Saturday, October 1, 2016

Back to School!

Welcome back to school explorers! Chesterbrook School of Natural Learning has made some big changes over the last few months. We hope you enjoy our monthly blog posts and continue to check in as we update this page with new curriculum, resources, songs, activities and information.

The first month of school has started and we are having a fantastic time learning, exploring our environment and building friendships! We started off our lessons with TREES in September. The students were able to learn about the different parts of a tree and why each is important. We learned about the different types of trees and which animals live in and visit trees. Most importantly we went out and explored all different types of trees!

This month we found some wonderful wild creatures too!
  • The children loved finding the Daddy Long-legged Spiders. We learned how to be kind to even the smallest creatures and how they are important to our world.
  • The Grey Squirrels were everywhere this year, so it gave many opportunities for the children to investigate where they may have stopped to have a snack, finding evidence of seeds shells and nuts on top of rocks, tree stumps, and under tree branches. We watched the squirrels scurry from tree to tree and heard them make chattering noises to each other.
  • We explored Birds through binoculars, creating bird feeders, looking at different bird’s nests made from moss, twigs, and other natural materials.
  • We found an Albino Porcupine sleeping in a tree and made many wonderful observations on him for several days. He is very rare, only 1/10,000 porcupines are born completely white.
  • We found a Star-nosed Mole and watched him move about using his touch senses instead of sight. We watched as he moved his snout back and forth to feel the ground in front of him.
  • We dug up Earth Worms in the soil and did a lesson on worms. We learned their body parts, what their job is to help trees and plants grow, what they eat and so much more.
  • Throughout the day the children would find their own creatures in our environment to explore; Wild Turkeys, Beetles, Butterflies, Chipmunks, Hawks and so much more!
Along with all the exploration that goes on at school we have also been getting to know each other, practicing our school routine, problem-solving, and letting the children lead through their interests!

Wiggling Worms

The "Chickadees" (PreK program) learned about and observed earthworms over the last week of September. We made an EARTHWORM "K-W-L" chart by drawing 3 columns on our chalk board. The columns were labeled "What We Know," "What We Want to Know," and "What We Learned." A more modern and scientific-friendly version of a K-W-L chart is a K-L-E-W chart which stands for what students Know, are Learning, supported by Evidence, and what they are still left Wondering. These charts access students’ prior knowledge on a particular topic and help students organize what they are learning during a science lesson or unit. 

Here you can see we learned what earthworms eat, where they live, and how they are helpful. Our PreK group observed and recorded their learning in their Nature Journals seen below. 


The Forest is a Wonderful Place
By Steve Schuch
(to the tune of “Heaven is a Wonderful Place”) 
The forest is a wonderful place
Filled with frogs and snakes 
I want to see a salamander’s face
The forest is a wonderful place (I want to go there...)
Repeat, add more parts, etc.
Last time, end with

The forest is a wonderful place... Ah!
The forest is a wonderful place... Ahhh!
The forest is a wonderful place... Ahhhhhhh!

Mud, Mud, I Love Mud
By Rick Charette
Mud, mud, I love mud!
I'm absolutely, positively wild about mud.
I can't go around it. I've got to go through it.
Beautiful, fabulous, super duper mud.

Hello World
By Red Grammer
Hello world (repeat)
My old friend (repeat)
It’s another day (repeat)
I’m glad to see you again (repeat)
The sun is up (repeat)
I’m ready to play (repeat)
So hello world (repeat)
What do you say? (repeat)

Worm Song
(To the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb")

The worms are mixing up the soil,
Up the soil, up the soil.
The worms are mixing up the soil
So we can plant our seeds.

The soil is loose and all mixed up,
All mixed up, all mixed up.
The soil is loose and all mixed up,
The seeds are growing well.

Willie Ate a Worm

Willie ate a worm today,
a squiggly, wiggly worm.
He picked it up
from the dust and dirt
and wiped it off
on his brand new shirt.
Then slurp, slurp
he ate it up,
yes, Willie ate a worm today,
a squiggly, wiggly worm.

