After having visited the Edith Read Sanctuary back in the late winter, I kind of expected the Marshlands Conservancy, also along the Long Island Sound in Rye, to be similar. I was surprised to find it remarkably different.
Our initial plan was to attend a nature sketching workshop with one of the park’s naturalists, however, the size of our group prohibited us from participating. Fortunately, Alison Beall the Conservancy’s curator, was more than accommodating, offering us a wonderful and seasonally appropriate scavenger hunt to do with the kids.
I must speak for a moment here from my teacher platform. I was really impressed by the scavenger hunt. No bells and whistles–just a simple list of really cool things for the kids to look for along the trail, my favorite being “a tiny caterpillar hanging from a silk thread.” It’s my understanding that you can only discover these creatures for a very short period of time each spring. In this vein, I find that more often than not, kids activities are often very bland, i.e. the same scavenger hunt handed out ad nauseum without regard for changing seasons etc.It was obvious that thought and care went into the creation of this hunt–and left lots of room for the kids to interpret things in their own ways, to ask interesting questions and to learn about all sorts of things about the ecology of the Conservancy (parents, too!).
We hiked along a trail that led us through varying terrain, from woodland to meadow, from dunes to marshes and shoreline. The kids spotted myriad fungi and earthworm castings and definitely learned to identify poison ivy–whose berries, we gleaned, are an essential food source for native birds.
The highlight, of course, were the little areas of beach at the trail’s end. The parents eventually abandoned our attempts at keeping the kids out of the water as they waded and dug and explored. A tiny crab was found and although his health was questionable, a loving home was nonetheless constructed for him among the rocks. They scooped handfuls of tiny snails, found the treasured shell of a robin’s egg, and watched their hands sparkle as they became sticky with fragments of sand and mica.
We hiked back, full with the discoveries we made, the wettest we’ve gotten yet.