Treasuring Trees: Tree Enthusiast Visits HFP

We welcomed Joan from the Talk About Trees program to teach us about seeds and cones. After hearing an overview, pretending to be trees drinking water through our roots, and identifying which trees have leaves and which have needles, we walked around the school to inspect and collect a bagful of tree treasures.


A few families ventured to  this week’s suggested site: Lone Fir Cemetery, Portland’s second largest arboretum. They searched and found the  very first tree planted from which the cemetery was named.

O. brought home her collected tree treasures then collaged them onto a toilet paper roll to make a tree doll!

We look forward to welcoming Joan back next month to focus on the life cycle of trees!

Rainy Day Play

The natural world provides THE best play options for young children. Northwest rainy days entice young children to engage in what they know best– kinesthetic and sensory explorations. A few props (rain gutters, a slide, plastic balls and rubber toy frogs) coupled with a barrel full of rain water makes for deeply engrossing and joyful play. 

We roll plastic colored balls down slides and ramps. We compare the speed of the slide and the ramp. Some children wonder if different colored balls roll more slowly than other balls.

We quickly discover  that rain suits (muddy buddies)  slide extra fast on slippery wet slides!

We team up to fill a large bowl of water, alternating cup fulls down a ramp into the bowl. We then carry the heavy bowl to the sandbox to add to our mud pie ingredients.

Ghosts and Witches: What’s Real and What’s Pretend?

This week, we’ve played and talked with a Halloween focus– considering what’s real and what’s pretend– noticing ghosts, witches and pumpkins. 

For our virtual class, we invited children to turn one of their beloved stuffed animals into a ghost. Each child picked a stuffie and then put a towel, sheet or fabric over it’s head. We noticed how the real stuffed animals were obscured and only a ghost critters showed.  In doing this, we offered children gentle exposure to what is spooky and helped build some comfort so when they encounter Halloween decorations or costumes they will be less likely to feel uneasy.

During class, we invited children to share what they already know about witches. naming some things we have learned about witches are true, and some things are pretend. As we listened, we helped make the distinction between the real power of real witches and the pretend images and/or stereotypes of witches as dangerous, evil, scary, green-skinned faces. Children eagerly shared what they know: 

K: “They like to go into the woods and collect plants that heal people.”  Z: “They use wands.”  D: “They help people.” Sylas: “Fly on broomsticks.”   K: “They wear black hats.”  We talked about how fun it would be to travel by broom and shared some herbs and medicines that healers and witches still use today. 

We introduced Bonnie Lockhart’s song Who Were the Witches which illuminates the power of witches and hints at the harsh history of witches who were misunderstood, targeted and harmed. 


Who were the witches?

Where did they come from?

Maybe your great, great grandmother was one.

Witches were wise, wise women they say.

There’s a little witch in (everybody) today.


Some people thought that the witches were bad.

Some people were scared of the power they had.

The power to help and to heal and to care–

Isn’t something to fear; it’s a treasure to share.


Growing Tree-Lovers: Visitor Joins Us to “Talk About Trees”

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.“- author unknown

We hosted our first in-person small group activity of the year! Joan from Talk About Trees (Oregon Forestry’s Education Program), meets with four different groups in the grassy area adjacent to our play yard. Thanks to the stewardship of the good people at Common Grounds, the area is full of majestic trees. 

Upon arrival, children joyfully greet each other. Some run down the steep grassy slope, taking big, deliberate steps to make their way back up. Some collect needles, twigs and cones to build a “nest.” Others run circles around the giant needled tree that we are soon to gather under. Unsolicited, one’s child joy is contagious as she invites us to “hug a tree!” 

After a short stint of free play, we gather to see what is in Joan’s tree-patched pouch. Joan pulls out treasurer after treasure- laminated maple leaves of various sizes, seed pods and cones… and on.  




Joan encourages us to notice the trees close by. Some have leaves while others have needles. We use our bodies to mirror what we see happening with the surrounding trees surrounding. We spread out our fingers to mimic trees with leaves, and we use our pointer fingers to mimic trees with needles.

Now it is time to survey the area and get to know trees up close. As we walk the grounds, Joan invites us on a scavenger hunt– similar to what we’ve been doing in our virtual classes. This time, instead of finding objects from our homes to share, we get to find specific tree treasures: A fallen red leaf, a helicopter seed pod to fly, a giant ponderosa cone. 


One child sprints away from the group to a tree that had been topped. His mom relaxedly values his interest and lets him check it out.


We learn that Cedar trees are super soft and splinter-free. So we pet one!  We venture to an enormous Ponderosa Pine towering above us. 

Then Joan gathers us beneath a huge Doug fir tree. She tells us a story that will help us identify Douglas fir cones. Douglas the mouse helps his mice friends escape the clutch of a hungry coyote. Each time the coyote is close, Douglas coaches his little rodent friends to run away. After running and running, they hide inside a cone–a final hiding spot. The coyote cannot find them and heads home to have some macaroni and cheese instead. The mice are safe!

Joan encourages us to look closely at the cones beneath the Doug Fir tree. We can see the pointy mouse claws or mouse tails poking out. This lets us know the the tell-tale sign of a Douglas Fir cone versus other cones with rounded sides. 

What a joy it is to be together again! And even more so outside among the splendor of these gentle giants!

Thanks to Joan and Talk About Trees Program.