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Woolly Bears Forest Kindergarten

In this blog, we share our instructors' reflections and stories on their young students' explorations in nature and community.

Woolly Bears for the Win!

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Today at the Cobble, the Woolly Bears soundly defeated their counselors and instructors in a fire challenge competition! And we have the pictures here to prove it. Their fire burned through the string first! 

Of course, we had the handicap of making our fire blindfolded, but it wasn't much of a handicap really, because each of us has considerable experience making fires blind (sort of). And the kind-souled Woolly Bears helped us at times, as you'll see in the picture, a few of them leading me towards firewood. 

In Search of Grandmother Spider’s Eggs

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What a wonderful brisk day we had today! The children were enthusiastic about getting to camp this morning to see what adventures lay ahead.

During snack, we heard a story about Stalking Wolf and how he got his name. This is a true story about how he managed to swiftly fox-walk quietly enough to touch a wolf while it was sleeping! Stalking Wolf later became a mentor to Tom Brown and Jon Young, who are some of our teachers’ mentors. This is one of the lineages we carry at Flying Deer and pass on to all the children.

A Day of Sharing and Group Unity

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At morning circle with the older group, we gave gratitude for the crisp, cold air (among other things) and played some fun movement games. The warm, much-welcomed morning sun upon our faces, we headed to our campsite. We remembered that last week we had left out a "track box" of some vegetables that was sure to (according to Coyote) attract the ever-elusive Zimperumpazoo.

Some Cool Things We Did

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Today's post was written by Lila, our fabulous counselor: It was another beautiful day at Bartholomew's Cobble! We started our day with a morning circle with the Cobblers, and then we hiked to a little screen house to have snack. During snack, we heard a Native American legend about why the leaves fall.

Spider Webs and Nature Names

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Today was epic at the Cobble!  The Woolly Bears followed a series of notes and clues left by Grandmother Spider that led them across the Cobble landscape (including into a cave) and back to our camp, only to find Tucker caught in a giant spider web trap. We found him and freed him! Then he revealed that he had been trapped by the trickster Zimpazamparoo, but he had also been given a basket full of nature names. So, we gave out nature names to each of the children. 

The Woolly Bears Trick a Trickster (and Learn a Lot Along the Way)

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We practiced animal stretches, gratitude, and a fun new game in our morning circle. Afterwards, along the trail to our campsite, we recalled that last week we had worked on a potion to lure Coyote in, and that we had better keep our awareness up as there was no telling exactly what kind of tricks he might be scheming in retaliation. We noticed fresh beaver chews, the smell, colors and textures of the forest floor before settling into snack.

The Woolly Bears Practice Fox-Walking, Hunt Spider Eggs, and Boil Acorns!

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What a wonderful brisk day we had today! The children we enthusiastic about getting to camp this morning to see what adventures lay ahead.

During snack, we heard a story about Stalking Wolf and how he got his name. This is a true story about how he managed to swiftly fox-walk quietly enough to touch a wolf while it was sleeping! Stalking Wolf later became a mentor to Tom Brown and Jon Young, who are some of our teachers’ mentors. This is one of the lineages we carry at Flying Deer and pass on to all the children.

In Which We Hear from Grandmother Spider and Make Our First Fire

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It was a glorious October day with the Woolly Bears! After morning circle, we headed out to our campsite. We were all a little chilly still, though the sun and blue skies were as warming as the colorful, leaf-littered forest was inviting. Along the way, we found something: a basket in the middle of the trail! Inside was a note, and some other natural items: cattail seeds, feathers, and jute. The note was from Grandmother Spider, and explained that the objects were gifts—tokens of her appreciation for how kind we've all been treating both each other and the land.

Last Day at Camp Hemlock

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It was great to see you all today at Camp Hemlock! The kids have been so excited to show off our home and hard work!
 
We said goodbye 'til next time to the Cobblers, with hugs all around, and sang a loud, lovely "Good Morning Dear Earth" in our small circle. We checked out our completed "A Tree in Spring" book, bid Ms. Maple farewell, and agreed to say hello to any of her Sugar Maple relatives we may cross paths with during the break.
 

A Fun Spring Day at the Cobble

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It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day at Bartholomew’s Cobble! We started the day with a game, song, and circle with the Cobblers. After that, we hiked up to Camp Hemlock, practicing our poison ivy ID on the way. At camp, we ate a snack and heard a story about how Julie made and spent the night in a debris hut. 

Mud, Rain, Fun, and Games

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It kept a pretty steady pour of rain the whole day but we didn't let that dampen our spirits. We had our morning circle, played games, and made a mud rainbow potion. Then we had snack while Julie told a story about little bird finding her voice. 
 
Part of the group went up the hill to the campsite. The other part of the group went on an adventure to the Cobble side of the land and found all sorts of cool things, like shiny rocks and mushrooms. 
 

Lila's Story of the Day

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Happy Leek Day!  The day started out cloudy and cool and quickly warmed up to be a beautiful day at Woolly Bears!  

After a song, a game, and a circle with the Cobblers, we headed to camp for snack and a story.  On our way to camp, we observed how much the forest has changed in just one week. We heard a Native American legend about how the flower came to be. After that, we decorated our camp with a banner and balloons for Leek Fest.  

Coyote Mischief

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After morning circle, including a rainy version of "La Bamba" and a rowdy game of "Predator, Prey, Protection," we headed out to our home in the woods and specifically to the warm and dry tent. Snack were unpacked while Emma started a fire in the wood stove, allowing us to really feel good about starting the adventurous day with dry, warm nourishment.

