Our Polliwog Thursday group has been getting to know each other, and getting to know the forest and pond at Huron Natural Area.
In our forest play area, our kitchen play has developed into a bakery. Campfire building is a popular chore for a couple of the children. And for several, marshmallows have played a big role over the past two weeks - this week, developing into marshmallow cookies with chocolate chips.
The log cabin is a popular play spot, and this week, an elaborate doorbell-ringing system was rigged up, with wiring running all through the house.
We've also met some friendly mice in the woods (pinecones) and we've made slides and amusement parks for them.
And we've seen evidence of creatures in the woods and pond: fish, ducks, geese, turtles, slugs, snails, and more.
And whose poo is this?
Giselle brought in a "feely box" where we could try to guess what nature items were inside. Some were prickly, some were hard, some were light and soft.
See you next week, Polliwogs!
Week 2 included 3 hours of rain for our Dive Into Nature program. But they were troopers!
On our way past the big pond, we saw the damage that warm weather can do to the sunfish in the pond. Because the weather was so warm on the last weekend, the plant life, algae, and decomposing plant life sucked so much oxygen from the pond that there wasn't enough for all of the fish to survive. This doesn't happen every spring. We talked about how we enjoy when the weather gets warm, but sometimes things in nature can't keep up - like these fish.
We walked to our base camp, and were introduced to a "building challenge." In small groups, we made forts, using natural materials from the forest + a tarp + Stick-let connecting pieces. It was great to see the variety of structures and imagine which ones would keep us dry at night (and which ones would be cozy homes for animals)!
As we explored and built, we continued to find fungi and small creatures in the woods.
We've had a great 3 weeks in our Dive into Nature program. This group of children is keen to learn about nature, spend time getting to know the woods, and build together using natural materials.
On our first week, we went on a long hike out to Sunfish Pond and around the big pond. Before we went, we talked about "journey sticks" - how they have been used in the past as a sort of mapmaking tool to mark memories of places visited and experiences along the way.
We each chose a stick, wrapped some yarn on one end, and we were on our way!
We found pinecones, fuzzy sumac berries, leaves, pine needles, and turtle egg shells, to name a few things. Some children dipped their journey sticks in Sunfish Pond to remember that place on our journey. In the meadow by Sunfish Pond, we saw an antique vehicle. Some scratched their sticks on the coloured metal to remember that place.
It was our first week at our "base camp", so we spent some time making it our own. Working together, building, creating, a fort took shape. We also found a big horse to ride!
And a small tree to climb!
While we were building, we found different types of fungus on branches and trees nearby. So we started a photo fungus collection!
On our way back to the park entrance, we spied some turtles sunning themselves on a log in the big pond.
Our Thistletop Theatre has had two great weeks together. This group has piles of ideas and piles of energy. The production we create, I'm sure, will prove to be very interesting!
The first two weeks were spent on character development: seeing what characters we have in the group (quite a few!), and imagining what characters we could have in our play. By the end of week one, we had brainstormed an ambitious list, which included, but was not limited to:
We played charades using different emotion words, and some get to know each other games. Then we went for a hike to the pond.
Several turtles were out sunning themselves on a log, so we spent a quiet minute doing a character study of a turtle. We picked spots on our own to sit quietly and watch. Then we talked about words that would describe a turtle. How could we act like turtles? What ideas does this character give us for our play?
On week two, we played some more games, then acted out the story The Sunflower Sword by Mark Sperring - a wonderful tale of a fierce dragon transformed by a sunflower-carrying young soldier.
Then we looked at nature ID mats that have local flora and fauna on them to try to narrow down our list of potential play characters. They came in handy as we explored the forest!
See you next time, dramatic friends!
At the end of week 1, we asked our Polliwog W group, "What would you like to do next week?" One of the children said, "Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf!"
And so began our investigation into that classic story.
On week 2, we started with a game of "What time is it, Mr. Wolf," followed by "Red Light/Green Light". Then we told the story of Little Red Riding Hood. When we got to the part of the story where the wolf says, "The better to eat you with, my dear!", the children helped to create an ending to the story. "He ate LRRH up!" "No, LRRH chased him around and around the house until he got too tired." "Ya, then he left and he never came back." "LRRH hid in the closet with grandma until the wolf got too tired of looking for them." "And they lived happily ever after." "And then they ate the treats."
