Entries in Preschool in NH's Lakes Region (2)


Notes from the Naturalist: Week 31 Nature Preschool at HCMA

Mud, mud, mud, glorious mud! We found it, rolled in it, kicked it around and just could not walk away from it! Let me be very clear: we are never disappointed by what we find up here on Little Round Top. The mud today brought a chorus of singing from happy children. Some rowed their boats while sitting in the mud, some kicked it around and others just stomped in it. And you all know what we did today by the bags of dirty clothing that came home. We wouldn’t change that play for a minute. Yes, its work, its dirty but it fulfills each child in a different way that other play cannot replace.

“Scientists have now confirmed something that children have always instinctively known; playing in mud is a joyful experience. Recent research has shown that dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae which stimulates the immune system and increases the levels of serotonin in our brains, an endorphin that soothes, calms, and helps us to relax. Scientists say regular exposure to the bacteria may help reduce a child’s vulnerability to depression. In short, playing in mud makes you happier!”

“Mud play is inclusive of all children. It allows children to play at their own developmental level. Mud is an open ended material that meets the diverse needs and interests of different children. Younger or less skilled children might focus on the sensory experience whereas older children may have more specific goals in mind for their mud play. Some children may thoroughly enjoy the sensation of mud between their toes while others are only comfortable poking a finger into the mud. Allow children to explore the mud at their own comfort level. With mud, there is something for everyone and there are no wrong answers.” -http://www.communityplaythings.com

We also did a little “collecting” today. I will refrain from the details (Mother’s Day is coming….)! Watching each child take to the task at hand was very interesting. Some children raced through the activity to move on to play while others were completely absorbed in the activity. One child spent over thirty minutes inspecting and gathering. This child was full on in concentration mode and would not be budged to play. Can you imagine the level of engagement this child felt?

After our collecting we took a walk down to the gathering area. All around us we could see Canada May Flower (Maianthemum canadense). It is close to blooming and will soon have several white flowers branching off from its stock. One of the first spring flowers we will see but soon many more will be popping up. We also noticed Starry False Solomon’s Seal (Smilacina stellate) just starting to come up. The wildflower search in New England can be so much fun! But if you really want to know where to find a certain species in our area, get your hands on a copy of the NH Soil Survey for Grafton County. Once you know the soil type, you can then start your search for that hard to find flower – like Dutchman’s Breeches! For more information on New Hampshire Wildflowers check out this link: http://www.newhampshirewildflowers.com/index.php


Notes from the Naturalist Week 6: Nature Preschool at HCMA

Fall is well upon us now. Within these crisp mornings and cool air, there is a whisper not far off….winter is coming. We gather, we collect, and we watch the changing sun. As if in rhythm with the changing season, the children, much like the wildlife around here, have been busy in their play and busy in their “gathering” of natural objects. While the wildlife are readying themselves for winter - from gathering food to growing thicker fur coats - our little naturalists have busied themselves in defining spaces, places to play and learn and grow. At the most basic level, we are in sync with the natural world around us.

“During the preschool years, it is important to help children discover what has been termed as their ecopsychological self—the child’s natural sense of self in relation to the natural world (Phenice & Griffore 2003). Many authorities believe that due to humans’ evolution in the natural world, we possess nature-based genetic coding and instincts, that children are born with a natural sense of relatedness to nature and this innate and developmental tendency towards empathy, biophilia or affiliation with nature needs to be nurtured starting in their earliest years (Barrows 1995, Lewis 1996, Nelson 1993, Sobel 1996, Tilbury 1996, Wilson 1993 & 1997). Children’s instinctive feelings of continuity with nature are demonstrated by the attraction fairy tales set in nature and populated by animal characters have to children (Barrows 1995).” - The Coalition for Education in the Outdoors, Cortland, New York.

Our adventures today took us to the north side of the Slim Baker Lodge. Off path we wandered, where we discovered another stick house, an opening in a stone wall and slightly uphill, we discovered a large rock formation sticking out of the ground. We tossed around ideas of what to call this place: Whale Rock, Rock Mountain, Little Sunlight Spot….. And one can imagine that this space quickly turned into a hot spot for creative play. Part of Whale Rock became a slide, where each child exercised their large muscles and very carefully so, worked to climb back up on top only to come down once again with a smile on their face. It is pure enjoyment to watch these children discover and learn how to “use” their natural spaces. For the most part we leave the “creative” part up to them while we observe from the fringe during this important time in nature play.

While on top of Whale Rock we discovered a plethora of moss growing all over. Mosses are small flowerless plants that typically grow in dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations. Some types of mosses tend to grow on old tree stumps, at the base of trees and on rocks. Typically mosses are found in moist areas with a high tolerance for shade. Today we found two types of moss: Curled Leaf and Four tooth. “Curled Leaf Moss (Ulota crispa) grows in dark green clumps. The leaves are straight when wet but curled and twisted when dry. The spore capsule is straight and pleated when empty. Habitat is tree trunks above the base of trees. It can grow higher on tree trunks because of its adaptation to increased light and drier conditions. Another moss with curled leaves, the Mountain Fork Moss (described in this article), grows on tree bases. Four Tooth Moss forms short, dark to pale green tufts of erect, unbranched plants. It has four peristome teeth, a characteristic that is found in only one other moss species (the rarer Tetraphi geniculata) in the Northeast. Seasonally, the moss bears gemmae (asexual reproductive structures) that grow in a leafy “cup” on top of the stems. The cups resemble a miniature bird’s nest with eggs. Habitat is usually on well-decomposed wood such as logs and stumps, but also on sandstone and soils high in organic matter. ” - www.na.fs.fed.us

For more information on children’s relationship with nature: https://www.whitehutchinson.com/children/articles/childrennature.shtml

For more information on Northeastern Mosses: https://www.na.fs.fed.us/stewardship/pubs/biodiversity/mosses/moss%20article%20web%20access.pdf