This Wednesday, the lovely folks of the English Language department at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School came out to ThorpeWood for a retreat. This group of twelve began their day by having breakfast in the pavilion and playing some ice breaker games. Their giggles could be heard across the farm! They followed this up by enjoying a tour of the farm – through the arboretum, around the pond, stopping into the homestead barn, visiting with animals, and finally arriving at our main barn. Here, they began our equine-assisted learning program.
These teachers, who spend every day supporting and connecting with English learners, were naturals at EAL. They led gently, coaxing the horse along; it was amazing to see how our horses responded to the energy they brought to the program. Our horse, Geysir, for example, is extremely sensitive and usually is seen running out and away from EAL participants. This time, however, he walked calmly and even followed the lead of the youngest staff member there – a woman who just graduated high school two years ago and joined the EL department with her old teachers.
Towards the end of EAL, we did a group game in which one person, blindfolded, leads a horse through our obstacle course with their peer verbally directing them. This was a wonderful experiment in trust – for people and animal alike!
Next, the EL department spent time at the lodge, where they ate lunch and discussed how to best use ThorpeWood for their students. The finished the day by having s’mores around our ‘cowboy cauldron.’ We were so delighted to have them at the farm with us. We hope to see them again soon – with their students!
This Monday, we had an egg hunt at the farm! Now, this wasn’t your average candy-fueled Easter egg hunt, but rather a farm-centered one. We started the event with our fantastic story Ready for an Egg Hunt, which recounts in rhyme all the silly places our chickens lay eggs. You can read the full story here.
Afterward, we grabbed our trusty metal pails to go hunting for white plastic chicken eggs. Instead of being filled with jelly beans, however, these eggs had either horse, cow, chicken, or goat feed inside.
When all the eggs were found (except the one that is still missing…), we regrouped at the teepee fire ring to break open the eggs and sort the feed into buckets.
After all the eggs were emptied into the appropriate feed tubs, we began the next phase of the event: feeding the animals! From the cows to the chickens to the horses to the goats, we made sure everyone got a little snack and plenty of love, too. The kids were so delighted to engage with our animals…and it was clear that the animals sure appreciated having kids back on the farm, too!
We continue to send ‘farm mail’ to our Head Start students! These little bits of love from the farm are delivered to the county’s Head Start classrooms about once a week. We also send ‘farm mail’ to the children in virtual classes once a month with the regular deliveries of classroom materials that Head Start arranges. Take a look at the fun we sent this month:
Woodland Creature Bookmark
Tree Disc Ring Counting
Observing Out Your Window
This month’s story time featured a book called I’m Done! by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan. In this book, a little beaver attempts to make his first dam, but he isn’t working too hard to make it just right. After much advice from Mama and Papa beaver, Little Beaver eventually ‘nibble nibble snaps’ and ‘scoop scoop pats’ his way to really damming the stream and making his own little pond.
After reading this story under the cover of the pavilion, we headed out into the rain to look for evidence of Little Beaver here at the farm. After a minute’s walk, we came across our first evidence: a low stump, whittled into a spear by beaver teeth! We followed the trail of missing branches and stumps until we arrived at the pond. Here, we discovered the beavers’ lodge, dam, and pathways between the ponds. The children were so delighted to find more and more evidence that Little Beaver lives here at the farm.
The whole adventure was streamed through Facebook live for those who couldn’t make it to the live event. You can find the link to that video here. Enjoy! We hope to see you in person next time!
Inspired by the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Education Trunk, we have created a new kind of farm mail: Farm Trunks! Farm Trunks are old metal toolboxes filled with different nature-themed classroom fun. For example, our first farm trunk, which was released for a trial run this week, is themed ‘Pond Life.’ We are also in the process of creating quite a few more in the following themes: birds, horses, chickens, nature’s music, workshop tools, sticks & stones, and bugs.
