These are some old pictures from last year. My website was hacked and was not able to publish a blog entry. Now I can.
We were delighted to find Monarch Butterfly caterpillars at Becky's Garden. Every year Becky saves the milkweed that comes up in her garden and all around her studio. Ryan spotted colorful yellow-black-white striped caterpillars munching on the milkweed. We carefully collected them and took back to the preschool building. The caterpillar turned into chrysalis within 4 days. The chrysalis hung from the container lid which kept the fresh milkweed plant, but the "button" where the top of the chrysalis attaches to the lid was different from ones I have seen in the past. It was loosely attached and instead of being attached directly, it was hanging from a silk thread. I was little worried about the silk thread breaking, but it never did.
The next 2 weeks and a half, children observed the chrysalis color turn from beautiful light green to the color of the Monarch Butterfly. The change happened slowly but every day it became more and more obvious that the butterfly was getting formed inside the chrysalis. We had picture books and magazine pictures to learn what to expect. Children enjoyed looking through the magnifying glass, singing songs about Monarch Butterflies, playing with a butterfly finger puppet, and painting butterflies. We learned how to tell the sex of the butterfly. Each one predicted whether the butterfly was going to be a girl or a boy.
On Friday, October 6, it was a warm autumn day. We played around all morning waiting for the butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis. We decided to not go on a walk. We carefully moved the chrysalis to the playground so we could keep checking on it, but the butterfly took its own time and did not emerge. Children all wished a good journey to the butterfly and went home after the pickup time.
In the evening at 6 pm, I returned to the quiet playground and found that the chrysalis was empty. I scanned around the nearby bushes but did not see any butterfly. "I missed it," I thought, but the next moment I saw big bright orange wings spread wide as if to say, "I am still here!". The butterfly was on the tip on the seedpod of the milkweed plant which was stuck in the container that the chrysalis was on. It had already had the full length of the wings and wings were not droopy indicating that it has been more than an hour. The wings looked still slightly damp and the butterfly was "exercising" and perhaps drying the wings. It was such a treat to be able to stare at the details it at arm's length. It is simply amazing how beautiful and perfect a creature can look. I wish the children were able to see the final stage of this magical transformation of the Monarch Butterfly.
What a wonderful gathering of neighbors and family we had for the Harvest Festival! We were blessed with pleasant autumnal weather. All morning, children and teachers cut the vegetables and stirred the steaming pot. There was onion, garlic, swiss chard, kale, rainbow corn, beets, tiny eggplant, pepper, red cabbage, purple green beans, butternut squash, and carrot. We added the beans that we shelled as well as mushrooms that we harvested carefully the day before. Thyme and basil added aroma and the homemade miso was stirred in at the end for taste.
While the soup was cooling, we had a lovely circle to sing an autumn song as well as play the children's favorite game of Duck Duck Goose. We introduced our names, and neighbors were given special thanks for sharing their garden that children can explore throughout the seasons. It is so wonderful to see the faces of families and the neighbors who were connected with the children. I imagine the children often talk about the neighbors who they met on our walk to the family members. Harvest Festival gives a chance for us to be acquainted with each other in the beginning of the school year.
Speaking of the new school year, so much has happened in the preschool community already. One whole human being was born to one of the families. We admired the two weeks old baby that joined us on a special day.
We enjoyed the Harvest Soup and wonderful dishes that families brought. One young adult guest that joined us was from Florida who after Hurricane Irma was able to purchase enough gasoline to drive to North Carolina. We send our thoughts to those affected by the hurricane. I felt humble just to be able to enjoy the ordinary day.
Wishing everyone a wonderful autumn and closing with Harvest Blessings:
The earth who gives to us this food The sun who makes it ripe and good The sun above and the earth below To you our loving thanks we show
It has been delightful to have the all outdoor June program. Lead teachers have planned the rhythms of the day beautifully. Activities such as painting, clay modeling, river rock collecting for the rock garden are among few of the activities that children enjoyed. Snack time out in a child-sized picnic table with a cheerful tablecloth while listening to the bird songs fill our heart with joy (and fill our lungs with fresh air!). Cups and napkins are washed and dried in the sun for the next day. The simplicity and community living go hand in hand. There are usually eager volunteers to help push the cart to the building to get the water tank filled daily. We often have the opportunity to meet creatures close-up in June. Red efts and garter snakes, caterpillars and fire ants. Children buried a dead mole and dug it up again.
