Preschool Explorers Celebrate Nature’s Wonders at Coy’s Brook Woodlands

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

May 9th arrived as a glorious spring day, bringing temperatures in the 60s, beautiful blue skies, abundant sunshine, and the company of our curious Preschooler Explorer crew. Today’s adventure was held at the 30-acre Coy’s Brook Woodlands.

We gathered at the trailhead, discussed our plans for the day and started our saunter. Poison ivy and blooming star flowers decorated the sides of the path providing an opportunity to pause, observe, and identify. The trail offers stunning views of the Herring River, marsh, and surrounding woodlands. We all took a moment to bask in the beauty of this wonderful Preserve.

Wandering down the trail to where the woods meet the marsh, we discovered fiddler crab holes while chatting about woodland versus wetland habitats. I asked my group what they could see as they peeked across the marsh and HCT Explorers called out: “water”, “birds”, “mud”, and “trees”. Switching our attention to our sense of smell, my keen observers took in some big inhales through their noses, making exaggerated and adorable sniffing noises, then announced the scents that they detected on the spring breeze, including “ocean”, “dirt”, “marsh”, “sweetness”, and “feathers”.  We could also hear “birds”, “wind’, and “rustling leaves”.

We had so much fun strolling the trails, pretending that we were climbing mountains when we came upon inclines, and pausing to admire how beautiful the space is. Abundant high bush blueberries were in bloom along the trailside with wonderful-smelling blossoms, intricate details decorating the petals of the little flowers, and bark reminiscent of cinnamon sticks.

Climbing up on a nearby bench, we settled in to listen to our first stories of the day. I read All of Me is Nature written by Ashley Renee Jefferson, with wonderful photographs about exploring our five senses while being outside. Next up was Thank You Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet by April Pulley Sayre. This book contains stunning photography and introduces subjects from life cycles to weather, colors, shapes, and patterns, making it an ideal resource for sharing science and language art. Thank You, Earth is a great choice as a tool for helping us notice all the beauty surrounding us.

Continuing along the winding path, we paused to observe a tree with lots of holes and contemplated what might be living in the cavity nests. Looking skyward through the trees, we searched for our feathered friends. The lovely path led us to a stand of beech trees and we gently stroked the bark, enjoying the smooth texture compared to the bark of the pines and oaks. Gently we caressed the tender new spring leaves that recently emerged from their gold colored husks that kept them safe and protected all winter long.

Along the path, an incredible oak is growing around a pine tree and I mentioned how it looked as if the “oak was hugging the pine” as it grew skyward. My Preschoolers looked up at me and without prompting, one by one they proceeded to hug and even kiss the two trees. What a heartwarming moment!

As we came upon a clearing, our Explorers noticed a selection of art project supplies waiting for imaginations and creativity to transform paper, glue, crayons, markers, and magazines into collages. I handed each Explorer an image of the earth, a large sturdy piece of paper, and magazines (National Geographic, Audubon, Living Bird) loaded with stunning images to make unique nature-themed collages.  They came out fantastic and it was wonderful watching caregivers with their Explorers find images of birds, flowers, whales, butterflies, and quotes for their artwork.

To close our special morning, I read Dear Little One by Nina Laden, one of my all-time favorite children’s books. It’s a love letter written to its readers by Mother Nature encouraging us to explore, notice, and love all the beauty around us. We brought our smiles and memories back to the trailhead where our adventure began. And just like the hugging oak and pine trees, I too received hugs of thanks and goodbye before our HCT Explorers and their caregivers went on their way.

I love Tuesday mornings and can hardly wait for our next adventure.

Happy Exploring.

Ms. Andrea