October 30, 2009 was warm, windy and wet–but not raining–perfect for an afternoon hike to Cherokee Marsh. Unlike our previous day trip to Hinchley’s Farm, we didn’t need mittens, hats or heavy coats. It’s important to grab these days, even if the day is little damp. My co-teacher, Elizabeth, and I had 10 kids ranging in age from 5 to 9. Most had never been to the marsh and a few had never hiked. While walking, five-year-old Joe asked, “What are we going to do here?” He seemed perplexed after I told him that we’re here to enjoy nature, look for animals and enjoy the leaves falling from the trees. An 8 year-old girl was a little scared, so she held my hand. Hiking can be scary to kids, especially on a windy, overcast day, right before Halloween. However, both kids persevered and as leader of the pack, Joe became the best animal spotter.
I really wasn’t sure what we’d see today. Most birds had already flown south and the winds kept other bird from view. Perhaps we’d leave without seeing something, but that wasn’t the case.
As we walk closer to the water’s edge, Joe spotted a snapping turtle hunkered down in a ditch alongside the trail. The turtle was within 3 feet from us and when he saw us, he tried to hide. We backed up to give him some room. In a few minutes, he poked his head up so we all got a good look at his pointed nose and powerful jaw.
“We don’t want to get too close.” I said. Some of the kids were a little afraid, but this lessoned as they saw how afraid the turtle was too. Meanwhile, I kept my eye on Lizzie, who was standing right up to the water’s edge off to the left. She wasn’t interested in the turtle. She could easily dip her foot in the water, but in this case, I’d let her, just so she could get the consequence–wet feet! Okay, back to the turtle. As we said goodbye to the turtle, Joe shouted, “A snake!”
Ronnie screamed as did a few other girls. She started crying. She didn’t even see the snake, but was responding to Joe’s announcement. I told her and all the kids that garter snakes are not poisoness and are very gentle. I’m not sure that they believed me, though if I could have, I would have gently picked up the snake and showed them. Elizabeth shared that she used to capture garter snakes as a kid. Quickly, the girls calmed down and we kept walking.
By the time we got back to the van, the kids were ready to go back. At 30 minutes, this was short hike for me, but a long hike for them. I always have to remember this and be sure to let them set the pace. It was time to go.