Guide to Tolt MacDonald Park

This is a guide to Tolt MacDonald Park, written by the 2017/18 Carnation Frog Hollow class. We went to the park weekly, and here are our recommendations about how to enjoy this special place, and maps explaining how to find things.


There are places where you can find amenities. The park has pit toilets and port-a-potties. There are also bathrooms with running water and showers. Help prevent forest fires by making fires in fire pits. There are trashcans near the cabins and yurts.

Tolt M


In the spring thousands of flowers bloom. The fields are also usually rained on and wet, which sometimes makes a big puddle that is fun to splash in. In the winter, when it snows, it would be fun to have a snowball fight on the playground when its covered. In the autumn you can jump in the leaves. You can play games like soccer, capture the flag, and red rover. Its easy to have fun in the fields.

When festivals like concerts and music festivals are held, the fields are used for parking.


The playground was remodeled around 2016. The playground was small and now it’s bigger. We don’t go to the playground every week because then it would be super boring. There are a lot of games you can play.

My personal favorite is Grounders. It’s a game you can play at Frog Hollow. Here’s you how you play Grounders. One person is It, and they start on the ground. Everyone else is on the play structure. Then the person that is It (the Grounder) counts to five. The Grounder can only open their eyes when they’re on the ground, but as soon as the Grounder touches the play structure, they have to close their eyes. If the Grounder touches you, then you are It. If you’re on the ground when the Grounder says, “Grounders,” then you’re It. If there are two people on the ground, then they have to do rock-paper-scissors.

There is a big field near the playground, and I really like to play capture the flag in the field. You can also bring a soccer ball and play soccer.

Don’t put trash in the park because it’s bad for it. The playground has woodchips, so if you take off your shoes, be careful. Be careful so you don’t fall off the play structure. Look both ways before crossing the road to get to the playground.



There is a bridge in Tolt McDonald Park. It is a suspension bridge. The bridge is long and wooden, with big wires stuck in the ground on either side of the bridge. This bridge goes right over the Snoqualmie river. The bridge is an amazing place to view surrounding nature.

Fun things to do on the bridge:

There are many fun thing to do on this bridge. One of the fun things to do is shake the bridge. Because it is a suspension bridge, it shakes very well and makes it very fun to run across while its shaking back and forth. Another fun thing to do is play Poo Sticks. For all who don’t know what Poo Sticks are, its when two or more people each take a stick and drop it off the same side of the bridge at the same time. The first stick to exit the other side of the bridge wins.

Salmon run:

In the fall, one a amazing thing to watch is the salmon run. Salmon migrate, and it is very interesting to see. They swim upstream the Snoqualmie River from the Puget Sound. A great place to watch them from is the bridge. The clear water is easy to spot salmon swimming upstream. Small and big salmon all swim up river to get to their final destination where they spawn.



The River Bar is an exciting location in Tolt McDonald Park. It’s a great place to just sit down and relax, but there is still a number of fun activities. Although there is plenty of sunlight, there is also plenty of shade in case you get too warm. If you want to, you can look for pretty rocks. You can also wade in the water.

River Description:

There is a beautiful river that runs through Tolt McDonald Park. This river is a favorite spot by all Frog Hollow students. This river is fun to wade in on hot summer days because of the cold refreshing water. Although there are many fun things to do, there are cautions.


One of the cautions about the river is the fast moving currents in some locations or during certain times of the year. So if I were you I would watch out for these fast moving currents and instead play in the slower moving water. Another caution is the algae covered rocks. Most can be fine but some are slippery to stand on. Another thing about the rocks is the small ones can be very sharp if you’re barefoot. You should probably wear water shoes. Watch out for sharp and slippery rocks if you are walking with no shoes. The current is strong in some parts. Watch out for bears and other wild animals. Don’t drink the water or else you could get sick.




When you are camping in Tolt McDonald Park, there are many ways to do it. You can bring your camper, motor home, or trailer. Tolt McDonald also has yurts with multiple beds. A few steps uphill, and there’s a fire pit. You can bring food, or you can go on a twenty minute walk to a restaurant or a grocery store.


To the motor home/trailer campsites: turn in by the Tolt McDonald sign, and follow the road past the play ground. Once you get to the end of the road, turn left and follow it to the campsite.

To the yurts: Turn in by the Tolt McDonald sign, and pull in. Park by the playgrounds. Follow the trail across the bridge, and follow the straight trail to the yurts. You can keep going on the trail to get to the cabins.


The cabins are made out of metal and wood. They were made by Boy Scouts. The cabins can keep you dry and you can camp in them. They are fun to climb.

How to get there:

You can get to the cabins by crossing the bridge from the field side to the cabin/yurt side. After you cross the bridge you should go straight up the gravel trail and make you sure you don’t go on the dirt trail; that will lead to the amphitheater.

