When we got home from Zahra’s voice lesson early this afternoon, I let the kids inside and then went around the back to check on the chickens. I noticed a trail of prints in the snow from the side yard to the fence, and when I opened the gate to the back yard, the prints continued, around the Tempo and into the chicken coop area.
I wasn’t at all worried about the chickens. They were safely locked up in their Fort-Knox-style coop. Saïd secured that thing with hardware cloth all around and double locks on every door. Nothing’s getting in there. After asking the girls about their visitor (no answers there), I looked around the yard and saw a couple different kinds of prints running in large sweeping arcs all over the back yard. Zahra opened the deck door and I called out to her, “Hurry! All of you! Put all your snow gear on quick, quick! This is amazing.” Because I firmly believe that getting kids excited about any topic is all in the presentation.
Sure enough, they dressed themselves head to toe in winter gear at lightening speed and rushed out onto the deck.
“Stop!” I shouted, and then, in a hushed voice, “Look…we had some visitors while we were gone.” I instructed them on following the trail of prints and always staying to one side, walking in each other’s footsteps rather than “tainting the evidence.” We took pictures of the different types of prints that we saw and followed them in swirling loops around the chicken coop, up to the deck, around the gazebo, and then, lo and behold—a section of the fence had been knocked down! We noticed where the animal(s) had come into the yard and then went back out again. We followed the prints into the forest. We made several hypotheses (I think a fox and a rabbit; Zahra thinks deer; Noah thinks squirrels; Leila thinks a bear.) I promised them we would google “animal prints in snow” and try to match ours up; but the more we explored, the more we were led to think that at least some of them are from a squirrel, as the tracks often disappear at trees.
After that, the kids decided to stay outside in the forest. They used a push broom to clear the snow off a patch of ice and slide across it. They did this for two hours, while I filled more milk cartons for our igloo-making and made dinner. They came in only when it got dark, with rosy cheeks, runny noses and wild excitement in their eyes.
The morning was filled with calmer pursuits. Zahra finished binding a notebook and wrote a letter to her jida (Saïd’s mom). Noah continued with reading and French numbers (we’re up to 50 solidly now). Leila drew shapes before going through the objects in her Early Explorers suitcase. We also brainstormed our Goals for 2016. We came up with a pretty good list, which I will type up and print out so the kids and I can glue them to poster board, decorate it and hang it up in the Work Room. To be continued…
We also started a unit on insects. I read an introductory chapter from a fascinating little book we found at the used book store, The Anatomy of Insects & Spiders. We also watched the first episode of a BBC documentary series called Alien Empire. The kids seem very interested in insects, and I already have a couple field trips planned; so I think we can keep up the conversation around this topic until spring and maybe seg into some fun field work.