In mid March, classes geared up with rain jackets, boots, and magnifying glasses and headed for Portland’s historical Macleay Park for a day of hiking and discovery. The annual field trip is an opportunity for HFP children and parents to explore and appreciate the unique beauty of the Pacific Northwest forest located right in our back yard.
Teacher Susan kicked off the day’s adventures with a song and dance about squirrels: “Squirrel, squirrel, shake your bushy tail. Wrinkle up your little nose. Hold a nut beneath your toes. Squirrel, squirrel, shake your bushy tail.” The activity enticed both HFP children and grown-ups into opening our imaginations, joining the world of forest creatures, and laughing out loud as we pretended to gnaw on nuts.
Trails along Balch Creek serve as the perfect outdoor classroom for both energetic hikers and methodical investigators. Snagged logs create swirling patterns in the rushing water, trilliums twinkle in full bloom, and a hawk overhead rewards keen observers and reminds us to peer all the way up into the sky beyond the confiers.
The creek was our companion and hiking guide, fed by recent rains. Waterfalls and beaver dams appeared along stretches of its course. A web of Douglas firs, big leaf maples, and other Pacific Northwest trees provided a canopy overhead, protecting us from occasional light sprinkles. With a little imagination, nest-like clumps of moss can become fairy houses, especially when imaginative parents point out ones that are just the right size for tiny inhabitants.
A log in the woods is a perfect place for a reading circle to gather. HFP children make connections between academics and the natural world as Teacher Susan pauses along the trail to read A Whiff of Pine, A Hint of Skunk- A Forest of Poems by Deborah Ruddell andJoan Rankin . Real life objects and events in Macleay Park extend the book’s illustrations and expand the meaning of the text.
Log rounds are a natural play structure when children imagine themselves to be frogs or bunnies hopping from surface to surface. Counting tree rings can tell us the age of an ancient giant.
WPA “castle ruins” deep in the woods seem to magically rise from the forest floor. The stone architecture serves as an exciting discovery and just the right place to end the hike and turn back for snack time.
Cries of “please show us a salamander” set one parent off on a mission to please our eager budding zoologists. Finally, toward the very end of the hike, an overturned stone revealed the elusive native amphibian.