Families trickled down the gravel road at the pace of preschoolers. Which is to say, slowly! The little ones discovered slick icy patches to wiggle and “skate” on. A few found walking sticks for their upcoming adventure in the woods.
It was a crisp winter morning in December, and CREA was hosting its first guided Storywalk® for Preschoolers. (One learns that when you host an event for families with preschoolers, they tend to arrive a few minutes late.)
Families gathered inside the Ecology Center while waiting for everyone to arrive. Inside, little voices echoed, “Wow!” and “What’s that?” and “Can I touch that?”
Program host Jenny Mueller introduced families to CREA’s amazing collection of native bird and animal specimens at the Ecology Center, then gave them the option of exploring indoors via a quick scavenger hunt.
Patrick, an older sibling, took on the challenge right away. Within a few minutes he had found every item and was helping younger children find things on the list.
Once everyone arrived, the group ‘geared up’ and headed to the StoryWalk®’s first pages at the beginning of the Barnes Leap Trail. Jenny invited families to walk and read the StoryWalk® pages as a group.
Caregivers and parents joined Jenny enthusiastically – taking turns to read pages, make animal sounds, and enjoy the story together. Jenny modeled for caregivers how to reinforce information presented in the story, reminding the littles to look for animal tracks and burrow entrances (i.e. holes) in the snow such as those shown in the story.
The group meandered down Barnes Leap Trail, reading – laughing – and running (well, the littles were running…) to each story easel along the trail. The book Over and Under the Snow taught the group about the secret world of squirrels, snowshoe hares, bears, bullfrogs, and other animals who live safe and warm under the snow in winter.
Midway down the trail, Jenny encouraged everyone to put on their “deer ears,” cupping hands around ears to hear more like our woodland friends. “Can you hear better with deer ears?” she asked? “Yes!” “What can you hear now that you couldn’t before?” “The river!” a four-year-old boy exclaimed, then took off down the trail to find it.
After finishing the book, the group gathered at Barnes Leap to look over the rushing Cathance River, wild from a rain and snow. How many unique ice formations could the littles spot on overhanging rocks?
Jenny led the group back via a different route that provided more views of the Cathance River plus the fun of negotiating roots and rocks on the more rugged Cathance River Trail. The littles were delighted to see the rushing water, ice pancakes, and bright orange jelly fungus.
After an hour out on the trails, the group returned to the Ecology Center, and was welcomed by its warm pellet stove and a hot kettle ready to make cocoa for all. Families stayed for a snack and warm up while guessing what animals CREA pelts came from.
Several snuggled on the couch to read winter-themed, nature-based picture books from the Ecology Center library, and play with animal puppets.
The takeaway from this event is that children love to be outdoors in any season! While they may be shy at first, they quickly revel in the joy of discovery with their peers.
CREA will be hosting these StoryWalks® for preschoolers quarterly, whenever a new book is installed on the storyboards. Look for it on the Events page on the CREA website: https://creamaine.org/events/.
In the meantime, bring your littles to enjoy our winter StoryWalk® book, Over and Under the Snow! Storyboards start just past the Ecology Center at the beginning of the Barnes Leap Trail.