Ecosystem Explorers Roam Cornelius Pond Woodlands

Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of Andrea Higgins and Ecosystem Explorer caregivers Mary White and Maria Silverman

August 8, 2022

Photo courtesy of Mary White

Monday’s steamy hot temperatures and extreme humidity did not squelch the spirits of our adorable Ecosystem Explorers and their wonderful caregivers. Today’s adventure brought us to HCT’s beautiful Cornelius Pond Woodlands for a stroll, stories, an art craft, learning, and lots of fun. We even got to celebrate an Explorer’s 4th Birthday with cookies for sharing. 

Our adventure began with a wonder wander on a path that meanders through the woods. We learned how to identify a sassafras tree by the unique three-lobe shape of their leaves, or as one momma shared “the leaves look like a dinosaur footprint.” If you rub the leaf of the sassafras, it emits a pleasant fragrance much like Fruit Loops cereal – what a fun discovery!

As we rambled along, we stopped to admire a stunning eastern swallowtail. This large yellow and black butterfly was flitting about the woods and paused on a bayberry bush between two pine trees so we could appreciate its colors and patterns. Further down the path, we also discovered a brilliant blue damselfly! Its slender body hovered beside the trail so Explorers could get a good peek.

Photo courtesy of Maria Silverman

We came upon a bench in the shade with a view of the pond to settle in for our first story as a welcome breeze cooled us off. I read A Beetle is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long, a stunningly illustrated book that unveils the mysteries of the fascinating world of beetles. Switching up our view, we wandered on to a new bench in the Preserve where I read Insect World: Fireflies and Insect World: Beetles by Mari Schuh and Bugs Fireflies by Martha London. Did you know that the firefly lays 500 glowing eggs on wet soil that hatch into larva after just four weeks, which also glow? How fascinating!

All those firefly facts and illustrations inspired us to design a firefly nature scene. Black and blue construction paper served as a backdrop for a collection of yellow dots, which became eggs, larva, and adult fireflies who lit up the evening scene with the blink blink blink of their flashing lights.

Our birthday explorer could no longer contain his excitement so his family shared cookies with his friends. Our troop of youngsters’ rendition of “Happy Birthday” filled the woodlands with song and cheer. These bright, curious, and joyful children light up my life and HCT Preserves like the beautiful blinking lights of the fireflies we learned about today.

Keep exploring and thank you for sharing your Monday mornings with me.  

Ms. Andrea