Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Marcia Geier
A spectacular June morning welcomed HCT Preschool Explorers to the Pleasant Bay Woodlands on Tuesday. Gentle breezes, temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s, abundant sunshine, and beautiful dappled light filtering through the new oak leaves created an inspiring setting for our morning’s adventure. A chorus of bird song, buzzing dragonflies and bees, and flitting butterflies invited us to discover the welcoming Pleasant Bay Woodlands.
Our morning started with a reunion and a welcoming of new friends. Our perfect spring day saunter brought us down a shaded cartpath lined with oaks and pines. It opened up to a sunshine filled meadow, decorated with daisies, milkweed, buttercups, dandelions, flowering blackberries, and tall golden grasses. Preschool friends sat on the mowed part of the meadow to make observations of the stunning scene surrounding us. Explorers noted they could see “bugs”, “butterflies”, “flowers”, “birds” and “bees”.
We next chatted about animals that lay eggs and learned a new science word by which to describe them: “oviparous”. We practiced saying it aloud a few times – such a fun word and a great way to wow our friends and family too! Explorers learned that birds, reptiles, amphibians, most fish, insects, mollusks, and arachnids lay eggs.
I brought real bird nests to examine, each with remnants of eggshells. A chickadee nest held an egg as tiny as a jelly bean and another nest had spectacular blue egg shell pieces. Some local blue-egg laying birds include Red-winged Blackbirds, Gray Catbird, House Finch, Blue Jay, Goldfinch, Bluebirds, and American Robin. We next admired a Canada Goose egg shell, feeling how thick it was in comparison to the very fragile chickadee eggshell, then studied the shell of a Herring Gull, noting its perfect camouflage pattern (shorebird eggshells look just like beach pebbles in the sand). Diamondback terrapin turtle eggshells were inspected as well. While passing around a stuffed frog, we discussed the gooey egg masses laid by frogs and toads. Drawings of a Waterstrider and a photo of a Black Swallowtail Butterfly generated a discussion about how insects lay eggs too.
Each preschooler had a turn walking around with a prop/teaching tool to “show and tell” their knowledge. An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long was our first read-aloud story with the wildflower meadow and brilliant blue sky as our backdrop. This stunningly beautiful and wonderfully informative book from award winning artist Sylvia Long is a fascinating introduction to the vast world of eggs.
I brought a dozen of my friends’ chicken eggs and we admired and inspected the variety of shades, shapes, and sizes. Pastel blues and greens, beiges, and cream-colored eggs filled the carton. Next, it was time for an experiment (or eggsperiment). We balanced 3 eggs on a plate and noted their strength as I stacked books and boxes on top of them. Before each new layer was added, I polled the crowd… were the eggs strong enough to hold another layer? Explorers put thumbs up or down to indicate whether or not they believed the eggs were strong enough to withstand another layer without breaking and turning into scrambled eggs.
Explorers’ artistic creativity was apparent as each child created and designed their own egg for our art project of the day. Markers and crayons in hand, imagination guided our preschool friends’ designs of bird, fish, dinosaur, turtle, bug, and even some imaginary creature eggs!
After returning art supplies to the box, we set off to continue our adventure. The first stop was at a patch of daisies to inspect them with magnifying lenses and admire insects with all their details, crawling and flying about the flowers.
The trail entered the shady forest and the cooler temperatures were a welcome change after our time spent in the toasty sunshine. Soft, damp, velvety mosses were touched and patted. Tree bark, budding blueberries, spider webs, and a bright green caterpillar were inspected and admired by curious hikers. We found a log in a patch of wintergreen (aka checkerberry or teaberry) and we all took turns sniffing the minty fragrance of the dark green leaf of this groundcover.
As Explorers continued enjoying the fragrance of the wintergreen, I read I Hear You, Forest by Kallie George and Carmen Mok. This sweet story shares about the connections between all living things and builds an appreciation for the world around us, inviting us to simply pause and listen to discover a forest full of magical sounds.
As our journey continued, we chatted about living trees, snags (dead trees that are still upright), and logs. We noted all of the life that relies on dead trees, including insects, mosses, lichens, fungus, and birds.
Our exploration ended with our routine of a run, run, run to get our “zoomies” out and to celebrate the joy of movement.
What an eggciting and eggscellent eggventure!!
Thank you, Preschool Explorers for the joy, energy, curiosity, care, and cuteness you add to this journey!
I look forward to our next adventures.
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.