We went on a short hike, collecting goodies from the forest to bring to Grandma's (and Grandpa's) house. Of course, we had to stop for a snack on the way.
We saw some dead fish in the pond, and considered bringing them to Grandma's house too. We learned that because of the fast rise in temperature, there was so much plant and algae growth in the pond and not enough oxygen for all of the fish.
We spied a few small turtles, then made our way to the Log House / Caterpillar House area.
Look out!! It's the Big Bad Wolf!
Don't worry! The Little Red Riding Hoods, Big Bad Wolves, Spies, and Pirates seemed to get along quite well in the forest that day.
Time to go home! We'll see you next week!
It's hard to believe that we've already breezed through 2 weeks of our spring programs! We're having fun playing and learning together - learning each other's names, playing some games, practicing taking turns, hearing stories, and imagining new stories together.
Here are some photos of our first week together (look at the snow!!):
one spring week can wake up a whole forest . . .
Last week, we wore snowsuits and winter boots. This week, we wore sun hats and running shoes. The snow had melted, puddles were dry, and the sun was shining. Take a look!
Wake up, flowers!
Wake up, trees!
Wake up, forest!
Wake up, bees!
What spring things have you seen this week?
Today marks exactly a year since we launched the kid/caregiver hikes that are now called Tales and Trails. Last year, at Breithaupt Park, it was a sunny, warm day - so warm that some children wore shorts. Today... a bit different. But the hardy folks who braved the unpredictable weather had a wonderful walk. We talked of spring flowers - snow drops - and seeds and bulbs and signs of spring around us.
On our hike, we saw some plants starting to grow, some trees that had fallen in winter storms, and found a great place to play: The Nest. Within minutes, The Nest became part nest / part pirate ship. The mast hoisted, cannon ready to fire...
Off to the side, a comfy birds' nest was constructed from soft fall leaves. In another tree, potential for a fairy house. It's truly amazing what we can find in the woods!
There was a bit of snow falling, and a bit of sun shining through. Oh spring, what a mixed up season you are!
Is it spring? Winter? Both? Sprinter?
Last Tales and Trails hike, there was no snow on the ground - only hidden Easter eggs!
Today, there was a pile of snow. We went off the beaten path, along the pond, and into the woods. We found tracks in the snow, some pee, a mallard duck pair, some Canada geese.
An extra special treat for me today: someone else took photos! These photos are generously offered by Stephen Edgar, a father on our walk today. Thank you!!
This was a beautiful hike; I was reminded that the seasons are what we make of them. While in the morning, I was wishing for snowless spring, after our hike, I was thankful for the blanket of pure white snow, the crisp, cool air, and the birds on the pond. I went home feeling invigorated and refreshed. Always amazes me what a little walk through the woods can do.
I'll leave you with this hopeful sprinter/winter/spring poem:
Winter Into Spring by Richard Lackman
From March back through November landscapes draped in black and white
As knife-like shadows in the forests pierced the dimming light
And even mighty rivers disappeared under the strain
Of crushing flows of ice after a night of freezing rain
For now the only sounds that crackle out through winter's hush
Are frozen pods of snow which to the ground from treetops rush
Exploding on the forest floor as from a fearsome hoard
Of Norsemen fighting wildly for their own wintry warlord
And so it is that through the coldest season of the year
We sequester deep within the halls that we hold dear
Waiting for the sunrise and the promise it will bring
That the stranglehold of winter will be broken by the spring
Then finally it happens; ice flows melt and streams cascade
Flowers bloom and fruit trees blossom while the pall of winter fades
Black and white are all forgotten as a rainbow now appears
And the cycle reinvigorates the passing of the years
It was a magical day for our spring photo scavenger hunt on March 26 at Huron Natural Area. The ice from the past days of freezing rain was still on the trees, creating a beautiful scene.
We had an amazing turn-out of spring detectives, ready with cameras in hand to explore the woods for signs of spring, Easter eggs, and those elusive Easter bunnies.
We set to work, looking for evidence of spring. Look what we found!
What transient beauty - that ice in the forest.
The dripping and falling ice was a constant soundtrack to our scavenger hunt. Some more treasures that we found:
Thanks to everyone who helped us explore the park that day! Hope your photos turned out wonderfully!
Hammers, Huge Swings, and the Freedom to Play