The time to pull out the wool clothing is upon us and so as to not leave out spending some up-close time with our sheep before the end of the season, we dove into exploring how sheep are connected to our sweaters!
To sign in this week, we used rubber letter stamps to add the first letter of our names to a giant leaf. Alongside our stamp, we added a sticker of our favorite farm animal. It was fun to see which animals Farm Sprouts chose, as we’ve had many incredible learning experiences with most of animals up to today. Pumpkin Pounding was available as a Welcome Activity, which meant they had the opportunity to use mallets to pound nails into a pumpkin. It was a great way to practice fine motor skills, hammer safety, taking turns, and teamwork as two children could work at the same time. In addition, we had paper punching and gluing out on our activity table, which was popular as well, and another great way to work on fine motor skills while also being both fun and engaging. We appreciated the clean up crew, who handled sweeping up the punches with great enthusiasm!
How do mammals prepare for winter? What covers the bodies of the animals living at Tollgate Farm? We’ve spent time recently with our feathery creatures and this week focused on two of our wool and fur covered mammals.
During our group gathering, we handled and inspected both raw and processed wool. We noted the different colors and how the raw wool had natural materials woven in with it. The smell was also very different! We read a beautiful story called, Weaving the Rainbow, written by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Stephanie Anderson. During the story, we stopped to see how hand carders work to prepare the wool fibers for spinning and also how a drop spindle works to create yarn. Farm Sprouts were very interested in these processes and couldn’t wait to get their hands on some wool!
We stayed in the classroom for our Invitations to Play, Experiment, and Explore this week since we had some intense work planned which required a lot of mason jars, dyes, and materials that love to take to the wind! As a follow up to our story filled with gorgeous watercolor illustrations, we painted our own rainbow sheep at the easel using a variety of watercolors. These sheep will go home with you on our last day. We also felted wool bracelets, rolling the wool in our hands with water and a drop of soap to bind the fibers. We noted that when we first started working with the wool, it was easy to pull apart, but once we had felted the wool, it was very strong and we were no longer able to separate the fibers. Farm Sprouts could choose which color to dye their bracelet and took them home as a memento from the day. They continued to pound nails into our pumpkin and also worked on their scissor skills and investigating the parts of a plant by cutting plants apart in the sensory table.
It was then time to head outside to the Animal Barn. On our way, we stopped to check on our lettuce. We harvested some lettuce being grown by the Tollgate Farm Education Team to feed Alice, our rabbit. After a group discussion, it was decided we should wait until next week to harvest our lettuce to include in smoothies for next week’s Mini Garden Kitchen. We also discussed including Michigan cranberries in the smoothies, since they are another fall fruit crop we haven’t yet tasted. We also stopped to act as birds caching nuts, hiding the nuts we cracked last week in cracks and crevices of rocks and trees. We hope the squirrels, birds, and other wild animals enjoy the fruits of our labor!
We brought in Nora the sheep into the barn so we could feel her wool and make observations about her anatomy. Jenna joined her in the barn, so we could compare and contrast them both. Farm Sprouts loved having the chance to touch wool on a living, breathing, hungry sheep, as we enticed her into the barn with a snack. After spending some time with Nora, we made our way outside of the Animal Barn to meet Alice, our rabbit, noting the fur covering her body, much like our goats, except softer to the touch.
We enjoyed grapes for our Harvest Snack today and the story, Winter is Coming, written by Tony Johnston. In the story, a girl with her journal in hand, notes the changes occurring all around her as fall changes to winter, much as we have this fall season of Farm Sprouts!
During our hike, we returned to the Children’s Garden to observe the changes which have taken place since the beginning of the season. Now there are just a couple raspberries hanging on the bushes. Many of the plants have turned brown or have been removed. We didn’t spot any frogs or butterflies. Just a few flowers remain. We spotted a honeybee struggling on the surface of small pond and moved it to a rock to dry out. We spent a few minutes to document our discoveries in our journals before moving into our goodbye routine.
It has been a remarkable first season of Fall Farm Sprouts and we look forward to celebrating with you next week!