We are taking care of three ducklings. Children are very curious to how the ducklings behave to a stimulus. We have found out: Ducklings do not play with a ball or leaf boat. They do eat a dead spider.
Children had a chance to make new friends and meet new assistants that came during June program. We look forward to celebrating the summer with Summer Pixie Party on Friday, June 23.
We had 10 happy children ready to go on the Lady Slipper Walk and some of their parents, grandparents, and friends were able to join us.
We took our time stopping for everyone to catch up and pointing at flame azaleas and giant ferns growing.
We stopped to have our snack of sandwiches and fruits and a drink of water. We remembered to sing the blessing before the snack was over. Everyone went on "nature potty" and the nappies were tended for the younger ones. We had one last stop before viewing the flowers. I told a story of the magical slippers that helped a young child to find her way home. This child was a kind-hearted child that earlier had given up her own slippers to the forest friend, rabbit, who had hurt feet. The message of the story also included that we must not pick the "slippers" so that in case some fairies got lost, they can wear the magic slippers to find their way home just like the little girl in the story.
We finally got to view the beautiful lady slippers. Pink ones were many in number while yellow ones were scarce. Children recognized the unique flowers and excited to show the teachers and friends. The mid-morning sun was filtering through the trees reaching all the way to shine on the flowers. We managed to not pick any or step on them by accident. Thank you children.
It was all downhill on the way back. Most children ran along the trails through the woods happy and satisfied. We even got to the soccer field where we were supposed to meet the parents an hour earlier than the pickup time. We decided to change the plan to meet the parents back at the preschool. Children walked tirelessly, that is all except for the two 2 year olds. They needed a little break here and there to be carried by the teachers. 1-year old E was mostly carried as we went a little faster than his pace.
Safely back in the playground, everyone whose legs were exposed got a thorough wash with tecnu, soap and water to prevent them from getting poison ivy. We checked children for ticks.
Another day to celebrate. Thank you to everyone for the lovely day.
Children worked hard to cut, tear, crush, grate, transfer, pour, and stir to make the Harvest Soup. It had some special greens that Ryan dried and milled. It had miso that Mari made. It had mushrooms that we gathered on our walk. It had all the vegetables that children brought. It had love of all the hands made the soup.
We were blessed with a beautiful day for the community of neighbors and families to gather at 11:30 am. We had a circle to introduced ourselves. We sang "Summer Good Bye" and welcomed the autumn. We played "Catch the tail" game which was simply pairing up and taking turns with catching the tail. Grandparents, mothers, and fathers played with children. We were thankful for the delicious soup and wonderful side dish and bread that folks brought to share.
There were enough Harvest Soup to take home for family members who were not able to come. We wish you all a happy autumn!
We thrive in nature, and I just learned that actually nature thrives in the presence of us. We are fortunate to meet woodland creatures on our outdoor time. This snake was found on our walk on Friday walk. It was enjoying the sunshine. Children's eyes had to be adjusted to the scene since it was camouflaged well in the brown leaves. The snake went under the log pile home just like it said in the story The Gruffalo.
C made very nice cakes. When I asked, "where is the oven?" She looked around and found a perfect oven under the easel. A. wanted to use the heart shaped pan next so we decided to take a picture of the bakings.
F looked intensely inside the blue cup and said, "...pider!" We moved the little spider together to a safe place outside the sandbox. We sang "Itsy Bitsy Spider" together.
J and E worked together to play the "construction". There were a lot of sound effects. The "workers" had to stop and go to the story time and it was time to go home afterward. They will be back to work again soon.
Rachel, A and O were snuggled up playing a game. The younger ones saw it and smiled. It is true that the smiles are contagious.
The same day O slipped on a hill. The younger children came to show sympathy. Almost every day, we have someone cry for some reason. It is how they were cared for that matters more than the pain itself.
Run, jump, skip, crawl... The children need all the movement to grow their healthy body!
We had lovely visitors. We hope that L will join us at preschool soon. O pointed out the caterpillar that she spotted on a tree. I had to look hard to isolate it from the surrounding bark.
F. found a little toad on a stump. We said hello to the toad. F. wanted to hold the toad. With an assistance, he held it carefully close to the ground. We saw the same one the next day. Children almost expected to see it again on the following day but did not find it.