Each trunk is filled with its own set of fun, but they follow the same general guidelines when it comes to their contents. First and foremost, each trunk has an introductory letter. In the letter, the theme is introduced and a specific set of challenges (and rewards!) is put forth to encourage more engagement and communication back to the farm.
For the teacher’s convenience, we have included a content list and some coloring pages for photocopying.
The trunks also have one or more age-appropriate books on that theme for the teacher to read aloud and the students to flip through.
Finally, the trunks feature some real-life artifacts and hands-on activities for the students to get involved with the theme.
We are so excited to create these trunks and circulate them between the Head Start classrooms. Expect further updates here on the blog when we get the trunks back from field testing and can unveil the final product! If you have ideas for more trunks for us to create, reach out to [email protected] We always appreciate some outside insight!
Since the beginning of the school year, we farm folk have committed to creating and dropping off ‘farm mail’ at all of the county’s Head Start classes each week (except when the snow stops us!). The past two months have been no exception as we have been delivering a wide variety of farm fun – from suet cakes to facilitate bird-watching from the classroom windows to coloring pages to a new interactive story. Each piece of farm mail is always accompanied by a letter to the kids. Take a look at our most recent farm mail below!
What’s Wild Coloring Page
Farm Buildings Info Sheet
Egg Carton Decoration
Look Closely Book
Bird Suet Cakes
This month, our Third Thursday Storytime was in danger of being canceled due to yet another snowstorm. However, we opted instead to do storytime virtually over Facebook Live. Don’t worry – it was still outside in the snow!
Although we much prefer to see our storytime crew in person, it was a wonderful chance to get new listeners. Children who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to attend due to distance or lack of transportation were getting a live storytime event in the comfort of their homes. In addition, we posted the live video to our facebook page (see it here) so that folks who missed the live broadcast could still watch later. To date, the video has over 500 views.
The storytime featured two delightful stories on the theme of making art in nature. The first, Max Found Two Sticks, tells the story of a little boy in the city who doesn’t feel like talking, instead he uses two sticks that he finds on the ground to drum his feelings out. The second, Anywhere Artist, is an inspiring book about making art wherever you are, with whatever you can find around you.
In the spirit of the second book, I encouraged the kids to be ‘snow artists’ today and build a snow man! In the last minute of the video, I put together a cowboy snowman and said good bye to the folks who had tuned in.
Happy World Read Aloud Day!
Although we farm folk primarily focus on getting kids outside and moving around – we also LOVE to get everyone reading. After all, books are such a great way of understanding animals and the outdoors. We have made many books about our farm which, in the past, we would often start our programs by reading. Nowadays, during Covid, we deliver our farm books to the Head Start classrooms and record read-aloud videos, too, for the kids to enjoy. In addition, we have restarted our Third Thursday Storytime event each month.
In honor of World Read Aloud Day, here is a one-stop resource for all of our reading endeavors!
Farm Books: You can find many of our farm books here on the blog! The full list of blog posts featuring these stories can be found here.
Read-Aloud Videos: Our read-aloud videos can be found on our ThorpeWood youtube channel. The read-aloud playlist can be found here.
Third Thursdays at ThorpeWood: Our storytime event takes place on the third Thursday of every month. Email [email protected] to sign up! Blogs about past storytimes can be read here.
With our Head Start friends still unable to come up to the farm, we continue to make virtual learning videos for them! Take some time to watch these and share them with your youngest friends!
The whole farm gets excited on rainy days! Join me as I check in with the pond, trees, and animals.
On the occasion of the winter solstice, I explore the farm before the sun comes up! Come along to wake up the animals, listen for owls, track the rising sun, and say ‘Good Morning!’ to the farm.
In this video, I teach viewers the difference between wild and domestic animals – and then go on an adventure to find both kinds of animals! This lesson is based on the Department of Natural Resources’ Growing Up WILD program.
Let’s Ride a Horse
Go on a ride with Vinur the horse and me! First, we need to get groom Vinur and get tacked up. Then, we head out to walk, trot, canter and JUMP around the farm.
Buildings and Roads