HCT Preschool Explorers learn about the Awesome Opossum at the Lee Baldwin Memorial Woodlands

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

HCT’s Preschool Explorers gathered today at the Lee Baldwin Memorial Woodlands. This sanctuary was the perfect place to learn, play, explore, create, and connect on this beautiful November morning for our weekly wander.

Starting down the boardwalk towards the bench, the otherwise peaceful woodlands were filled with the pitter patter of toddler and preschoolers’ feet running down the planks. Sounds of sweet young voices and precious laughter added such joy to the space. Explorers climbed up and onto the bench for the first stories of the morning. I read Backyard Wildlife Opossums by Emily Green and Opossums by Elizabeth Andrews. We reviewed the opossum facts we just learned and then excitedly set off back down the trail.

Pausing to chat about the different colors and shapes of leaves carpeting the forest floor, I challenged our Explorers and caregivers to search for leaves shaped like mittens, dinosaur footprints, and spoons. All eyes scanned the ground, and the excitement was palpable when the first dinosaur footprint-shaped leaf was discovered! We continued to look for each of the three leaf shapes of the sassafras tree until each youngster had a complete set. We admired wintergreen and bayberry leaves as well, then sniffed them to appreciate their delightful fragrances.

Explorers’ excitement was building and their wish to move could no longer be contained, so caregivers gathered the children as I ran ahead, then called “Go!” Youngsters darted down the path as fast as they could to me and then back to their caregivers (and back and forth again). What a treat to witness the pure joy as children ran together down a colorful leaf covered path giggling away under a brilliant blue sky while making memories with their mommas, dads, grandpas, grandmothers, and caregivers.

Continuing our escapade, we decided to see what we could find under a log. I gently and slowly rolled it over and uncovered centipedes, beetles, worms, webs, and roly pollies. What a find! Each Explorer took turns carefully holding our insect friends and we sang a few rounds of the Roly Poly Song sweetly led by one of the mommies.

Some friends held hands as we continued our journey to the soundtrack of the crunching leaves under our feet. We came upon the craft bucket and reading mat I had set up in the woods earlier and settled in for my reading of Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter. This story is about Possum waking one evening to a spectacular moon rising over the meadow, inspiring a great celebration in the moon’s honor. This delightful story is about giving thanks to the wonders of nature with friends and family.

Next up was our creation station. I handed each Explorer a bottle of school glue, a recycled cardboard tube, a small stick/branch, markers, crayons, a pink pipe cleaner, and paper cut-outs. Explorers made quick work transforming the art materials into opossums with pipe-cleaner prehensile tails wrapped around branches. What fantastic creations!

Deciding to take our Awesome Possums for a walk, we set back on the trail for more adventure. We found some fallen trees, climbed atop, and walked about testing our balance while pretending to be opossums. Another fallen tree was the perfect shape for young minds to create an imaginary horse and go for a ride. Giddy up!

Nearing the end of our adventure, we galloped our way back to the bench where we began. The group sat down for a brief wrap-up of our morning in a closing circle. I expressed my gratitude for each Explorer and all our wonderful adventures together. Smiles, waves, hugs and good-byes were exchanged.

I am so looking forward to our next gathering.

Happy Exploring!


Ms. Andrea