By Chelsea Jandreau

The grasses, ferns, and flowers have really hit their stride and they are continuing to grow taller as we head into summer. As I was out with a group of sixth graders on a field trip to Audubon, one of the students commented offhand that the plants around us were like a miniature forest under the larger one. I responded by wondering what it would be like to be the size of a chipmunk underneath all of those ferns.

Look down under a log.

Both myself and the other educators at Audubon spend a lot of their time with children looking at the small things in nature. When we go on Discovery Walks, which are what we call our onsite field trips, we often don’t make it more than half a mile even though we are out there for about 90 minutes. In any other situation, the path I take with my group of seven or eight students would take me at most 10 minutes to walk, so it is somewhat amazing to think that by intentionally changing the pacing and focus of the walk, that we can spend that much time on such a small section.

In a previous job, we did an activity with our sixth graders to help them learn how to spend time looking really, really closely at a small section of forest floor. It is called a Micro Hike. The students are “hiking” a length of string, usually less than 3 feet long. Working in pairs, they were handed a piece of string and they got to decide where they wanted to place that string within the given boundaries.

After they decided on their hike’s location, students used magnifying glasses and nature journaling or drawing to make observations about what they found along that section, and imagined what the small rocks, clumps of moss, or even the side of a stump would look like if you shrunk down to the size of an ant. It is really just an activity to practice their observation tools and skills in a fun way, but it is always a cool reminder that what you see is not necessarily what everyone else sees.

This is especially true when we are out with different ages. A four-year-old is much closer to the ground than I am. The way they perceive a field of tall grass or a forest of three-foot-tall ferns is not going to be the same when you are able to fit under and between things much easier than my five-and-half-feet can.

Look up into the trees.

Intentionally changing and challenging your perspective allows you to see things in a different way. This is true in any interpersonal situation, but it is also literally true from a sensory standpoint. What you see and hear is going to be different depending on how you are interacting with your surroundings. Going out for a hike can be viewed as peaceful and serene if you are rolling along on a beautiful spring afternoon. However if you stop to flip a log, you might see a busy world of ants scurrying to take care of larva and find food, centipedes searching for food, and roly-polies crawling away from the light.

Places you explored and played as a child that seemed massive can look a little different when you return and see them through your adult eyes. The way you view your surroundings can change as you grow up and your imagination and height force a different perspective on you. Changing how we look at something often does not happen without prompting. However, it is good, every now and again, to challenge that perspective and intentionally think outside of your usual box. What would it be like to be the size of a chipmunk under all of those cinnamon ferns? What kind of activity is hidden under the rocks and logs? How does the world look different if you lie down and look up at the treetops?

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk and birds of prey can be viewed anytime the trails are open. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at or by calling (716) 569-2345.

Chelsea Jandreau is a Nature Educator at ACNC.