Week of January 1, 2023 – January 7, 2023

Elizabeth Suzedell staff member and Environmental Educator

by Elizabeth Suzedell, Environmental Educator

As 2022 ends, I find myself reflecting on the past year at Baltimore Woods. I am especially thinking about all of the connections with nature that this preserve has provided us. Through the trails, the Interpretive Center, public programs, Summer Nature Day Camps, and Nature in the City lessons, so many people of all ages were able to connect to nature at Baltimore Woods and as an Environmental Educator, I got to see these connections for myself first hand.

This fall, we were busy with 5th grade “Ecosystem Exploration Tour” field trips. A total of 21 schools and programs from the Syracuse City School District came for their first in-person visit to Baltimore Woods since 2019. During these field trips, we took groups on a one-hour hike around the preserve to see different ecosystems such as the forest, fields, stream, and pond.

There is always an overwhelming feeling of excitement exuding from the students when they first arrive at Baltimore Woods. However, there is also a little bit of fear. For some of the kids, it is their first time ever going to the woods. I can almost guarantee that I will get these questions before we start: “Are there bears here?” “Are we lost?” “Do you live here?” I always assure them that we do not have bears, that we won’t get lost, and that as long as they respect nature and each other, we will all be just fine.

As we hike, everything sparks their curiosity. They are intrigued by the different mushrooms, bright autumn leaves, big fallen logs, moss on the rocks, insects in the soil, chipmunks scurrying near the sides of the trail, woodpeckers pecking the trees, and more. Any fear they had at the beginning has disappeared. It’s impossible to count how many questions they ask as they make their new discoveries.

When I ask them what their favorite part of the field trip was, many of them say it is a kind of animal they saw. “The salamander” is probably the most common answer. One of my groups was lucky enough to see an eastern screech owl perched in a tree, which was their favorite moment from the trip. Some kids answer with things like “the trees,” “the red leaves,” or “the stream.” Here are a couple of special answers I’ve gotten:

  • “Hiking and being out in nature heals your soul!” – Bellevue Elementary Student
  • “getting to explore nature and having fun together” – Dr. King Elementary Student
  • “finding things and exploring nature” – Webster Elementary Student
  • “experiencing life in the wilderness” – Frazer Elementary Student
  • “talking to trees” – Bellevue Elementary Student

I am looking forward to a new year of connecting with nature at Baltimore Woods. What was your favorite experience from Baltimore Woods this year?