Crows, Cranberries, and Curiosity: Preschool Explorers Have Fun at Hinckleys Pond-Herring River Headwaters Preserve

Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham

Hinckleys Pond-Herring River Headwaters Preserve was the host of Preschool Explorers on this beautiful morning with bright white and silver billowing clouds decorating the sky. Preschoolers emerged from their vehicles in bright rain jackets and rain boots with smiles on their faces, ready for adventure no matter the weather.

We started out exploring the small hill parallel to the trail and found mushrooms and Earth stars (a type of fungi called Gasteromysetes). Explorers took turns holding these interesting star-shaped mushrooms in their tiny little hands.

Next, youngsters scampered over to our reading mat and snuggled in for my reading of Crow Made a Friend by Margaret Peot and Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt. After reading these clever storybooks we created wearable crows out of paper plates, construction paper, glue, paint, and shoelaces.

Time for movement and a search saunter. Just a few steps away from our reading and art mat we discovered a turtle’s nest and evidence of predation. Each Explorer held an eggshell to examine its rubbery texture. Then we examined poky pine needles, the shiny colorful leaves of poison ivy (and discussed why it’s important not to touch), colorful goldenrod, and sweet purple asters decorating the landscape, noting the abundance of beauty all around.

As Explorers enjoyed their stroll, they occasionally called to the crows with a “caw, caw” followed by rounds of giggles. Climbing up and over the bike trail, we ventured over to Hinckleys Pond and paused to admire the beautiful reflections of the clouds on the water’s surface.

Wandering out onto the bog, our search saunter continued while being mindful to take high steps to prevent getting our feet tangled in the cranberry vines. Jumping up and down, we noticed how the structure of the bog felt different under foot, as opposed to the firm surface of the trail. We admired delicate, lovely pink cranberry blossoms and enjoyed the crunchy and tart taste of the berries.

While searching for cranberries, one preschooler discovered a praying mantis! What an exciting find! Explorers circled around this stunning bright green beauty with its triangular head and bulging eyes. Together we counted its legs, examined its head, body, and eyes, and concluded it was indeed an insect so of course we broke into our insect song to the tune of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”. Circling around the praying mantis we sang, “Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen. Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen. Eyes and mouth antenna too, six legs and that’s an insect for you!”

We exited the bog, returned to the trail, and found coyote scat, fox scat, and another turtle nest on our journey back. Just as we were approaching the trail that brought us back to our vehicles, two crows flew over the bog and we all sang out “caw, caw, caw”. 

Thank you, Explorers and caregivers, for bringing your curiosity and for sharing your morning with me. I had such a wonderful time and I am so looking forward to our next adventure.

Happy Exploring.


Ms. Andrea