Maps, perspective, navigation, and mazes were on our minds as we explored the farm this third week of the program. We had fantastic weather. In Farm Sprouts, we actually welcome the opportunity to play and learn in the rain! There is much we can gain from splashing in a puddle. Adults should take the time to stomp in one every now and then. It is both a satisfying and joyful experience at any age.
To sign in this week, Farm Sprouts practiced close observation by peering through a magnifying glass to spot their name on a worm wiggling through an apple. We wondered what worms eat other than apples? And what eats worms? Worms are so important to our farm ecosystem and are fascinating to study. They always seem to worm their way into both our fall and spring programs!
Two of our monarchs emerged from their chrysalises, one over the weekend and the other on Monday. The final monarch emerged mid morning on Thursday. We released the first monarch over the weekend (in photo.) We kept our second monarch butterfly in its container through our program this week and released it on Wednesday afternoon. The ideal time to release a monarch is when the temperature is in the 60’s with sunshine, which is exactly what we had happen with conditions for our Wednesday afternoon class. This meant that each group was able to observe the monarch closely! The monarch caterpillars we raised were found at Tollgate munching our milkweed. If you are interested in raising monarchs next year, you can visit Monarch Watch to learn more about it. These monarchs will make the journey to their overwintering sites, either in Mexico or the Southwestern U.S. The fall migration takes place from September to October. It’s quite spectacular to visit the sanctuaries. How do monarchs know where to go to spend the winter? This is something scientists are still working to understand. Maybe one of our Farm Sprouts will someday discover the answer! It’s funny to imagine a monarch holding a map, but somehow, without one, they know right where to go.
We returned to play the HABA First Orchard game due to popular request, as well as fed Coltrane, visited the discovery table, and worked together at our duck pond carpet.
During our group gathering, we read Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney. We prompted Farm Sprouts to share what they know about maps and then explored our very own “Mystery Box,” filled with maps and materials to spur questions and ideas. One Farm Sprout exclaimed, “It’s a map party!” We’ll continue to weave our study of maps into our investigation of our big question: How do plants and animals prepare for winter?
On our way outside, we stopped by our old orchard to continue this season’s phenology focus: apples trees. This early introduction to phenology is important as changes and shifts in our plant and animal populations and the time these occur can be indicators of larger issues. People throughout history have noticed and documented these changes. We need to hold on to our awareness of what is happening in the natural world despite the current age of technology in which we find ourselves; to take time to remind ourselves, and our children, the value of sharing these observations with one another.
For our Invitations to Play, Experiment, Explore! we had the fantastic opportunity to be the first groups to navigate the straw maze! We briefly stopped to think about perspective, such as how the maze appeared from a preschooler’s view, to someone standing on top of the straw bales, to a bird flying overhead, before releasing Farm Sprouts to go! What can appear to be frivolous play was actually a powerful learning experience for children. Again, we observed Farm Sprouts play with perspective. They tested themselves physically, assessed and managed risk in relation to their skills and abilities, developed social skills as they navigated conflicts, created imaginary worlds to expand their creative thinking, and much more. To note: Farm Sprouts will not be permitted to go on top of the straw bales during Pumpkinfest! Be sure to let them know this is something special they are permitted to do during Farm Sprouts only and they will have another opportunity to visit the straw maze during a program date in October.
In preparation for “Forest Day,” taking place next week, we began working with wood. We had both small and medium-sized tree cookies. For the small tree cookies, Farm Sprouts experimented with watercolors and pipettes to create tree cookie art. With the medium cookies, they spend time sanding them smooth as they will be continuing to work with these cookies during subsequent weeks.
It was then time for a Harvest Snack! We once again used the picker and hiked up to our pear tree, located in the circle drive near the silos. Once washed, we settled down into the silo to much and think about how pears grow. We thought about the purpose of a fruit as we read A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds by Jean Richards. Once finished, we placed what remained of our pears in compost trailers or containers. Some of us ate down the fruit to discover seeds!
To conclude the day, we spent time journaling in or near the straw maze. We had time to visit Red, our old-timer horse, to go on a successful duck hunt, and ended with our closing routine, thanking each other, the sun, the birds, and the bees for all they provide for us.
We are off next week in preparation for our Pumpkinfest event. We hope to see many of you there! We’ll resume Farm Sprouts on October 9th and 10th with our season tradition of “Forest Day,” always one of the highlights of the season!
This blog is dedicated to Alan Jaros, for without his vision, leadership, encouragement, and support, this program would not exist. May he continue to impact lives, both young and old, in the next chapter of his career!