Butterflies, Birthdays, and a Kaleidoscope of Color at the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve

Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT volunteer photographer Gerry Beetham

After warm welcomes on this beautiful Monday morning at the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve, we gathered on a mat laid out on a grassy patch surrounded by flowering vegetation to chat about butterflies. I read Caterpillar to Butterfly by Lisa M. Herrington and Insect World Butterflies by Mari Schuh, two fun and fact-filled books with loads of beautiful photographs.

After our lesson, I distributed supplies for our art project to each Explorer, and they used their imagination to transform a cardboard egg carton into a unique caterpillar using crayons and markers. Eyes, stripes, polka dots, and original motifs were added to create one-of-a-kind designs. With assistance from their caregivers, Explorers next designed a butterfly life cycle on paper plates using pasta and legumes including red lentils for butterfly eggs, rotini as caterpillars, pasta shells for the chrysalis, and bowtie pasta as butterflies. Construction paper leaves were added for the caterpillars to munch on.

We left the life cycle creations to dry but brought our caterpillars with us on our adventure. We set off on a rainbow walk and spotted red rosehips, orange leaves, yellow blooming goldenrod, green pine needles and leaves, the bright blue sky, and purple flowers decorating the bog. Explorers also appreciated the white blossoms of the buttonbush and sweet pepper bush whose fragrances perfumed the air, inviting loads of bees to visit and pollinate. 

Our wonder wander continued as these sweet and curious children continued to notice all the beauty in and around the bogs. Our journey brought us to Cold Brook and as we peered down into the waters, we discovered a small painted turtle sunning itself on some vegetation surrounded by the crystal-clear flowing waters.

Our next resting spot was a bench with a view of a large and very fragrant display of flowering Sweet Pepper bushes. I invited the group to have a seat on the bench while one graduating Explorer joined me up front. Augie has been attending HCT Explorer programs since December of 2021 and his gentle and inquisitive spirit has brightened each of our adventures. I presented him with his Preschool Explorer diploma and a Harwich Conservation Trust cap as he is heading off to kindergarten next month. I will miss watching his face light up every time we start a new adventure, his excitement as I presented each week’s art project, and his bouncy and extremely adorable run as he scooted down the paths. Thank you for your precious enthusiasm, Augie. I wish you lots of fun and tremendous success in Kindergarten and beyond. 

Not only was it a graduation day, it was also Augie’s birthday! After we all sang “Happy Birthday”, his parents shared sweet treats with the group. Next, continuing with the food and treats theme, I revealed a large bag that I had stored under the bench containing pots, pans, plates, cups, and utensils for a mud kitchen. Explorers invented soups, sauces, and sautés using grasses, mosses, flowers, and seeds. Too soon, it was time to pack up the kitchen and head back to the trailhead to collect our butterfly life cycles and I wished participants an excellent day. 

I look forward to another week of Ecosystem Explorers and I am already excitedly planning Preschool Explorer Adventures, scheduled to resume at the end of September.

Happy exploring.


Ms. Andrea