Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham
HCT Preschool Explorers and their caregivers joined me today at the beautiful 49-acre Pleasant Bay Woodlands. The sun was shining, a gentle breeze was blowing, and overhead was a stunning blue October sky. I invited families to gaze upward and Explorers excitedly announced that they could see the moon. We chatted about our plans for the morning, then set off to meander down the cart way.
Explorers discovered a bench and climbed up for our first story book of the morning. I read When Cloud Became a Cloud by Rob Hodgson. This story introduces its reader to Cloud as she moves, transforms, precipitates, and more in this charming and humorous portrayal of the water cycle.
Next, we strolled past the butterfly meadow searching for all the colors of the rainbow in our surroundings. We discovered leaves in red and orange, flowers in yellow and purple, grasses in green, and an expanse of blue in the sky above.
Rounding the corner, I spread out mats and invited each Explorer to have a rest, stretch out, and gaze skyward. I read another story as Explorers and families were cozy on their mats: Lizzy and the Cloud by the Fan Brothers. This whimsical book shares the sweet tale of a young girl who cares for her pet cloud as it grows. I was so delighted to discover this clever story full of love. As I read, our sweet and curious Preschool Explorers gazed up, listening to each word and admiring the soft, calming, and alluring illustrations.
Lastly, I read It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw. Changing white shapes silhouetted against a blue background decorate each page of this story. The reader is left to wonder, is it a rabbit, an ice-cream cone, a bird, spilt milk, or is it a cloud in the sky? This childhood classic keeps you guessing and ends with a fun surprise.
After our wonderful books it was time to get creative. I gave each Explorer a large sheet of blue construction paper, a teaspoon, a sponge brush, and a container of cloud paint (a combo of Elmer’s washable school glue and foam shaving cream). Young artists were invited to create cloud shapes out of the concoction and each produced their own very unique sky. After setting the art to dry in the sunshine, I handed Explorers another sheet of blue paper, plus cotton balls, crayons, markers, and the prompt: “It looked like _______, but it was just a cloud in the sky.” Imaginative young minds created ice cream cones, sharks, spoons, and abstract designs.
Resuming our search saunter, we were just a few steps away from our story mats when we discovered a slug dining on a mushroom. This observation prompted us to sing a few rounds of last week’s original slug song. A few steps further, we found spiderwebs on the ground that looked like clouds. Just then, two small wood frogs made an appearance to our delight and we watched as they hopped across the path and up the bank into the woods! Pausing beside some ferns, we gently caressed the fronds decorated in a stunning display of autumn colors including green, golden yellow, and light browns.
After studying the vernal pool and identifying poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and sweet pepper bush, we left the cool, shaded path and strolled into the open to admire the bright, sunny cranberry bog. Dragonflies were darting about and we spied bright burgundy cranberries ripe on the vines.
On our way back to our starting point, Explorers, full of wonder and awe, pointed out trees and birds, plants and rocks. We skipped, hopped, held hands, laughed and sang, learned and created all under a spectacular autumn sky in this very special place preserved forever.
Explorers: I’m grateful for your company, wonder, and curiosity today and every day.
I can hardly wait for our next adventure!