Willie ate a worm today,
he didn't bother to chew,
and we all stared
and we all squirmed
when Willie swallowed
down that worm.
The slurp, slurp
Willie burped
yes, Willie ate a worm today,
I think I'll eat one too.
~Jack Prelutsky


  • Worms eat soil, fallen leaves, and help trees and plants grow by loosening the soil.
  • Trees are tall plants made of wood.
  • Trees can live thousands of years.
  • Trees produce oxygen and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • The roots of a tree usually grow underground, helping keep it stable and providing it with water and important nutrients.
  • Wood can be used in a number of ways including building material and energy source (such as campfire).
  • Many fruits and nuts come from trees – including apples, oranges, walnuts, pears, and peaches.
  • Many animals live in tree such as birds, squirrels, owls, bats, porcupines, and insects and worms.

Compost Stew

As we help guide children through every day routines like pouring and drinking their own water, cleaning their plate after snack and other self-help skills, we established a 3-bin waste area. Students have learned about COMPOSTING, RECYCLING & TRASH.

We read Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals. This book helped the students understand what compost is, how it helps reduce trash & helps the plants and Earth. Throughout the month children have practiced sorting their waste into each bin and disposing of it properly. Great Work Explorers!


  • Painting tree barks
  • Making bird feeders
  • Painting with rubber worms
  • Making leaf prints using a hammer
  • Rolling painted acorns on paper
  • Building a bird’s nest using mud and found materials
  • Creating fairy sticks
  • Using twigs to paint and draw
  • Bat prints
  • Coffee filter butterflies

Friday, May 20, 2016

Oh Deer!

Oh Deer!

Children explore the parts of habitat in a physical activity

Building a new shelter

Quick Facts

All animals need food, water, shelter and space. An animal's habitat is a place that provides the right food, water, shelter and space for that particular animal. In this activity, children explore the four components of a habitat using deer as an example. Deer are widespread throughout North America. Where they live, their environment provides the four habitat parts the deer need.

Food: Deer are herbivores, which means they only eat plants. They will eat almost anything available including leaves, bark, twigs, flowers, acorns, nuts, grasses, ferns, shrubs and aquatic plants. Deer must have a varied diet so that they can get all of the nutrients they need. Their habitat must contain a variety of vegetation for them to eat. 

Water: Deer need water. Their habitat must have a water source like a stream or pond. Sometimes they get water from snow, dew, or rain that collects on plants or on the ground.

Shelter: Deer need protection from intense sun and harsh weather. They use groups of trees for shade and cover. Does hide their fawns in tall grasses or shrubs to keep them safe from predators such as Mountain Lions and Black Bears. Deer habitats must contain suitable shelter. Deer also use their keen senses of hearing and smell to detect danger and can run very quickly if they need to escape.

Space: Because deer need to eat lots of plants, they must have plenty of space to find enough food. A typical range for a White-tailed or Mule Deer is about one square mile.

Checking on our old shelter near the field 

Favorite Animal Habitat

Children think about their favorite animal. Where does it live? What does it eat? Where does it find the water it needs to drink? How much space does it need to move around and find all the things it needs to survive? Children drew their favorite animal in its habitat. Then presented their artwork explaining how their favorite animal lives.

Favorite Animal Habitat

Take Me Outside: Playground Deer Herd

Imagine that there is a small herd of deer living on our playground. Think about what the deer would do here. What would they eat? Is there water for them to drink? Are there places for them to hide or sleep? What would they do if it rains or snows? Think about how the deer act with each other. How do they tell each other things? Do they play together? Do they have families? How do they move around? Let's pretend we are the herd of deer and this is our habitat. We can prance, stroll, and play like deer while we explore our habitat!

Habitat Headbands!

