Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham
October 4, 2022
Oh happiness! On Tuesday, October 4th, the HCT Preschool Explorers reunited for continued learning, fun, and exploration! We had lots of wind, silver skies, and a forecast that claimed rain, yet between the hours of 9-10:30 a.m., there was a brightness in the Pleasant Bay Woodlands found on the happy faces of our HCT Preschool Explorers and their caregivers.
Explorers and their caregivers trailed behind me as we sauntered into the white pine-filled sanctuary and discussed the plan for our time together. Beautiful and abundant pine trees, oak trees, and bayberry bushes protected us from the wind as we huddled together, sitting on mats, to listen to our first stories. I read Skunks by Mari Schuh, North American Animals: Striped Skunks by Chris Bowman and Super Cute! Baby Skunks by Megan Borgert-Spaniol.
We learned many skunk fun facts through our readings: baby skunks are called kits, most skunks live near water in forests and grasslands while others live in cities, and they have webbed feet and long claws that help them dig for food. These nocturnal omnivores eat grubs, small mammals, fruits, bird eggs, mice, bees, and other insects. We also discovered that these funky animals are famous for their defenses. When scared, they first stamp their feet and then raise their tails before potentially spraying their scent at predators. Their mist has a terrible, pungent odor, is painful if it gets in eyes, and is very difficult to get off.
Ready to move around, we practiced stomping our feet and tapping our hands on our legs and the ground to make sounds like a skunk sounding their warning noises. After learning so many fun facts we were inspired to create our own unique skunk tails. I handed out sturdy paper, sponge brushes, and black and white paint to each Explorer to decorate. Once the designs were complete, we threaded pieces of yarn through holes I had punched in each of the tails so we could all wear our creations as we wandered the trails of the conservation area. What a sight to see preschoolers waddling down the trail wearing their skunk tails and looking over their shoulders with giant grins on their faces.
Enjoying a quick pause on our saunter, we engaged our ears by focusing on the sound the wind made through the trees, rustling the leaves, accented by a few songbirds calling in the distance. Along the trail, a moss-covered log piqued our interest. After rolling it over, feeling the spongy and squishy decaying material, we discovered a pair of daddy long leg spiders. Moving on, we quickly stopped again at the next log we found on the trail side. Just as I gently rolled it over, one very excited Explorer exclaimed, “ROLY POLY!” We also revealed two salamanders: a redback and a leadback. We very carefully took turns gently holding and admiring our woodland amphibian friends. I shared how to tenderly return our awesome salamanders by first flipping the log back to the way it was found and placing the salamander near the base of the log so they could find their way back under to safety without risk of getting squished or harmed by the weight of the log.
Happily continuing on our way, our skunk tails swayed back and forth as we waddled to a bench placed near the HCT meadow restoration project. During summer months, this bench looked out at wild flowers covered with butterflies and hovering dragonflies and damselflies. Now, this open field made a bright space to admire the cloudy skies, so different from the canopy of the pines and oaks that sway above the trails.
Explorers sat together on the bench to listen to another story. The Bravest of The Brave by Shutta Crum is a sweet story with bouncy rhymes, charming art, a subtle counting theme, and a surprise ending. It is entertaining and a comfort to reassure any child who has ever felt afraid.
Time to say farewell until next week when we will meet again to explore another Harwich Conservation Trust Sanctuary and play, read, learn, explore, discover, giggle, and grow.
Thank you so much for sharing your Tuesday morning with me! I am so looking forward to our next adventure together.
If you and your preschooler would like to get outside and learn with Ms. Andrea, please follow these links to sign up for a fall Preschool Explorers Club outing: