Preschool Explorers learn about Seals at Red River Beach

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

What a spectacular, sunny day for a Preschool Explorer Adventure. Children and their caregivers joined me at Red River Beach for a morning of fun in the sun. Enchanted by the endless stretch of sand, Preschoolers began playing straightaway.

Once the cuties were corralled and seated on our reading and art mats, I shared some fun facts about seals. Seals are classified as marine mammals, like whales, dolphins, porpoises, sealions, walruses, manatees, polar bears, and sea otters. Here in New England, we have two species of seals that breed in our waters: the gray seal and the harbor seal. These opportunistic feeders consume a variety of shellfish, crustaceans, and fish, and do all of their hunting and eating in the sea. They are semi-aquatic, which means they often spend a portion of each day on land, primarily while resting on beaches. Seals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which means we must share the shore and remain at least 50 yards away from them at all times.

I shared the book Harbor Seals by Ellen Lawrence before transitioning into our arts and crafts project. I distributed large sturdy pieces of recycled paper along with seal cutouts, crayons, and markers so that Explorers could create seal nature scenes. Artwork featured playful designs with seals sunning themselves or frolicking in the waves. A collection of books were available for families to peruse while youngsters were hard at work.

The beautiful sparkling sea was calling – time to explore more of the seashore! Curious beachcombers strolled along the beach picking up shells and seaweed as I shared names and fun facts about mollusks, crabs, and other finds. Gathering on the jetty, we pretended to be seals by mimicking their belly flopping strategy to move on land, also known as “galumphing”. We giggled as we wiggled down the beach together.

After arriving back at our crafting/reading mats, I shared a story about people who help injured marine mammals. Next, Preschool Explorers put on their Marine Mammal Research Rescue Responder hats to practice rescuing stuffed animal seals. I placed two mammal friends near the water’s edge and divided the group into two teams of responders. I distributed a tape measure and a clipboard with a paper containing five questions for responders to answer and report to headquarters. Together we identified the type of animal (seal, whale, or dolphin), looked for injuries, and noted fur color, eye color, and body length. After reporting our findings, we were instructed to carefully transport the animal to the Marine Mammal care facility.

After a morning of hard work, Preschool Marine Mammal Research Rescue Responders were ready for a feast. I brought out a bag full of pans, pots, spoons, bowls, plates, and cups for youngsters to create culinary delights made with sand, seaweed, shells, and their imaginations.

After having loads of fun, we cleaned up our kitchen supplies and shared good-byes. What a wonderful way to spend a beautiful Cape Cod morning.

Thank you for all the smiles and joy. I am already looking forward to our next adventure.

Happy Exploring!


Ms. Andrea