Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham
June 28, 2022
This extra special Cape Cod morning had the best ingredients for a beautiful start to the day: the bright and shining sun, gentle breezes blowing, beautiful blue skies, and temperatures in the low 70s.
I was welcomed to the Cape Cod Lavender Farm by farmer Cynthia, who shared news of an exciting discovery she made this morning. She was happy our HCT Explorers were on their way so they could enjoy a couple of fun mystery surprises…
As I walked down the path to set up for our morning program, I witnessed a Garter snake. This special snake is a gardener’s friend, as they are harmless to humans, and they eat the grubs, slugs, and other insects that can damage our gardens.
I set up for our program by laying out a reading area blanket with 10 different books about butterflies, an arts and crafts blanket, and sitting area blankets for our HCT Preschoolers and their caregivers who would soon be arriving.
Preschool Explorers and their families were welcomed by bird song, sweet lavender-perfumed air, smiley greetings, and one Preschool Explorer’s very excited announcement of his 5th birthday. As our group gathered, I shared the plan of the day and couldn’t help but smile at the adorable and curious faces staring up at me, listening to my list of upcoming events.
The first activity was to follow Farmer Cynthia to admire her surprise discovery — she had spotted 2 beautiful eastern box turtles! What an exciting start to our day! We admired their golden lines with hues of yellow and orange and the dark brown-to-black patterns that artistically decorated their shells. Did you know that box turtles eat many kinds of plants and berries and mushrooms, earthworms, snails, slugs, and insects? While inspecting those beautiful shells, we examined the plastron (the lower or bottom shell), noting how its hinge closes like a box. I also shared facts about other amazing turtle species found on Cape Cod. Next, Preschool Explorers lined up, creating a path for the box turtles, and we watched as they trekked into the undergrowth to continue on their turtle missions.
Walking like box turtles, we wandered over to an incredible patch of milkweed standing tall with dusty-pink balls of flowers growing alongside flowering lavender. The milkweed plants were as tall as our Explorers! While chatting about this important plant, our young learners discovered that milkweed is the only food that monarch caterpillars eat. The caterpillars hatch from eggs laid on the milkweed before consuming its leaves.
Flying and flitting about like butterflies in a circle, we celebrated movement, exercise, and preschool-aged energy before landing on a blanket with our caregivers to listen to a story about the colorful flying insects we were imitating. After finishing the book, each family received a brightly colored construction paper butterfly with butterfly facts written on it. Each Preschooler with their mommas, dads, nanas, and/or grandpas took turns sharing butterfly knowledge with the group. First, we discussed the butterfly life cycle from egg to caterpillar to pupa (chrysalis) to butterfly. Here are some additional butterfly facts we learned: butterflies have brightly colored wings with unique patterns made up of tiny scales; they have taste receptors on their feet and they have 4 wings; butterfly life spans can range from 3 to 4 weeks, but monarch butterflies can live 8 months; they range in size from a tiny 1/8 inch to a huge 12 inches; and finally, there are more than 24,000 species of butterflies!
All this butterfly information had us more than inspired to create some butterfly-themed art. We fashioned creative one-of-a-kind caterpillars made from egg cartons. Some Preschoolers decided to go above and beyond, coloring “their guts” by flipping the egg carton over and designing their undersides.
Have you ever wondered what your pasta can do for you? Here’s a fun idea: produce a butterfly life cycle chart! Bowtie pasta can be used as butterflies, pasta shells make the perfect chrysalis, and rotini makes a brilliant caterpillar! This activity was a hit with our explorers. I handed out paper plates, dried lentils (for eggs), green construction paper leaves (some with caterpillar munch marks), and dried pasta to construct a Butterfly Life Cycle wheel for preschoolers to take home with them. Crayons, markers, creativity, imagination, and lots of color and details went into designing their butterfly and caterpillar crafts. Explorer friends excitedly showed me their creations before it was time to move on to the next activity and enjoy a ramble.
Magnifying lenses were passed around so we could take a good look at all the beauty surrounding us. We set off for our walk with lenses in hand and curiosity guiding the way. Scents of the fragrant, blooming lavender were savored while we enjoyed long, deep breaths, noticing that the fragrance seemed stronger in the sunniest parts of the field. The fairy garden that we next stumbled upon was adorable, especially the castle at the top of the stone dust path. Along our journey we also spotted bees and listened to their hurried buzzes. After sauntering back to our reading and craft area, Explorers snuggled up on blankets to learn how to say “butterfly” in American Sign Language while I sang local musician Julie Charland’s sweet “Butterfly Fly” song, inviting all to sing along.
This perfect morning held another wonderful moment for us all to enjoy together… one of our HCT Preschool Explorers who has joined almost every adventure since November 2021 shared his 5th birthday with us! His Nana made homemade cupcakes and shared them with all preschoolers and their families after singing an absolutely adorable rendition of “Happy Birthday” to this awesome 5-year-old. Farmer Cynthia came down to visit our closing circle with beautiful, fragrant bundles of freshly harvested lavender in hand and shared one with each of us… child and adult alike!
Our friends said sweet goodbyes with flowers and cardboard caterpillars/butterfly life cycles in hand and beautiful smiles on their faces.
Thank you, Farmer Cynthia, for your incredible hospitality and for sharing your lovely Cape Cod Lavender Farm with our HCT Preschool Explorers.
Thank you HCT Preschoolers for filling my Tuesday mornings with so much joy! I have loved discovering all the awesome preserves in town with you week after week. I wish you all a wonderful summer and hope to see you in the fall when our Preschool Explorers program continues. In the meantime, you are invited to join our Ecosystem Explorers program on Mondays as our adventures continue during the summer.
PS: The Cape Cod Lavender Farm is open to the public (Mon.-Sat. 10-4 and Sunday noon-4). To learn more and how to get there, please click here.
NEW Program this summer! Ecosystem Explorers with Andrea Higgins:
If you have kids or grandkids ages 3-10, join us for a new family program to explore the great outdoors! Naturalist Andrea Higgins will lead a habitat hike at a different conservation destination in Harwich each week. Summer is such an inviting time to get outside and learn about the wonders of nature. Birds are singing, frogs are calling, and flowers are in full bloom. Traverse trails, listen to stories, and learn about plants and animals while creating memories with your youngsters.
To learn more and sign up for Ecosystem Explorers in July, please click here.