Group of children sitting in a circle near a large tree

A peek into Woolly Bear land

A peek into Woolly Bear land

Our Woolly Bears preschool program is special because it brings a group of children together in the same location, multiple days per week. Your child has the opportunity to continue a project or theme of play that they started the day before in a seamless manner. There is a strong continuity from day to day, week to week. 

Themes & Activities

Kristin, our lead Woolly Bears teacher for the Carpinteria group, shared some of the themes and activities they experienced last year:


The children have been working on learning the body movements to each of our songs, which gives them opportunities to move their bodies in different ways to supports their development. The children love the “Chip Chop, Chip Chop” song as they get to wield their big and powerful imaginary axes. This chopping motion crosses the midline of the body, which helps children connect the right and left hemispheres of their brains, and supports the child in using both sides of their body in unison. The body motions for our “Winter is Cold” song are in ASL (American Sign Language), which give a gentle introduction into that universal language.


The children's free play has been rich and exciting. A few favorites are, baby Snow Leopards; “Kids”, “where they be careful of things and adventure”; Bobcat family; fort work with their saws; play money (where they use the eucalyptus leaves as currency); builders; and jousting.

Children learn through their play, each game supporting their development in numerous ways. One example is jousting, as the children joust, they develop their spatial awareness, self-control, coordination, and emotional regulation.

As the children play, the teachers model meaningful work while observing the play. We sand a wooden butter knife, weave, mend our snack blanket or prepare for a craft while keenly observing the play.  We also redirect when needed and step in to help a child enter or exit play or solve a conflict. By modeling meaningful work, children are given ideas to add into their play. The children are also given the sense that we as the adults are not just watching their play but are working on a project. This shifts the play and helps the children dive more deeply into their beautiful worlds of play.


Each week we have a craft option that is available to the children on our craft blanket in Woolly Bear land. The children sewed pumpkins in October, practicing their fine motor skills.  Sewing also helps children develop skills for reading and writing as they are tracking in a line as they stitch in and out.Around Thanksgiving we had a finger painting activity. The children enjoyed the sensory experience of painting their hands as we made this gratitude craft. After our Thanksgiving break the children spent two weeks working on their felted balls. We had warm soapy water and wool which the children rolled between their hands until they were their desired shape. We had a lot of fun having our hands immersed in this warm water and feeling the texture of the wool change. The following week the children used a needle and thread to thread through the ball and make ornaments and necklaces. They also worked on some Holiday gifts but those are surprises.


We have been enjoying our birthday celebrations in which each child has made a card for their friends. They enjoy drawing a picture for their friends and have been working on writing their names and writing out notes to their friends. Each birthday we gather a “basket of beauty” where we wander out onto the landscape and ask the plants for a bit of coyote brush or a sour grass leaf or a special stone or piece of wood they find. The children have been working on their plant tending as they ask each plant, and make sure to just take one leaf at a time.


Plant Knowledge

After our first rain of the season the sourgrass started to pop up, and the children were so excited! They have been interested in munching on it and have earned their “sour grass badge”. To earn their badge they demonstrate to the teachers that they can determine which plant is sour grass, not take too much from each plant, and demonstrate and learn that we do not harvest next to dog poop or any mushrooms. With other wild edibles, we ask the children to show a teacher before putting it in their mouth so that we can help make sure it is safe to eat. We are excited to welcome more wild edibles after more rain. We have also been tending our milkweed plants and welcoming in the Monarchs on their journey. Each week we check on them and water when needed. The children have lovingly named each one: ApplePear, Barlo, Berta, Cutie and Juice.


Group of children sitting in a circle near a large tree

Each day before lunch time we have story time. The children help invite us into our story with our Mother of the Fairytales song and then they curl up on the blanket to listen. We tell each story for a month and each week we alternate between two stories. The repetition allows them to deeply know the story as we act them out as a play at the end of most months.

In October we enjoyed the story of “Mousekins Golden Home”, which is about a mouse named Mousekin who prepares for winter by making a cozy home in a pumpkin. During the month of November we told a story about the Monarchs coming to our coast for the winter as well as a story about a tree named Sprout who didn’t have enough room to grow but created change in the forest so that he and his friends could grow high toward the sky. In December we told a legend of how the animal people got fire and learned to make friction fires to stay warm, as well as a story about a fish who loves to give ‘squishes’ but learns from a puffer fish that he needs to ask his friends if they want a squish.  Oral stories help children develop their capacity for reading comprehension as they paint the pictures for themselves. Stories also feed the children's spirits and can teach beautiful lessons.

Learn More

Pre-K Resources

Click through the different sections of the WYP DIY Resources for ideas on nature connection activities, stories & music, and advice, created and curated by Kelly VillaruelKristin Van Der Kar, our lead mentors for Woolly Bears & Chickadees programs.

Enroll Today

Meet our two outdoor preschool programs for early childhood: Woolly Bears & Chickadees. Login to your account or create an account to join our waitlist and then email with the weekly days you would like to attend.

  • Woolly Bears (Carpinteria): Full; waitlist only
  • Woolly Bears (Goleta): Full; waitlist only

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