Preschool Explorers Enjoy a Misty Morning Mole March

Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of Halley Steinmetz

Wednesday morning was the rain date for our HCT Preschool Explorer Adventure. Kiddos arrived ready for exploration, greeting each other with tokens of leaves and rocks, with sweet smiles stretching from cheek to cheek. We gathered at the trailhead of the 16-acre Texeira Conservation Lands on this misty morning, which did not dampen the joy radiating from our young Explorers as we set off on the trail to notice all the wonders around us.

A treat to both our ears and eyes, we heard the joyful calls and spotted a colorful assortment of songbirds. American goldfinches, Eastern bluebirds, and chickadees flitted between tree branches along the woodland edge and across the meadow, some investigating the bird boxes. Explorers excitedly announced each new bird sighting.

Preschoolers exuberantly traversed the trail, sometimes running at full speed then switching to a stroll to admire a rock on the path or pausing to notice some new bright green grass sprouting.

Under the cover of a spectacular oak tree, we set up our reading mat to study the animal of the day: the small but mighty mole. Moles are not rodents; they are insectivores more closely related to bats. They can dig tunnels at a rate of 15 feet per hour with their strong shoulders and sturdy digging paws/claws. Often falsely accused of eating plant roots and seeds, moles almost never consume plant matter, instead eating 70-100% of their weight in worms, grubs and insects each day! Characteristic features of the mole include brown or grey fur; cylindrical bodies with short tails; very small, concealed eyes and ears; small hind feet and larger forefeet for digging; and polydactyl forepaws (2 thumbs on each)!

I next read Moles by Lori Dittmer, a great teaching tool loaded with fantastic photos and detailed facts about moles. Little Mole Finds Hope by Glenys Nellist was our next book, sharing an endearing story about changing seasons and searching for signs of spring.

Our inner artists emerged, and we were all ready to create! I handed youngsters an outline of a mole to decorate with crayons and markers, adding eyes, ears, fur, and more. Next, we created mini moles on a small piece of paper and attached them to a popsicle stick using a drop of glue. While the glue was drying, Explorers filled recycled containers with dirt, rocks, leaves, and lichen. Little moles fitted on the popsicle sticks peeked out from their cozy earthen homes through a hole I had placed in the bottom of each container, acting just like real moles!

Time for a wonder wander! Hands clasped, rainboot-clad Explorers marched down the trail singing a made-up song about being on a “misty morning mole march.” We sang the verse over and over as we sauntered hand in hand down the path. The sun came bursting through the silver-gray skies and in that moment the birds and frogs sang out simultaneously, rejoicing for the brief moment of brightness. Peepers peeped, songbirds whistled, and blue jays and crows cawed.

Up ahead, a fallen pitch pine lay across the trail and the needles were decorated with crystal-like, fresh rain droplets. I invited our Explorers to take a sip of a drip. They each gently placed their mouths to the drops and slurped down the refreshing morsels. Lots of giggles came from youngsters and their mamas as the fun erupted into sweet laughter.

Patches of bright green moss caught our attention, so we paused to give the ground cover a pat. The next discovery was a small slug and we watched it slither across my fingertip, observing closely as its antennae stretched out, investigating its new surroundings. Gently, we placed our slug friend on some moss at the base of an oak tree.

A beautiful, intricate web holding some dew drops from this morning’s mist captivated us. Gathering around, we admired the spider’s artistic creation. Further along the trail, a circle of cedars made a great shelter for our young adventurers, and they all snuggled under the canopy pretending to be in a woodland dwelling. The forested path opened back up and we ran through the meadow pretending to be birds soaring over the field.

After collecting our artwork, we headed back to the trailhead having had a most wonderful adventure!

Thank you, Explorers, for all the shared wonder and joy. I am so looking forward to our next gathering. 

Happy Exploring!


Ms. Andrea