“Dinosaur Poop Doesn’t Stink!” Rock Talk Excitement

One great thing about our learning community is the range of knowledge and resources within it. J’s grandpa is a retired teacher and geologist so we made plans for Grandpa Tom to share his love of rocks with each of our classes. Part of the plan included gifting each child a rock collection.

In anticipation of our collection, each child decorated their “rock box.”  Inside each lid, J’s mom included a key of the 6 type of stones we would soon learn about. The key included a “polished mystery rock” and an online source to try identify it.


Children were mesmerized as “Granpda Tom” led our circle, sharing stories and a wide range of rocks, fossils and geo stones. Tom’s grandson assumed the honored assistant role, as we did a sink or float experiment. We guessed which rocks would dive down to the bottom of the giant jar and which would buoy up to the top. 


Tom’s story of a man first discovering the hidden beauty of a rock impressed the wide-eyed listeners.The man wanted a cow to get out of his way and the cow wouldn’t budge. So the man did something unfriendly and tossed an ordinary looking rock at the cow. He missed the cow and instead, the rock landed hard on the ground, breaking open. As the man approached the split rock, he found a geode inside! (And the cow got to graze on at its own pace without injury). 

Tom also shared fossilized dinosaur poop (coprolite) which fascinated the captive audience. Tom named that it was real dino poop that had changed over time and then passed the coprolite around the circle for each child to handle. The first child held it with both hands, looked closely at it with a furrowed brow, and then brought it up to their nose to sniff, discovering, “Dinosaur poop doesn’t stink!” 

Here’s a clip of children sorting their stones to match the corresponding key:

Following snack, we checked out a variety of stones outside. Children used their newly acquired pocket magnifiers to take a closer look. They observed similarities and differences among stones and shared myriad questions with Tom who welcomed their enthusiasm and encouraged ongoing inquiry.



Thanks to J’s family for supporting HFP’s commitment to loving and preserving the earth– one rock at a time.

Check out Mount Hood Rock Club for more info

Rock Identification website 


Spring Trees

We continue our Spring focus, noticing the natural world waking up. We shift our attention from eggs to trees. We note the new growth — both foliage and flowers — and we consider the life that trees support — starting with eggs! We laminate the children’s individual eggs from the prior class period and invite them to cut them out. The eggs are now shiny and most children welcome the challenge of cutting the thicker material.

We revisit the Family Share in which children consider a creature that hatches from an egg. Children reflect on their knowledge of hatching critters as they cut.

We decide to make a giant nest for our eggs. A few children team up to draw and cut out construction paper twigs, then glue them onto a large paper. Their collective investment builds as each child adds their egg to the giant collaged nest. 

We center Maya Christina Gonzalez’s stunning book to ground some of our exploration. The colorful illustrations, integrated use of Spanish, inclusion of characters with a variety of skin tones, and gender-neutral references makes this book one of my favorites. No matter how little or deeply children connect with the book, they are taking in life-affirming images, words and messages.

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At circle, we recite a part of the book and create a movement activity as seeds in the tierra (earth), sprout, grow and reach toward the cielo (sky). Offering this kinesthetic invitation deepens children’s investment in the story and brings the book to life. 


Making Leaf Necklaces

We gather the leaves from a nearby Camelia tree. Children use hole punchers to create holes in the leaves. They add those, along with pieces of clear straw “spacers,” and colored netting (from produce bags) to create leaf/flower necklaces. We venture outside wearing our new tree jewelry to get a closer look at the nesting robins. The nest is tucked among rhododendron leaves just outside our play yard. We bring a stepladder and children take turns climbing the rungs to take a peek at the robins. When we go on a neighborhood rain walk, we peer into the tree to see if the robins are home. When we scooter-board down the sidewalk, some look to see if they can catch a glimpse of our feathery friends. We’ll continue to monitor the nest over the next few weeks– witnessing the vibrancy of spring in its branches: Baby robins may hatch and those rhoddies will soon produce giant hot pink blossoms. 



Loving Leaves: More Nature-Based Curriculum

“What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it and feel comfortable in it, before being asked to heal its wounds.”- David Sobel

Our enjoyment of Fall foliage continues. We bring a variety of colored leaves indoors to notice, manipulate and interact with. In the play yard, the giant canopy of trees continue dropping their leaves to the ground. We collect, rake, run and jump through them. 


Leaves are taped to paper and we set out a paint palette mirroring the colored leaves. Children approach easel painting a little differently when they encounter a page with a provocation, instead of a blank page.









Parents brought in a wax-dipping activity. We invite each child to pick five of their favorite leaves to hand dip in wax. Adults tie line onto each dipped leaf and attach them to a branch to complete the mobile.

