The annual Festival of the Wild Child event used to look quite different!  Children and their families valued the opportunity last month to experience nature, learn, and enjoy the wilderness of High Lonesome Nature Reserve during a two-day event of free-roaming in nature with creative and interactive stations and activities.

Declining to allow COVID-19 and the necessary regulations on outdoor gatherings get the best of our beloved event, the Festival of the Wild Child planning committee came up with the brilliant idea last year to transition Nature stations to scavenger hunts.  Last year’s event brought much success, and with similar restrictions in place this year, we decided to once again host our special version of the Festival of the Wild Child.

Five unique and exciting scavenger hunts were created, improving upon some of last year’s hunts and adding some brand new ones. These hunts all focused on encouraging young children to act as young naturalists and experience the fun of nature!

A dedicated team of 22 volunteers led by Sherryl Smith helped make the whole day unfold smoothly, and while COVID-19 conditions reduced the usually large numbers of free-flowing children, the organized nature-inspired hunts were a great success and great fun.

Family and social “bubbles” selected the hunt they wanted to do and booked their time to attend. Most groups found one hunt enough for one day but others took advantage of some open spaces and did several. Explorers could choose from five themed adventures:

The Pollinator Path hunt was brand new and perfect for younger visitors looking to learn more about the wonderful world of insects. The path was cut through a meadow of wildflowers that provided ample opportunity for children to find a huge variety of pollinators from popular ones like bees and butterflies to lesser-known pollinators like soldier beetles and hoverflies! The hunt taught children about what kind of insects they were likely to encounter and how to spot them.

The Magical Fairies Trail hunt was fanciful and fantastic, especially for believers. With ten stops over a 2 km distance it allowed plenty of time to search for the Forest Floor Fairy Village and the Fairy King of the Forest following the dewdrop trail, to make a wish at the Wishing Well and even build another village of houses. Other stops gave fairy hunters intriguing questions to ponder and unique natural mysteries to find. Everyone seemed to love the trail, and even the adults appreciated the adventures.

Granny Sumac’s Meadow was a hunt that began by our largest Sumac tree, nicknamed “Granny Sumac”. CBC radio personality, Ed Lawrence, guided participants through the hunt, pointing out rocky outcrops and telling stories about the various flowers and trees along the trail. Children learned all about meadow habitats and also had the opportunity to complete a fun colour bingo as they went along. We are thankful for the personal touch provided by Ed and it was clear that anyone coming from this hunt had a lovely time.

The Marvelous Mammals hunt provided children with an opportunity to learn about the mammals that call this region home. Clues would teach children about what these animals eat and where they can be found. From bears to chipmunks, mammals of all shapes and sizes were featured in this hunt. While most mammals were too shy to make an appearance, the children discovered many exciting signs that mammals had passed by!

The Beavers and Life at the Pond hunt was a beaver and beaver life observation trail. While no live beavers were spotted there was a great deal of evidence they had been very busy—some industrious beavers obligingly and very recently felling trees along the trail for all to see. Children were also delighted to catch and learn about tadpoles, frogs and insects with nets by the pond’s edge. The trail ended with a small bonus hunt where children learned all about the reptiles of the region!

Special thanks to the Community partners who helped make the day such a success: Girl Gone Good, the Granary, Hummingbird Chocolate Makers, L.G. Lee and Sons and Vamos Outdoors.

With last year’s success and the 182 visitors from this year’s event, the question is: will scavenger hunts be a permanent feature in the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust’s list of yearly events?

Be a Wild Child. It’s in your Nature!