Habitat Headbands

We've been participating in many activities that help us strengthen our fine motor skills and better prepare us for using scissors. This week we made Habitat Headbands that remind us of the four components all living things need to survive. Children colored each component card and used our new modified easy-grip scissors to cut them apart. Then we stapled them onto their headband.

Practicing scissor skills 

Strengthening Fine Motor Skills 

Home Connections

Journal: Look for a wild animal living in your yard. You might find a bird, squirrel, or an ant. Watch it for a few minutes. Draw a picture of it in its habitat.

Habitat Hunt: Take a walk in your neighborhood with a grown-up to see what food, water shelter and space there might be for a deer. Could a deer live in your neighborhood? Why or why not? Ask friends and family members if they have ever seen a deer in your area.

Deer Ears

Explore how a deer's ears help it in its environment. Have you noticed that deer have large ears? How might those big ears help the deer? Stand about 20 feet away from your child and speak in a soft voice and see if they can hear what you are saying. Then have the children cup their hands and place them behind their ears to amplify the sound. Show them how deer can move their ears forward and backward to listen all around. Have your child move their cupped hands around to find the best positions for hearing your soft voice. Try standing farther and farther away to see if they can still tell what you are saying.

Beginning to build our own shelter

Music & Movement: Houses

Here is a nest for robin.
(cup both hands)
Here is a hive for a bee.
(fists together)
Here is a hole for bunny;
(finger and thumb make circle)
And here is a house for me.
(fingertips together to make a roof)

Building Fairy Houses

Fairy Houses by Tracy Kane

Habitat "Duck, Duck, Goose"

We played a habitat version of Duck, Duck, Goose. We went around the circle saying, "Food, Water, Shelter, Space, (and so on)" as we tapped our friends on the head. When we picked whoever was going to chase us we said, "HABITAT!"

Tick Check

At the end of each day we (the children and I) do a quick tick check on each other. It's very important you continue to check your child throughout the day. After school my girls and I change our clothes, do a full body check and put our clothes into the washing machine immediately. At the end of the day I give the girls a shower or bath as a final check before they go down for bed.
It is helpful when the children wear light-colored clothing to school. Please keep your child's loose hair tied back. Long sleeves, full length pants and socks are preferred. This is also helpful in preventing mayfly and mosquito bites. You can also spray your child's clothes with a bug repellent before coming to school.
Here is a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on tick safety. TIC SAFETY

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Grow As We Grow

Matching baby animals to adults

Grow As We Grow

Children explore the life cycles of familiar wildlife and understand that living things grow and change.

This unit has many wonderful activities for us to use here at school. We have changed many of our centers and work to connect to nature, animals and life cycles. Most centers have literature present so your child can view photographs of a simple or complete metamorphosis. Here is some background and a few activities you can review at home.

Quick Facts

All living things grow and change during their lifetimes. Every plant and animal begins life, matures and dies in a series of stages called a life cycle.

In many animals-including fish, mammals, reptiles and birds-the young are born or hatch with all of their limbs and often look like miniature versions of the adults. Examples include bass, humans, turtles and chickens.

Other animals look significantly different when they are young compared to when they are adults. Amphibians such as frogs and newts are examples of animals that undergo a big change, or metamorphosis, during their life. 

Insects are another group of animals that go through metamorphosis. Most insects have life cycles with four distinct and unique stages-egg, larva, pupa and adult. Examples include butterfly, ladybugs, bees, ants and flies. Some insects have three stages of development-egg, nymph (or larva) and adult. Examples include grasshoppers and dragonflies.

On the hunt for young and adult creatures

Take Me Outside: On the Lookout for Life Cycles

Let's take a walk outside to look for baby and adult animals. When we find an animal, let's see if we can tell whether it's a baby or an adult (or other life stage). Where might we look for animals? A good place to look for birds and squirrels is in and around trees. For butterflies and ladybugs, we can look amoung shrubs, checking on the undersides of leaves for any eggs. For grasshoppers, we can walk in areas with lots of different grasses and fields. For frogs, turtles and fish we can check a nearby pond or vernal pool. What do you notice about the animals we see? Did we find more babies or more adults?


