Preschool Explorers Discover the Cutest Critters at Cornelius Pond Woodlands

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

On this Tuesday morning, Preschool Explorers and their caregivers gathered at the 15-acre Cornelius Pond Woodlands. Friends arrived all bundled up with colorful hats, warm coats, and cozy mittens, eager to begin our adventure.

After sharing the plans for the day, we excitedly set off on cartway, traveling towards the pond and meadow. Pausing to peer into the trees parallel to the trail, we investigated bird boxes and gazed at the canopy above to admire all the birds flitting about, singing their sweet songs. With the glistening pond on our right and the golden grasses of the meadow to the left, we were immersed in beauty.

We made our way to a bench with a lovely view of pine trees, oak trees, and the calm Cornelius Pond in the distance. Explorers gathered on the bench for story time. I read Group Hug by Jean Reidy, a charming tale with witty rhymes about friendship, kindness, and love. We have learned about many of the animals featured in the story during past explorations this season including the slug and fox.

I next read What the World Could Make by Holly M. McGhee. This wonderful story is about two good friends, rabbit and bunny, who celebrate the gifts of the seasons together. From the smells of spring flowers to the wonder of the changing autumn leaves; from tasting briny sea pickles together in the summer to admiring the silent beauty of the first falling snowflakes. This book is a joyous reminder that if we pay attention, hope can always be found in nature, and in friendship.

Explorers, caregivers, and I continued to enjoy our saunter, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the Preserve. Stumbling upon another bench, Explorers climbed up as I explained our art project of the morning and handed out the materials. Each youngster decorated a piece of paper a big hole cut out in the middle, creating one-of-a-kind frames.

Once the children were satisfied with their artistic expression, we put markers and crayons away for the reading of our last story of the season. Cutest Critter by Marion Dane Bauer contains incredible photos of baby minks, foxes, lynx, raccoons, deer, birds, and skunks. It is a wonderful book filled with clever rhyming text as the reader follows along on this heartwarming journey to find the cutest critter in the land. I invited each Explorer to peek their faces through the frames they had created and read the last page of the story… “of all the critters in all the land not a single one is cuter than you!”

Youngsters kept the frames secured around their faces as we continued our walk – what a precious scene! The group followed me under a stand of pitch pines and oaks towards a path that led us to the meadow, where I had a surprise waiting for our Explorers. I had brought pans, pots, bowls, spoons, plates and glasses for a nature/mud kitchen! Time for some fun creative play – preschoolers got straight to work sautéing grasses and soil, lichen and leaves, and made imaginary soups, pastas, and matcha lattes.

Each Explorer let their imaginations loose and kindly offered sips and samples to caregivers. We pretended to load the dishwasher as we returned utensils and cookware to the bag. Sauntering down the trail wearing big smiles, Explorers pointed out mosses, lichens, trees, birds, and leaves.

I gifted each Explorer a magnifying lens tied with a bow and a sprig of evergreen and wished them all good health, sweet cozy time, loads of outdoor exploration, and the happiest of holidays. I am so very grateful for an incredible season of programs with the most wonderful children and families.

I have enjoyed and cherished every moment of our time together exploring the sanctuaries in Harwich. I am already excitedly planning for our adventures for the spring. Be well and happy exploring!


Ms. Andrea