Archives for category: love of nature

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!

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

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