We started this week with a slippery surprise in the park. Our warm days and cold nights have created some pretty icy conditions out there. The children noticed immediately that not only was the snow hard to play with, it was hard even to walk on! Our mornings were mostly spent sliding around and figuring out how to navigate the slippery field. Some of the children went hunting sticks to help them with walking. They soon discovered that while the snow wasn’t great for playing in, the sticks made servicable digging tools and they quickly went to work making holes in the piles of snow left over from last week. Fortunately, it was warm enough that we were able to eat snack without the tent again. We even had a problem with having the sun in our eyes on one day. It wasn’t the worst problem to have on a chilly January morning.
On Thursday, Miss Krystal went exploring around the ponderosa and juniper trees in the field and found something very exciting. She found two owl pellets! We left one where it was but we took the other to the picnic table to take apart with the children. We found many small mammal bones, mouse or shrew we guessed, and even most of a skull. The book we have been reading this book has an illustration of an owl pellet in it, so we took out our story and showed the children how the pellet looked a bit different in real life. We also discussed why owls make pellets, how they can’t properly digest the bones or fur so they have a special organ called a gizzard where the pellets are formed and then they’re spit up, sometimes for lucky preschool children to find!
This week was also our first week at out new play sites. Our Monday class headed off to Cottonwood Forest to see how winter had changed it. When we last saw Cottonwood Forest, it was all golden. Golden brown grasses, grown long in the last few weeks of summer and warm autumn, and golden leaves raining down on our heads as the Cottonwood trees shed their canopies and settled down for their long winter’s slumber. When we arrived there this week, the Cottonwood trees were tucked in under a thick blanket of snow. The ground showed that not even the dogs that frequent the park all day had spent much time in amongst the trees this winter. As always, the first place the children returned to was the juniper tree. This mighty, twisted juniper is an old friend to many of the children and a favourite place to climb and play. More than one child discovered the joy of climbing trees in the safety of it’s wide, sloping, tangled branches. But Miss Krystal had a surprise up her sleeve this week, or rather, in her backpack. She brought tempura paint powder to sprinkle on the snow!
On Wednesday we were going to wander back to Cottonwood Forest, as we usually would, but the warm weather means the snow is melting fast and we knew that our chances for sliding are coming to an end. So Miss Krystal decided we would spend one last day at Sandy Sliding Hill. It was a lot of messy, wet fun and definitely worth it. By the end of the day, we had to roll around in the snow to try and get as much of the mud off of us as possible before we wandered back over the musical bridge and to the yellow gate. Sandy Sliding Hill is definitely more Sandy than it is a Sliding Hill now.
Our Tuesday and Thursday classes head in the opposite direction to Cottonwood Forest and down to the creek to Woodpecker’s Wood. The crossing of the creek can be a little bit treacherous at this time of year, with ice and snow covering any useful logs to make bridges out of we relied on the rocks jutting out of the creek to get us safely across. With patience and care everyone made it across the creek without so much as dipping a toe into the water. The water, however, proved to be much to tempting for the children and it didn’t take long for buckets and bowls and scoops to be pulled from the toy bag and put to work in the chilly waters. The tempura powder made another appearance and some children even managed to climb the old willow in the middle of the play site, despite a sheer coating of ice that still coated some of his trunk.
This week was all about discovery. Discovering the icy field, discovering the melting snow, discovering the newly uncovered mud. Discovering new play sites and new animal signs. What will this next week invite us to discover?