By Johanne Suppan
Our themes for the week were trails and trees. When the kids arrived, we had snacks and talked about our plan for the day. We also played a few rounds of “Simon Says,” encouraging our energy-filled students to run back and forth to different features on opposite sides of the yard. The seasons and temperatures are changing so we talked about the importance of taking time when we arrive to dress for the weather. It was about sixty degrees – definitely chilly compared to the past two weeks.
When it was time to start our adventure, we split into two groups. The children closed their eyes and picked colored popsicle sticks out of a bag to form the day’s “red” and “yellow” groups, then set off into the woods.
Our group ran for about 5 minutes until we got to the first trail junction. We made sure to go left at each junction to make a loop. We arrived at two bridges crossing a creek. There was a stream going through the creek bed so we looked for some tracks in the mud. I pointed out some canine and a few deer tracks. We observed them up close and I talked about how canine and feline tracks differ from each other. Feline tracks are more circular and the toes are spread out. Most canine tracks are narrow and show claw marks. The kids asked about Mountain Lions and whether they live in Vermont. I shared that people have seen signs of them in the past, and currently, there are none known of in Vermont.
We talked about how a water source benefits the forest and the animals that inhabit it because it allows for a diverse ecosystem to thrive. The other theme for our day was trees, so we all collected a few different leaves to share when we joined the other group. Most of the children know what a maple tree and leaf look like, but are just discovering that there are many different maple tree species. The leaves differ in size, structure, and venation. Some species are easy to differentiate from others and some look almost identical.
The groups rejoined for a final activity and closing circle. The kiddos used crayons and paper to color over different surfaces, such as leaves, pieces of bark, rocks, tree trunks, and sticks, exposing different natural textures through their drawings. We talked as a group and shared highlights of our outings. Most in my group said they had fun running around and exploring the trails. Most in Amy’s group reported that they had fun making leaf rubbings and measuring trees/counting rings to estimate tree age. We will continue to watch the trails and trees change with the season in the weeks ahead.