We offer paper cut-outs in the shape of maple leaves along with pipette droppers and water colors. Children use fine motor skills to pinch each color into the pipette and release it onto the page. Planned and unexpected color combinations delight us.

This small group makes wishes into their felted leaves before adding them to their pot of stew. Imaginative, cooperative play at its best!

When I notice that a child is dis-regulated, I suggest they take the challenge of rolling a tree stump up a slope. This  example of “heavy work” meets their need for vestibular input. The child enthusiastically rolls the stump up the slope and back down. The second time they try it,  they invite  friends to join in the fun.

We enjoy weeks of raking and jumping in piles of leaves.

This trio collects golden leaves to adorn the picnic table before lunch. 


Fall Foliage: Examples of Nature-Based Curriculum

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” -Albert Camus


Fall is a rewarding time for a nature-based curriculum. It’s easy to bring the outdoors inside and to mirror the season of festive colors. Provocations that center around what is happening in the natural spaces around us foster children’s connections to the natural world. We provide a number of invitations to write, draw, and collage with leaves! We taped leaves to the easel paper, along with a paint palette mirroring the Fall foliage.



We even taped fabric leaves to the tops of ballpoint pens.                                                                                                                                            L & F invent a simple game that involves movement, surprise and joy. It’s a quintessential reminder of the value of “loose parts“– open-ended materials that can be used for a myriad of purposes– inviting children’s ingenuity. This game is of their own making and they navigate it seamlessly. They graciously take turns. One child places all the heavy felt leaves on the outside of the sheet canopy. The other child goes inside the canopy and shakes it until each leaf drops to the ground. Lots of laughter ensues. They switch roles. The leaf placer becomes the shaker and vice versa. The leaves fall to the ground. More laughter. What a joyful way to deepen their connection and meet their need for movement! J collects golden leaf treasures from the play yard, runs over to the fairy shelf, then carefully places each one.


We collect leaves to adorn our snack and activity tables. Left: Banana ghost pops for snack. Right: Flubber and pumpkin-shaped cookie cutters.


This peek-a-boo name-game started weeks ago at circle. It continues to be a joyful way to connect. In this case L & W, were thrilled to find enormous leaves around the corner from the play yard and immediately hid behind them. 

This stunning leaf art installation was found at Lower Macleay Trailhead, Portland, OR, a couple of days after the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre. What a lovely way to affirm a targeted community. It feels especially powerful to encounter, given that this is a hike our preschoolers do each year.  Photo courtesy of Sheila Hamilton.


Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

Celebrating Harvest, Fall, and Pumpkins!

In celebration of the harvest season, we’re talking, playing, painting and singing about pumpkins.

We’re baking pumpkin muffins, mixing pumpkin “rascals” (a nutritious cookie with chia seeds, aromatic cinnamon and nutmeg) and scooping the middle of pulpy pumpkins to extract and roast their seeds to munch on.

Our pumpkin focus mirrors our ongoing approach to curriculum in providing:

  1. Sensory-rich activities.  Opportunities to see, hear, taste, feel and smell.
  2. Multiple prompts.
  3. A variety of open-ended materials.
  4. Invitations to explore in multiple interest areas using a variety of disciplines. Including library, writing center, creation station, sensory table,  blocks, easel, dramatic play area, circle time, play yard etc.
  5. Encouraging families to fully participate and share experiences.


The orange paper construction paper pumpkin cut-outs, inspired one child to dictate the following story:

We’re going to the pumpkin patch. And a person saw a really good pumpkin. And a pumpkin hopped away as fast as it can. The person was getting weared out. The person chased the pumpkin. They passed a lion. A sleeping lion. That’s the only thing that past. And another person walked passed with a pumpkin and said “What?! a hopping pumpkin?!

The author cracks up when Teacher Susan reads their story back to them. They share this circle and of the class is thoroughly entertained.

Last week, families met at Kruger’s Farm for our annual pumpkin picking trip. We arrived and played a veggie guessing game with Farmer Don, who exclaimed our 3s and 4s knew more vegetable names than most teenage groups! We visited sweet Matilda, the farm’s resident pig, saw (and sniffed) piglets and chickens, and took a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Children relished in the wide outdoors, feeling the sticky mud under their boots, sloshing through puddles, holding on during the bumps and ruts of the road on the tractor ride, and choosing their perfect baking pumpkin.

Joyous pumpkin farm romping is an ideal way to nourish children’s connection to the natural world. We’ll plan to return to the farm in June to harvest and devour ripe strawberries.