Forest Classroom

Welcome Back for Winter

Week 1 January 8 2024

Such a wonderful and snowy day to welcome us back to Forest Classroom. The snow was so light and fluffy, it wasn’t super cold, and we got a little bit of sunshine too. With our small but mighty crew this week in the morning we hustled to pile up snow and pack it down to start building our quinzhee, a snow shelter. The best method for having a strong sturdy quinzhee is to pack and pile the snow early in the day, this will help the snow naturally compact down and become more solid. Then after waiting as many hours as you can, we waiting 4 hours, you can dig out your shelter. Try this at home! See what size snow shelter you can build! 

students shoveling snow into a pile
Starting to build our quinzhee Photo: Audubon Vermont

Our first daily adventure took us on a hike up to the office building. On our hike up we had a hand painted owl that we were asked to put along our trails for other visitors to find. This owl traveled from Massachusetts, to Southern New Hampshire, and now is in Vermont. If someone finds the owl they can either leave it or take it to a new home. As we hiked up we also made some observations that we will use in future weeks to set up a game camera. We looked for areas where there were signs of animals, such as animal tracks or chewed branches/bark, etc. As it warmed up on our hike up to the office we saw spotted some snow fleas! These little critters look like small black specs of dirt on the snow, but they are alive! The name is misleading, these critters aren’t fleas, they aren’t even insects, they are more closely related to crabs than insects! On warmer winter days the pop up on top of snow and jump around, they are also called springtails because of this action too. 

Student hiding owl rock in tree
Placing the owl rock in it's new home Photo: Audubon Vermont
Students looking at woods in winter
Noticing some tracks and a good spot to put our game camera Photo: Audubon Vermont
Students looking at snow fleas
Taking a close look at the snow fleas Photo: Audubon Vermont
Snow fleas on the snow
Do you see the snow fleas? Photo: Audubon Vermont

Once we got to the office we started our time with quietly looking at our bird feeders. We spent the time noticing how many different species of birds came to the feeders, and we didn’t need to know the bird just notice how the birds were different. We saw a total of 5 species which we later learned were Chickadee, White breasted nuthatch, goldfinch, tufted titmouse, and a hairy woodpecker. We discussed how when we are first learning birds or looking at wildlife we don’t need to know what it is right away. Its okay to notice that one bird is different from another one and as time goes on learn why and what it is. The pressure of having to know everything can be a lot, so it was awesome that we took the time to point out the differences we saw in the birds even before learning who they were. 

After birding we went sledding! We got a chance to sled alone or with a buddy. It was so much fun watching everyone smile and work together to create an awesome sledding track. 

Students sledding
Sledding in the garden of the Office building Photo: Audubon Vermont

We then hiked down for lunch. As we hiked we played a trail game which was introduced by one of the students. It starts with someone saying a word, then the next person in line has to say a word starting with the last letter of the word the first person said, and it goes down the line. So, if I started with Newt, then the next person says tomato, and then the next word could be owl. It was great to hear everyone help each other figure out what their letter would be too. We considered making it all connect to a theme, but to start we allowed everyone to use any word that worked. It was a lot of fun. 

After lunch we played in the snow, some of us kept working on our quinzhee, others built snow nests, or snow paths in the field. Then we went on a hike to see what Beaver Pond, the brook, and the river looked like and how different it looked from a month ago. All three places looked like we were standing in a snow globe. At the river we saw how the last flood took away some of the land and river bank. We discussed why, how and where the river trail should be now with some of it not being passable or unsafe. It was a really beautiful and power time. 

student in snow nest
Demonstrating how the snow nest works. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Students standing at snowy beaver pond
Making observations about Beaver Pond changes. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Students standing at snowy brook
Making observations about changes to the Brook Photo: Audubon Vermont

We ended our day digging our our shelter and we hope that it'll still be here in two weeks. We hope for more snow in the next week! 

students digging out snow shelter
Starting to dig out our snow Shelter Photo: Audubon Vermont

How you can help, right now