Notes from the Naturalist Week 19:The Nature Preschool at HCMA


How many times have you said the phrase: Out of sight, out of mind? When looking at our winter wonderland, do you wonder where the different animals have gone, both big and small? Out of sight, perhaps, but not very far for some of the smaller size. We explored the word and the secret animal kingdom called the SUBNIVIEAN zone.  It is under that beautiful layer of crusty snow we see right now, a world so busy, with warmth and a supply of food. This secret kingdom may be out of sight but it is a world of the living, under our feet!

“The word “subnivean” comes from the Latin words for under (“sub”) and snow (“nives”) and refers to the open, shallow layer that usually forms under deep, layered snow. The layer can form two ways. The first is when vegetation, leaf debris or trunks and branches physically hold the snow up, which creates an open space that can be used by the small mammals. The subnivean layer can also be created as the snow is warmed by the ground, and sublimates into water vapor that moves up through the snow pack. This sublimation, or the transformation of solid snow particles into the moist gas, changes the lowest snow layer into small ice particles that then act as an insulating roof. The sublimation also occurs when the snow is physically help up, providing further insulation. The result is a humid winter habitat with relatively stable temperatures around 32 degrees.” –

So who is living under the snow? Several animals live in the subnivean zone and depend on this layer for survival. Mice, volves, and chipmunks are among several species who take to the Subnivean as a means of survival in winter. Chipmunks generally sleep more than mice or voles, but will occasionally wake up, eat, move about and then settle back in for a long nap. Snowshoe hare will burrow in next to a ledge area, or downed tree and since they are active year-round, you will not find them in the true subnivean.

We played in “home-made” playdough today – white in color with silver glitter- just to give it that crystal ice look. The children loved it!  The snow playdough was fitting for today’s topic on Subnivean and will set the stage for next week when we talk about wildlife tracks in the snow. We read “Over and Under the Snow” by Kate Messner, which is a fantastic book on connecting what is happening as we walk (or as in the book – ski) above ground, there is a busy world below. The snow playdough was such a hit, that is was hard to get our nature preschoolers away! I promised the children I would share the recipe with families, so here it is:

Homemade Playdough (

1 cup Salt

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons Cream of Tartar (Alum also works)

2 cups of water

2 tablespoons oil (olive, canola, etc.)

Put all ingredients in a saucepan and stir until combined over low heat.

Add choice of food coloring – if you want it to be white skip this step).

Put over the heat and keep stirring until you feel the texture change, it may start to stick to pan.

Take off the heat and keep stirring until one big lump attached to spoon.

It will be quite sticky so you’ll need to work it with your hands until it isn’t.

Store until cool for use – always keep air-tight so it doesn’t dry up! Add silver glitter!


2017 Open House Dates

Saturday, February 18th at 10 AM

Saturday, March 18th at 10 AM

Heart Centered Multi-Age has been providing young children in the Newfound Area an exceptional early childhood experience for 6 years.  Come and find out why parents are seeking out HCMA for their children.

HCMA has expected openings in the Nature Preschool for 3 year olds and Pre Kindergarten and Kindergarten programs.



Notes from the Naturalist Week 18:The Nature Preschool at HCMA

Snow is enchanting. It creates a magical world, almost to the point of changing the landscape as we know it. The children explored into the woods and down the big hill from the lodge. We felt like we were in a new place, exploring a new land. And we found another shelter! The shelter had the look of a dinosaur rib cage. So inviting, it called for the children to come explore. They piled in, and joyous laughs echoed out. This is the foundation of place-based education. In the beauty of all that the Slim Baker Foundation, lodge and surrounding area has to offer, this is just another element of place. Snow. It alters the landscape, creates a new world, yet it sits in an area we find comfort and connection to.

Magical is just the right word for our day. We changed it up a bit, and started our day inside the lodge. For some this was difficult, as the outside world is so necessary and loved by many of our Nature Preschoolers. It’s almost a second language in their minds. As friends reconnected inside the warm lodge, played in their imaginary worlds, they finished with a hearty snack and then out the door we went. We all have trepidation about the first day back from vacation. Will the children find their sweet spot? Will the children remember the routine, the way of our world in Nature Preschool? Not only did they fall back into rhythm, we could tell that each child had grown while away.

