Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham
Tuesday morning gifted us with another glorious spring day on Cape Cod. HCT Preschool Explorers gathered to join me at the Rolf E. Sylvan Gardens Conservation Area to celebrate spring and admire the abundant beauty found at this 9.5-acre Preserve. Today’s adventure was sponsored by Harwich Conservation Trust and Friends of Sylvan Gardens.
After warm welcomes, we chatted about our plans for the day before beginning our wonder wander. We savored the sights, sounds, and smells that surrounded us, noting fragrant flowers, the delightful calls of songbirds, and stunning views of bright blue sky, abundant sunshine, and fluffy white clouds. Lovely light green buds decorated shrubs and trees, and vibrant bursts of yellow peppered the trailside as flowering daffodils stood tall, declaring spring.
We snuggled up on a bench for our first stories. Fascinating Insects: Bumblebees by Aaron Carr is full of vibrant photos and easy text that engaged our curious listeners. I next read National Geographic Kids: Honey Bees by Jill Esbaum, a charming book with amazing bee facts and brilliant photographs offering preschoolers (and adults too) a fun way to learn about the miracles and wonders of the natural world.
Completing our read-aloud series today, I shared Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate by Sara Levine, with beautiful watercolor illustrations by Marsha D’Yans. Did you know a flower’s color invites specific animals to visit? This fun nonfiction book told by a humorous cactus narrator taught us that red flowers are usually talking to birds while blue, purple, and yellow flowers converse with bees. Some white flowers draw in moths and bats, and brown flowers often call to flies.
Continuing on, Explorers followed me along the flower-framed trail to a small hill where I had laid out nap mats to sit on for our art project. We first printed honeycombs by dipping 3 recycled paper tubes I had fastened together into white paint and then stamping them onto construction paper. Next, I handed each child a wooden flower to be colored. Markers in all shades of the rainbow gave life to the blossoms and we chatted about which animals might visit their creations according to the chosen colors.
I next gifted each Explorer with a smooth, flat stone that I hand-painted with a bumblebee on one side and the words “HAPPY EXPLORING” on the other. Youngsters could play with their art by buzzing their bees around the flowers and visiting the honeycomb creations, snuggling into the cells of the hives.
After our arts and crafts session, it was time to move! Following a small portion of the trail that wraps around in a circle, we pretended to fly like honeybees and bumblebees. Loud buzzing sounds emanated from our Explorer bees as they flapped their wings and ran around, pausing to climb into make-believe hive boxes I placed along the path.
Next on our agenda was a search saunter in hopes of finding pollinator friends. We strolled along the path as Explorers continued to buzz with smiles stretched wide, pausing at the flowers and gardens to investigate. Upon hearing the tap, tap, tapping of another busy creature, we stopped to look up and admire a woodpecker finding insects in a snag.
The wind played with our hair and caressed our faces as we wiggled down the trail parallel to the pond. We gently touched daffodils and spotted a few bees buzzing about and found flies crawling on the brown wilted petals of flowers gone by. A shaded winding footpath at the gardens surprised us with blooming trout lilies, absolutely lovely yellow flowers with green marbled leaves that carpeted the forest floor.
Our youngsters rounded the path and returned to their mats for our closing circle, where we discussed the bee facts we learned on this adventure and the fun moments we enjoyed along the way. What a gift to share a morning with these precious, curious, caring children and their wonderful caregivers. I am very excited for our next adventure. See you Tuesday morning!