Tucker's Story of the Day

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The Story of the Day today is from Tucker, who is tied with Lila for "Best counselor ever"! They both bring so much knowledge, skills, passion for learning, kindness and caregiving, hard work, fun, and all around and unique awesomeness to this program. Having counselors in our programs allows for more one-on-one time with the kids, healthy and positive role models that are closer to the children's ages, and mentoring and learning across generational lines and on different and layered levels.

Maples, Mud, and More

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After a fun morning circle of songs and a game of trying to catch each other's fingers, the Woolly Bears set off on their adventures. We met up with Miss Maple, a friend who is preparing to show us the magic of what happens to trees in the spring time. We will be observing and taking pictures of the growth of the leaves coming out of the buds during the rest of this semester.

Weasels, Voles, and a Quinzee

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We walked all the way to our site, spotting fresh deer and human tracks until we found the surprise at our spot by the pond! Dan had cleared out our fire circle and left us a HUGE pile of snow to make a quinzee, or traditional quickie snow shelter. We all sent up thanks to him and headed to the tent to start a fire in the wood stove and have snack.

How Rabbit Got His Long Ears

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We started off our day with a tale about how Rabbit is the way he is today. After a large snowstorm, Rabbit was in search of a good home since his usual resting place was completely covered up. He climbed high up on a tree to get a better view of where he would be able to rest, but found that he was unable to get back down! 

First Spring Day at Camp Hemlock

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We have only 3 rules at Woolly Bears, which we like to think of as more of a vital basket to hold the culture we seek to cultivate and live within. If you're following the 3 Respects—respect for others, self, and the earth—you're in pretty good shape as a person and a community! After everyone shook their tail in agreement with these 3 respects, we could move on to the fun!

Leaf Painting and Storytelling

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Today was another delightful day—cool, misty, and wet. We played a new game: Wolves vs. Moose! It involves stealth, agility, and embodying different animal forms. We talked about how Wolves operate as a team, and how Moose protect themselves. We also began practicing our storytelling skills. Using our Tikta'liktak story, we worked on sharing the important events and highlights when retelling a story. We will be fine-tuning those skills in preparation for a theatrical performance of Tikta'liktak! 

Nature Jewelry and a Weasel Named Bob

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The day began with morning circle and a game about a weasel named Bob. Bob is both predator and prey, and must always operate in the world with extremely high levels of awareness. We learned who eats Bob (eagle, fox) and who Bob eats (mice, voles). We learned to feel empathy for the hunter and the hunted, as neither has an easy life, just different ways of being in the world.  

Making Pencils and More

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The blend of sun and wind today helped us all feel so alive and cheerful. We started the day with a bow and drill and hand drill race between instructors. The children scraped cedar bark and added cattail and milkweed fluff to make a tinder bundle to catch the first coal. Some of the children saw the magic of friction fire making for the first time, and hopefully the experience lit a fire of inspiration in them for learning earth skills.

Wanderings in the Woods

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Today’s story in our circle guided us into the world of a family who was travelling to find food in the winter, when their youngest member, a baby, fell off the sled. Luckily, no child of the Earth is ever left behind and so all the animals gathered around the child to keep him warm until the family came back to find him. This is a beautiful tale about how humans used to be able to communicate with animals more freely and trusted in Mother Nature.

Preserving the Colors of Autumn

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After a morning circle packed with gratitude, songs, and Show and Tell (including a snake and a skull!) we "snaked" our way to the sunny field for a snack and story. I told a story about the collapsing of a Rainbow Bridge and the spilling of its colors onto the autumn leaves, which, clearly, has happened every autumn since!

Freedom in the Forest

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Today we spent some time at the swinging vines! The thick, sturdy grapevines provided at least an hour's worth of spirited play. Along the way, we peacefully took turns waiting in line to play, peeled off the bark and made some crude rope, and piled up some more leaves for a landing pad!

A Visit from Rainbow Crow

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Today we had a very special visit from Rainbow Crow. She told us that we have been excellent stewards of the land and she has noticed how well we are taking care of each other, too! As a gift, Rainbow Crow gave each of us a nature name. The magical thing about nature names is that we don't choose them, rather, they choose us! There is always something they can teach us about the world and about ourselves!

Tracking Coyote

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On the way to our campsite we noticed that a large landmark Maple had fallen since last week. The kids quickly took to exploring it, calling it a "pirate ship"! At our campsite, we found a note from Old Man Coyote, explaining how he had taken my bag of horse chestnuts and pine cones. He told us where he was camping (directly uphill at the lone hemlock tree).

A Sneaking Mission and an Inedible Discovery

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Another beautiful day spent in the forest! After morning circle, we got right to business at our campsite. Groups of Wooly Bears self-organized into large stick finders/movers, debris gatherers, and fire makers. On predominantly their own initiative, we had significantly added to our shelter and made a successful fire after only 15 minutes. We had snack around the fire and acknowledged how nice it was to be back together in the forest, listening to the sounds of nature, noticing the steady breeze from the northeast, and feeling thankful for warm fire.

The New Lebanon Woolly Bears Kick Off the Fall 2016 Semester!

Flying Deer Homeschool Program in Sheffield, MA for Ages 4 to 6.

After our morning circle, the Woolly Bears headed into the forest. Along the trail to our campsite, we noticed many things: the leaves falling and starting to accumulate on the forest floor, the roots of a beautiful yellow birch tree that we wisely stepped carefully around to avoid tripping, and one of those black and white caterpillars (White Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar) that can indeed cause an itchy rash if touched.