Short, but Sweet Forest Day

We had a delay today because of freezing rain, but still got out in the woods in the afternoon. We got outside just as the rain started to taper off, phew! And with Grundens pants for all and coats for some, we stayed pretty dry. The woods smelled so sweet and fresh!


More ice fishing.


You could see where the water level of the drainage dropped, leaving a gap under new, thick ice. Jackson was playing in the hole and everyone was pretending to find pretend frogs and snakes.


It was fun to learn that crows talk to each other and that spiders are active in the winter! 

Sawing Wood and a Hike!

Today part of our group went on a hike, checking out some of the Red Rose Preserve Trails closest to our woods. Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Kelley, and Miss Karen led the way.




Hikers stopped plenty of times to play!



Laurel: “We all had to go through the creepy forest. It was dark.”


Jackson explained, “We went on the bridges.” You can see the blue ice beneath.


Meanwhile, the other kids were sawyers working hard. Astrid: “The wood box was so full. And Mr. Smaha helped.” We were glad to have Nora’s dad with us today!

Stream Play!

I told the kids a secret today– I hate thaws! I always want powdery snow, colder cold, realer winter. But, if we have to have mid-winter thaws, there is no better way to enjoy them than with some stream play. We buttoned up our Grundens and got busy.


Many kids helped build dams. They used rocks and sticks, and stuck mud and leaves in the small cracks.


Astrid was busy fishing (note fishing pole) and here are the fish (muddy snow/slush balls coming off the edges of the stream) she collected. She made a giant fish cake to eat with Rowen and Emilia!


Logan’s journal: “I found a stream. It was fun. I made a dam. It stopped the water.” He labeled “mud,” “rocks,” and his friends Jack, Hayden, and Jackson as well as himself.


Hunter had fun fishing too! He labeled “me,” “pole,” “mud,” and “fishing.” You can clearly see the fish/slush balls in the water!

Ok, so it does take twice as long to peel off the soaking Grundens, change into new socks (and sometimes pants), and hang everything up to dry, but I think it’s worth it! (Ask your kids.) There is no replacement for water– sloshing in it, jumping in it, watching it while you are standing in it, experimenting with it– and water brings up endless imaginative play and engineering problems. Not a bad thaw day at all!

Becoming Stronger Naturalists

We have been observing the woods for almost five months now, but we talked more seriously about what naturalists do:

IMG_4515.JPGA few things that these kindergarten naturalists noticed this week:

  • there was very little snow around the fire circle
  • a female woodpecker came to our feeder (she was not shy!)
  • birds were calling during Sit Spots
  • curvy sticks
  • the snow was crunchy and there was ice
  • puddles in the field had frozen into ice

Happy New Year to the Forest

We had an all-time low temperature in the woods today: 21 degrees. But with no wind and lots of moving bodies, we stayed warm and happy. We are glad to be back after vacation!


We had to work hard to clear the snow from our fire circle. Braxton helped shovel for half an hour! 


We also needed to replenish our wood supply. Here is Hayden sawing, Astrid holding the stick steady, and Gemma’s dad Mr. Luthy helping.


After all that work we were happy to play in some new areas. We loved these new climbing trees across the field. (Silas, Logan, Jackson and Lyndon in the front, Jackson way up top!)


Rowen’s Forest Journal. You can see how he wrote labels and is starting to write a whole sentence below. (The fire was smoky today because of all the icy wood!)


Gemma documented one of the most important events of today: a lost tooth! Luckily her dad was right there and saw it fall so it wasn’t lost in the snow.


Logan: “Me and Hayden playing zombie.” His picture shows how zombies’ arms stick out, and he labeled “arms.” 


The story of our day. It was a good one! 

Lots of Labels!

In our writing we are working on adding not one or two, but LOTS of labels. Some of us even have sentences too.


Gemma: “I like ice crystals. They are really cool. Look. Me.”


Amelie: “I built a pile of pine needles and pinecones and leaves and sticks.” She labeled “ice crystals,” “me,” “sun,” “clouds,” “hats,” and “hair.”


