Roly-Polies and Rain Drops: Preschool Explorers Play at Cornelius Pond Woodlands

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

HCT Preschool Explorers and their caregivers joined me for our adventure this morning at the 15-acre Cornelius Pond Woodlands. After discussing our plans for the day, we set off on the trail together to discover the beauty and wonder of the natural world.

At a bench, Preschoolers climbed up to sit and ponder the sights, sounds, and smells all around them. I invited them to share what they saw and Explorers responded, “water”, “trees”, “leaves”, and “a path”! I asked Explorers to next notice what they could hear. Voices hushed and curious eyes seemed to grow bigger as they focused on the sounds around them. “wind”, “birds”, “bugs”, “cars”, they announced. Shifting their attention to their sense of smell, youngsters took in some big sniffs through little noses and they called out, “dirt”, “birds” and “water”.

For story time, I read I’m a Pill Bug by Yukihisa Tokuda, and I shared images from Next Time You See a Pillbug by Emily Morgan and Pill Bugs & Sow Bugs and Other Crustaceans by Elaine Pascoe and Dwight Kuhn.

After our stories, we walked over to the meadow where I had prepared a roly poly lab. Trays, spoons, magnifying lenses, and insect viewers awaited curious Explorers: tools that would help them discover the contents of the terrarium in the middle of the mat. Carefully I placed roly polies (aka potato bugs, woodlice, doodle bugs, roll-up bugs), mosses, decaying wood, mushrooms, and slugs in the trays for examination. 

With gentle, caring hands pill bugs were scooped up with spoons and added to the insect viewers to take a closer look. Magnifying lenses were put to good use and all Explorers excitedly shared their discoveries with their friends! It was awesome watching the slug slither across the cap of the insect viewer and admire its body stretching out across the lens.

While Explorers were busy with the lab, I excitedly shared a few brief facts from the hours of roly poly research I had enjoyed in preparation of our adventure. Roly polies are crustaceans! They have compound eyes, long antennae, four pairs of chewing mouth parts, seven pairs of legs, blue blood, and feathery, gill-like lungs. They can purify soil of toxic metals, the mamas have pouches like kangaroos, they molt, and they can live 2-4 years.

After our young scientists had thoroughly sifted through the habitat, we continued our saunter, wandering over to a bench with a lovely view of the pond. The waters were so flat and calm that the sky was perfectly mirrored across the surface. A few moments later some big wind gusts blew through the Preserve, rippling the waters and erasing the sky’s reflection. It’s exciting to be immersed in nature and witness all the changes both subtle and dramatic. Even better is to watch Explorer’s wonderstruck faces as they witness natural phenomena.

I set each child up with crayons and markers for today’s art project. Paper plates cut into segments came alive as students transformed them into roly polies and added colorful designs. The plate segments were attached so they could roll into a ball just like our new crustacean friends!

Explorers decided to take their creations for a walk and as we set off on the trail it started to rain. We giggled our way through the sanctuary as droplets sprinkled down on us, thoroughly enjoying this surprise addition to our adventure. There are no bad days… just different kinds of good days and Explorers know how to have fun in all kinds of weather!

Thank you, caregivers and Explorers, for another amazing morning! I am already excitedly planning for our next morning of discovery!

Happy Exploring!


Ms. Andrea