Reflections by HCT walk leader, naturalist, and Kripalu Mindful Outdoor Guide Andrea Higgins.
Photos courtesy of SAIL and SHORE staff and parents.
The SAIL SHORE to SHORE group met this morning at the beautiful 17-acre Muddy Creek Headwaters Preserve under silvery skies with gentle breezes and temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s. Students disembarked from the van with smiles on their faces and thank you cards in their hands. One student proudly shared his nature journal filled with drawings, plant clippings, and notes about our summer explorations on Harwich Conservation Trust Preserves.
We gathered on the benches overlooking the meadow which is currently decorated with blooming wildflowers in shades of gold, pink, purple, orange, and white. After a warm welcome and reviewing this property’s unique habitats, we discussed the insects that we might find today including butterflies, moths, ladybugs, dragonflies, ants, and bees. Insects have six legs, a head, thorax, abdomen, eyes, mouth, and antennae. We sang a few rounds of the insect’s version of “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” before heading off on the trail.
While paused to admire the wildflowers in the meadow, I asked students what colors they noticed and shared some botany info about the flowers corresponding to each, including yellow for goldenrod and coreopsis, white for Queen Anne’s lace, and light purple for bee balm.
We departed from the meadow and wandered into the shaded woodland to continue our saunter along the trail. I had staged books and materials for an art project at the next bench. I read Insect World: Fireflies by Mari Schuh, A Beetle is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long, and Good Trick, Walking Stick! by Sheri Mabry Bestor. It was fun sharing books, facts, photos, and beautiful illustrations of fireflies, beetles, and walking sticks to students in this lovely, peaceful setting.
Next, each student chose a stick from a container (to be the body of a walking stick), three strands of yarn to tie onto the stick creating six insect legs, and small white construction paper circles that were glued on to the sticks to create eyes. Everyone drew pupils onto the eyes and added designs using magic markers to give their insects some character and personality.
The path led us closer to the creek and we paused to engage our senses. After hushing our conversations and settling into this new habitat, we listened as water droplets from last night’s rainstorm fell from the leaves and splashed on the forest floor. The gentle breeze rustled through the leaves, crickets chirped, birds serenaded us with their soft melodies, and flying insects buzzed by. Shifting our focus, we inhaled through our noses and noticed we could smell salty water, a muddy/earthy fragrance, flowers, trees, and the freshness of the clean air. We closed our eyes and focused on how the breeze felt on our skin and in our hair. Further down the trail, we came upon the creek and sampled some sea pickle. Students described the crunch and saltiness of the plant… it was a hit for some, but others not so much.
The sun came bursting through the clouds as we strolled out of the woods and back along the meadow. The change in weather activated the insects with dozens of large green and blue dragonflies appearing, plus orange and white butterflies and bumblebees. We watched on in delight as they hovered above the field and danced from flower to flower. We found our way to another bench and settled in for a snack and another book: Insect World: Ladybugs by Mari Schuh. I passed around hand painted ladybugs I created for each student as a thank you for an awesome summer nature series.
We sang the insect song once more before heading back on to the buses and vans. I am so very grateful for this experience and have enjoyed getting to know each of you. My heart feels so full and happy. Thank you for your precious cards, painting, notes, and hugs.