doe...oh oh oh

Everyone had fun learning the hand motions.
If you don't know the song here is a link to the melody:
(of course this has the whole song-but you can learn the main melody here)

I have had many kids who have been very interested in climbing. So we took them to a climbing tree other preschoolers have loved. Everyone climbed to their ability and there were enough branches for all!

We decided to challenge the kids to a long hike! Pulling the loaded wagon was something that took concentration ( to make sure you didn't run off the trail) and lots of effort. And it was even heavier on the way home with everyone's jackets and sweaters piled into it!

We found lots of good mud and muck. The standing water had algae in it and everyone wondered what it was. (time for a quick science lesson on algae!)

We didn't quite make it to Juel Park-that will have to wait for another day-but we found a new sunny, mucky, muddy spot to play in and maybe if we keep looking we'll find the tadpoles there we found in years past!

Thank you for sending your child in layers. We have been taking a lot of them off but the mornings are still chilly.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What path should we take?

Anton and Michelle working on a puddle full of toys with their brooms.
After yesterday's wild weather-we were all ready for more of the same. Instead it remained wind-less and rain-less. The kids worked together during gathering time to pull the wagon, climb the special tree and play in the puddles.

Gathering and "free choice" time is a very important component of any preschool experience. It is a time for the child to re-adjust to being at preschool and away from their family. It is a time for them to choose whom to play with and what to do. There are many times during preschool when they are in designated groups or activities. This is their time to choose.

Children often have few real choices in their lives. Yet we want to prepare them for real life which is full of scary choices and paths. The Outdoor Preschool lets children choose paths and activities often. We even let them go off their path to see where that might lead. I wonder if this concept will be hard-wired into their brains. I hope that it will be. I believe there are many ways to live life- and many paths to take. I think that we often get roped into thinking there is only one way to live or one place to live. Yet, there are happy people all around the world-living in a myriad number of situations. We too can make choices in our lives that might make us happier.
Cooper J. helping water through the culvert. That was muddy work!
As the yellow group set off to hike the perimeter trail (Teacher Ann's idea of the day) they passed an awesome mud hole that was calling their names. Pretty soon we were all mucking through the mud-getting a bit stuck and learning about suction and wondering how a vacuum works. The sounds coming from our boots were sucking sounds and sometimes the suction won! The kids then worked together to try and help water get through the culvert from one side of the trial to the other and on to the stream. We were all so muddy afterwards we needed to go back and hose off before snack! So much for the perimeter trail..

Hard at work in the mud.

After snack we set off to our designated meeting spot with the blue group so we could take them to the new dirt slide area the yellow group had built on Tuesday. Blue group had had an awesome snack by the stream and then enjoyed the fleeting sun in the meadow. We caught up with them playing in the field and on the tire swings. Together we ran up the hillside to the downed tree roots. After sliding under the roots, everyone decided to jump off the top. Teacher Jen was nice enough to help the kids jump for the next 20 minutes off the high side onto the path. The kids lined up to climb to the top and jump. There were lots of giggles and cries of joy as they careened off the high spot. Teacher Ann played Bad Cop by keeping the kids from climbing too high into the rotting tree roots.
Taking turns jumping from top of a felled tree.
We are happy to have Anton join us at TOP and look forward to a warming spring. Oh yes! Happy Spring! During circle time we talked about what spring meant-everyone raised their hands with ideas: "Bears wake up." "Flowers bloom." "Birds come back and sing."

I couldn't be prouder of these kids!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Oh Deer!

We had the opportunity to learn about some planned animals and some surprises this Tuesday. While the kids were digging and exploring the field a black tailed deer appeared near the fence.

We all sat down quietly and watched to see what the young deer would do. He or she seemed perplexed with how to jump the fence to the road-but eventually easily hopped over. We all hoped that no cars would come by on the road while it was crossing. This was a great time for circle time and everyone had something to say about deer-some were reminded of Bambi, others remembered seeing deer in the snow with grampa or one on the road near their house. We talked about how you rarely see one deer all by themselves. But we only saw the one this time.
I had planned to focus on owls - so during snack time we read two books on owls and passed around a container with an owl pellet. Then we had a discussion about where owls live, what they eat and when they come out to hunt.
On our hike we found a quiet place to sit and pretend to be baby owls. I got to be the mama owl and I flew away and came back with a pretend mouse and rabbit to feed my 10 baby owls. The kids tipped their heads back and opened their mouths wide for the food from the mama owl. Then everyone practiced spitting out an owl pellet with the bones and fur of the animals they had eaten. (in case you have a "baby owl" at your house practicing spitting out the pellet-now you know why!)

On our hike we looked for holes in the trees that an owl might nest in. We hooted and flew along the path. Everyone was game for a long hike up to the trail where the great horned owl was sighted last year. We didn't see any owls-but that is because they are nocturnal! Another good vocabulary word for the TOP kids!

On the hike back the 4 girls at The Outdoor Preschool decided that they are a "Girls Club." I am pleased to see them find each other and make friends. I look forward to watching their friendships grow.

