Archives for category: fun with kids

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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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

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

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

We finished our lesson on spiders and headed into the woods.  The weather was lovely and the time was right for a stroll.  Our preschool kids and parents wandered through the woods looking for spider webs.  They were lucky enough to have keen eyes and spot a few small spiders in their webs.  Teeny tiny things!  One of the moms found a daddy long legs  (which is actually not a spider) .  Clover let it crawl all over her jacket.  It seemed to really love her and did not want to let go.  The kids gathered around the parents stood back.  hahahah!  (well some of them)

It was a great hike but the best part of the whole hike was when we approached this fallen tree.  The kids were drawn to it like a magnet!  Their need to climb was almost instinctual.  So amazing.  With their parents help they climbed, crawled and sat upon the tree.  I just had to stand back and watch the parents do what was needed for their kids.  I was very proud of them.  Of the parents that is!!!  They were not imposing their adult scare tactics, which we as parents are so good at….. “be careful, that’s too high, you might get hurt!!”  I didn’t hear or feel the fear, instead what I saw was this:

 

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Pure fun!!!  It was hard to tear them away from the tree but we had to head back!!!!  I loved spending this valuable time in the woods with these families.  I truly feel like I have the best job in the world.  Keep up the good work parents and climb away!!!  It ‘s great for you and your kids!

Peace,

Sue

Howdy all!! Today was a super fantastic day where the topic was apples… yes apples.  We read one of my old favorites by Dr Seuss, “Ten Apples on Top.”  I loved how engaged the kids were as we watched these silly animals balance apples on their heads!!  There’s just something about reading a book to a child… they will stop and listen and enjoy. So magical.

Anyway, we did our apple tasting and checked out the seeds, also known as pips.  If the child did not want to eat the apple I encouraged them to touch, smell or put their tongue on the apple.  Little steps of exploration .. ….

As you may have noticed the title of today’s blog is Sparkles and Shadows.  I prefer to write about what struck me as the best moments of our time together. Today it was our hike!

We walked and ran down the wildflower field trails.  Surrounded by walls of brown flowers that once were yellow, brown and purple. I looked up into the sky and realized how amazingly blue it was.  I decided it was a great time to lay right down on the ground and look up at the sky. I asked what the clouds made of and someone said, “stuffing.”  So precious!  All the kids joined me as we looked up into the endless sky.  Wonderful.  It was only a short moment but oh so amazing to be human… then thump! One of the kids decided to sit right down on my belly!!  So funny.  In the meantime all the parents were standing there watching.  Why oh why didn’t they get on the ground with us??? (I’m sure some of them wanted to !!)

As we picked off the seeds that were stuck to my shirt we continued our short journey to an apple tree that had only a few apples on it. Last year it was abundant with apples and many were on the ground.  Oh well so much for that lesson.

But the best part was yet to come… sparkle and shadows!

As we were getting ready to leave there was this amazing rock lit by the sun!  It sparkled like crazy!  The kids ran to it and climbed all over it inspecting the inlayed jewels.  How magical.  One of the girls said, “It’s like they threw sparkles on it!”  So wonderful

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Before we left the sparkly rock I noticed my shadow and began to try to run away from it.  Then I challenged the kids by saying, “don’t step on my shadow!”  They laughed and chased my shadow.  The sun went behind the clouds and the shadow faded… some of them realized why it went away.  Not bad for preschoolers!  The parents traced some of their children’s shadows and we left them there to lay in the bright warm sun!  The tracings that is, not the kids!!!

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It was a great Fall day in Avalon.  Love being outside with the kids and their parents!

Get outside, there’s so much to explore!

Sue

Hi all!  Another great day with the Natural Patterns group of  1st – 3rd graders.  We talked about Earth Manners.  What is that you say?  Well the kids generated the following list after I read the story,  “Just a Dream” by Chris Van Allsburg.  About a boy who does not really care about the environment,  throws trash on the ground, doesn’t recycle and is just plain self involved.  It was a long story but this gang of kids were mesmerized by the boy’s adventure into dreamland…  not such a great dream of the future.  It’s worth a read and discussion.

So here is there list, written with the help of Emma:

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I have to say I was very impressed.  Prior to the reading of the book each child prepared a leaf cutout by coloring their own design on it.   They attached strings to the leaves which will be tied to the  sticks they  collected . (Stay tuned for finished project in two weeks)

Today our hike was centered on finding one stick each for their earth manners piece.  Let’s just say it wasn’t easy to choose just one!!  We chatted about staying on the trail until we got to a great stick place where there was no poison ivy around.  The selection began.  It was fun to watch them wandering about trying to find a stick that was just right for their own project.  When it was time to head back I noticed that Emma and Rylie chose to take along a second large stick… actually it was a branch!!!  It was so funny watching them lug this with the intention of using it as our “class branch” (have to give Indigo the credit for naming it!) I love  when the kids bond together and make something for the “class.”  It means they are thinking of the group as a whole and are motivated to do something for their group.

It all comes from within them ~

 

Here they are with the “class stick”

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Next class we will put the project all together, by painting the sticks from which we will  hang our leaves and manners.

I smile when I think of them.. eager kids just wanting to have fun.  It should be this way for all kids, at least for some of their day.. 🙂

Get them outside….  please

Peace

Today was a fun day with the preschool kids!  I thought it would be exciting to pretend we were scientists.  The topic di’jour was ROCKS!  What kid doesn’t like to collect rocks or as Lilly said,” throw them in the water. ”

This was an opportunity to explore the shapes, texture and color of the beautiful rocks we have on Long Island.  I love hearing and seeing how the kids explored the rocks which I collected from  the local beach.  Some of my favorite included rolling them and tapping them against each other.  It is a great opportunity for discussion and language development.

We set out on our hike to collect 5 rocks each and bring them back to the barn to scrub and clean them with toothbrushes.  It was hard to keep the counts down to 5 rocks each but the kids pulled it off. (with the help of the moms/ dads and grammas.   I know they wanted more and more and more.

Here are our little scientists collecting:

 

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Sweetness…..

When we returned to the barn they were very excited about their collections!  Toothbrushes and water were handed out and they went to work.  One mom added that this was a great fine motor skill exercise…. so even better for them.  While they scrubbed away,  I had them working on another project: mixing  up a potion to create their own homemade rocks.  It is made by using one part sand, one park plaster of paris, 1/2 water and some glitter to give their rock a sparkle (cause who doesn’t like sparkly things!)  With the help of their moms/dads/ grams, they mixed the recipe with a craft stick until it turned thick like a paste.  (I must say it does take a little while for it to get to this state – patience is a must)  When in this pastey state scoop it onto a piece of wax paper and form it into a rock shape.  They came out pretty cool!

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So if your kids say they want to do something have them dig up rocks in the back yard, give them water and an old toothbrush and they’ll get busy!  This age is so fun!

Get those kids outside!!! Sue

First day of my new 7th grade age class.  Five terrific kids who are invested in their love affair with nature.  I am so impressed by all of them.  We talked about what Avalon Park means to them and decided that we would do some free form poetry.  They were hesitant at first but the words came easily as did the cut outs they wrote them on!

Such a beautiful place to share with children no matter the age!  I am always grateful to parents who have exposed their kids to nature, camping, hiking, exploring.  It opens a whole new way of looking at the world.

Here are their poems and a few photos from beautiful Avalon Park and Preserve!!

Get outside!!!

 

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Bursting Milkweed in the Wildflower Fields

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Poem by the boys!


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Poem by the girls!

 

 

 

 

 

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Milkweed Bug