Can we find frog eggs down here?
Growing Kids (To the tune of "Frere Jacques")
We were babies. We were babies.
Yes, we were. Yes, we were.
We grew so quickly-
Crawling, walking, talking.
We grew fast. We grew fast.

We are growing. We are growing.
Yes, we are. Yes, we are.
We are getting taller,
And we're getting stronger.
Look at us. Look at us.

We'll keep growing. We'll keep growing.
Yes, we will. Yes, we will.
Someday we'll be grown-ups.
We'll have jobs and families.
One day soon. One day soon.

Detour-We ended up in the garden instead. Let's pick carrots!

Home Connections

Baby Pictures: Find some pictures of when you were a baby (or when your child's sibling, other person, or pet was a baby). Look at the pictures together. How can you tell who it is? What changes do you see? 

Living Life Cycles

A friend gave CSNL two mallard ducklings to watch grow and change. The children will care for and raise these small animals from duckling to adulthood so we can watch its development. We will also be discussing and learning about pet responsibilities. After about 10 weeks we will be looking for a home that has a body of water for Mack and Quack. If you're interested, please let me know.

Observing the ducklings
Our new addition to the CSNL family-DUCKLINGS!

Planting Seeds


We will also observe a plant's life cycle. Children have planted vegetable and herb seeds this week so that we can discover how a plant grows from seed to fruit and back to seed again. Chesterbrook School of Natural Learning will be selling their plants to the community this spring so spread the word to family and friends.

Planting our seeds
Caring for our seeds


Monday-Grapes, Peppers, hummus, mixed nuts
Tuesday- Green Apples, local raw honey, Skippy all-natural chunky peanut butter, crackers


This is what our friends do when one of us gets hurt!

Learning about numbers and their order with friends

Today this was our hospital. Doctors cared for sick people and animals.

Strengthening our fine motor skills with color matching work

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Learning About Letters & More

Nature's Puppet Show
Here's one way we use our indoor props to learn about nature. I usually start by presenting a puppet show with a new theme like Habitats, The Food Chain, or Mammals. Then the children use my language, ideas and themes to recreate their own show. You can see the beginning of The Food Chain puppet show above.

Nature Mirror Painting
We also use water colors and tempura paints to create landscapes and other natural images. Children love to paint animal tracks and trees like shown above.

Natural School Sitings

You wouldn't believe the variety of wildlife we've seen in our backyard! Today we went out to greet our friends and found coyote tracks and scat. We decided to record all of our sitings in a Nature Journal. We're beginning to collect photos and observations (stories) about our discoveries to paste into a 3 ring binder. This is something you can do at home too. Some people only record their findings from their backyard or you can create a notebook that is filled with wildlife from all of your travels.
Here is the beginning of our wildlife list:
Great blue herons

Bald Eagle
Pilated woodpeckers
Tufted Titmouse
Mourning Doves
Rose-breasted Nuthatch

Literacy & Math

Throughout our morning, academics are woven into our activities and centers. Here are some concepts we've focused on this month.


Each morning when we come inside we hang up our belongings, wash our hands and begin our Morning Meeting. This includes singing, movement, greetings and hand songs. Then we talk about our names. Each child has a name stick and we discuss beginning letters and most recently syllables. Your child has been saying names and clapping the parts. We talk about how many parts, beats or syllables are in each of our names. You can extend this activity into your home. Discuss how many syllables each of your family members have. Who has the most? Who has the same? Who has the least?

Identifying Letters

This week you may have found an alphabet linking chart and a game board in your child's backpack. We played a game called Letter Lotto. In each box on the game board there is a handwritten lowercase letter. In a basket, I put 26 uppercase letters. I used magnetic letters, but you could make letter cards and cut them up to use. To play, the child pulled out one letter from the basket, said the letter name (with help if needed-no struggling) and then looked to see if they had the matching lowercase letter on their game board. If they had a match, they placed the magnetic letter in the box. If they didn't, they placed it back in the basket. Then the next person takes a turn. The first person who filled all the boxes on the Lotto Card wins the game.