The mountain behind the cabins:

The mountain behind the cabins is a good place to play. It has amazing fort building material and it is exhilarating to run down. When you run down it a cloud of dust follows you and you get all dirty and muddy. There are mushrooms, ferns, and trees on the mountain behind the cabins.

The stream by the cabins:

The stream by the cabins is cool to play in. You can go under the trail using the stream tunnel. Sometimes the stream tunnel is gushing water and sometimes there is no water at all.


Make sure to leave things the way you found them. Make sure to clean up all your food to make sure animals don’t eat it. If you climb the cabins, make sure you know how to get down. If the stream if moving fast, don’t crawl in the tunnel because you could get wet.

map to the woods


Things to do in the woods:

You can make fun forts out of sticks and moss. There are good hiking trails there. I would keep your eyes peeled for birds and squirrels.


When you get to the woods, you’ll see a lot of pink flowers called bleeding heart. Caution! They look yummy, but they are poisonous. Up the trail, you’ll see some spiky leaf plants that can be used for medicine. They’re called Oregon Grape.


When you get to the woods, you’ll see deciduous trees (trees with leaves) and coniferous trees (trees with needles and they’re also called evergreens). All the trees in the woods are fun trees.

How to get there:

Walk over the suspension bridge, go up the trail, not left, when you are halfway to the cabins turn right. Walk straight through the field, then walk up to the campsite.



Tolt McDonald Park has a variety of animals. Most are small, like slugs, bugs, and other critters. The few animals that are large are coyotes, beavers and bears (bears are very rare). Rodents are also common, like rats and mice.

Tolt McDonald Park features many different land types. Forest, fields, and ponds are pretty common. There is also the Tolt River which is full of life: salmon, fish and other little animals.

Animal Dangers:

Tolt McDonald is not very dangerous. Although some people have seen bears, they are very rare and far in the mountains. Mosquito, bees, and other insects can also be found in Tolt McDonald Park but they aren’t very dangerous.

For the plants, animals, critters, and birds, please do not litter.

Have a great time at Tolt McDonald Park.


whole park


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Really Exquisite Corpses

Games where you pass and fold paper to make crazy poems and stories are favorites at Frog Hollow. One of the classics is Exquisite Corpse (we didn’t name it — the Surrealists did — but we like it a lot). Here are a couple recent results by the Friday class that we particularly enjoyed.oak-tree-and-sun

I think one reason they worked so well was that I emphasized the idea of continuity. Each line needed to belong with the line before, whether that meant it continued the story or just sounded right. I also encouraged people to write more than a word or two, which they mostly did — and you can see how weird it gets when they didn’t. Anyhow, here they are. Enjoy! Better yet, try this game yourself.

Because of the Oak

I feel good when I run to the park

I also feel good when I play video games

me moo!!!

moo me!!!

And I was mooed, oh I was mooed

I shook my hands and stomped my feet

You don’t know anything! she yelled

“Yes I do” he yelled back

and he kissed the bride

on Wednesday.

I fell

down, down.

Into the pit

of cold winter snakes

“I want to bite you”

he screamed with bared fangs

and ran away


The boom.


boom went the car

stereo so loud it shook the baby

“all the single ladies all the single ladies”

ugh he moaned I hate this song

but he played the song anyway

because he felt like it

he jumped

and he fell

who fell? a owl.

a cat?

No! A rocket ship made of pizza boxes

It’s Harry Potter


Silence is a Verb

I hate silence

he yelled with relish

he sang like a bird

yes, a crow

a crow with dark blue eyes

a cow with dark red eyes

Moo! Moo! Moo!

Ow! Ow! Ow! said the human

but the mountain only grumbled

and shoke and exploded

lava then ash then nothing

it burned on

the flames reaching up

for the sky

for the stars


Stop it!!!!!

no I won’t. no no no

I cried to the stars, but they did not believe me




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Frog Hollow Poetry Exhibit

The Seattle classes have collaborated on a poetry exhibition in the hallway art gallery at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. If you’re in Delridge, drop on by! We wrote and illustrated poems largely on the theme of wishes and dreams in honor of Martin Luther King Day. But we didn’t define that narrowly — there are poems ranging from serious poems about peace and justice all the way to one about how terrible guacamole is. There is also a poem in Korean (and English), because we had a guest student from Korea. Students worked hard on their poems and posters, and were thrilled to be able to share their work with the larger Youngstown community. We’ve been writing a lot of social justice focused things this winter, centered around MLK Day, and it has been exciting to see students express their compassion, hope, sense of justice, and wacky creativity, as well as explore the power writing has to grapple with things that make us angry and sad.

