The weather shifted this week to damp and cool, but it didn’t keep us from heading out into the forest! Today we help our traditional “Forest Day,” a highlight of the season for many. We dedicate an entire day to exploring in the forest because it takes our legs a while to hike out there and back. By now, Farm Sprouts who are newer to our farm community have developed a stronger sense of place. This is an important step in becoming environmentally literate. Once children become familiar and knowledgeable about a place, they can move towards feeling a sense of ownership and eventually a sense of stewardship within their community. These early years are the perfect time to expose them to a place they can grow to love and appreciate. We value and appreciate the opportunity to provide Tollgate as one of these special places in your child’s life!
We signed in today by writing the first letter of our names or full name on a “tree cookie,” a slice of a tree, with chalk. We voted for squirrels or woodpeckers, two wild animals that eat nuts. We decorated binoculars to help us spot interesting discoveries. Farm Sprouts also had the opportunity to “pound a pumpkin” utilizing a hammer and nails. How do pumpkins grow? Life cycle cards helped guide us in thinking about how the bright, orange pumpkin ended up in our classroom. Large tree cookies and other tree objects were available for exploration at our discovery table. Farm Sprouts loved taking turns creating and then viewing each other’s puppet shows.
We gathered to prepare popcorn grown at Tollgate for a snack in the forest. Our discussion before heading out included: What kinds of plants and animals might we discover in the forest? How do trees prepare for winter? Who eats seeds? We read The Looking Book by P.K. Hallinan to think about perspective, an important skill to develop as a part of systems thinking. Many thanks to Joan Hess and Sue Grady and their families for the donation of the book and glasses! We thought about the difference between binoculars, glasses, and magnifying glasses to help us see the world in different ways. We then struck out to hike to the forest to practice our new “looking” skills and to explore these questions more deeply.
Today we formed buddies for our journey into the forest. On the way, we said, “Hello!” and “¡Hola!” to our horses (caballos), cows (vacas), and the visiting geese. In the forest, we challenged Farm Sprouts to find a giant-sized leaf, a tiny leaf, different colored leaves, maple seeds, or other nuts and seeds. Gathering natural materials by size and shape and sorting them are an integral part of developing early mathematical thinking. We talked about beech and maple trees and tried to identify them by looking at the bark and leaves. We also observed a moment of silence, to focus on our sense of hearing, but mostly heard the road. We did find samaras (maple tree seeds) and touched on collecting sap and how we make syrup at Tollgate. We found interesting holes and possible animal homes in stumps and trees. Farm Sprouts were super interested in the shelters. We visited many and came across a giant fallen tree, which we observed for some time. We heard birds for the first time in the forest this week. Some of us became really interested in picking out the different birch and maple trees by looking at the bark. One Farm Sprout made the connection that Meadowbrook sounds like Ms. Brooke. 🙂
To conclude the day, we enjoyed our popcorn with Tollgate maple syrup for dipping. Yum! We really enjoyed this tasty, sweet treat and showed our gratitude to the trees for producing it for us. We documented our discoveries in our journals. We munched and enjoyed listening to the book, Trout Are Made of Trees, by April Pulley Sayre. It is a neat story that explores systems and the interconnectedness of plant and animal life, including fish, insects, leaves, and trees!
“Nature now, like an athlete, begins to strip herself in earnest for her contest with her great antagonist Winter. In the bare trees and twigs what a display of muscle.” – Henry David Thoreau