Today we hiked out to the MSU Tollgate Farm’s forty acres of forest for our “Forest Day” adventure. Farm Sprouts signed in by matching fall leaves and voted for a closer inspection of our tractors or a visit to the silo. For our welcoming activities, they had the opportunity to work with tree cookies and explore other parts of trees, in addition to personalizing a set of binoculars to assist in making observations during our hike. Farm Sprouts fed Coltrane and George, our turtle and fish. We sang our “Buenos días” song to move and shared our ideas about how trees grow. To follow our discussion, we read the story, Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson. It is a very engaging book which moves through the life cycle of an apple tree. We all had greatly enjoyed reading this story!
Previously Farm Sprouts had voted for horses or calves, so we took time to stop during our hike to observe our larger farm mammals, including sharing our thoughts about how they stay warm in the winter and what classifies them as mammals. Although we stopped to see each, we spent extra time on horses since they were favored by the group.
Before entering the forest, we talked about the importance of the concept behind the expression, “Leave no trace.” We returned to this expression throughout the afternoon. In the forest, we went on a fall-themed scavenger hunt, searching for mushrooms, spider webs, fall leaves, and more. We found a large puffball mushroom, which was exciting, and rolled logs to look for insects. At this time of year, it was the isopods who were most prevalent. We found roly poly bugs in abundance! They are also sometimes called pill bugs. Why do you think they earned each of those names? We were also incredibly fortunate to discover three salamanders! We identified two as red-backed salamanders, distinctive due to the tell-tale red backs, hence the name.
For our Harvest Snack, we sampled MSU Tollgate Farm’s maple syrup with organic popcorn. It was a big hit and a really special experience to enjoy it under the canopy of our maple sugar trees in full color, surrounded by the tubing we use to gather the sap. On the way to the forest, we stopped at our Sugar Shack to discuss the process. Hopefully we see some of you back in March for our Maple Tapping and Pancake Feast!
After our snack, we spent a few minutes documenting our discoveries in our nature journals. Our captured salamanders were a source of interest for journaling, along with the abundant fall leaves scattered around us. We then released our salamanders back to the forest and made leaf crowns. On our journey back, two of our horses were near to the fence, giving us the chance for a beautiful, hands-on experience.
We ended with our goodbye:
We thank you for the sun (standing sun pose)
We thank you for the trees (tree pose)
We thank you for the birds (eagle pose)
And for the buzzing bees (make wings and buzz like bees)
We thank you for each other (spread hands wide)
And all of the fun we shared (great, big smile)
Let’s gather all together (gather up arms to body)
And give a great big cheer! (jump up and down)
Hooray, Farm Sprouts!
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” – Unknown