Preschool Explorers Discover Cornelius Pond

Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of Marcia Geier

Warm breezes with temperatures in the 70s, abundant sunshine, and bright blue skies greeted our HCT Preschool Explorers and their caregivers at Cornelius Pond Woodlands on Tuesday morning, May 31st. This fifteen-acre Preserve was such an awesome place for our Ecosystem Explorers to take a Habitat Hike! There are many environments to discover, learn about, and explore, including forests, a pond, and a meadow/field. After sweet greetings and warm welcomes, our group headed down the pine needle covered path. 

Along the trails, sweet, blooming starflowers and greenery swayed gently in the breeze. Spring scents perfumed the air and I felt so welcome at this preserve, happy to be sharing the morning with my curious explorers. We paused along the path to admire a lovely green and pink Lady Slipper standing alone among the oaks and the leaf litter. 

Strolling along, with a chorus of bird song as our background soundtrack, we cozied up together on a wooden bench placed in the forest with a stunning view of the pond. We chatted about what lives in a forest and what might live in the pond. Preschoolers took turns sharing their wonderful thoughts and ideas aloud.

We next listened to Wonder Walkers by Micha Archer. A Caldecott Honor winner, Micha Archer’s gorgeous, detailed collages give readers a fresh outlook on the splendors of nature as two curious children embark on a “wonder walk” and let their imaginations invite them to look at the world in a whole new way. 

Onto the next activity… ponding! A mini lab was set up on the trail with magnifying lenses, viewers, trays, containers, and spoons. Curious Explorers watched as I put on my hip waders (costume change) so I could retrieve some small fish traps I had put out in the pond yesterday. I hoped that the traps would both be wriggling with an abundant catch so explorers could inventory what lives in the pond, but alas, both the traps were empty.

I took some scoops of the leaf litter from the bottom of the pond, and we were enchanted by the aquatic insects that swam and crawled in the container of our “laboratory”. Some friends would have been happy to stay longer, admiring aquatic insects darting about and using magnifying lenses and scooping spoons to get a closer look, while other explorers were excited to see what else there was to learn about.

Our next learning station was the field habitat. We noticed the tall grasses and the bird houses placed in the meadow. As Preschoolers and their Mamas and Grammy stood along the path – bug admiring containers, magnifying lenses, and viewers in hand – I went into the field and used an insect/butterfly net to sweep the grasses, collecting bugs to admire. We found small spiders, beetles, bright green insects with beautiful dark green stripes, and one insect that looked as though it was wearing a coat of armor – perhaps it was a relative of the stink bug. When one preschool explorer ventured out into the field with her mama and the insect collecting net to gather more specimens to admire, she created a unique vacuuming-like technique which was very successful as a gathering method. 

Rambling along the trails, we stopped at another bench to learn about the North American River Otter, a semi-aquatic mammal and the largest member of the Mustelidae family. River otters live right here on Cape Cod in our freshwater ponds and lakes, our rivers (both fresh and brackish), and our saltwater marshes too. I read North American River Otter by Ellen Lawrence to captivated explorers so we could learn more. Filled with information, this colorful, fact-filled book has beautiful photos to accompany all of its facts about otters and their foods, pups, habitats, and life in the waterways.

Photo courtesy of Andrea

An otter-inspired craft was our grand finale. Caregivers took off the shoes and socks of their preschool cuties and painted the bottom of their feet with brown paint. They pressed those precious tootsies onto canvases, and we turned those sweet feet into otters!

We happily strolled back along the paths and said our good-byes. We really “otter” adventure again soon explorers… How about next Tuesday?

Thank you for having a terrain trek with me this morning. I really enjoyed every moment of our habitat hike.

Happy Exploring.

Ms. Andrea 


If you know of families with youngsters aged 2-5 who would like to join Preschool Explorers on Tuesday mornings, they can find details and reserve by clicking here for June adventures.