Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Slide, Jump and Roar like a T-Rex!

We are down to the last 4 days of The Outdoor Preschool.  Wow-how this year has flown.  The kids have grown up so much and gotten so strong and confident in the woods and farm.  I am so proud of their accomplishments.  There isn't a hike in the park that is too far, too long, too difficult or too complicated that they can't figure out how to get back.

During circle time today we talked about our last days of preschool and I asked the kids to think about what were their favorite things to do at TOP.  Then I asked them to tell the group what would they like to make sure we do one more time before the end of the year.  As the kids told the group what they wanted to do - I drew in chalk on the sidewalk the different choices.  They were:

  • Go back to the dirt slide.
  • Play Owl Babies
  • Go to the tire swing
  • Play in the mud
  • Go to the stream

We voted to see which ones we would do today.  The stream and dirt slide won!  As we headed to the stream the kids seemed especially excited to go back to their favorite places.  I like it that they got to choose. 

The stream was an easy choice-close to the farm.  Soon it was time for snack. Everyone found a place on the bridge to sit and hear the fun story/song that Teacher Rhonda and Teacher Ann sang.

Little White Duck

The trail took us through the woods, past the elephant tree, across the bridge to our first vote.  We have the kids "vote with their bodies" by standing next to the trail they think will lead to our chosen destination: The dirt slide.  We had many "unanimous" votes today as the kids used "the maps in their heads" to remember where the dirt slide was.    We had to choose 4 times before the kids ran ahead to one of their favorite sliding and jumping places.

When we got there the kids eagerly lined up to slide and jump off the high stump with the help of first Teacher Ann and then Teacher Roo.  It was a good lesson in taking turns, sharing the space and not shoving through. 
Some of the kids wanted to play "Owl Babies" instead.  A favorite pretend game, especially with Teacher Rhonda.  There were owl babies, owl moms and dads and predators such as coyotes and Peregrin Falcons.  I think at the end of the play there was even a T-Rex!
On the way back for lunch-the sun came out a little bit and there was even time for some tire swing fun.    Yeah!  That was when we realized that we hit 4 out of the 5 top things to do at TOP.  Not bad!  We will be continuing to repeat our favorite hikes, activities and play these last few days. 
PS Don't forget about our fun last day of preschool with you and your child.  Bring any adult who would like to see a little of what we do at TOP.  Plus a hayride and a barbecue.  Bring a dish to share for the potluck.  You can shoot me an email if you are wondering what to bring.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tall Grass and tadpoles

The grass is high in the park.  Running through the tall grass has always been a fun thing for the TOP kids to do in the spring.  I anticipate us spending a lot of time hiding in the grass.  It is fun to find the mud underneath the green and squish through it-the ground is uneven and hard to walk on-another challenge for us.

Each time we find a new place to climb new challenges are presented.  Do friends need to help friends up or show them how to climb?  How do we safely get down?  As teachers we spend more time showing a child where to put their feet then we do giving them a boost.  They stay safe with our hands nearby-but they do it on their own.

The kids have continued to have fun hiding "Santa the Gnome."  He is out there somewhere.  Maybe we'll find him tomorrow?
The new cow and calf are adapting to the farm and we keep checking in with them and the other new "baby" animals. 

We hiked out to see if there were any tadpoles in the pond next to Juel Park.  We told the kids to stay out of the water this time while we searched for frogs and tadpoles-and so we didn't step on them.  There were two tadpoles spotted but they darted away.  We'll see if we get another chance this spring to see if they have turned into frogs.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Trees down, millipedes and grubs!

You probably know by now that we operate on a seasonal, weather, per day kind of outdoor experience.  It’s just because we have to!  Each day in the northwest brings such a variety of weather and the animals, bugs and phenomena that goes with it.

Yesterday we had an impressive storm blow through so I was wondering if there would be a big tree down in the parking lot-something that happens quite frequently in the northwest with all of our huge trees. 
I pulled in and the parking lot was ok!  A little messy with branches and twigs but ok nonetheless.  The day started out chilly then quickly turned into a fine spring day. 
We welcomed our new teacher in training - Teacher Roo -and her 5 year old Theo.  Theo and Roo will be joining TOP till the end of the school year.  We are excited to welcome Roo to the TOP team and Theo to it's crew.
During circle time the kids were able to tell Teacher Roo and Theo all about how we stay safe in the woods and how we act around the animals.  Then we got to sing some of our favorite songs to her.  Everyone was in fine voice today!

As we separated out into color groups the yellow group was astonished to find a downed tree that looked like it had exploded during the windstorm.  We think it was a Big Leaf Maple tree.  We spent some time examining the bark and wood inside.  It was really smooth!

The yellow group found 3 millipedes and a mealworm.  We put them into a bug box and took turns looking at them while we sang the sharing song.  "Take a look and pass it on."  Everyone was very good at looking and then sharing with their neighbor.  Then they got to take turns carrying the bug box.

Pretty soon we ran into the blue group and showed them the bugs and then they found Santa the Gnome!  How exciting to have someone else in the forest hide him!  We will hide him on Thursday.

We are looking forward to the last day of preschool which will be a big shindig!  We are having a potluck cookout at Logan's house which is walking distance to Farrel-McWhiter Park.  So make sure you put the time on your calendar.  We will begin the day at 10am, Thursday June 6th. You parents/grandparents/aunts and uncles can join us for a hike, a tractor ride and then a potluck.  Details to come! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nature's Ambassadors

We've had every kind of weather these last 2 weeks.  As I look at last week's photos-I can't believe we had all of those clothes on!  But such is the variant weather of the northwest. 
Since the air has been warm-we have been taking off layers and enjoying the cooling in the forest and waters of the park.  Last week we spent some time teaching the kids about being "Nature's Ambassadors."  What does this mean for them?  We want them to understand that there are reasons why we do not pick flowers in the woods or trample a mushroom.  I think the concept of ambassador is easier when they move a slug off the path so it doesn't get stepped on.  It is certainly more esoteric when the concept is not destroying a stream environment. 
When I have read Richard Louv's books on children and nature - one of the big concepts I agree with is allowing children to have their own experience in nature.  This means that they can try things that might look a little scary to adults such as balancing on a log or scrambling up a steep slope off the trail.  It also means doing some things that might not be great for the environment if they were done all of the time.  Such as pulling the bark off of a downed tree or stamping and splashing through the stream. 
As nature teachers, many of us believe that the strong feelings of nature-freedom and fresh air - will create environmentalists of the future.  This may require a bit of a hard workout for the forest.

To that end-I make sure that our own crowd of 12 kids doesn't play in the same place every week.  That way I am hoping that the forest will get a bit of a break from their boots and hands.  It also keeps us moving and exploring every single day of preschool.

As I interject little lessons on plants, forest animals and the environment  rest assured that I will also be teaching them to take care of the forest and to be ambassadors to our future while allowing them as much freedom as I can.