Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lessons on motion, friction and Peter the Rabbit!

As TOP gets closer to spring weather we are talking more and more about seasons and their changes. Some of the changes happen right in front of us in your children's bodies. They grow in stature and maturity as the school year progresses. They grow like the flowers and leaves at Farrel-McWhirter. Their growth through the school year is huge. Sometimes I listen to the TOP child and think how much their vocabulary has grown in the year. Or as they scamper up a tree, I remember their fear of climbing or tentative beginnings of balancing on a log. We go into the woods and a child finds a lone twig of a tree and she whips it back and forth watching what her movements can do. The only thing we teachers say is "good for you-making sure that no one is near to hit with that tree." She reaches her neck up high to watch what happens 15 feet above her-until she is done with her own lesson of movement. What did she learn? That a slight motion can make a big motion at the end. She was watching a wave without having words to her learning. But learning she was!
Because we are lucky enough to have the farm, we'll get to watch baby chicks grow and grow quickly. We'll watch the mother goat grow in roundness as she gets ready to give birth in June. We'll plant our own garden and watch it grow.

Needing a little help getting back onto the walkway from the grass. Friction wins!

Tuesday began with rides in the wagon. 3 is the largest number of children that can fit in the wagon safely. Generally we have one child pulling with others pushing-but no running. We have rules and then let the children explore. What is there to explore and learn from a wagonride? How about friction? Gravity? The children decided to pull the wagon on the grass. I asked them if it would be harder on the grass or easier than the sidewalk. The children answered both in the affirmative-then off they were to the grass to find out. They came back needing lots of help. Was it harder or easier? They have just learned about weight, friction, forces, movement all with a wagon. And they exersized their muscles. An excellent way to have body memory of a learning activity.

Today Peter the Rabbit decided to visit us in the Ops Building. As the children sat in a tight circle, Peter went and greeted each child. We discussed what we knew about rabbits; They hop. They are soft. They are quiet. They have big back feet. What we noticed about rabbits; They are quiet. Their back feet look like kangaroos who also hop. Then we learned a bit about rabbits; They are usually quiet unless they are scared or hurt, then they can scream. Their whiskers help them to tell if a space will fit their body. Sometimes people have rabbits as pets in the house. Peter was very friendly to Teacher Ann and kept hopping back into her lap. I think it felt like a safe place to him. The children were very respectful and careful when they petted Peter. It was a fun learning activity.

Next week April 3rd and 5th are Spring Break for TOP. Also April 17th and 19th we are closed.
There IS school April 10th and 12th.

Teacher Jen is gone until the end of April. She is undergoing surgery this morning. I'll let you know how she is doing. With the wonder of modern surgery, she expects to be home by this afternoon and ready to begin healing. If your children want to bring in cards-I will take them over to her house. We'll also make cards at school to bring over.

Thank you to the parents who are helping out while Teacher Jen heals!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mud! Glorious Mud!

Where else can you get all muddy but TOP? The kids were very inspired to get muddy! It began slowly with stomping in the mud and poking into the mole holes. Then the shovels and buckets came out and pretty soon it was just hands and good dirty fun!

Kids working together.
Kids worked together to get the holes dug and you can see that there was no worry about sitting in the mud with their water proof/mud proof clothes on!

Boys concentrate on a job.
Here Boys worked together to fill a mud hole. Watch their concentration as they pour mud from one shovel to the other!

Studies show that Playing in dirt is good for children's immune system.

We had so much fun playing in the mud that we missed snack and after clean up we just sat down in the SUN for an early lunch. That still left time for a hike afterwards. Heading out into the woods the yellow group played in the holes around a downed tree-the game was: baby beavers, baby chipmunks or puppies/wolves-depending upon who was playing!

The blue group went to a favorite climbing area since the sun was cooperating.

News: If you plan on joining TOP for next fall-it is time to sign up for the Sept-Dec session. You can call Redmond Parks and Rec 425-556-2300 or sign up on line. Don't wait too long! We expect to fill up quickly!
Thanks for a fabulous group of dirty kids! You may want to bring a plastic bag to keep in your car for their muddy clothes. It is going to continue to be a very muddy season!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rain, Rain won't go away!

The day began with a steady rain that turned into a downpour like The Outdoor Preschool has never seen! We began by playing with balls and stiltsin the wet and toy cars got pushed around the puddles -until it started to pour. Then we moved into the shelter for circle time (Teacher Jen read a cool book about a storm tossed dinghy. While she read we got to make wind and thunder sounds.) Some birds came into our rain shelter to hide from the rain with us. The rain didn't let up so we ended up having snack right there and reading more cool books.
Pooh Sticks!

Really full stream!
After our snackand the rain letting up a bit, everyone was ready to head out and try out a new game. The game is called "The X game". One group is to go ahead on the trail and leave X markings on for the other group to follow. The yellow group got to go first. The kids made X's out of sticks all along the trail. We made it all the way to the bridge where we decided it was the perfect place to play "Pooh sticks". Pretty soon the blue group caught up with us by following our X's. We showed them how the stream was rushing so fast that you had to run really fast from one side to the other in order to see your Pooh stick pass by. We spent quite a lot of time looking for the right sticks to throw into the full stream.

On our hike back, the blue group showed us where they had found a new stream running right down the path. There was lots of good splashing to be had there and we had to be careful to not walk where the water was over our boots! We talked about how the water was cutting into the soil and washing it away and that the park workers will have to put in new rocks after the rain is over.