After the long summer break, the preschool started on August 30th. The children, parents and staff members seemed all happy to be back. We had a smooth transition back to the preschool for the most part. There are a few new children learning the preschool environment.
We are happy to have our new assistant teacher, Hadasah Micheals. Hadasah shares her deep love of nature with children. Hadasah and Mari had a quiet moment in the morning to prepare for the children and our day.
We are continuing our routine of the hand washing as the first thing as children enter the preschool. Parents and children wash hands together as they transition into the morning activities.
Preschool volunteer, Barb Perrin, brought baby bunnies one morning. Children loved petting the soft fur and learned to hold them with care. Children took turns holding the sweet bunnies. I saw some of them giving kisses.
R. is really into reading the fish book. The illustration is very lively and colorful. He really enjoys the colors and pointing out Mama and the baby ones.
We are really happy that all of us are here and to learn from each other.
The healthy social life is found when in the mirror of each human soul. The whole community finds its reflection, and when in the community, the virtue of each one is living. ~Rudolf Steiner
A and O.F. were being very sisterly to younger friends. Helping the younger ones happens naturally when it is obvious that older children are more capable than younger ones. It empowers the older ones when they realize that they have so much to offer. Often the older children bring younger ones "cup and napkin" at snack time and pour some water in their cup. Sometimes an older child would initiate offering a bit of bread to the little ones who keep reaching for a sandwich while waiting for everyone to find their seat at the table. With a little explanation, everyone understands. During the indoor time, whenever little ones walk away from the table with a pair of scissors or put their toys in their mouth or rolling out the toilet papers (the list goes on), older ones are sure to alarm the teachers.
We function so much better as a mixed age group. It is particularly helpful when older children help the younger children outside during our walk. When R was exploring the woods he started to follow a child sliding down a hill covered with slippery leaves. I said, "C will you look after R. I think the hill may be too steep for him". C proudly went to R and helped him come back to the main area where we were playing.
Rita and Soccoro are sisters from Mexico. When they come, children are very excited. O.F. enjoyed getting her hair braided by Soccoro. Rita stood behind and twisted the yarn and Soccoro wove it into the braids. We are thankful for the sweet sisterly time shared at preschool.
The leaves are green and apples are red They hang so high above our head Leave them alone til frosty weather And they will all come down together
From October through November, we sang apple songs. After some heavy frost, the apples were so much sweeter. It was time to make the applesauce.
The steam was still rising from the cooked apples, and the sweet smells of apples filled the air. A. helped assemble the applesauce maker on the table. We looked at all the interesting parts that had a particular purpose. The spring, the funnel, the "slide", the handle, the spiral piece, and the metal piece with lots of tiny holes.
After we put the pieces together, children were very curious how it was going to work. Plop! Went the cooked apples into the funnel. Crank! Went the handle round and round. Ooze! Went the applesauce squeezing through the tiny holes. Wee! Went the applesauce sliding down into the bowl. We took turns with different jobs. We sang "We are working as a family", and also the taking turn song. C.W. was spotted for dipping his finger into the bowl to taste (or just to feel the sauce).
After we finished making the sauce, we took apart the machine and washed the parts in a hot soapy water. Hand brushes were handy to get small bits of apples that got stuck in the tiny holes. A. handed me the handle and said, "Here Mari, I washed the hitch for you". She had gone on a camping trip recently for her mother's birthday. I thought "hitch" was a good name for a handle which moves the whole operation.
We served the applesauce at snack time and sent a little sample home for the families to enjoy.
On a beautiful autumn Thursday, we were on our usual walk. Children are so observant and often talk about the changes in fields and gardens. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by well-maintained gardens, and over the year, we can see full circles of planting to harvest, and harvest to rest, and rest to new planting.
Out in the field, children spotted Gardener Matt and children said a big hello. Matt was busily collecting something from the ground, but when he heard us, he stopped and invited us to come and join the sweet potato digging. Children were very excited to this opportunity to dig and look for the "treasures".
Matt told the children that they need to put them gently in the crate like they are real babies. Children followed Matt's instruction and carefully lowered the sweet potatoes with both hands.
When we were finished digging, we washed them under the garden water spouts. As the dirt got rinsed off, we could see the warm orange color of a sweet potato. Some children needed to wash them until every speck of dirt was rinsed off.
