Preschool Explorers Discover Forest Beach

Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos by Gerry Beetham
Walk sponsored by Harwich Conservation Trust and Chatham Conservation Foundation

Spectacular and abundant signs of Spring were a wonderful way to start our morning at Forest Beach in South Chatham. Salty breezes, glorious sunshine, and brilliant blue skies invited Preschool Explorers and caregivers to discover the barrier beach. We admired the gifts of the salt marsh, Nantucket Sound, and Mill Creek.  

Four Ospreys were spotted circling above our curious group inspiring extreme delight and absolute awe! It was fun to learn about Ospreys’ incredible migration, their habitat, and wingspan. We measured our own “wingspans” by stretching our arms wide and compared our outstretched arm length to that of the magnificent Osprey. We continued our stroll in the sunshine, pausing to chat about salt marshes, birds, crabs, tides, and barrier beaches.

Next, we cozied up and enjoyed The Secret Bay by Kemberly Ridley illustrated by Rebekah Raye, a story about estuaries. The Secret Bay uses the poetic voice of the estuary to share the secrets of fish, birds, crabs, worms, and the unique environment of the marsh: one of the earth’s most important ecosystems. This story is beautifully illustrated, and the clever rhyming text captivated the attention of all our young nature lovers.

Our exploration continued along a sandy path snuggled between the marsh and the small dunes separating us from Nantucket Sound. We came across bird fencing, which protects the area for nesting piping plovers and least and common terns. We chatted about how these birds travel long-distances and about their nests and habitat. Preschoolers and caregivers alike took turns making scrapes (shorebirds nests) in the sand. We chatted about camouflage, the science word for hiding, and why the birds need human help to protect their nesting sites.

While sauntering along, we came across sea pickle and sea lavender and we chatted about the spectacular plants growing in the marsh.  We learned about fiddler crabs and pretended to be them as we continued along the trail.

We arrived at the creek and found a spot out of the wind to create our very own wings! We stretched our arms out wide and had our caregivers trace our “wingspan” onto sturdy paper. Preschoolers used crayons and markers to design and decorate their wings! Then preschoolers put their wings on and pretended to soar along the beach… not migrating too far from the group as they joyfully ran along the shoreline of the shining seas. Almost as wide as their wingspan were the smiles stretched across those precious preschool faces as they wore their art creations!

We stopped along the way to admire seaweeds and shells. We chatted about whelk egg cases and even opened one up to appreciate the perfectly formed miniature whelks inside each coin sized case. We found crab molts, beautiful stones, and huge quahog shells. 

A beautiful Loon made an appearance and was another admired addition to our morning of Ospreys, Egrets, Gulls, and a Mockingbird.   

Spring has returned to Cape Cod and we are thankful for all its gifts to our curious preschool admirers.

I look forward to sharing another adventure with the Preschool Explorers next week.

Happy Spring!
Ms. Andrea