Preschool Explorers Discover Animal Signs at Sand Pond Woodlands

Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos by Halley Steinmetz

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

A Cape Cod silver day greeted our curious and enthusiastic Preschool Explorers this morning. Sunshine came in the form of young, radiant smiles and pure joy at HCT’s Sand Pond Woodlands.

Today’s theme was animal signs, so we spent our time searching for animal tracks and scat, and closely observing all the abundant beauty found at the preserve. “A” was our letter of the day so we started our searching saunter by drawing A’s on the trail with our nature writing tools (sticks we found on the forest floor). We then made our own tracks by pressing our feet into the damp dirt until we could see our shoe prints on the ground.

While wandering down the trail, we spotted a slug and admired its movement, noticing how perfectly camouflaged it was as it blended into the colors of the leaf litter on the forest floor. We circled around to listen to the story Whose Track Is That?  by Stan Tekiela. This storybook showcases photographs of tracks and real critters in their natural habitats. Each picture of an animal’s track is puzzle for the reader to solve by identifying the animal that may have left the print. From backyard birds and earthworms slinking across the dirt, to the raccoon’s human-looking hand, we learned about spotting and identifying the clues and signs animals leave behind.

Next, we paused to touch the soft damp lichen and mosses. The sometimes-brittle lichen was surprisingly soft and springy after last evening’s rain. It was fun to examine by gently touching the variety of lichen and mosses found just off the trail.

How absolutely wonderful to have a picnic table on the property! This table was perfect for our outdoor art creations. Today, we sponge painted animal tracks on t-shirts! Preschool Explorers and their caregivers did an awesome job as they stenciled turkey tracks, deer tracks, bear tracks and coyote tracks onto the fabric. Some preschool explorers wandered and made discoveries as they very patiently waited their turn with the stencils. Other explorers perused through the books Tracks, Scats and Signs by Leslie Dendy and Big Tracks, Little Tracks Following Animal Prints by Millicent E. Selsam. We also made nature A’s using sticks, leaves, pine needles and more by placing them over the letter A drawn on construction paper.  

Once our t-shirt masterpieces were complete, we left them to dry and continued traversing the trails! Magnifying lenses in hand, we set off to make some discoveries. Nearing the Herring River, we paused to admire a pair of Mallard Ducks swimming in the water and also sniffed the leaves of the Wintergreen/Teaberry/Checkerberry, delighting in its minty fresh fragrance. Upon reaching the river bank, we discovered an Otter slide and Otter Scat! Just around the corner was also some Coyote scat with fur, bones, and teeth in it.

Continuing on, our magnifying lenses proved to be useful tools to enhance our observations of the lichen, dirt, bark, mosses, and each other’s eyes and smiles. After hiking up a hill, we found a fallen tree crossing the trail, which was the absolute perfect place to sit and listen to another story. A row of rainboot-clad Explorers huddled together attentively listening to Track That Scat! written by Lisa Morlock. This is a story about a young girl and her dog setting out on a hike to cure restless feet. Heading out into nature, they discover scat, tracks, and woodland creatures. This rhyming nature guide provides detailed descriptions of prints, diets, and behaviors of the animals her characters encounter on their hike.

We happily continued along the trails stopping to make tracks of our own. On the path at Sand Pond Woodlands you may now discover tracks from Dad, Moms, Ms. Andrea, Halley (today’s photographer and very welcome guest) and Preschool Explorer tracks too!!

Next it was time to run, run, run! Our Explorers love to move so we ran along the path like coyotes, then we hopped like rabbits, and also walked like foxes. This morning’s favorite movement was running like coyotes! We ran the trails in a circle until it was time for our rosy-cheeked preschool adventurers to say goodbye. Goodbye hugs were then exchanged by our kind and thoughtful Explorers. 

Happy tracking my Preschool Explorers!

I am so looking forward to next week’s adventures.

Grateful for your company on the trails,

Ms. Andrea

PS If our preschool explorer caregivers put their t-shirt art creations first in the dryer before washing, it will set the art on the shirt so it will not wash out.