Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham
Today’s sweet moments featured a beautiful day in the upper 40s at the stunning 30-acre Coy’s Brook Woodlands in the company of HCT Preschool Explorers and their caregivers. We were surrounded by the sweet sounds of spring bird song as the scents of warming Earth, salt marshes, and woodlands perfumed the air. What a gift to be celebrating the first full day of spring with our curious and energetic preschoolers and their caregivers.
While gathering at the trailhead, I shared our plans for the morning before we set off down the trail. We paused where the woods met the marsh to gaze out at the massive expanse of beautiful wetlands. Explorers were delighted to share what they could see as they exclaimed “grasses”, “trees”, “muck”, “rivers”, and “birds”.
I next inquired about what my HCT Explorers could smell in this space. With lids tightly closed over their curious eyes, youngsters focused on their sense of smell to identify scents in this delightful environment. Some took big breaths in through their noses and others made audible sniffing sounds. When I asked them to share what they had detected in the air, both adult and children Explorers called out “salt”, “rich and earthy”, “marsh”, “pine trees” and my favorite: “an owl!”
We next made note of what we could hear when we paused to quietly observe. Wind rustled dry leaves that somehow still clung to the trees despite the strong winds and changing season. A variety of birds created a springtime symphony featuring the honking of geese, the quacking of ducks, and the sweet melodies of songbirds including the distinct tune of red-winged blackbirds.
Time for our first story of the morning, North American Animals: Red Foxes by Megan Borget-Spaniol. This informative book is filled with fun facts and beautiful photos of red foxes. Found throughout most of the United States and Canada, we discovered that this member of the canine family occupies a variety of habitats from forests to farms and deserts to grasslands. We discussed what foxes eat and how they hunt and also learned that fox babies are called kits!
While strutting slyly along the path to imitate the walk of the fox, we paused to notice intriguing rocks and pebbles and to explore our sense of touch by stroking bright green mosses and a variety of lichens, both soft and brittle.
Explorers climbed up to sit on a bench with a stunning view of the marsh to listen to our next story. The Secret Life of the Red Fox written by Laurence Pringle and illustrated by Kate Garchinsky is a gorgeous and lyrical picture book that follows a year in the life of a red fox as she finds food, hunts, escapes threats, finds a mate, and raises her kits. Stunning, realistic illustrations celebrate the beauty of these mysterious creatures while teaching us important facts through an engaging story. I also shared some beautiful photography found in both An Animal Family: Foxes and Kits by Jose Ventana and Red Fox by Jen Green.
With our creative juices flowing with inspiration from our learning session, I pulled from my backpack orange construction paper, sponge brushes, white paint, and brown yarn for Explorers to create white-tipped bushy fox tails that we could wear. Caregivers assisted our artists in attaching these unique creations to their waists before we continued back down the path, feeling very foxy indeed!
Our fox kits continued on our search saunter noticing cavity nests in the trees and holes made by insects! We continued to find joy and delight while patting mosses, balancing on fallen trees, climbing, running, and giggling down the trails before stumbling on a mud kitchen! Pots, pans, spoons, and plates sat waiting for the imagination of children to create culinary treats of the forest floor variety. Warm soil under the leaf litter became a dirt cake, a pot of angel hair pasta was stuffed with grasses, pinecones, and pine needles, and the sauté pan was used to cook pinecone “apples”. This forest food was served up to caregivers on plates and a feast fit for a fox was had by all!
How adorable to watch preschoolers wearing their fox tails, playing with pots and pans and gifts from the forest floor, surrounded by towering pines and kissed with gentle breezes and warm rays of sunshine. Time to do the dishes! All fox kits assisted with placing pots, pans, and dishes back in their travel bag with smiles on their faces (if only doing the dishes at home was this enjoyable)!
Our wonder wander continued back to the trailhead where our adventure began.
Thank you, Explorers, for the joy you give. What a gift to be in your presence and witness your curiosity and creativity.
Happy New Moon. Happy Spring. Happy Everything.
See you next Tuesday.