We spent so much time outside, that we shortened our indoor work period. The warm air, the soft snow, kept that fun spirit to just keep playing. We made observations as we walked. This is such an important skill for kids. They take and make note of how things are different. What might have happened in one area and what might be missing in another. Our big observation was the snow level under the trees versus in the open area in front of the lodge. After putting the question to the group: Why is there more snow in one area and less in another? We had many fun thoughts and predictions. One child said the snow was too tired to reach that far. Another thought it had moved. We talked about the trees close together, creating a shelter or roof. Pine and Hemlock, both evergreens, keep their needles in the winter, creating a roof like feature, therefore snow is caught up in the tree, leaving less to fall to the ground. The next time you are outside exploring in winter, look at the difference on the ground and in the tree canopy to see where the snow is and how much is under each.

In the coming months, we will start our days inside the lodge first thing in the morning. This will allow for each child to have time to eat a hearty snack, take a potty break and then head outside for longer explorations as the day warms up. While we would love to be outside all the time, it’s much harder on small fingers and toes to sit and eat outside and then get our cold bodies up to play. For those who drop off at the lodge, don’t worry about putting your children’s snow pants and cold weather items on. Please bring your child inside and we will have a free play period, followed by snack and our welcoming circle time. This will set us up for great success outside as we will all be warm, full of energy and ready to explore the day. For days that reach below 10 degrees, we will make our time outside brief, perhaps only long enough for a quick hike around the lodge area, just enough to keep us moving but not long enough to create any periods of standing around. Some of our Nature Preschoolers are all out play hard types and some are observers. We will find a happy medium for all of our friends during this fun time called WINTER!


Boys Night Out!


Boys Night... bonding through play, music, building & games! 

During this workshop, boys will enjoy many fun & creative activities together: Music, Group Challenges, Building Games, and Yoga. There will be healthy snacks and water provided. 

Let’s make some time for boys to bond together in a non-competitive environment... no making fun of each other... just good times, with good friends! 

DATE: Friday, January 6th 
TIME: 5:30-7:00pm
AGES: 4-10 years old
COST: $15 per child, $12 if you come with a friend!

*** PLEASE inform of any food allergies. ...


Notes from the Naturalist Week15:The Nature Preschool at HCMA


Behold, upon the new fallen snow that two truths will alight before us in the coming days….. Fire and Light. Winter Solstice will greet us next Tuesday and we will embrace the changing light of short winter days with our friends from the whole of Heart Centered Multi-Age School. A celebration with great friends and teachers calls for a fire! Fire is life and fire is intriguing. It pulls us and shapes us and in its most elemental form demands great respect. And with respect due, we took time today to discuss this very topic.  

In our upper gathering area, in front of the Slim Baker Lodge, sits a fire place. We took time today to shovel around and in the fire pit, cleaning off fire wood and just having a talk about fire safety. What is a safe fire zone?  We discussed this both outside and inside. As a prepared work inside, we made a fire in a basket, “the fire pit”, and around the fire pit we laid out two zones – one is the red zone, with an unhappy face, and the outer boundary is the green zone, with a smiley face.  Red and green is the basic form of explaining the Do’s and Don’ts in an easy format. We also provided two figures for imaginative play around the fire. Each child took a turn setting up a “Safe Fire Zone”.  The fire making work became a fast favorite. I particularly enjoyed overhearing a child in conversation about no running around the fire! Yes! 

“Wherever humans have gone in the world, they have carried with them two things, language and fire. As they traveled through tropical forests they hoarded the precious embers of old fires and sheltered them from downpours. When they settled the barren Arctic, they took with them the memory of fire, and recreated it in stoneware vessels filled with animal fat. Darwin himself considered these the two most significant achievements of humanity. It is, of course, impossible to imagine a human society that does not have language, but—given the right climate and an adequacy of raw wild food—could there be a primitive tribe that survives without cooking? In fact, no such people have ever been found. Nor will they be, according to a provocative theory by Harvard biologist Richard Wrangham, who believes that fire is needed to fuel the organ that makes possible all the other products of culture, language included: the human brain.” 

Next week will set the foundation for fire safety. As we move into the New Year, we will start the conversation about campfires and how to prepare a safe fire. We will learn about the basic concepts of fire building with small sticks and start to introduce small cooking projects such as making tea. Our conversations will include the important roles that adults will play in our interactions with fire. At no time will the children be invited into the red zone. We encourage you as families to talk about fire safety. If you have an outdoor fire at home, establish a safe zone by laying out a boundary that the child is not invited in to. Perhaps you could set an age your family finds appropriate that they may be invited into the red zone…such as age 8 or 10, this will give them a time frame as to when they will be able to take on that important role of “feeding the fire”. 

For more information on fire safety in the outdoor setting:

For more information on fire safety with toddlers: 

For more information on fire and humans: