Children benefit from taking a little break from playing indoor and getting the fresh air. This break function well right before they go back inside to start cleaning and having a group circle time. They are able to breath deeply and expand their lung and relax their body and mind. It does not have to be a long time, maybe 5-10 minutes. This time is combined with “Nature Potty”.
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 don't usually do a staff birthday story, but when the children found out that it was Rachel's birthday, they all asked to have the birthday story. It was at the end of a wonderful autumn day. The children all gathered in the story circle. When Rachel finished cleaning the classroom and came outside, they all sat quietly and waited for the story.
Rachel's spirit longed to live on the beautiful earth, and when she was finally ready, she was guided by her angel over the rainbow bridge safely to the arms of her mother and father. Oh, how glad her parents were to see her little hands and beautiful eyes. They planted all their wishes and dreams. The story also talked about all the earthly creatures anticipating Rachel's arrival. The flower whispered to the insect friend how it couldn't wait to have Rachel admire the colors of the delicate petals. The insect flew to tell the horses and other four-legged animals how it was excited about Rachel and her curiosity about the insects (that day Rachel dissected a chrysalis that had turned brown). And so on the whisper spread to the bird of feathers who flew to the river to bring the news. Then the river carried the news to the ocean and to the ocean inhabitants. They were all looking forward to a sweet encounter with Rachel. The story continues on with Rachel's journey around the sun. As she travels longer, she gains more skill and knowledge as well as a deepening of her soul and her understanding of the souls of others.
This story reminds us to that we are connected with everything around us in a very intimate way. Our wonder in nature goes at least two ways. The natural world is reaching out to us as much as we reach out to it.
Children at The Children's Garden seem to take this story to heart. They know insects and other creepy crawlers are living their own lives while we live ours. In special occasions, we get to interact with them. They know that the wind whispers and sunshine smiles on us on a cold walk outside. They know the mother oak tree drops many acorns which dig their red slippery roots in spring in hope to start a new life. We share the space and time with the natural world as it does with us. We share and respond to the natural world as we grow.
The children were engaged in the story and they gave sweet blessings to Rachel on her birthday.
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.
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.
Our misty rain turned to gentle rain today. There are so many nature blessings on the rainy May walk. Children put on their rain suits, jackets, and boots and asked, "Is it time to go?" At the waiting rocks, children played "Simon Said" game. Today, O was the Simon. I whispered words into her ear. O said, "Go to the waiting tree". Everyone ran to the waiting tree!
G showed me Tulip tree flower. My botany friend, Morgan Hincks, said that Tulip poplar is not a poplar at all. I found out that it actually belongs to a magnolia family. The large green/orange flower was so impressive. Surprisingly, all intact to have fallen from such a tall tree. Later the petals turned into a boat and a bed for a fairy.
That was not all the flowers we saw today. The woodland path was sprinkled with delicate Mountain Laurel flowers. Children collected, I threaded them on a thin twig for a decoration or made one into a fairy's umbrella or held it upside down like a lantern (unopened ones). I thought the collections of flowers may be threaded to make a beautiful nature neckless tomorrow.
On Meema and Peepa's driveway, we were met by the intoxicating sweet fragrance of Japanese Honey Suckles. We collected a few and suck the nectar. Meema said I can make a graduation crown out of those. Wouldn't it be beautiful?
The cheerful daisies were open in the rain. I asked children not to pick them for they flower much longer with their roots in the ground. Children counted to see how many of them were open instead.
This morning, we had a surprise bunny visit. J's father, Alex said that there were bunnies at their home and their nest was destroyed. Alex said bunnies are getting used to being bottle fed. The gray bunnies were very little, but they already had nice fur and even a small fluff for the tail. Children took turns holding them close to their body to keep them warm.
Just last Thursday, Ryan brought two little ducklings he hatched with an incubator. I think they were a few days old. You could still identify the remains of the egg tooth when they broke the shells to come out. We learned to use gentle hands to softly hold the ducklings. They nuzzled children's shirt looking for things to eat. Ryan gave some ground grains of some sort and we watched the ducklings use their yellow beak to eat.
How so interesting that bunnies hopped and ducklings waddled when they were only born merely days ago. Human babies take almost a year before they can walk. In a sense, we are brought prematurely to the world. We develop slowly.
After we said goodbye to the bunnies, we washed our hands and enjoyed the painting day. One of the children painted a bunny. At the end of the day when the bookmobile came, one of the children wanted a bunny book. I realized how children's mind are so alive making connections to make sense of this world.
