Preschool Explorers Make Grand Discoveries at the Hinckleys Pond-Herring River Headwaters Preserve

Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham

Harwich Conservation Trust’s Preschool Explorers discovered a variety of plants, animals, and insects during our adventure at the 30-acre Hinckleys Pond-Herring River Headwaters Preserve, from bees and butterflies, to crayfish, tadpoles, snakes, and more!

A beautiful blue-sky day with awesome cloud formations welcomed us to this wonderful Preserve. Just a few steps away from the parking area, we discovered a hillside with several earth stars resting on the ground, piquing our curiosity and sense of wonder. We took turns admiring and holding these interesting star-shaped fungi.

Sitting together along the trail, I read Bee: A Peek Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup. This sweet book with wonderful illustrations invites the reader to fly along with Bee on her very busy day. This story shares the ways this little insect contributes to the beauty of the environment by pollinating colorful flowers while buzzing around meadows and other habitats.

The next item on our itinerary was to point out and identify the new shiny leaflets of poison ivy, then read Leaflets Three, Let it Be! The Story of Poison Ivy by Anita Sanchez. This book teaches everything you didn’t know about poison ivy with captivating text and stunning illustrations. You may know that poison ivy can give you an itchy rash but did you know that only humans are allergic to it? Or that, like snowflakes, no two poison ivy leaves are exactly alike? Famous for its threat to humans, this tricky plant has a place in the world and much to give: tender red leaflets for hungry rabbits in the spring, shade for salamanders in the summer, warm poison ivy blankets for insects during the fall, and a winter feast of white berries for birds and more.

We sauntered along the bog admiring the sweeping views and paused to spread out a large mat to sit on while listening to some more stories. Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman shares a unique peek into an environment packed with frogs, bugs, birds, and more. From crickets to muskrats, pitcher plants to moss, this book invites the readers to take an up-close look at life in a typical North American bog.  Himmelman’s detailed nature illustrations and simple text bring the bog to life. Our Explorers had fun calling out all the animals they recognized as I read aloud to them. 

The next story was A Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson about a frog on a log in the middle of a bog. Its silly rhyming text drew my HCT Explorers in, who were listening with earnest and eager attention. After story time, we were inspired to sing “5 green and speckled frogs,” a simple and sweet song about frogs sitting on a log eating delicious bugs.

Moving along, we circled around the bog and discovered a butterfly and a ladybug along the way. We sat under the HCT Preserve sign with stunning views of Hinckleys Pond in front of us and the expansive bog behind. I read The Bug in the Bog by Jonathan Fensky, a laugh-out-loud story with an ending you will not see coming.

Our exploration continued as we crossed the bike trail to the pond where I had set two minnow traps the night before in the hopes of capturing some tadpoles for youngsters to admire. We gathered around where I had set the first trap, excited and hopeful just imagining what the catch could be as I slowly raised it up to find… nothing! Over to the next trap we went where I again slowly raised the rope holding the trap to find two tadpoles, a crawfish, and a spider! To say we were excited is an understatement.

I placed our finds in a larger container with water so Explorers could take a closer look. Gentle touches examined our awesome catch and we took turns holding the tadpoles and crawfish. Even an Explorer Mama who had never held a tadpole before took a turn carefully caressing the amphibian in this awesome stage of its metamorphosis.

One Explorer ventured over to a large puddle and decided to further investigate by walking right into it! It’s so joyful to see these children explore the natural world. We gently released our tadpole, crayfish, and spider friends to the waters in which we found them after wishing them a happy life and thanking them for allowing us to take a closer look at them. Next up, it was time to have a seat on a grassy patch of the beach to listen to National Geographic Kids: Ducks by Jennifer Szymanski and enjoy its incredible photos and facts about ducks, perfect for our preschool audience.

Craft time! Today’s art project involved caregivers tracing their preschoolers’ hands onto a piece of construction paper to create a duck’s body and wings, then gluing on a green circle for its head and adding an orange triangle for a bill. Real feathers were affixed to each design and markers helped add details like eyes and webbed feet to our ducks.

We continued on our journey, following the path around the bog where we discovered a garter snake sunning itself. Soon after, we also spotted a frog wading in the waters in the ditch, floating along the surface. Curious about what it feels like to stand on a bog, we each stepped out onto its springy surface. We bounced around, listening to the crunching of dried plants under our feet, and to our delight, each Explorer found cranberries underfoot!

Two male mallard ducks with brilliant-colored heads of emerald green made an appearance while swimming in the water-filled ditches of the bog. We spent some time admiring their shimmering feathers reflecting in the bright sunlight.

We circled back to the parking lot and I wished our Explorers a great day. In return I received smiles, thank yous, and good-bye hugs. My heart is full.

Thank you for sharing an incredibly adventurous Tuesday morning with me. I am so looking forward to seeing you next week. Happy Exploring.


Ms. Andrea