Archives for posts with tag: Stony Brook

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

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

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

Raging wildfires, flames licking the delicate branches of new trees, wildlife scurrying. It burns with intensity… but did you know that fire is a necessary part of forest ecology?   Tess Copa, from the Department of Environmental Conservation, shared her knowledge of fire ecology and her experiences fighting wildfires.

Her  presentation was an opportunity to awaken a respect for fire and how, if handled properly it can do what it is intended to do.  She demonstrated the fire triangle and how  all three parts of the triangle need to be present for it to burn,  oxygen, fuel and heat.

The kids learned the when a forest fire burns, it is not always a bad thing, especially if it is controllable.  It allows the forest to rejuvenate.  Tess talked about the fires in the Long Island Pine Barrens, which occurred before these kids were born… (yikes) .  They also learned about something called prescribed burns.  The firefighters carefully prepare areas to be burned by digging trenches around the area to be burned and is set by the fire fighters and maintained by them.

It was a great opportunity for the kids to learn about this job and how anyone can become a wildfire fire fighter if they train and pass the test.  Tess explained that all sorts of people are wildfire firefighters, accountants, engineers, teacher… the list goes on.

Tess ended the presentation with a game where the kids took turns being the fire fighter, the fire and the trees.  The fire and the fire fighter had to capture as many trees as they could simultaneously, ending hopefully with the firefighter winning!!!

It is important to teach children to respect fire.  If they grow up with this knowledge then they can pass it on to other kids, parents and hopefully their children. We’ll be a better and safer world for it.

We are grateful to Tess for sharing her knowledge and experiences with us.  We are now wiser.

Thanks Tess!!!

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Tess, the fire, the firefighter and the trees! Best day in the woods!

 

 

 

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

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Well we might not have the anything close to the Himalayas here on Long Island but somehow kids always find something to climb.

Part of my Inspirations class of 4th -6th graders is to show them how inspired people choose different life paths than the norm.   There is more than just going to the mall, watching tv, video games, or social media out there and that a person can make a difference.

Today’s topic was about climbing Mount Everest.  An amazing feat that must be respected.  From all my readings about this amazing place, I have developed the utmost respect for the men, women or children who choses to put themselves basically through hell to get to the top of the earth.  It is inspiring and daunting.  I know that personally I do not have a climb of that magnitude within me, but I can live vicariously through all the stories of the people who have summited or attempted to summit this monster of a mountain.

Basically all of the kids knew what the tallest mountain in the world was, less knew where it was and even fewer knew how tall it is.  But that is okay because the information is out there if they are interested.  I chose to show them a video on You-Tube , “Mount Everest, The Whole Journey”  While Rob does not summit and plans to go just above base camp 3 he certainly gives the kids a great impression of what climbing Everest is like.   I think they were amazed and surprised by what he had to go through.  It’s worth a watch.

Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_ybcAWTLeE

For our hike I let the kids decide where we would go.  Teaching them that they MUST stop at every intersection and wait for the whole group.  Safety first.  Some kids are fast and have to get there first, others are strollers who like to look around and chat.  I must say the strollers do find the coolest stuff… like Grace who likes to find mushrooms and Finn who was able to find the bright red berries of the  jack in the pulpit flower.  It opens so many pathways for thought… are these things edible? do the animals eat them?  There is also the time to take a look under the logs for insects.  Although they were sparse this time Kenzie managed to find a millipede.

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Good stuff.  These kids love, love, love being in the woods… that means sooooo much.

Get those kids outside!!!!

ps:  I recommended the series of books by Gordon Korman:  Everest Series #1  “The Contest”   Everest Series #2 “The Climb” & Everest Series #3 “The Summit”    good read for kids!!!