Saturday, February 27, 2016

Milwaukee River Segment

Sometimes, the best events originate from altered plans. While on our way to a different location, we came across some unexpected issue that forced us to change the plan. Luckily for us, a Ice Age Trail trailhead was just minutes away. Problem solved!

My family and I always enjoy trekking through trail that is new to us and this was our first excursion on the Milwaukee River Segment. Though a bit muddy and breezy, the sunlight made reminded us of the many hikes ahead of us.

Embry of course made a required stop to bop every blaze, though she changed walking sticks a few times along the way. She's developing great flexibility and innovation as she found a new use for the walking stick, bopping the blazes she can't quite reach.

She also made sure she was the leader, blaring "I want to be the hike leader" every time Mom or Dad stepped ahead. While her fearless attitude is appreciated, it did lead to a few extra stumbles and fumbles in the mud. That didn't stop her though. She still declared that "we're going the wrong way" when we decided to turn around. She hates turning around! She knows that means we are headed back to the car.

To help avoid any more falls in the mud on the return route, she commandeered a second stick for extra balance. She also entertained us with songs all the way back top the car, stopping of course to point out roots, rocks, and every single paw print she could find.

Though today's hike was bit slick and slippery, the sunshine and gorgeous views make a return trip a sure thing this hiking season.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 24 - 2015-16 Edition

With the snow melting away, it was time to get muddy and play. However, with the ground still in its early thaw, we weren't going to get too carried away. Unless of course any of the ridiculous wind gusts we were battling took us for a ride.

We are going to spend more time in our school garden once spring hits, so I thought we should start investigating dirt a little bit more. We read a book on dirt and then used our hands and hand lenses to "sweep the forest floor" and see what we could find. The results were exciting. Students found rocks, mushrooms, ice, roots, nuts, twigs, feathers and deer tracks. The students also swore they found bird eggs, dinosaur bones, and treasure.

A few girls excitedly called me over to show off that they found a stick growing out of the ground, but not like the stick of a tree. It was then that we were introduced to vines. The girls had fun swinging the vines around and searching for other examples throughout the woods.

Unfortunately, the wind postponed" the forest floor" art project I had planned. I am excited to see what we will come up with.

During natural play time, the students broke off into groups and went to different areas of the land. While the rock pile was a popular place at the beginning, kids trickled out and about as time elapsed. Those that stayed at the pile noticed that they could start digging and moving rocks around to find the buried treasure now that the snow was gone.

While watching the rock climbers and keeping my eye on a few kids meandering through the prairie grasses, a group of boys summoned me over to a corner of the woods where they swore the "trees were squeaking." Sure enough, the trees were making sound as they swayed in the blustery breeze. The boys would have watched the tree all day if possible, from a safe distance of course. They desperately wanted the wind to take a tree down. Though disappointed, they didn't get their wish.

Though we got a muddy and chilled, we all made it and are ready to continue our learning next time out.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tyke Hike #20 - Lapham Peak

Mother Nature would have been an amazing pitcher because she threw us all another curveball today. With temperatures in the 50's, our winter walk was anything but. 40 hikers joined in on the first official Tyke Hike of 2016.

As usual, my daughter co-led the hike, though she meandered throughout the crowd as she used her walking stick as a telescope at the beginning of the hike and a microphone at the end of the 1.3 mile trek.

In this year's Tyke Hikes, I am aiming to vary up the experiences. While literacy, physical, and art connections are sure to be a part of every hike, I am focusing on more hands on experiences with a special emphasis in natural play. In my forest kindergarten program,seeing how such  simple interactions with nature can create lasting memories, learning opportunities, and pure and simple fun, I can't help but include a natural play opportunity with each hike.

On this first time incorporating it into the hikes, the children were excited to test out their natural play skills balancing on fallen trees, navigating the icy incline, and befriending some burdock plants.

Add two more school hikes and today involved over 130 hikers out and about on the trail. Not a bad little Saturday at all.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 23 - 2015-16 Edition

It felt to get back into forest kindergarten mode after having to take a week due to frigid temperatures. Despite the week away from land, we got right back into the swing of things.

With temperatures expected to climb into the 50's and last through much of the weekend, we wanted to take advantage of the snow while we still had it. However, before starting the outdoor portion of our day, we decided to show our parent volunteers a smorgasbord of snow activities. After kicking off the day with a book revolving around the glorious Snow Day.

Then we made our bird feeders. Because we have noted the animals prefer the peanut butter and sunflower seed version, we left the pretzels and cheerios behind and focused on their favorites. We followed our feeder creations with the students filling up their water bottles and using food coloring to mix colors together and make a rainbow of water bottles. We wrapped up the indoor portion of our forest day with a snack while watching The Snowy Day but Ezra Jack Keats on the SMARTBoard.

After heading to the wooded area and dropping off our feeders, we headed to the open field with water bottles ready to write in the snow. Given directions of proper sentence structure, we were going to write a Valentine's Day message to Mother Nature. Even though it was a bit late, I'm sure she appreciated the gesture.

We all love Mother Nature in Forest Kindergarten!

Of course,we couldn't leave a freshly blanketed field without sliding in the snow and making a few snow angels.

Then it was off to the snowshoe rack. While prior snowshoe activities test the patience of both children and adults, I was pleased and proud of the children for their effort and success with at least attempting an independent application of the shoes. It also didn't help to have a few extra adult hands around.

After a hike to the oak tree classroom, we shared a new non-fiction story that talked about how snowflakes form and the different types of snow (flurries, snowstorms, blizzards). We were especially fascinated with some very amazing facts about the East Coast's Great Blizzard of 1888.

Once we shared some new knowledge about the story, natural play time was here. As has been the case since it was originally discovered, the rock pile was a favorite destination. However, know fully immersed in snow, we had to use tools to uncover the rocks and search for treasures in the snow.

As is the case on most days, the students come up with new ideas, new activities, and a fresh approach to looking at the way they learn. Today, I enjoyed them finding more unique ways to get their snowshoes back to the storage rack.

With next week being a little less snowy and a little more slushy, I can only imagine what we will do next.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 22 - 2015-16 Edition

A steady and annoying sprinkling of sleet kept us inside for the start of our forest day. Also, with an anticipated snowstorm fizzling away the night before, the snowshoe-themed activities were altered. Luckily, kindergarten is always about flexibility. Rather than get chilled to the bone, we decided to have a Bird Feeder Bonanza.

We went hog wild and built a variety of bird feeders.

  • Toilet paper rolls with peanut butter and sunflower seeds
  • Popsicle sticks with pipe cleaners and cheerios
  • pine cones with peanut butter and seeds and cheerios
  • pretzel garlands
  • sticks hot glued together in geometric shapes (We didn't get to adding food, but we'll get there.)

Once we had a nice collection of feeders ready, we hit the trail, found a special spot for all of our feeders and set out for some natural play.

In our woods walk, a few discoverers found a nice pile of deer scat. Of course, this attracted much attention and a few grimaces (though I may have asked them to put on their grossest face).

With a potential for snow this upcoming weekend, maybe some snowshoeing will be in our future.