Well it’s that time of the year again.  We’ve had over 64 classes total with all the age levels and we managed to strengthen our love and respect for nature.

I am grateful for ALL of these children and families that come to Avalon to share in the joy of nature.   As I look back at all the photos I’ve taken this past season I smile.  I think of all the littles guys  who held my hands as we hiked.   I think back to the lessons my older kids learned from other naturalists, such as Len who talked to them about why and how he raises pheasants and bobwhite quail on the grounds of Avalon. I think about the night hikes which were always met with excitement All of it was so  inspiring to them and it  confirms that I am in the right place in my life doing just what I want to be doing.

My overall goal with these classes has and will continue to be getting kids OUTSIDE.  I cannot express how important this is for the future of our lives here on this planet.  These children will always have these memories of frogs, trees, hiking  in their hearts, so hopefully they will own it and protect it as they grow into young adults and one day, parents (yikes!).

Not only that, it is so fantabulous and  healthy to spend time in the outdoors rather then cooped up in a classroom or watching TV.

So to celebrate,  our last class is always about roasting that cube made of sugar, the marshmallow!!!  Luckily we have a great fire pit at the barn!!  Also, Chris once again brought in his hot dogs to roast.  How fun and yummy!!!

Here are some crazy photos.  Enjoy and we’ll see you on the other side in March.  Peace out….. Miss Sue

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Yesterday was a  beautiful fall day.  I was able to hold the class outside.  It felt so wonderful to sit on our squares and talk about fall and what happened to the trees surrounding us.  I asked, “what did the trees look like before they were empty” The preschoolers responses were varied and most of them said there were leaves on the trees.  Most of them said they were colored leaves.  It was hard for them to remember all the way back to the time when the leaves were green.  But finally we got there!  Something so simple that most take for granted.   It truly is an amazing cycle.

It’s great to just sit on the ground an talk about what is all around you. We could hear and see the geese flying, we could hear the pheasants squawking, and of course Owen heard the trains, “double deckers!”  Perhaps one thing a parent can share with their child is just sitting outside and listening.  It doesn’t take up that much time.  Especially now that fall is ending and the leaves are gone… there are so many different sounds available to our ears.  The need for our children to be able to  play outside is gaining more and more importance as we are seeing studies saying the there is a connection between lack of outdoor play in kids and learning issues.   Anyway, I digress to make that statement which is always on my mind.  Preachy Miss, Mrs., Mrs Aunt Sue !!!

Our class went on a leaf hunt and selected some oak leaves (no shortage of those) Each child brought their leaf back to the rock table to make a silhouette painting.  It was challenging but with the help of parents and grandparents they were able to pull it off and boy were they proud! So simple and so fun!

Here are a few pics:

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Then we went for a great hike to the magical evergreen tree!  I love this place.  We also discovered a lot too.  Saw some more pheasants, so beautiful!

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It was a fabulous day!!!

Get em outside!!!

SW

For some a mouse can send shivers down the spine.  Others will see a picture of one and go awwww!  I guess it depends upon your experiences with them.  Three of my classes learned about the mouse. I focused on the senses of the mouse and how important it is to them.

Then I  translated it to human senses.  It was fun to play,  what is that sound?, what is that smell? and the hunt for food.

The wily mouse uses all of its senses to survive…..  for hearing I hid items and made the sound that they had to identify….. pots banging, change jingling, paper crumbling.  It was great to see how excited they all were to guess.

Next, I set up an obstacle course where the kids had to be mice going through the field to get food.  They crawled out of their homes through a tunnel, went through the field on a pathway, then over a hill and through a walkway…. all to find food.  They had to bring the food back to their home where they started.  But! While they did this I was a predator flying around… owl or hawk… I did both..   There were lots of giggles and scurrying mice as I tried to attack.

Finally we did the sense of smell.  I had some essential oils and I put them on paper towels for the kids to smell.  Peppermint, “It smells like my mommy’s gum!!”  Lavender,  “smells like soap”,  Vinegar, “yuck! ew!”, and orange – most of them got that!

The grand finale of the day was our mouse craft.  Each grade level did a different project!!

Here they are:

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It was a great time.

Remember to bundle up and get outside!

Sue

Last Wednesday the 7th graders met with Douglas, one of the maintenance workers here at Avalon Park and Preserve, for a lesson in what it takes to keep the park looking the way it does.   Sometimes we forget about the work behind the scenes.  It’s important for us to appreciate the amount of work it takes to keep this park a peaceful and relaxing place to visit.

Douglas started out with a brief history of the Park talking about the acreage and the different parts of the park.  Next he pulled out the chainsaws and talked about he engines and the blades and how important the maintenance of  these machines were.  They all got to look at the chains up close and also got to feel the weight of different sized chainsaws. Developing respect for the machinery is important because it can be deadly if not taken seriously.  Douglas again showed the tools and the other machinery that the staff uses to maintain the grounds.

