Monday, April 29, 2013

A Nature Book Review!


Color at the farm.
I have been eagerly reading a book sent to me by Redleaf Press.  The book is Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth.  This informative book is for any educator or active parent who wants some exciting ideas on how to introduce the science of nature to children.  The book is divided into sections such as "Water, Water Everywhere" and "The Food we eat." My favorite chapters are from "Exploring Nature "which will come as no surprise to anyone who reads my blog!  Some of the suggestions for outdoor activities I have tried in one way or another during my years as a nature teacher to young children; either in The Outdoor Preschool or during one of my Tiny Treks classes.  But there are also a lot of fun ideas on how to expand my teaching.
A suggestion I intend to use soon is the  Color Search.  The idea is to use paint swatches from a home improvement store and let the children hunt for something in nature that color.  I think that could be really fun to do at The Bellevue Botanical Gardens with Tiny Treks or in spring at Farrel-McWhirter.  Another one I hope to do soon is "Barefoot Explorations."  We’ll have to wait and see what the weather in the northwest brings in order to experience that one without freezing our toes!
Nature's Mobiles
As I look through photos of classes I have taught in the past, I can see that there are always more ideas on how to excite children about nature.  The nature mobile above was a cool way to learn the names of some of our local fauna and to practice balance. 
Another suggestion in the book is to take nature and make it playful and fantastical.  Both my Tiny Treks and TOP kids love The Talking Tree -who loves to eat pinecones!
The Talking Tree of course!
In this photo you can see a Great-Grampa and Great-Grandson enjoying and using their walking sticks made from a tree that needed cutting back. The walking sticks were decorated with leather and bells.
Great Grampa and Grandson with their Tiny Treks walking sticks.
If you would like to purchase Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth direct from her publisher by June 30th, you can use the coupon code GREENEARTH to save 30%.

If you would like to try one of the projects from the book as a "look/see",  the publisher has offered a free sample. It is a way to teach recycling by making a recycling monster.   You can download the Recycling Monster instructions here.   What a fun project for a rainy day!

Also-Redleaf Press is offering  one free book to the first person who responds with the name of a deserving early childhood educator who could benefit from this exciting book.
Sometimes it is just simple tools that the kids enjoy-here is a broom!


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gnomes, puddles and horses.

Blocks on the grass in the sun.
Today began with some new blocks and dry warm grass making a great surface to play on.  Teacher Jen and I were going to head to the barn to see the new chicks and check on their growth-but the sun was out-so we changed gears to have as our hiking goal a big puddle we had seen another day.  The wagon was loaded up with lunches and we were off.

As we usually do-we split into color groups.  This helps the kids to work together as small groups and also to connect more closely with their fellow TOP kids.  A group of 6 is a big difference from 12-as we  know as adults.  Imagine a dinner party of 12 and then visualize one with 6 people.  The smaller group means a quieter time, closer interactions and perhaps a bit of warmth as well.  Humans usually connect more easily with a smaller group.
Attempting to carry Teacher Jen's backpack.  It's heavy!
The yellow group pulled and pushed the wagon along-it was heavy with lunches and the water we were bringing along to wash hands.  Most kids took a turn-but for some it was just too heavy.  Many were anxious for their turn and others tried to sneak a ride on the water cooler-making the wagon even heavier.  But still they persevere-waiting their turn and pulling and tugging the wagon along the trail.
Anton and Michelle chatting in Russian as they walk along
The blue group took a different trial and stopped and climbed a tree along the way-knowing that we wouldn't be moving as fast as they were with our wagon load.  One of the kids said "We are excellent climbers!"  And they are!

During circle time, Teacher Jen told us that she had arrived early at the park and had re-hidden "Santa - The Gnome."  She gave us a clue about where in the park it was and where it wasn't.  We all stopped and thought for a minute - using the maps in our heads - to try and envision where the gnome might be now. While we hiked we looked and looked.    We were told some more hints.  He was hidden 5 feet from the side of the trail. (we practiced how far 5 feet was-5 steps)   Pretty soon one of the kids found him sitting by a big tree.  He got a ride in the wagon after that-and sometimes the kids wanted to hold him.  Valentina and Michelle "held hands" with the gnome for a while-each on taking a hand of the plastic fantasy creature.