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.
It was wonderful to be hosted by R's parents house in the quiet dead end of the road known as Silver Cove. We listened to the story of St. Martin by Sherry Lovett while the sun was casting the pink rays as it set. We sang a few songs. A wanted to sing "Down with Darkness Up with Light". We also sang St. Martin's song. We started our lantern walk through the path into the woods which went around the silver cove pond. We sang This Little Light of Mine, and Walk in the Light (from Quaker Hymnal) which is not a song we sang at preschool, but it seemed fit at the moment.
When we came around to the opposite side of the pond, the moon has risen and was reflecting on the pond ever so quietly and beautifully. Matthew helped the children go on a dock. We continued on with more songs, "Through the Street of The Town". We heard some Arthur Morgan School students walking. We sang "Red and Yellow Green and Blue, Come and join us please, please do!".
Back at the Meadow House, the cozy picnic table was lit up with lanterns we made. Sadie had made butternut pumpkin soup and potato soup all I am sure made with local ingredients. She has also made delicious bread sticks and pizza as well. Mari's soup had pigs meat from Matt Riley/ Camp Celo. Matt was excited to know that I was making the soup with the neck bones. The children sure remember the pigs and now we get to thank the pigs as we eat the soup. The evening got colder and colder as the moon rose higher in the sky, but the sweet company of old and young children and loving parents sharing the food made the evening so special that nobody seemed to mind the cold at all. Sending you all the strength through the darkness. Thank you for the beautiful evening.
Down with Darkness Up with Light
Down with darkness, up with light
Up with sunshine, down with night
Each of us is one small light
But together we shine bright
Go away darkest blackest night
Go away, give way to light.
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
We were given a beautiful morning to work on the playground. We were productive with spreading the mulch around the playground. We put a fresh coat of paint on the tower structure. We worked on the fence and tightened up some areas that were damaged by a fallen tree. We tried to rabbit proof the fence so we can have our bunnies visit the playground. We even mulched the path to the playground. We took down the old picnic table and brought in wooden crates that can be used as playing structure. Parents and children worked together. We are so grateful for your participation!
We gathered around for the family orientation afterwards with some healthy snacks to munch on. Some parents expressed their excitement in starting back the school year while new parents expressed a bit of anxiety with transitioning into the new routine. We went over some "Policy and Procedure" and yearly calendar events.
We have 10 families and 6 staff members this year. Looking forward to spending quality time with all the children. Thank you so much for your participation. We are off to the great start!
Special thanks to Isak Pertee for a huge load of woodchips!
About 4 years ago, preschool enjoyed visiting a beaver working site. The beavers had built a dam across a creek about 10 feet long. We were not sure about their lodge, but it was so fun to visit and see the shavings around stumps where they had gnawed. C.E's parent informed me that there is a new beaver site by a nearby creek. Where the creek meets South Toe River you could see the trees marked by the work of beavers. How long did it take to cut down the trees? Where did they take the trees? There were many questions to answer. We also wonder if beavers would sharpen our coloring pencils.
Beavers are supposed to be active building dams in fall so that they can store their food under the lodge for the winter. Beavers eat the leaves, inner bark, and twigs of aspen (a favorite food), alder, birch, cottonwood, willow, and other deciduous trees. Beavers also eat shrubs, ferns, aquatic plants, grasses, and crops, including corn and beans.
On the same day C.E. brought the woodchips gnawed by beavers for Show and Tell, A. brought her tooth that she accidentally broke when she fell off a step stool. We passed around woodchips with beaver's toothmark and a human tooth that was white and had a long root. Bob Johnson in Celo said once he found a beaver tooth. I had to ask him if it were orange because C.E. and O.F. who have been studying about beavers informed me that a beaver tooth is orange due to high iron content. Bob said it was indeed orange, and it curved like a hook because beavers keep growing their teeth as it gets worn from using. How convenient if our teeth can keep growing as needed!
Very unfortunately, about three weeks ago, one of preschool assistant teachers, Peg fell and broke her wrist. Peg showed children her big cast that went all the way to her forearm to stabilize her wrist movement. We had to learn to hold Peg's hand very gently at circle time.
As it is introduced by Waldorf education during the first week of December I have been thinking about tooth and bones which are both minerals. For some reason, children started to play with shells at preschool too. When we do our footbath after a cold walk, we have a salt block (which is another familiar mineral) that Amanda gave us to rub back of our feet. How interesting that without any effort, the presence of minerals seem to surround the children already. We are thankful for the minerals on our planet which support and give us structures. Hopefully no more broken bones and teeth for a long time.