Below is a small selection from our exhibit. Enjoy!


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7 Ways to Strengthen Democracy Through Language Arts

This political season has me thinking about the importance of teaching democratic skills to children. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it with the kind of starry-eyed civic hope that maybe only elementary school teachers can summon. It’s the kind of hope a person gets when they are in position to do something about something that matters. In this case, through language arts, I can teach my students the following essential civic skills:


1. Critical Thinking

One of the most important civic skills is simply not believing everything you hear. Critical thinking is the art of asking questions about information: Why does the author think this? What is their evidence? Do I trust their sources? What is the context? Do I agree with the author? What am I basing that opinion on? These are the kinds of questions lively citizens ask constantly. They are also the kinds of questions used to interrogate a text.

This skill can be practiced in formal academic discussions, but also in informal family conversation in the car or at the dinner table. Talk about what you read, view, hear, and experience. Dig deeper. Ask: Why? In what way?

2. Understanding the Difference Between Fact and Opinion

This is such a crucial skill that it is almost invisible, and so somehow has become a really puny civic muscle. When we can’t (or don’t deign to) differentiate between fact and opinion, our judgements cloud our vision of others and there is no steady ground on which to build bridges.

This skill seems to click for my students starting when they are eight or nine. We practice it by doing observational writing — writing down just what we notice, not what we think. Later, we practice having opinions and backing them up with observations. This skill can also be practiced through noticing when we are using opinion words (great, bad, important) instead of observational words (green, loud, broken), and beginning to untangle our judgements and our vision.

3. Developing Respectful, Fact-Based Argument

Once we can navigate the difference between agreed-on reality and personal opinion, then we can begin to talk about issues in useful ways, and the national blood pressure doesn’t blast up like a rocket during every presidential debate.

It is also the central skill of essay writing. I think essays should be a foundational part of high school level language arts, but their foundations can be practiced long before that. Essays are basically the assertion of an opinion about a topic there is disagreement about, backed up by convincing evidence with the opposing viewpoint in consideration. That sounds kind of complicated, but every kid knows how to do this. The challenge is in tackling complicated and abstract questions in a well-thought-out way. It’s tricky, but worth the work, since through doing this we learn clear writing skills, stronger critical thinking skills, and the ability to engage with differing opinions.

4. Strengthening Empathy

Fiction writers like to say they are in the empathy business. And it’s true. Through literature, we get to step into the shoes of all kinds of different people facing all kinds of dilemmas. We experience their humanity, even if on the surface it isn’t like our own. Is this a skill I wish for every child? Of course.

The prescription? Read good books. Read aloud. Listen to audiobooks. Watch good films. Read graphic novels. Tell stories. Listen to fairy tales. Read more good books. And then engage with them imaginatively. When I tell stories in class, I often have my students draw a picture from the story. This allows them to sink deeper into the story imaginatively without over-intellectualizing it. (And yes, this is kind of opposite of what I said about developing critical thinking. Different stories, different times, different tactics.)


5. Enquiring into Larger Human Questions

A healthy democracy isn’t just a bureaucratic structure, it’s a result of a vibrant social conversation about the big questions of being human: what is fair, what matters, how should we treat each other, etc. This is the stuff that makes literature tick.

Reading, thinking, and writing about big questions isn’t just intellectually satisfying, it gives us a chance to wrestle out nuanced opinions and to weigh opposing ideas in a respectful way. Sounds like practice in democracy to me.

6. Trusting Their Own Voice

Voting is an act of believing that your opinion matters, and as far as I can tell, believing that it won’t matter is a major reason people don’t vote. So it seems to me that it’s essential we encourage children to believe in their voices.

Writing is a great way for children to begin to articulate their own opinions and speak up. To encourage this, I have my students write both about things that matter to them, and in lots of silly and creative and free ways. For instance, we write tons of poetry, and most of the time, unless something doesn’t make sense, I can read their poem and be 100% positive about it (and then sit down with them to work on spelling and grammar). This is an experience in being able to say whatever they want to say without being told they are right or wrong — to write for themselves instead of for approval. We also do very friendly poetry readings, where students get to try sharing their work.

7. Engaging in Issues

When children can feel the power of their own voices, they get excited to use them to speak up about things they believe in. This is civic engagement writ bold.

We approach this head on through the Letters for Change project, but many of my students write about issues they care about in their poetry and other projects. Reading socially engaged poetry, doing research reports, dissecting current events, and academically observing things like Women’s History Month, Veteran’s Day, and Martin Luther King Day are all great ways to make language arts more socially active, and students more civically skilled.

Want to hear more about Frog Hollow’s language arts program for homeschoolers, and its educational philosophy? Come to the Open House.



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