Thursday, October 2, 2014

Nurturing Acorns: Exploring Trees!

This week at our nature preschool group, we explore Tree-mendous Trees! The boys helped me collect various tree related items. We went to Krider Gardens in Middlebury and found a few horse chestnuts and buckeyes. I love the various textures! We also found an osage orange tree driving home from church the other day. What a find! I made my husband turn around and grabbed a couple from the road. Yes, I break for osage orange!

As our friends gathered, we had a few activities to explore. We started with our nature journals, recording a little about our senses from last week. Moms helped transcribe some of the observations from the younger children. Then we found leaves to make leaf crowns. We've done this in the past. See our method of this type here

We also did a little acorn math, using a Venn diagram, to separate out acorns that were just the nut, just the cap, or those that had both! We also counted with acorns as well! 

We made tree vests, using crayons to do bark rubbings on the vests. Each of the trees had different textures. We finished out our tree ensembles by adding yarn "roots" at the end. We used this activity from the Project Learning Tree Early Childhood guide. While not online, it the website does have some links to activities and websites that are helpful. The guide has many ideas and resources for helping with early childhood nature play and learning, especially in connection with trees! We need to bring this to our area soon to share with other educators and families. We sang a song about the parts of the trees and what they do. It can be found here. We also sang about the autumn leaves falling down, set to the tune of London Bridges and fell down like the leaves. 

We made trees in the messy materials area out of our big tree blocks, even adding leaves on top. How tall can our trees grow? 

This group has several 2-year-olds and each was going at his/her own pace. This little guy was intrigued by playing with the animals during this building time. He created a little forest for them!


In the block area, we had mirrored blocks and loose parts to explore natural wood items and things trees grow. I'm loving all of the textures!

Later we read a simple story and had a felt board poem as well. The poem with pictures is from Growing Up Wild, an exploring nature curriculum for early childhood. The poem and cutouts are available here. The guidebook has many other activities for Who Lives in a Tree? as well as snack ideas, vocabulary, book ideas, and music and movement options. It's a good resource. For my tree, I cut a felt canopy, and then put sticky velcro on actual branches for the trunk and branches as we built our tree. :-) We'll revisit this with nocturnal animals in a few weeks.

We explored trees on our hike, looking at the things growing on them, climbing them, finding leaves, etc. What a beautiful mushroom!

Some found sticks and drew lines. We all found a tree obstacle course with appropriate risks and challenges for just this height!

It was exciting to find a fuzzy caterpillar on a tree trunk, as we'd just talked about one in our flannel story. One of our little guys, found a leave to feed it, just as we found in our poem. 

We also did a leaf match a few places. We found a nearby leaf and then tried to find the nearby tree with the leaves. What a pretty red, even if it is a bit of an invasive plant. :-) Mosquitoes were bad so we headed back to the clearing! :-) After washing hands we had a "tree" snack, with pretzel trunks and branches, coconut leaves, berries/fruit, etc. to build our own tree. Nom, nom.

We were so excited to finally use our acrylic paint board. My husband and I (mostly husband) put this together with some grant money (and a little extra from us). Watch for a tutorial. I love that the children can see nature right through the screen and paint to their hearts content. We used paintbrushes with jingle bells on them, left over from our sensational senses from the week before. 

We opened up the osage orange to see what it was like inside! I didn't know either, so I like finding the seeds and such as well. We'll take this apart more at home. We also had all types of tree matching cards, books, and other tree materials to explore. Fun! Trees provide us with so much--food, shelter, recreation, shade, and so much more! Read about our preschool time about trees last year here. It has been one of the more popular posts on the blog, full of good ideas to connect with nature and trees! Have you tried any of these? How do you like to connect with trees?