We laid them under the apple tree in a single layer to air dry. Matt told the children that they are not supposed to stay in the sun because they will turn poisonous.
We really enjoyed the spontaneous digging activities, and thankful for Matt and all the farmers in Celo for growing healthy food for the community.
On October 23, we had a successful fall fundraising pasta meal at Celo Community Center. The parents and staff prepared delicious sauce for the pasta and baked lovely bread and desserts. The kitchen and dining room crew worked cheerfully and the children ate and played happily. This year we improved our meal by making sure we have caretakers for the children during the meal. Children's artwork was displayed all around the dining room. We served around 66 neighbors and community folks. Many of them left warm comments towards the program. It really felt as we all are a part of the childcare community.
We had a wonderful Fall Field Trip to Arthur Morgan School on October 14th. It was wonderful to take the woodland trail across several hand built bridges. The trails were covered with a carpet of red and golden leaves. Children enjoyed stopping and visiting the creeks.
We were welcomed by the AMS students who were pressing apple cider. Children helped put the apples into the funnel and as a student turned the wheel on the side, we watched the apples crushed into small bits. Some children took turns turning the wheels, but realized that it is not as easy as it looked. Then a big wheel on top was turned to squeeze out the apple juice. Younger ones wanted to dip their hands straight into the cider as it trickled down into a pot. The air was filled with a sweet smell of apples all around mixed with wood smoke coming out of school's chimney. We were so grateful for the rich experience.
We jumped on the leaf pile. We had no idea that a student was hiding completely under the pile and we almost jumped right onto him!
We settled at a picnic table and enjoyed our snack. Brad brought us warm apple cider enough for everyone to enjoy the taste of autumn! It was lovely.
We went to say hello to turkeys and gave them some compost from the kitchen. They made lots of sounds that children imitated while we watched. We wondered what they were saying to each other.
We tried digging for potatoes, but we did not find any, but we had fun anyway getting our hands in the dirt.
We had such a fun day, but it wasn't over yet. Students hid cute little pumpkins along the trail on the way back. Everyone looked and found their pumpkins! When we were at a creek, F's pumpkin went floating down the creek. It got stuck on a big rock so the older children tried to save it. In a mean time, C got stung by a yellow jacket. While caring for him, the pumpkin flowed down the creek. T said, "Where did it go?", so I said "Maybe all the way to Granny's beach". (I heard that later T. and mother went to the Granny's beach and T was looking for the pumpkin). We sang "Once I was a pumpkin" song on the way back to the soccer field where were met the parents.
Special thanks to Brad for making it possible for the Fall Field Trip at AMS.
We had a wonderful first week back to preschool. The returning children were excited to see everyone, and the preschool rythem seemed to comfort them. The new children seemed happy to be at preschool. Everyone enjoyed the time when we sat together to share the snack. The lights in the main room were turned off so that we can all relax in the natural light. We found a seat to sit and held hands to make a circle around the table. First, there was lots of busy noise of chairs, cups hitting the table, children talking and making sounds all at once. When we held hand together, we took a big long breath, and tried to be quiet. It is only a brief moment or two, but very sweet time to have children join in the silence. Finally after the silence, we sing our grace, and "yum hum". We spread love all around with "butterflies". We have lots of rituals before the snack. Opal Violeta wrote me a note both in word and picture so that I would remember to bring matches to light a candle for snack time.
We have been watching outdoor landscape turn from winter to spring. We are also noticing there is outdoor constructions starting to take place around preschool. Pablo Cope dug trenches along Meeting House Lane and Chimney Ridge Rd. We sat and watched him control the back hoe. He allowed all the children to sit on the seat of the tractor and hold the steering wheel. On another walk, we stopped to watch the concrete mixer truck pass on Hannah Branch Rd. The driver was very friendly, and when he saw us on side of the road, he stopped the truck and got out of the truck to greet the children. Children asked questions to the driver. We found out that his name was Wayne. Children learned about the steps and handle just to climb into the cab of the truck. "Cab" was a new vocabulary for the day. The driver showed the children the panels (another new vocab) on the driver seat which showed different meters of the truck. Last thing children got to do was to pull the leather rope to honk the horn! It was so loud!
We are enjoying the neat birdhouse and colorful violet hanging baskets that Annelise's grandparents donated to the preschool. We thoroughly enjoyed their visit at preschool.
