Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham
Muddy Creek Headwaters Preserve welcomed our third season of Preschool Explorers this morning with silver and blue-gray skies, brisk breezes, and temps in the low 60s. The bright smiles from Explorers and caregivers warmed my heart while reuniting with these curious and cheerful children.
After our hellos, hugs, and welcomes we settled in on the bench to chat about our plans for the morning (today’s theme was Snails and Slugs) and make observations of our beautiful surroundings. Explorers announced they could see clouds, trees, flowers, and birds. Breezes brushed across their faces and played with their hair as we sat surrounded by a mosaic of greens found all around in the trees and grasses.
The first story of the day was Slimy Snails by Laura Hamilton Waxman, a fun and informative guide and introduction to the world of snails. Engaging and colorful illustrations fill the pages, perfect for children who love nature and animals. Our young naturalists were captivated, listening attentively to every word. Next, I read Norman the Slug with the Silly Shell by Sue Hendra. This sweet and funny picture book had Explorers, mamas, and grandmothers giggling.
Next it was time to sing a little song about snails. I shared the lyrics of a Ms. Andrea original:
“Snail Song” by Ms. Andrea
I am a Snail
I like to slither
I create slime
that sparkly slime really helps me climb
I enjoy mushrooms
I like to roam
the forest floor is my home.
After singing a few rounds of our little snail ditty we strolled over to a mat I had staged on the ground for an art project. I handed out large sheets of construction paper, crayons, and markers for Explorers to create unique and original images of snails.
After a quick saunter to a clearing in the meadow, participants discovered mats set out amidst the tall grasses and wildflowers, along with a collection of books about snails and slugs. Settling in, I handed each Explorer an egg cup from a cardboard egg carton to fashion into snail shells using markers, crayons, and imaginations.
I next handed each Explorer a clump of homemade playdough to fashion into a snail body. Grasses, leaves, sticks, and/or pine needles were added to create antennas. Then, the cardboard snail shell was attached and tah-dah! Each Explorer’s original snail friend came to life. It was precious to witness preschoolers introducing their snail friends to each other, smiles stretching from cheek to cheek.
Deciding to take our snail friends on a saunter, we left the openness of the meadow and went through what one Explorer called a “tree tunnel” onto the trail and into the woods. We discovered a mushroom with a slug and dozens of roly polies (aka pill bugs) crawling on its underside. I reached into my backpack and handed each Explorer a magnifying lens to take a closer look. The lenses came in handy for admiring our next trailside discoveries as well, including acorns, more mushrooms, pinecones, mosses, and lichens.
Upon arriving at another bench, we sat down and pretended to hold binoculars up to our eyes to admire the landscape. Explorers announced they could see trees, trails, water, and birds off in the distance. Then the group settled down for a reading of Escargot by Dashka Slater, a very sweet children’s picture book with beautiful illustrations.
With more to discover, we set back on the path to wander towards the creek. We admired all the shades of yellow in the leaves, bittersweet shells, and blooming goldenrod. Bright green moss was soft and squishy to the touch so Explorers decided to take seat on nature’s cushion for a quick break.
We came to the spot where the trail meets the creek and found bright red winterberries, pink and white flowers, and swaying phragmites – its movement prompted us to dance, wiggling back and forth on the trail in the breeze like a reed. We also admired the brightening blue skies and a fallen tree that looked like an art installation. Heading back to the start of our adventure, we collected our snail pictures and shared goodbyes and gratitude.
Thank you for a wonderful adventure full of laughter and curiosity.
I can hardly wait to see you all again next week.