Fungus Among Us – HCT Preschool Explorers Learn about Mushrooms

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

The D. Isabel Smith Monomoy River Conservation Lands’ 77 acres hosted today’s HCT Preschool Explorer outing. We gathered under brilliant blue skies with abundant sunshine and the warmest temperatures of the day, reaching just 40 degrees. Explorers arrived ready for adventure bundled with coats, hats, and mittens and wonderfully big smiles. One of our youngest Explorers who was the first to arrive greeted each participant with big enthusiastic waves and a sweet smile, exclaiming, “FRIENDS!” as each car pulled into the parking lot. What a welcome!

Once all participants had gathered together at the trailhead, I shared our plans for the day, and we began our adventure. After chatting about what animals might live at the sanctuary, Explorers began a spur-of-the-moment improv session. Spreading their fingers and placing them atop their heads, these imaginary antlers transformed youngsters into deer. Next, we all pretended to be foxes walking silently down the trails. Lastly, we practiced hooting loudly like the great-horned owl, who might also make their home in this incredible wooded space.

One of our Explorers paused at a white pine and gazed upwards to admire how it gently swayed in the wind. I invited all to join this little one’s mindful moment, enjoying the mesmerizing trees with a bright blue-sky backdrop.

Upon discovering the first mushrooms of the morning, I spread out a reading mat for a couple stories. Explorers huddled together, their curious faces scanning each page of Mushroom Lullaby by Kenneth Kraegel and Mushroom in the Rain by Mirra Ginsgurg. After our readings, we set off on a search saunter, on the look-out for bright colored mushrooms in greens, blues, yellows, and reds.

Explorers came upon a modeling clay mushroom village I had set up before their arrival. The group gathered around to examine their finds, calling out the colors and excitedly showing the model mushrooms to their mamas, dads, grandpas, and friends – including me.

I next handed each Explorer a package of modeling clay which they used to create their own fungi. On display near the mushroom village for artistic inspiration were books including Fungarium by Katie Scott and Ester Gaya, Fungi Grow by Maria Gianferrari, and Our Living World Fungi by Jenny Tesar. The blocks of clay were molded with wee little hands and transformed into some colorful and very interesting mushrooms. Our Explorers were quite delighted with their creations and decided to bring them along for the rest of the walk.

Discovering a section of the trail that mimicked a rotary, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to run and zoom, zoom, zoom! After several laps around the loop, Explorer mamas and dad joined in on the fun. What a sweet scene with young children laughing and playing with their caregivers under the spectacular November skies. A nearby large fallen log became a balance beam, and a smaller log became an imaginary surfboard – Explorers love testing their balance!

After the balancing practice, we carefully rolled the log over to peek at whoever was living under the decaying wood. We discovered roly pollies (and of course we sang a few rounds of the Roly Poly song), centipedes, and the smallest snails I have ever seen. Preschoolers took turns tenderly holding our insect and snail friends and we sang our Snail Song that we learned during an exploration in September.

Discovering a perfectly placed bench with a view of Muddy Creek, youngsters climbed aboard, and we chatted about what might live in the river below. Explorers seemed blissfully exhausted as we set back down the trail towards the parking lot… until we came upon the trail rotary, and they got another burst of energy for more zoomies.

Smiles, hugs, good-byes, and thank yous were exchanged, then our wee adventurers snuggled into car seats a touch dirtier, a bit sleepier, and a tad hungrier than when they had arrived. We left with precious memories from these tender moments shared together in nature’s splendor. Thank you for joining me!

HCT Preschool Explorers adventures will continue in December. I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Happy Exploring.


Ms. Andrea