Lunch was on a lawn speckled with flowers.  The kids are learning that they can pick the flowers in the lawn but not the ones in the forest.  Oh did I mention-the Trillium Flowers are in bloom.  We saw 3 pink Trilliums along our hike. I can remember the name because of the tri part of the word.  They are a beautiful 3 petaled flower native to the region.

Watching the horses work in the corral.
We did indeed find the big puddle on the Powerline Trail and splash and walk through the water.  On the way back there were horses going through their paces in the corral.  They came up to us and let us pet them.  One of them did some tricks for her owner.  We were duly impressed!

FYI- I've been given the wonderful opportunity to review a new nature book on my blog called Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth.  I will be reviewing the book this coming Monday, April 29th.  I'm excited for my first adventure into expanding my blogging world!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Herbert and Santa Alert!

Welcome back to TOP!  Both Teacher Jen and I noticed that the kids had grown over break.  Oh my!  How quickly they change!  We had to spend a bit of time going over some of the safety rules again.  Many of the kids were really excited to be back at preschool so we kept on the move!

We began the day with bubbles and blocks.  Circle time was cut short because of the park crew's noisy machinery-so we soon were headed over to get out Herbert for a cuddle.  Everyone got to pet him and see how fast a rabbit grows!  We had some interesting discussions about why rabbits don't need their mom's and dad's around.  Because they grow up much faster than we do!
Michelle and Noah were very gentle with Herbert.
We had a lot more to do so we were soon out in the big field for snack. We read a neat book about a salamander called The Salamander Room. This wonderful book teaches all about what a salamander would need if you brought it inside.  In the end the child's room has become a complex forest ecosystem-all done from a child's point of view.

This Western Red Cedar is a favorite to climb through.
 We are thankful to Angus's Mom for donating her Forest Gnome "Santa" to the park.  We went on a hunt through the trails for "Santa."  When we found him we took him on a hike and hid him again.  I hope we can continue to search and hide him for the rest of the school year.
"Santa" the Gnome was hiding near the Elephant Tree!
Lunch was a free for all-with the choice to sit on the picnic table or on the ground.  Some kids were too excited to eat and others were really hungry after our big hike.

The end of the day was greeted by 2 fire trucks and 2 fire vans.  Luckily the smoldering bits were quickly put out and everyone was safe. I hope you weren't too worried when you saw the fire truck at Farrel-McWhirter!

We are really excited about the next weeks as spring continues to bring more birds and baby farm animals to the park.  If anyone loves to garden-we would love to have you come and help plant a small preschool-sized garden next to the old farm house.  Let me know if that is something you are passionate about sharing with the kids.

PS As the new weather brings new clothes-please remember to put your child's name on the tag inside the jacket or fleece so we know who it belongs to!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Chick Chick here and a Chick Chick there!

Today was a day of baby animals!  Thank you to Sherri , Angus's mom-for bringing in their 4 week old chicks.  Everyone got to hold them and pet them.  At circle time we spent a lot of time talking about what we knew already about chickens.  Responses were "they lay eggs"  and "they have feathers."  Angus knew a lot about chickens and told us about their down (feathers before they get adult feathers) and how they change and grow. Then we learned some new facts about chickens.  The chickens that lay eggs are all girls. (we went over male and female too) They are also called hens.  The males are roosters.  Some of the kids knew about roosters already.  Matilda mentioned that you can eat the eggs if it isn't too close for the baby chickens to be born.  So we tried to clear that up a bit as well!
We spent some time hypothesizing whether the new baby chicks in the farm office would be smaller or bigger than the ones Angus brought in.  Everyone agreed that they would be smaller.

Handing off the 4 week old chick to a child.  Wings flapping!

