CITW Seasonal Book Club: Spring 2019

At Creatures in the Wild one of our main goals is to help families foster a connection with each other and with the earth. One of our new favorite ways to do that is our Seasonal Book Club

How it works is a book is selected for a season and families read out loud over the course of 3 months, this slow intentional way of reading a book lets us dive deep into the story and connect with each other through the characters. At the end of the season everyone meets for a potluck themed party! The families get to bond over the story and characters. During the season please join the Facebook Group to discuss the reading and meetings with other families.

This past Winter we explored the connection between technology, humans and the animal kingdom by reading The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. Roz the robot was much beloved by all of the children. Families dove deep into topics such as emotions, the circle of life and death for animals, family, morality and the relationships between humans and robots. We all came out a little more wild at the end.

Spring Book: Pax by Sara Pennypacker


This book was recommended across the board by every librarian we asked. After reading all of the reviews we could get our hands on we agreed, this is a great selection for our next book. Families will be able to explore a huge variety of topics, the biggest one being the connection between humans and animals. Reviews do note that there are some violent parts as a war is going on during the story. Instead of passing on this book we decided to leave it up to the parents. Please feel free to read ahead to see if there is anything you would like to skip as a family. Our family will be reading it all as we feel it gives us an opportunity to discuss important topics. Here is a review to get an idea of what the book is about.

Review by The Classroom Bookshelf:

“With eloquent prose and gripping plot development, Sara Pennypacker guides readers through a tumultuous and tender story about love, loyalty, grief, and the complex interdependence between humans and animals. Pax was a vulnerable kit alone in the woods when Peter rescued him. Years later, when Peter’s father enlists in the military to fight in an encroaching war, Peter, now an adolescent, must return his beloved fox to the woods and move in with his surly grandfather 300 miles away. Chapters alternate between Pax’s quest to find “his boy” in an unknown landscape and Peter’s rigorous pursuit of Pax after regretting the abandonment of his beloved pet. Peter sustains an injury on the first night of his journey and is taken in by Vola. While Vola nurses Peter back to physical strength, she begins to heal from her own post-traumatic stress disorder associated with her service in a previous war. At times, descriptions of the consequences of war are graphic and painful. Jon Klassen’s black-and-white pencil illustrations heighten our understanding of select moments giving readers an opportunity to pause and reflect on the loneliness, uncertainty, and unwavering hope that drive the story. A luminous read aloud or independent reading selection, Pax offers countless opportunities to discuss empathy building and our human need to find belonging as well as cross curricular connections to studies of animal behavior and adaptation.”

By Sara Pennypacker

The Spring Book Party will be June 21st at 6pm at Mill Run Park. This happens to also be the Summer Solstice so that is extra fun!

Helpful Links:

Discussion Guide

Brightly’s Book Club

Pax Official Website

Reading Group Choices Discussion Questions

More links will be added as we find good ones!


Whew it has been a long time since I utilized this blog! Now seems as good of a time as ever to get back to it. Here is our current update!


When I started Creatures in the Wild it was in response to the 2016 presidential election. My brain decided needed to make a difference in the world, to counteract all of the negative I was seeing.

My whole adult life up until then was spent in farm to table kitchens, working on connecting people to nature through food. The step to open a Forest Preschool was a natural one from there.

My goal was to facilitate a connection to nature and creativity for children, that they could the carry into adulthood. I spent a year researching, consulting experts, interviewing kindergarten teachers and reading every book I could get my hands on. In that year we hosted countless nature groups, attended many meetings and had our first Summer Adventure.

Since then the Forest Preschool has opened and made its home amongst the cedar trees at the Woodchuck Hill Field & Forest Preserve. Nature Group meet ups have been happening all over the Syracuse area, helping people discover new wild areas and teaching them how to embrace free play in the forest. Summer Adventures have been a huge hit. They bring kids from all over the area and allow them to spend a whole week immersed in nature and projects of their own creation.

This past summer we opened the Studio. It seemed like a perfect addition to the Creatures Family. A place for kids to come and immerse themselves in creative play and art?! How could that not be perfect? Well. Unfortunately it was not. The large team that started it dissolved and it was all too much for a single mom of three to manage. This past January the Studio closed. I thought I would be devastated when this happened. That it would feel like the end of the world. But oddly enough once I was back outside, and with my own kids more, the opposite happened.

All of a sudden my creativity has come back! Nature Groups are being planned, this time on the weekends to make them more accessible. 
A new Saturday morning Forest Art class is in the works for this spring. 
Summer Adventures are almost full so I am adding another week. 
Now that my children are not stuck in an art studio constantly they are becoming my sweet wild babes again.

The Studio may not have lasted but the lessons we learned were invaluable.

Thank you to everyone who came on the journey with me.

And don’t be sad my friends. SRW JOYCE PHOTOGRAPHY is taking over the art end at her Studio. Just wait until you see the Birthday Parties and Classes she has in the works. It has been so fun to watch it all come together.

Check out the her Facebook for more information on art classes and keep an eye on the Creatures facebook for outdoor classes. The website should be update in the next few weeks.

Creatures will also be posting job openings for the summer and next school year!

2019 is going to be an amazing year. Now let’s get outside.

- Casey Kirkland Johnson

Amazing poem and art by Sarah Wiley Joyce


Using our senses at Green Lakes!

For the third week of the winter session we explored Green Lakes State Park! This park as a fascinating history and the lakes are extremely rare, so it gave us lots to discuss. The snow was extremely easy to pack so as soon as the kids got out of their cars they started making snowmen and rolling the biggest snow balls they could. 

Once we were organized and together we discussed our theme of the week, using our senses! Along our walk we stopped to use each sense. The kids felt all of the different types of bark, listened to the many sounds in the park, looked for hard to find creatures, and got to smell and taste different forest edibles.  

Along on walk we kept hearing a Pileated Woodpecker! It took a long time but we finally spotted it as it flew to a different tree! On our way back one of the kids spotted a rare winter site, a spider!!!

See it up there! It was the tiniest little spider crawling along the snow. The kids thought it was fascinating, until it started crawling towards them! This enabled us to talk about how we have been seeing early signs of spring this year, last weeks eastern bluebirds and this week a spider and new tree growth. 

After our walk the children all made little wind chimes and worked on their fine motor skills. Of course I forgot to take pictures of it! Next week we will be making some forest art at the Woodchuck Hill Field and Forest Preserve, come and join us!

Going on a Squirrel Hunt and Fairy Houses

This week we visited the Chittenango Falls State Park. The kids first wanted to check out the semi frozen waterfalls and we discussed how the water freezes as it falls to form the ice.

 Brandy taught us about the different squirrels that live in our area and now to look for signs of them. The snowfall from the previous night was light and fluffy, which made the hiking easy on the kids. Along our walk we looked out for signs of animals in the snow and places to make fairy houses. 

After adventuring and finding many places to build we settled on making the houses under the exposed roots of a tree at a frozen stream bed. 

The frozen stream made for an excellent impromptu sensory experience. They pushed all of the snow off, used it as an ice skating rink and then broke up the ice. After they had piles of broken ice (there was no water underneath) which they used to make different structures with. 

The kids got to observe a whole flock of Eastern Bluebirds with binoculars! They are defiantly not supposed to be here until spring but we were happy to observe them, and they were curious about our little flock of happy children also. 

The fairy house was complete! The ice shards made lovely couches and the children used their imaginations to gather supplies and make a cozy shelter for any local fairies. 

Next week we will be at Green Lakes State Park where we will explore using our senses to observe the natural world around us and make wind chimes!