Preschool Programs

A mouse hunt in the garden and playtime at Forest Camp

Week 1

It's starting to feel more and more like fall as the days get chillier and we find ourselves grabbing extra layers! We were so fortunate to have two sunny days this past week with our Forest Playschool program.

Both Monday and Friday Forest Playschool started the same - coloring pictures of salamanders at our carpet sqaures and then embarking on a mouse hunt in the garden. Emily and I told both groups that there were over 30 mice on the loose and that it was our job to round them up. The playschoolers were VERY excited about searching high and low for these mice. Friends were surprised to find mice of all colors and patterns! The brightly colored mice were the easiest to find since they didn't camoflague as well into the environment as the solid colored, more neutral toned mice. However, it did take us a long time to find some of the bright blue mice because they were blending into our blue trail signs! 

After each playschooler found a handful of mice, we placed them all on the ground and counted how many their were together to make sure we found them all. It was a great opportunity to practice counting and to view all of the mice at once. 

Counting the mice to make sure we found them all Photo: Audubon Vermont

After our mouse hunt, it was time for Morning Meeting so we returned to our pool-noodle circle to plan the day. Usuaully Emily and I will pick a playschooler to lead Morning Meeting and help plan our day, but since this was our first time together I modeled how to be the leader. I decided that we would spend our day exploring and getting familiar with Forest Camp, a play area just off the Hires Trail that has a fort, fire circle and plenty of materials for imaginative play and exploration. To get to Forest Camp we practiced walking with our pool noodles so that we would stay a safe distance apart from each other. 

Photo: Audubon Vermont

Once we got to Forest Camp, each group found their own adventures and games in the forest. 


Friday's group is made up of returning students who were either familiar with each other, the program, Audubon and/or Emily and I. Because of this, the energy was high and the group dynamic seemed to click right away.

In the forest, playschoolers were excited to search for salamanders. It felt like we flipped over every rock and log within our boundaries until we found a Red Eft and Red Backed Salamander sitting together like two old pals beneath one of the stumps around our fire circle. 

Red Eft (juvenile Eastern Newt) and Red Backed Salamander Photo: Audubon Vermont

Some playschoolers wanted a turn holding our new, slimy friends!

Photo: Audubon Vermont
Photo: Audubon Vermont

Meanwhile, the rest of the group was working on a special potion in the fort's cauldron. We gathered pine needles, acorns, ferns, pine cones, moss, lichen and any other natural materials we could. We hoped that some real witches might stop by and try our potion! 

Photo: Audubon Vermont

Then, we ended our day with lunch and a story in the sun. While we waited for our adults to arrive we searched the garden for jewelweed seed pods - when you pinch them they explode! 

Popping jewelweed seed pods! Photo: Audubon Vermont


Monday's group is a bit newer to our program, Audubon and each other so they were a bit more timid in approaching each other to play. So, we started with some group activities like searching for salamanders to get us better aquainted. We were hopeful since it rained heavily the previous night that we would find lots of salamanders. Somehow we didn't find any, but we did find a Spring Peeper! This frog was no bigger than the tip of my thumb! Emily held the frog and walked around to the playschoolers so they could get a closer look. 

The Spring Peeper is so small we circled it! Photo: Audubon Vermont
Close up of Spring Peeper Photo: Audubon Vermont

You can identify a Spring Peeper from the X it has on its back (their calls and size are also good indicators). 

Some of our playschoolers took care to build a Gnome Home out of sticks, bark and rocks while others invented their own imaginative game with sticks. One kiddo found a piece of wood that looks just like Vermont! 

Photo: Audubon Vermont
Photo: Audubon Vermont

After our time at Forest Camp, we headed back to our circle to eat lunch, read a story and do 'thank you circle' before our adults arrived. A few of our playschoolers shared that their favorite part of the day was "All of it!" and "Being back at Audubon", which warms our hearts. We are so happy to have students back at the center! 

Can't wait for next week! 

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