We enjoyed the story of St. Martin told by Sherry Lovett. We heard about the humble heart of Martin wanted to help the poor. Sherry tells the story in the way that moves and inspire the audience. We would like to thank Sherry for coming to bring her gift of storytelling.
We sang songs of St. Martin and other songs about lanterns. The songsheet was complied with a beautiful illustration by Heather Waters.
We lit our hand made lanterns and started our walk around the neighborhood. By then it was starting to get dark and our lanterns glimmered beautifully just like the song we were singing. The sound of a creek that run nearby accompanied our singing.
From time to time children needed their lanterns to be relit. When the candle wax was spilled and there was no way to re-light the candle, Rita gave her candle out of her lantern and put it in G's lantern. G's lantern started to glow again.
We enjoyed our shared supper of warm soup and bread. Thank you everyone for your contribution. It was wonderful to spend the evening with you. We embraced the cold and dark winter together with the light of our lanterns and our warm friendship.
The preschool was given a beautiful pumpkin by our friend and a former teacher, Anna. I think it was grown by a homeschooled child. It was perfect because my pumpkin seed did not get planted in time so the vine frosted on the first frost before pumpkins grew on them. Older children were ready to draw the eyes, nose, and mouth. The children surrounded me with curiosity when I cut the top around the stem and lifted it up. Healthy looking seeds were dangling from the "lid" (each attached by orange stringy things). O.F. said, "It looks like a jellyfish". I moved the "jellyfish" like it was swimming in the air above them. M.came over and watched me pull out rest of the seeds with hands. He wrinkled his nose for the impressive mess that continued to be scooped out of the pumpkin. Older children took turns drawing eyes, nose, and mouth. We sang:
Once I had a pumpkin, oh pumpkin, oh pumpkin Once I had a pumpkin with no face at all. With no eyes and no nose And no mouth and no ears Once I had a pumpkin with no face at all.
So I made a Jack-O-Lantern, Jack-O-Lantern, Jack-O-Lantern So I made a Jack-O-Lantern with a big funny face. With big eyes and big nose And big mouth and big ears So I made a Jack-O-Lantern with a big funny face.
The face made the pumpkin have a humorous characteristic. G. kept putting fingers in the mouth. We pretended to save her fingers from getting eaten by the Jack-O-Lantern. She thought it was a fun game. We put a candle in it to see it glow. Happy Halloween to everyone!
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.
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.
April sky is always full of water. Our rain gear get used almost every day. If it isn't for the rain, it is for the wet grass and mud. April shower gives us lots of hope for spring flowers and vegetables to grow. With hopes in our hearts we walk lightly in the rain. We often meet our friend, Brenda. Cosmo calls her granny. Brenda stops to admire everyone's rain suits and boots. We like her walking stick.
On March 18th, we had a wonderful spring field trip to a sheep farm at Ben and Cedar's. We packed picnic lunch and children carried cup and napkins in a small sack. We took mostly Celo Community trails. All the walking children walked including Opal Claire and Ginger who were 1 year old. Forest rode on Mari's back.
Children were so excited to see the sheep on the hill. Farmer Ben McCann came to greet us. He invited older children to go in the shelter to meet the lambs. Each lamb had a name tag on his or her ear. "So we can tell them apart", Ben said. Lambs were so cute. They had curly fur and long tails. Their mothers Baaed intensely when lambs were separated from them. Ben told us that sheep like to be with each other. They don't like to be far away from the group. Children pet the lamb while Ben held one in his arms. Children watched the lambs eat corn in the trough. They were hungry. Ben let the lambs go back to their mother in the field. We watched them find their mother and nursed from her. Children loved Lulu the donkey who protect the sheep from predators. Lulu is a gentle and friendly donkey to children. She still had shaggy winter fur.
We then washed our hand with soap and water, and settled by a patch of yellow daffodils for our picnic snack. Children were hungry too after a good hike. Theo's grandfather helped fill the water and made sure every one got a good drink of water. After good visit, good food, and good diaper changes, we were ready to head back to preschool.
We said good bye to the sheep, Lulu, and thank you to Ben for the wonderful visit. We picked up our stroller to carry Ginger and Opal Claire and took Hannah Branch Rd. back to preschool. Everyone was content and happy to play in the playground until pick up time arrived.
It was nice to have Tilman and his mother join the field trip. I want to thank preschool's dedicated volunteers, Peg Chamberlain and Barb Perrin. We could not have done this trip without them.
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.