Jackson: “Jack and I threw a rope into the tree and it got stuck.” He labeled “stuck,” “Jack,” “rope,” “tree,” and “me.”


Here’s how we eat lunch safely in the cold. We keep our mittens on, or we trade off with one hand out and one hand in. We eat quickly! We sit on our backpacks to stay off the cold ground and put our food on the bench.

Busy & Exciting Rainy Day

When I asked this afternoon what we should write about tomorrow from our Forest Day, the answer was mostly, “All the different things we played.” No mention of the soppy snow, makeshift tarp over the fire circle, steady rain, or sopping wet mittens. Most adults wouldn’t want to spend half an hour out in this weather, but these kindergarteners don’t blink an eye at spending hours. I couldn’t stop telling them how tough they were to be out in the rain, and all they wanted to tell me was how they were playing Elsa and Anna (how ironic in the dripping wet, of course).

We’ll see if I can inspire them to write about THIS tomorrow. Two years ago my class and I found tracks and a body print of this animal, where it had jumped out of a tree. And this year, in almost the same place, loping across a ridge…


…were the tracks of a large adult fisher. Laurel asked me, “Do they fish?” And I had to tell her they do not. A fisher is a large weasel, a predator, known for its agility and ability to catch and kill porcupines. We’ll have to learn about fishers soon!


Like all weasels, fishers have five toes, which distinguishes them from both dogs and cats (foxes, coyotes, bobcats) that have four. You can see the claw marks nicely here. And a kid’s hand for size– this track was about 5 inches long.


Today we put up some hooks too, for hanging up teacher bags and teaching materials.

Matt Tavares

Sound busy enough yet? Matt Tavares, our visiting NY Times Bestselling children’s book author and illustrator, also came to visit our woods. He asked us, “Did you guys fly here like Dasher? We didn’t see any tracks as we walked in!” And we had to explain that we walk the “long way” through the woods.

December Birds

A chilly, overcast December has greeted us, but we were happy to have the dusting of snow from last night. Our sliding hill got so much use that it is now hard-packed, clay-smooth, frozen dirt. (Sorry about all the dirty jackets and snowpants…)

The high was 29 in the woods today. We had a much-needed fire, and Nora’s dad, Mr. Smaha, came out to be our fire tender.

A highlight of the day:


You can see that we are working hard to draw with realistic detail AND to hear more of the sounds in our words.


In Real Life (and, bonus, you can see the tree that has been excavated by woodpeckers over the years in the background!)


Our little woodpecker close up. We learned today about the difference between male and female woodpeckers. This one is a male because of the red on the back of his head.

Woods Alphabet Chart & Tree Math

What a wonderfully warm and sunny Forest Monday! We decided not to have a fire because it was a bit windy and with no snow on the ground, sparks are a risk. But we stayed warm by playing hard and eating all of our lunches.


This was our second time at our Sit Spots. We used a string (which you can see in the picture) to measure a tree near or at our Sit Spot. We then used these in math to compare with a ruler and a yardstick. We discovered that we have a lot of large trees in our woods and fewer small trees.


At our Phonics station, we started working on an alphabet chart for the woods. Part of our work right now as Word Scientists is to study not just one alphabet chart, but lots of different ones. Ms. Atkins & Mrs. Johnson did some further research to come up with objects for a few more letters, but we were still stuck on “z” and “u.” If anyone has an idea, pass it along!


Sit Spots, Snow, and a Fire

30 degrees was our low this week in the woods and with no sun, it certainly felt cold! We cozied up in our new Sit Spots though. Each child chose a spot that they will return to each week to sit and observe the woods around them.


Hunter’s Sit Spot


Vincent and Mrs. Gray lying in his Sit Spot.


Amelie and Gemma using a “drill” that they’d made out of a stump!


But all the Forest Kids agreed that the highlight of our day was having our first fire. Miss Karen, our volunteer, was the official fire tender. The kids helped gather wood and break it up into small pieces. There was a lot of smoke (as you can see from the picture)! The rope around the rocks is the boundary that kids stay behind. Our fire helped us stay happy and warm in the woods on a chilly and drizzly day.