Preschool Explorers Discover the Pleasant Bay Woodlands on the Winter Solstice

Reflections by Andrea Higgins, photos by Gerry Beetham

We began the Winter Solstice in the Pleasant Bay Woodlands among the abundant and beautiful White Pines and the company of eight curious and delightful Preschool Explorers and their caregivers — a perfect way to celebrate this seasonal turning point.

The shortest amount of sunlight occurs on this day when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted the furthest away from the sun. Going forward, daylight will gradually grow until the summer solstice on June 21st after which, day by day, sunlight will slowly decrease again.

After introductions and hellos we began our morning talking about Winter Solstice.  We read the story The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer.  Then we headed out on the trail to explore! 

We learned about White Pines and Pitch Pines today.  We noticed the soft texture of the White Pine and the sharp and pokey feeling of the Pitch Pine.  We counted the needles in the bundles of White Pine, which has five needles, the same number as the five letters in the adjective “w-h-i-t-e” for this evergreen that is also known as Eastern White Pine. The Pitch Pine has three needles in each bundle. 

I brought a stuffed animal Woodpecker so the Explorers could see what they look like and identify the sounds they make.  We looked at the trees for evidence of the Woodpecker and found many holes in the trees which was very exciting. 

We walked along and searched for nature items that sparked our curiosity, admiring our found objects under magnifying lenses and asking ourselves some observation questions.  What do I notice?  What do I wonder about?  What does this remind me of?  Each paired Preschooler and caregiver shared their observations with the group.  Fantastic discoveries and brilliant observations and commentary were shared. 

Continuing on the path we noticed a fallen tree with two woodpecker holes in it and together we rested on the log to listen to the story Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak.  The story follows a brother and sister as they explore nature and stroll along greeting all the signs of the coming season.  In a series of conversations with everything from the setting sun to curious deer, they say goodbye to autumn and welcome the glorious season of winter.  

Walking along the oak leaf covered path and savoring the warm rays of the sun as they gently filtered through the feathery, soft, needles of the White Pines we stopped again and this time to use markers on the White Pine needle worksheets I brought along in my backpack.  After some creative art we packed up and headed back down the path happily noticing all the pines and lichen and mosses and wintergreen and fungus and woodpecker holes. 

I wished the Preschool Explorers and their caregivers a Happy Solstice and encouraged them to keep lighting up the world with their smiles, joy, laughter, curiosity, love and kindness. 

Merry Everything and Happy Always, Ms. Andrea

A Winter Solstice Blessing

May you find peace in the promise of the solstice night,

That each day forward is blessed with more light.

That the cycle of nature, unbroken, and true,

Brings faith to your soul and well-being to you.

Rejoice in the darkness, in the silence find rest,

And may the days that follow be abundantly Blessed.