Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham
What a spectacular spring morning to be an HCT Preschool Explorer! The weather was incredible with temperatures in the 60s, abundant sunshine, and beautiful blue skies. Preschoolers and their caregivers joined me at the Rolf E. Sylvan Gardens Conservation Area to celebrate spring and admire the abundant beauty found at this 9.5-acre Preserve. Our adventure today was sponsored by Harwich Conservation Trust and Friends of Sylvan Gardens.
What a delight to watch eager preschoolers gather and greet each other with smiles, hellos, and hugs! Right from the start of our morning ramble, we were serenated by sweet songbird melodies welcoming us to the Preserve.
Preschoolers sat together on a bench surrounded by stunning trees and flowering daffodils for a chat and a story. I asked our bright-eyed Explorers, “what makes a bird a bird?” After a thoughtful pause I received lots of responses including: “birds fly”, “birds have feathers and beaks”, “birds sing”, “birds lay eggs”, and “birds build nests!” This wonderful conversation was a perfect segue into story time as I shared Bird Show by Susan Stockdale. Stockdale’s bright, bold, and stunning portraits along with her rhyming, lyrical text mesmerized our youngsters who listened intently, absorbing each word.
We sauntered over to the next bench where I took out several bird nests for our Explorers to investigate. Tiny hands carefully held the nests made from grasses and pine needles, sticks and mud, or animal fur and soft moss. Recycled containers were handed out to each child so they could gather their own materials to create bird nests with some help from caregivers. Nimble fingers collected lichen, mosses, leaves, pine needles, sticks, and even pebbles for their creations. Once completed, they took turns showing me what they had found and how they had crafted it into a nest!
Continuing on, we walked over to a large tree to find my homemade nest with three “baby birds” (made from recycled cardboard tubes and feathers). Different species of birds have largely different diets which can include seeds and nuts, fruits, fish, animals, insects and worms: quite a variety of food sources for our feathered friends! HCT Explorers were excited to share with me that they too enjoyed eating fruit. After so much talk of food, our “baby birds” were hungry so everyone took turns pretending to feed the chicks with pieces of yarn they found in a bowl next to the nest.
Time for Explorers to create their own baby birds to add to their nests. I handed out recycled cardboard tubes, glue, bright yellow construction paper cut in triangles, and colorful feathers and markers. Young artists and their caregivers got right to work transforming the materials into adorable hungry baby birds with beaks open wide, eager for a snack.
A small circular path at the sanctuary provided the perfect location for our next game. I invited the children to “fly” around the circle and take turns climbing into cardboard boxes I had placed in the center, which we pretended were nests. What a sight to see their flapping arms stretched wide while running around the circle and pausing to nest in the boxes. The space was filled with sounds of tweeting, cawing and chirping, while others giggled all the while.
Our saunter continued along the trails until we came across an incredible display of daffodils and decided to pause for a moment to admire the brilliant blooms. I invited Explorers to smell the flowers, notice the bright colors, and gently touch the delicate petals. One child took a big, long sniff and exclaimed, “They smell like honey!”
Following the trails, we admired flowering shrubs and their sweet fragrances, towering trees, blooming myrtle in white and pale purples, and stunning views of fresh water ponds with sunlight dancing across the surface. I walked our families back to their vehicles and received the kindest smiles, thanks and even a few hugs as our Explorers departed.
It certainly was a glorious morning and I am extremely grateful to share these moments at these special and preserved places with Explorers of all ages. I am looking forward to our next adventure – see you next Tuesday morning!