We were so glad to see Nicholas back at school today. It was heartwarming to hear the kids great Nicholas with hugs and "I missed you!" when he returned to TOP after a long absence. This group is so able to have fun in any weather. In spite of everyone being very wet at the end of the day, there were still lots of smiles and laughs at lunch time. We are all looking forward to playing the X Game again!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hand me down my old walking stick...

Our gathering, lunch and craft area-behind the pony barn.

Everyone washing up before lunch-they help each other.
Today we had 2 new children.. The brothers have just moved here from Minnesota and joined The Outdoor Preschool. They fit in easily and were welcomed by our kids to the group. I was especially impressed with Max who went up and introduced himself. Go Max!

Last week we picked up walking sticks on our hike so today the teachers drilled holes in the tops for leather straps and then the kids got to decorate them. Again we went over the proper usage of sticks and not a one child was banged in the head with an errant stick. The kids really have learned how to play with or use a stick safely.

At circle time everyone introduced themselves to Tyler and Isaac and then we went over the safety rules of TOP. The kids carefully explained how to stay safe in the woods; Don't go out of the teacher's sight, run ahead only if you ask first, don't swing sticks, call out loudly if you are lost. Then we got to begin to teach the new boys our TOP song.

If you don't remember the words -here is a refresher!

Welcome to the TOP!
Where adventure never stops.
We'll hike and run in the rain and sun and sometimes we just hop.
With our outdoor voices, we'd like to say hello---HELLO!
In the rain and run we'll have some fun.
We're always on the go.
See if you can find me, in the forest farm or stream.
Hilltop, Treetop, Even me TOP.
T-O-P that's me!
Top of the morning to you!

When we split up the blue group went off and hiked to a favorite tree stump near the river. The kids took turns sitting in the "drivers seat" and driving to all sorts of places. After reading the story "Bear Feels Scared" we contined on our hike. We found another fun play spot and stopped to play and climb on some fallen trees.

The yellow group began by a tour around the barnyard. We were glad to see Sunny the Sow up standing up and we got the turkey to gobble at us! Then we hiked to the education area in the woods and had snack on the benches there. The story today was The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. A classic about how a plant's seed can be moved by the wind.

Some people were really enjoying walking with their walking sticks. Some got tired of carrying them and in Teacher Jen's group she became a sherpa for sticks.

Teacher Jen as sherpa.

Max experimenting with balancing on a mossy rock.

Nina on her "teeter-totter" log.
The yellow group ended up throwing rocks in the stream, jumping onto a big rock or finding a teeter-totter log. All in all a great day at FM Park and Farm for the TOP kids.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Snow makes great mud!

Today we woke up to a snow storm but by the time we reached preschool it was sunny! The snow all melted away leaving good mud and puddles galore. The day began with much splashing and squishing. During circle time we talked about the snow and what happens in 2 weeks....Spring! We went over the order of the seasons. We will be going over the seasons every day since the order seemed to be a mystery! Carol King has a great song "Winter spring summer or fall...You've got a friend." I think we'll learn that one!

We sang our spring song next: "I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills..." then the TOP song and we were off!
The yellow group headed to the barn to spend time with the goats and learn the names of the mom goat-doe - and the daddy goat - buck.
Then we hiked to the big bridge where we sat for snack and the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Next time we cross the bridge we'll be checking to see if the troll is living under it.

Surprise! The blue group came up right when we were done with snack and stories and invited us to go play with them in the sun. We were off and running to the tire swing and one of our favorite tree stumps. The kids quickly remembered what they liked to do there and soon everyone was occupied either roasting marshmallows, being a dragon, looking for beads and sprouted maple seeds and swinging on the tire swing. Phew!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Monsters, Moles and Skunk Holes

"I'm in a monster's mouth with big teeth!"
We learned today more about skunks. We learned that have a really good sense of smell. Pretty funny, don't you think? So with that in mind we went out hunting for "smells". These were scent soaked cotton balls put into a can with a lid. The blue group went first and hid the cans for the yellow group to find along the trail. The kids were very excited to find the cans, smell the scent and give a thumbs up or thumbs down to whether they smelled good or bad. The smells were vanilla, peppermint, eucalyptus and garlic. Theo thought the vanilla smelled like vanilla ice cream. Most of them agreed that the garlic was "yucky". Pretty soon the yellow group had found the blue group hidden along the trail.

After snack time and stories about skunks and their habits, the kids settled down to play. We had kids who found cool holes to hide in and pretend they were moles. Nina, Ruby, Isaac, Jakey and Noah's heads kept popping up out of holes under a downed tree stump with big smiles on their dirty faces.We had other kids who found two logs with ferns growing on top of them that made up a "mouth" that looked like a monster's mouth. Henry was the first to climb in and say he was stuck in the monster's mouth. Pretty soon Theo had climbed up on top of its "head" and others were asking how he had gotten there. Jake and Gilberto both braved climbing on top of the monster and Jake also climbed into the "mouth." Max was exploring behind the tree and checking out the monster's "teeth". Noah, Isaac and Ruby pretended to be deer running up and down the trail.

There was so much creative play going on in the forest today. Remember, these are kids with no toys beyond what they find in the forest, on the ground or growing near by. But they are still able to create stories in their minds of monsters, moles and planes and play peacefully with each other for long stretches of time. It is a joy to watch and learn from them.