The 1 week old chicks for the farm.
After everyone got a chance to talk, we sang the standard "Old MacDonald."  The kids had fun making the animal noises.

Before we could go into see the baby chicks we went over the rules on how to act around animals.  Hands were raised and people said, use quiet voices, no running around.  So we practiced how to be quiet and still.  Everyone was able to do this for 10 seconds!

We filed into the farm office and gathered in a circle around the chick cage.  Everyone put pretend glue on their hands and put their hands at their sides so they weren't poking them into the cage.  We got a long chance to really observe the chicks.  We noticed what they ate and drank.  What their poop looked like and how they scratched the bottom of their cage with their feet.  We also counted their toes and claws and found they had 4.  We are really wondering what they will look like when we come back to TOP in 2 weeks!

There are also 2 baby bunnies in the farm office.  We were able to get out Herbert the Flemish Giant Rabbit.  He was very relaxed and everyone got to pet him on his back. There is also a new 6 week old female bunny.  They will both have have grown a lot when we come back!


Going off trail!
After all of that time with the animals, we needed to MOVE!  So we played red light/green light and each child got a chance to call out "Green light! Red Light or Yellow Light!"  What a great game to get kids to listen to directions and to learn how to respond with their bodies accordingly!
Learning how to be careful with sticks on the trail.

After lunch there was still time for a hike.  Blue group went off trail in the woods and even jumped over the stream.  The yellow group played baby owls for a bit then decided to carry walking sticks on the rest of our hike.  Sticks are usually off limits while we are hiking but today we made rules about hiking with sticks (Keep the stick on the ground.  No waving of the stick in the air.  No running with the stick.) and everyone had fun with their walking stick.

We hope The Outdoor Preschool kids have a great time during spring break!  We will miss them!
We'll see you back at TOP on April 23rd and then we'll get to see how much the rabbits and chickens have grown!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Patience is a virtue we can all work on!

Kids working together to push and pull a heavy wagon.
Everyone was hard at work pushing the wagon filled with our lunches and nets to play with in the water.....later.  It was a bit difficult to wait to play with the nets.  One of the hardest things for preschoolers to work on is patience.  Not that it isn't hard for all of us to have patience-but waiting isn't something little children do well.

So-we work on it.  We don't mean to tease them by showing them the nets ahead of time.  Or talking about fun things we are going to do ANOTHER day-not today. 

Here is a list of fun things we talked about today that are for another day:
  • we're going to get to hold the new baby chicks when they arrive on the farm
  • Angus's mom is going to bring her juvenile chicks for us to watch on Thursday
  • the farm is getting a new cow and calf for us to observe
  • the farm has 2 new kits (baby rabbits) and we are going to hold them once they are old enough
Ok-I see why it is hard to wait for all of these cool things to happen.

Lucky for us at TOP;  In nature something is always happening.  The blue group found a banana slug on their hike.  Then another one, and another one.  I think the count was 5!  The yellow group pushed the wagon, dropped off the nets by the stream for LATER and then had snack and a book about owls.  We learned that owls and crows hate each other-while a crow walked right behind Teacher Ann.  Owls eat crows when they can and a murder of crows (the term for a flock of crows) will attack an owl if they find it. The kids mentioned that we have a lot of crows at Farrel-McWhirter Farm.  We also learned that owls can't move their eyes and we talked about how if we did see an owl at night it would probably just be the outline of the owl because it would be dark.

Lunch was eaten early in anticipation of water play with the nets and rubber duckies.  We also floated some plastic eggs.  The water was very low so some of the toys got stuck and didn't float very far and a lot of them got stuck under the bridge and had to be rescued.
Recuing toys from under the bridge.
There were some wet socks-but the teachers had orchestrated the water play for the end of the day so the kids could just go home and get changed.
We are really looking forward to doing all of the above in the future!
Getting right into the water and mud!
FYI The next 2 weeks are off for Spring break.  April 9/11/16/18.  See you Thursday!