A big Thank You to Teacher Rhonda for filling in the past 3 days. We had a lot of fun with Rhonda.

If you are interested in having your child in TOP next year-registration for fall begins on March 19th at midnight. I expect the spots to go fast.

Also-Please note that the next session begins March 19th-next week. We will have NO SCHOOL on April 9/11/16/18 for spring break.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Today was a wormy day. We collected worms out of the puddles and put them in the bug box to observe them. Teacher Ann had a worm book-so during circle time we talked about what we already knew about worms: they live in the ground, they don't have legs, they don't have eyes and then we learned more about them: they don't have bones, they are good for the soil, they have predators ( a new word we'll be working on). Some of the predators are birds and fish. You can reinforce the word "predator" at home. Noah mentioned later in the day that alligators are predators that can eat people. So the concept was working well!

We learned a new song about worms too.

Thousand Legged Worm

Said the thousand legged worm as he gave a little squirm:
Has anybody seen a leg of mine?
For if it can't be found,
I'll have to hop around,
on the other nine-hundred ninety-nine!

Hop around
Hop around
on the other nine-hundred ninety nine.

For if it can't be found
I'll have to hop around,
on the other nine-hundred ninety-nine!
When it came time to let the worms go-we spent time with math-how many worms were there?
9! and how many kids? 10!
Our hike today was deep into the woods, into and onto some giant stumps and many of us played hide and seek in among some huge sword ferns.

The stream was forded on the way home with varying degrees of success as the water was quite high today. But everyone came through happily and with smiles they ran to the tire swing and back for lunch.
If you plan on having your child in TOP for the fall session-sign ups with the City of Redmond begin on March 19th. At that time it is open to the public.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Doing it themselves!

During circle time today, I asked the kids to think of a favorite place to explore and play in the woods. Then, using the "maps in our heads" to tell everyone where that place was. This idea of the "maps in our heads" is one which I am particularily fond of. As adults, we all do this everyday-but the TOP kids are putting this resource to use before many children their age do. When we drive around town, we know where to turn and where to go-but kids are just passengers. At TOP the children get the opportunity to lead the group to a special spot. Many of their favorite nature places have names like "where the blue group's pumpkin was" or "the tree stump I sat in" or "the big mud puddle". This isn't any different then Avondale or Redmond Way. It is a place they want to know how to get to.
When we are hiking at TOP, it doesn't take long before one kid or another gets the idea to go off road. Pretty soon the group is headed into uncharted territory. Some times when we go off the path we are surprised where our travels take us. From the unknown to a spot the kids know very well. Some of these off path trails are the kids favorites. 
We had a lot of kids needing help getting over a huge log today. We rarely pick up kids but instead help them to find a spot to put their feet or we show them how to sit on their bottoms to make it a shorter way down. Their thrill at "doing it themselves" is evident once they accomplish their task. And when you take into consideration how tall they are and how big the climb was-well! It is quite impressive what these kids can do!
Our back road travels led us to a favorite stream wading spot and the kids were so glad to see it! They ran up and down the stream-splashing water into their boots- with me knowing that it wasn't too long before their families came to collect them.

The kids were especially hungry for lunch and the fellowship of eating lunch together brought lots of talk about the day. The kids were very curious about some of the old tools on the wall in their picnic shelter. We had a lively discussion about the history of Farrel-McWhirter Park and Farm.

FYI This winter session is over on March 14th. The new session begins directly afterwards on March 19th.
There are 2 weeks off for spring break this year.
There will be no school on: April 9/11/16/18
(Since Teacher Jen and I have children in different school districts)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Nets and Rubber Duckies

Water water and more water! What to do? Give preschoolers small brooms and how will they use them? How about making up a game to see where they can push the water to? Here they are working together to see where the water will go!
Since we had a rubber ducky day last week (sorry I was out of town-so no blog about that fine duck day)
I brought in my nets to teach the kids about current-following our sticks in the current day on tuesday. As you know-in nature you never know what to expect. This goes with children's nature and our weather. Since the rain has been pounding down-the stream was high and moving. But in this spot-still moving quite slow and still not too deep. So the kids were able to put the ducks (and 2 rubber fish) upstream and then catch them as they moved downstream. We had some kids who were the catchall at the bridge (we did almost lose a lone duck under the bridge-but Teacher Jen saved the day with running downstream with a net to catch it before it was lost forever.)
There were wet mittens and gloves and water in boots and very happy kids. Everyone was very focused and excited.

In spite of the February chill, everyone played in the water for about 45 minutes before us teachers decided we better get the kids hiking to warm them up. We went on a fast hike through the forest, up and down hills - the kids running ahead, laughing and talking. There were no complaints of being wet or cold ( we did pass out extra hand warmers-removed wet mittens) and made it back for a quick lunch.
Lessons learned? Stream speed changes when there is more water. More water in the streams when it rains. Eye-hand coordination. Working together. Sharing (there were a lot of duck hoarders) Listening, following instructions (how to hold the nets so no one got beamed -no one did!) Use of tools-and respect for the tools-(no digging with the nets, beging careful not to rip the mesh.