“What makes us human, I think, is an ability to ask questions….” ~ Jane Goodall
“What kinds of animals live here in winter?” one fourth grader asked, wondering about the cold weather creatures at Wheeler Bay. Jocelyn Paquette welcomed the children into her living room this morning and listended intently to their questions. Then she asked them a question of her own. “How would you feel if someone came into your home or your bedroom and just started rustling around?” “Not very good,” kids assured her.“That’s how the animals here feel when we don’t walk quietly and respectfully. Wheeler Bay is their home.”
Everyone got the message, and they began their quest in small groups. With a list of what to look for, their eyes were peeled. Tracks were prominent in mud left from yesterday’s rain. Kids identified turkey tracks, deer tracks, and even recognized which were a buck’s rather than a doe’s. They differentiated between ducks and gulls in flight. Gathering samples for observational drawing, they were alert to the complexity of lichen and bark.
LEAPS’ artists asked questions too. “Do you think what you’re looking at was built by beavers?” Fourth graders thought it through. Susan pointed to the randomness of the structure. Kids considered her input.
There are so many areas to explore in the sanctuary, and there were decisions to be made. “Let’s go through the woods,” one child exclaimed. “Have you looked up at all those pine cones?” Jocelyn asked, reminding the class that animals need food to get through a Maine winter.Kids examined the pine cones closely. “Look at the difference between this one that’s been chewed and this one that hasn’t!” one girl pointed out. As good scientists they’d noted patterns and made inferences. In roughly an hour’s time they’d found evidence of animals, noticed the variety of plants and grasses, and were ecstatic to be in the midst of this wondrous landscape.
Back at the house they made observational drawings, representing the shapes of the samples they’d brought with them. In the last moments of the morning one child after another stood up in a circle of silence, sharing their artwork. Peers and adults marveled.The visit to Wheeler Bay brought kids closer to nature and gave them a deeper sense of self. For the opportunity to experience the natural world up close, we thank you, Jocelyn and Len. Our gratitude has no bounds.
Nancy, Susan, Laura, Avis, and Alexis