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The big machines were the best, especially when he pulled out a small tractor that he explained, they use to cut the wildflower fields down in the spring.  There were definitely surprised to hear about this.  They were all lucky enough to sample the tractor firsthand.  Their smiles were so big!!!

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Aidan in a welding mask! “I never saw one of these before!”

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Brandon at the wheel!

 

Finally we went out for our hike in the dark!!!  Awesome!!! We heard our friendly great horned owl… who who whoo!

As we walked through the fields Douglas recited poetry…

Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer 5
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake. 10
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, 15
And miles to go before I sleep.

 

What better place to hear this poem than in to middle of a field in the dark.  Bravo Douglas!!!

As we ended our hike he recited one more poem:

Jabberwocky
BY LEWIS CARROLL
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

 

A perfect ending to a perfect night! Thank you so much Douglas for filling our minds with a new appreciation for the woods at night  and poetry!

 

The Crew!

The Crew!

 

A great horned owl that’s who!  We went out the other night with the Kindergarten Natural Patterns class and we were lucky enough to hear both the great horned owl and a screech owl.  Sometimes it is hard for the kids to stand still and just listen, especially at this age.  But when you get to hear the owl it is such an amazing treat.  I love being with these kids in the dark.  There were 5 kids and two moms as the sweep.  (Thanks Coleen and Stephanie!!)  But at one time during the hike I actually had 5 kids attached to me.  Two on my right hand with their fingers in my hand and two on the left doing the same and one holding on to the back of my jacket… so fun!!!

I talked to the kids about the dark and how basically everything is exactly the same as when the lights are on.  It is a challenge to try to take the “fearful thoughts” out of the darkness.  Our vision is challenged… but our other senses can become acutely aware to all that is around us.  Then when you mix in the imagination… wow!  Everything gets blown out of proportion!!!   But there were no monsters or beasts out there!!!   So proud of my night hikers.

 

 

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Take your kids out into the night… even if it just in your backyard… listen, smell and embrace the darkness… it will serve them well!!!

Get outside!!!!!

Cut an paste this link to hear the great horned owl!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsTKkLxtGx4

Well it happens every year.  The sun sets early and our hiking time is cut short…. wait!  No it’s not…. the woods are still out there it’s just ….. well…. DARK!!

There is something that gets me so excited about walking in the woods as the sun sets and the dusk envelopes us.  My Natural Patterns class grade 1-3 set got to go on our first dark hike.

Of course there were some that didn’t realize that by the time we got back it would be dark… but I had some trusty flashlights to guide us!  (Thanks Mae for bringing yours) With the help of Ryan, the best ever 9th grade helper, we set out.

The colors of the fall leaves seem to vibrate as the sun is setting and while it was still a little light Owen decided that he was going to run ahead.  Well that stopped once darkness set in.

It was so fun and a great way to bond with the kids.  I reassured them that I would always be with them and that if they felt scared they could come walk right next to me.  I loved our conversations as we stroll along.

When we got back to the barn in the dark we talked about the leaves we collected but more about how it felt to be in the woods.

The kids told me that at times they were scared. Some were afraid they were going to be taken or that something would “eat ” us.  We talked about darkness, fear of it, bad dreams  and how our imagination can do a lot of things to us.

My hope is that they will feel a little less scared the next time we go out!

The next night I took  my Inspirations class of 4th to 6th graders into the darkness.  I put  two of my most trusted students in the back with two flashlights.  It was their job to make sure that no one got behind them.  They were awesome.  Thanks Aidan and Vincent!   It is an opportunity for all of the kids to be responsible and know that they had to listen for safety’s sake!

They did and thank goodness we didn’t loose anyone… ha ha   🙂   BUT we did get to hear a great horned owl calling out.  At first I don’t think they believed it was really an owl but after standing there we heard it again….  whoo who  whoooo      Awesome!!!!!!

Love my night hikers!!

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Moon!!!

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Night Hikers!

Chipmunks are cute little rodents that love to scurry about collecting food, digging burrows and making us say awwww.  In class today we learned about these creatures and how they survive.  We watched  a short and entertaining video of chipmunks trying to stuff huge amounts of nuts into their cheek pouches.  These preschool kids loved it and laughed as they watched the persistent little chipmunk stuff their face.

I thought it would be fun for us to become little chipmunks ourselves so I made little pouches for the kids to wear around their necks and we set out to collect some nuts.  Before we went into the woods we discovered some of the local burrows of the resident chipmunks that hang around the barn.

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Clover pointing out the chipmunk burrow!