After being together over half of the year, children have gotten to know each other well. They really know strength and challenges of each other. We celebrate everyone's growths and welcoming discoveries. New friendships are forming between children. Each interaction signifies something of their relationship and careful support is given by the teachers. May all our friendship come to bloom this spring.
Spring Masquerade costumes this year was made from 10 large wool shirts donated by Appalatch- Theo's father's company. The dye was again from Cedar Johnson. My friend, Dari, and I had so much fun creating little capes, dresses, shorts, hats, and neck/belly warmers the night before. We felt like elves imagining how sweet children would look in the clothes! When children saw them, they were so excited! We went right into dying the costumes. Older girls wanted dresses, younger boys wanted capes, and others chose shorts to dye. Alena took few children at a time outside to dye their costumes while Rachel and I managed the more or less normal routine inside. We had a lovely snack time eating delicious sandwich bread made with Jonah's hands. Children remarked how Alena's purple-red curls on her hair looked just like the color of the dye. We had a lovely walk outside through the air filled with songs of spring birds and laughter of children. It was Alena's last day working at preschool. Children will miss her kind words and her creative senses, and the purple-red curls on her hair.
We felted some wool in soapy tub of warm water. The fluffy wool changes in texture when it gets wet. It takes lots of rubbing and rolling to make well felted piece. Most children just wanted to race through different color wool pieces. Cosmo rubbed a green wool for a long time and said, "I made a turtle!". They will become part of Spring Masquerade costume!
Fluffy white bunnies came to visit preschool from Camp Celo. They were so soft and warm. The bunnies hopped about the preschool (and children too) and ate apples from our hands. We tried to be quiet so that bunnies don't get scared. We also thought bunnies can hear much more than we can since their ears were so big. Forest's big sister was visiting, and at the end of the day, she was able to adopt the bunnies! We are so glad that Barb brings small animals to preschool for visits. We learn to be kind and gentle for the animals, and animals become more friendly with people. We sang Hop Little Bunnies at circle time.
Old man winter came out today, and said, "I am going to make this a very cold day!" We had more snow! We are getting good at putting on snow pants and woolen layers to keep us warm from head to toes. We found many footprints that belong to animals that live in the woods. Snow reveals their activities even though most of the time we don't get to see them.
Children loved sliding down the snowy bank by the bridge to Meema and Peepa's. Vera tried to cover little creek that ran under the snow and ice with more snow. The snow kept dissolving into the creek.
One day Cosmo and Vera made snow chair. It had arm rest and was very comfortable. Ginger liked the snow man "toe man". We enjoyed the nice warm foot bath afterwards.
We had two weeks of wintery weather. It started with icy snow that Vera said, "If you take baby steps, you can walk on snow (without sinking your boots in the snow)." We body sledded down the hill behind Friends Meeting. Children slid in all kinds of fashion: on their bottom, on their belly, on their knees, side-way style, on a teacher's lap, and a train going down together hooting "toot toot!" Children took turns with our "sled" (re-purposed plastic container lid that was big enough for one child to use). They would hold the sled for each other as sometimes it was tricky to get on the sled. This was done without teachers being involved. We had to put sand and gravel to slow down the sled on a well polished track so that they wouldn't run into the porch steps especially when Annelise got her running start. Annelise dragged her feet to make friction which was helpful in slowing her down. Opal Claire ate ice and she offered me several times, "Eat ice?" she would say holding a tiny chunk of ice in her mitten.
The second week's snow was good for building and making things with. Cosmo and Tim joined Rachel Weir with clearing the pathways. We were inspired by Rachel who is a caretaker of Friends Meeting rolling huge snow balls down the drive way. Children climbed up on the snow balls and jumped from snow ball to snow ball. We went down to the river and built a tunnel (or a horse depending on who you ask) on the frozen ice. It looked pretty cool. One child decided to pee on his snow ball to make it yellow. He said, "Maybe you can wash it later". On another walk, children tried to cover the creek with snow. They worked together intensely toward the goal, but nature was not making it easy for them either. By the time I said we should go, their snow suits were looking pretty wet.
We were so thankful that we were able to play and enjoy the snow. I cherish the moments standing in the windy freezing playground looking intensely at snow flakes Vera and Cosmo collected on their mittens. "Here look! Actual live snow flakes!" No doubt that foot bath felt extra good afterwards.