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Friday, April 3, 2015

March Wind and Signs of Spring

Forest Preschoolers experimenting with salt 
and colored water on ice. 
Although winter is reluctant to let go, signs of spring abound and the second session of Forest Preschool is off to an exciting start! We are enjoying all that late winter weather and early spring have to offer, including a wondrous, changing landscape and the arrival of puddles and the first migratory birds. Engaged in all of our senses, mornings have been full of discovery, wonder, and play.

But that’s not all!

Over the last few weeks, children have been settling into the rhythm and routines at Forest Preschool and learning ways to care for one another and the natural world. Forest Preschoolers are also learning about self-care outdoors in all types of weather.

Cooperative building of a nest to shelter "eggs"
made from colored water frozen in balloons.
In addition to getting into the swing of things at Forest Preschool, we’ve had lots of fun exploring and experimenting with ice and snow and the concept of freezing and thawing. One child shared, “So, water turns into ice and ice turns into water!” Curiosity was ignited during experimentation with bubble blowing. On mornings when ambient air was below freezing, we discovered that bubbles freeze, sink, and shatter! “The bubble turned into dust!” shared a wide eyed Forest Preschooler. Playing hide-and-go-seek at Needle Tree Forest and climbing and exploring Igloo Land was a true highlight in March. “I’m climbing Mt. Everest!” exclaimed a child as he made his way to the top of the giant quinzhee. A quinzhee is a mound of snow that is hollowed out to create a shelter.
Look, dog tracks! I wonder where they go?

Snow provided ample opportunity for us to become nature detectives and look for clues that might tell us who had been visiting the North Branch Nature Center. Excitement abounded as we followed dog, deer, and skunk tracks! Upon discovering dog tracks, a teacher wondered aloud which way the animal was traveling. A child was quick to exclaim, “It’s going that way because it’s claws are going that way!”
Cattail fluffy seed heads blowing in the wind.

One morning we heard and saw a special sign of spring; a Red-winged Black Bird! Shortly thereafter, we became RWBBs and flew in search of cattails to call home. We discovered a stand of cattails and experimented with waving them in the air. In doing so, we learned about seed dispersal. By waving the cattail back and forth or pulling it apart and blowing, we sent fluff and seeds flying into the air. One child was eager to share, “...yeah, they are so soft - they plant more. But you can’t get too clumpy or else they won’t fly in the air. I wish I was a cattail - then I could fly!” A teacher then asked what it would be like to fly. “It would be beautiful” another child responded.

Cooperative mouse nest building with hay inside a giant quinzhee.
The wind blew strong on several days but children’s curiosity and imagination did not wane. We flew colored silks and let them go to observe how the wind moves light objects. One child stated, “The wind is blowing hard enough to blow the barn to outer space!” The quinzhee provided excellent shelter and play space out of the wind when needed. What could be better than building mouse nests inside a large snow cave on a windy day?

At the end of last week we tapped a sugar maple tree. Children took turns using a bit and brace to drill a hole and then tap the spile into the tree. We hung the bucket, watched, and listened to the sap drip, drip, drip, into the bucket. 

Drilling a hole in a sugar maple tree! As soon as the hole 
was drilled, the sap started running! Yum - maple sap tastes good!

Mountain climbers on top of quinzhee.
Exploration and play inside igloos. Where does that tunnel lead?
Puppet show at Deer Camp in Deer Hut.
Playing camouflage, a version of hide-and-go-seek, in Needle Tree Forest.
Nice hiding spot!

Fun on a windy day!

Experimenting with pouring and "washing dishes!"
We look forward to discovering more wondrous signs of spring with Forest Preschoolers in the coming weeks!

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