 

 

Once we set out for our nut search it was important to get these little chipmunks to act and think like the chipmunk would.  We had to walk looking down for those nuts.  It took a while but they were successful.  Some of them even collected leaves for their beds!  Such beautiful and amazing kids.

It was a super day to be out in the woods, with the air so fresh and the multicolored leaves surrounding us!  Ahhhhhh   What a treat for the senses.

Here are the little chipmunks:

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When all was said and done and our time was up in the woods, we returned back to the barn with our pouches filled.  I suggested to the parents that they do an experiment with the nuts.  Take them home and place them outside then check back the next day to see if they were still there.  Simple but fun!

I promise we left enough nuts out there for the real chipmunks and squirrels to collect for their winter feast!!

Get out and go nuts!

Sue

IMG_4726Thank you Mark for being so organized, it meant the world to all of us.  At Avalon we are so fortunate to have a great group of guys who help keep Avalon what it is…. one of the most beautiful places on Long Island!

When we walked into the shop area of the Barn, laid out in front of us was a literal elve’s workshop complete with hammers, precut wood shapes and holes pre drilled!!  For the 7th grade Connections class this would be a journey to a place many of them have never been.  Using tools without an adult looking over their shoulder.  When they first saw all the wood and tools a few of them said, “I haven’t take Tech Class yet,”  but after today I think any sense of doubt in their abilities was erased.  After  I demonstrated the order of  assembly  they got right to work.  It was a great experience to watch them helping each other.  There was no stress of a grade or whether they were right or wrong.  They helped each other, gave advice and succeeded.  Kaitlyn completed the whole feeder on her own.  The independent type, while the others worked together.  There was laughter and groans as they realized the nails didn’t connect to the right place, but they tried again.  No one gave up!

 

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There is something to be said about the capability of kids.  If given the chance they will pull through.  As adults we need to have the patience to allow them to figure it out.  I am a firm believer in letting  kids use a hammer and nails just to bang them into a piece of wood.  It can be so satisfying and fun too.  It teaches respect for the tool.  Yes of course they could hit their finger and hurt it but it  also teaches the skill of how important it is to focus.  Ha ha!!  ouch!!

I am grateful that these kids had to opportunity to create something that maybe they though they could never do.  Now they can enjoy the sight of birds eating from their homemade feeders!

Mission accomplished!!

Peace and bang some nails!!!!!

Sue

If you were to give a child a ball of yarn in the woods what do you think they would do with it?  Well, yesterday I had the honor of standing back and watching.

Today I thought we would take it outdoors and the product was a half an hour of weaving and bobbing and trying not to get stuck in the web that they were creating.  They all took the web weaving very seriously.  I outlined the web with a strand of yarn to get them started then tied each child’s ball of yarn to the frame of the web, then set them free!!!! They took it further than the five trees we started with .  Pretty soon the web was expanding and expanding and expanding.  They were so very busy thinking of where they could go to next.  Needless to say these 5 year olds were very careful to not tie down their friends in the web. If someone got stuck they would help each other.  It was fabulous.

IMG_4706IMG_4705IMG_4703 IMG_4698IMG_4711What a fun day!!  As we were getting ready to pack it in the sun was setting and one of the kids said to me, “look at the sunset!”  Yes!!  look at it … what a beautify streak of pinky purple, couldn’t ask for a better ending to the day!

So give your kid a ball of yarn and let them get started!!!

with love, Misses Aunt Sue (as some of the kids call me!)

I asked some of my kids today what they knew about spiders, some of them said they are scary and poisonous.   Well today it was my turn to try to de-scarify the myth of spiders and teach them that they are indeed good for us to have in our world.  So we talked about body parts and their spinnerets and how they catch insects that could harm plants and pests that bother us…  they are indeed good but certainly some of them are a little weird looking.  So for a day at least we tried to be like spiders.

Three of my classes participated in a fun activity… creating a web out of yarn.  Needless to say this was a bit chaotic (personally I love that) and basically all the kids were involved in creating this web.  All it took were three chairs, balls of yarn and a dash of fun!  I loved to see the kids running around to catch the balls of yarn they threw across the web, watching some of them get stuck in the web and some that crawled underneath to work from the bottom.  Fun stuff you can do at home!!

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So now it ‘s all finished… their crazy web that sorta looks more like a 70’s macrame deal… but to them it’s a web .  I cut it off the chairs and hung it on the wall.  I wonder what people will think of this when they see it?  I will know and the kids will know that it is their spider web that THEY created.  Good for them!!

The kids also made the these great spider crafts.  Some of the little preschoolers even took their spiders on the hike with them.  The older kids drew their own webs and used their finger prints to make cute spiders.  It was all good!!!

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Hopefully, the next time the kids see a spider in their house or outside they will think say ….. “Hey spiders are our friends”  before mom or dad swat it!!

Peace love and itsy bitsy spiders.  Sue