Before we begin playing I always discuss what to do if you win the game. "What do you look like? What do you say to the other players?" Then we do the same if you don't win the game. "What do you look like? What do you say?" I always give some funny examples and the children tell me if we should act like that or not. 

Understand the Principle

Children need to distinguish the features that make one letter different from other letters and an uppercase letter different from its lowercase form. Learning the shapes and their labels helps them talk about letters and connect letters and sounds. Here is some language I used to explain this principle to the children.
  • "A letter has two forms."
  • "One form is uppercase (or capital) and the other is lowercase (or small)."
  • Some lowercase forms look like the uppercase forms and some look different."


Children count the calendar each day at school. This consistent practice will help in recognizing number order and find patterns beyond 10. Counting up to 10 is wonderful! Counting up to 20 is fantastic and counting up to 30 is just incredible!! Keep practicing my friends!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Who Lives In A Tree?

"We're mixing oil...for the roads...for electricity...."
It's March 9th and 70 degrees! This morning we are surrounded by birds including cardinals, crows, a Pileated woodpecker, a tufted titmouse, chickadees and robins. We spent almost an hour outside in the sand before coming in for morning meeting. We also had the chance to venture down our old Stowe Road to check the river. It was flowing pretty good. We used our 5 senses while out on our walk. Well, actually we didn't taste anything so I guess that makes 4 senses. Here are the children's observations:
I CAN...
   Smell: Dirt & Spring
   Hear: Water, waves, birds, wind, ice cracking
   See: Mud, ice, trees, water, streams & a river, waterfall
   Touch: Mud, cold and warm rocks, ice

Brave explorers venturing out into their woods

This is a trolley! Ding, Ding!

Explorers of all ages observing and recording evidence of wildlife in a tree


During this lesson children develop an awareness of trees and some of the animals that call them home.

Quick Facts

A tree is "home" for many different animals. Some, such as beetles, ants, worms, and spiders, may spend their entire lives in and around a single tree. Others, such as squirrels, raccoons, opossums, or frogs may use one tree as a home base shelter, but venture afield for water, food or mates. Still others, like birds, bees or bats, may use a given tree only for a resting spot, temporary shelter, or to eat a meal. 

Trees provide food and shelter in many ways. Various animals may eat a tree's fruits, seeds, buds, flowers, leaves, bark and even its roots. Even with all the animal activity in and around a tree, it is quite possible to miss seeing any animals on a particular visit to the tree. May times, the animals are quite small and may go unnoticed. Other times, the animals may be hiding or out looking for food somewhere else. If they are not visible, look for clues that animals live in or near the tree. Chewed leaves, empty nests, or abandoned spider webs are all signs that animals live there.

Home Connections

We're learning about some of the animals that live in trees. Birds and squirrels are common and easily seen. Others may need a closer look. Explore the trees in your backyard and neighborhood with your child.

Backyard Tree Count: 

Go on a walk outside with your child. Together count how many trees there are in your backyard or in a certain area. Look closely at them as your count. How many different kinds of trees can you find? Place a leaf under a paper and rub a pencil on the page over the leaf. What do you see? We've talked a lot about how to identify maple, oak, white birch, pine and hemlock trees. See what your child may offer for discussion around these species.

Tree Spies:

Take your child to a natural area that has trees. Do you see any squirrels living there? What about birds or other animals? What are you doing? Can you find any small animals, like ants, moths, or spiders living in or around the trees? Help your child record what you find in his or her Nature Notebook or a paper to hang up to show off!

Learning About Habitats with Habitat Bingo

Responsible: The girls offered to fold the school towels...both days!

Making friends with shapes: "Do you want to play with this cone?"

The Hundred Board & Color Mixing
Painting Trees