Signs of spring were all around today! Bugs, mud, bits of green grass, warm sun, trickling water, soft thawing ground. I love that when you ask these Forest Kids what signs of spring they have noticed, they know there aren’t any flowers and butterflies out. This is mud season at its best!
A bark beetle found by Hunter. It was tickly!
An ant found by Laurel. It was still cold but beginning to move around.
Mud. Love it and hate it. Lyndon had a particularly good mud outfit on today! Probably from rolling down muddy hills over and over.
Apologies to everyone for the muddy coats and mittens. I guarantee you, the best kind of fun and learning was happening today in the woods. Thank you for your patience with it all!
Last week, under Amelie’s Sit Spot tree, we found an owl pellet! It was a small gray lump about the size of a large grape. If you aren’t already familiar with the concept, predatory birds cough up pellets consisting of the parts of their prey they cannot digest. Waste also passes through them, but is a soft consistency (what you think of as bird poop!) and doesn’t contain any solids like bones or fur the way mammal scat does. So, dissecting an owl pellet is an easy way to find out what the bird was eating. In the picture below, the gray stuff is fur and you can see a few bones lined up–a pelvis, jawbone, and a partial skull. Some kind of small mammal like a mouse, shrew, or vole! The kids were fascinated to watch me dissect this, and Gemma went at it afterwards with a pair of gloves and the tweezers.
I remember dissecting owl pellets myself as a third grader. Incredibly fascinating!
We had a great time in the soft snow and warm sun today. While it was melting into puddles on the playground, deep in our ravines it was still cool (high-30s) enough for plenty of snow. We traveled a little farther today to play, exploring a big downed tree and the root ball. The imaginative play and naturalist investigations skyrocketed! Kids were foxes, mountain lions, vets, doctors, motorcycle drivers, fairy house builders. We discovered holes in the ground, ice and water in the streambed, and a mysterious trail of fluffy black feathers.
Gemma high up on the root ball. This is a great place for a climbing challenge with all the frozen mud but lots of little sticks for foot and handholds.
Rowen with his snowman. He and Nathaniel were rolling balls of snow down the hill into the ravine to make them larger.
Lyndon: “The nature was singing to me.” You can see him sitting under his tree at his Sit Spot and the bird in the tree that he heard.
Emilia: “I went in the tree. I found a tree stump.” You can see how Emilia is writing the beginning and ending sounds of her words! And she got her snap words right too.
Amelie: “There was water by the benches. It was melting.” She didn’t quite finish coloring, so I hope she’ll forgive me for posting. But Amelie shows here that naturalists notice even the smallest things, especially about changes in the weather.
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!
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!
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!
We have been observing the woods for almost five months now, but we talked more seriously about what naturalists do:
A 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
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!
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.
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.
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.