As leader of my son Daniel’s Cub Scout den I need to find activities that interest my son and his fellow scouts, as well as those that fit into the criteria of scouting. Last year, I came across a wonderful solution to this ongoing challenge – the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in Cornwall, N.Y.
Our first visit to the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum was with the Scouts during the fall. We learned that the Museum was offering classes on “orienteering” which, simply put, is learning how to use various techniques for navigating your way around the woods. We learned map reading skills and how to use a compass. The final test was a race using map co-ordinates as clues to get us back to base. Our group diligently followed the clues while hiking through a variety of terrains that included wooded areas and wetlands filled with tall, waving cattails. We stopped and rested at the gazebo that overlooks the largest pond on the property and were treated to the sight of geese as they landed for a rest during their southern migration. The hiking paths at the Nature Center vary in degree of difficulty, from easy-access paths made for strollers, to paths requiring hiking shoes. The scouts and I especially liked the higher trails where we had to pay attention to the terrain; it added an element of excitement to the race. Our Hudson Highland instructors were excellent and were able to teach us effective orienteering in a few short hours. Our group came in second, out of about 20 groups!
Well Worth Returning
Since our initial visit, we’ve been back several times. The nature center has a variety of ongoing programs and attractions, so there is always something new and interesting to do. The Wildlife Education Center features its “Meet the Animals” program every Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Under the guidance of Nature Center educators, we were able to get an up-close and personal look at animals native to our area. Families can also explore the Discovery Quest Trails with the assistance of a specially created Guidebook. It’s an interactive way to learn about the environment. And finding the “hidden message” to each Quest makes the learning fun!
There are permanent exhibits at the Nature Center such as the one on reptiles and amphibians of the Hudson Highlands. There’s also the “Living Hudson” exhibit, which allowed us to follow water as it flows from highland streams into the Hudson River Estuary. We learned about the delicate balance between the river, its contributory streams, and the plants and animals living in the Hudson Valley.
“The World of Bees” exhibit is an interactive exhibit that delves into the interesting lives of these busy little insects. Bees have been a fascination to humans since prehistoric times and we learned that there are 20,000 bee species. To our amazement, we discovered that these industrious creatures aren’t all social, in fact, many live solitary lives. We also learned that they come in a variety of colors and designs, other than the familiar yellow and black honeybee. The exhibit displays are very informative. We learned about pollination, bee anatomy and how crucial bees are to the propagation of multiple species of plants. There is a full size mock-up of a section of a honeycomb that gave my kids the chance to see the world from a baby bee’s perspective. The highpoint of the exhibit was an actual colony of bees on display in an observation hive.
Always Something Special
Special events are ongoing at Hudson Highlands Nature Museum. There are outings that examine local flora and fauna, maple syrup making and bird watching. The staff is very creative in designing these various programs and events. The huge family event this spring is the Earth Day Celebration and Hike-A-Thon on Saturday, April 28. This event features crafts, pony rides, petting zoos, food and environmental education.
Bob Berry is a freelancer writer and illustrator. www.bobberryillustration.com.
When You Go …
The Hudson Highland Nature Museum –
The Museum has two adjacent facilities:
Outdoor Discovery Center. 120 Muser Dr. (across from
174 Angola Road). Cornwall, N.Y. 845-534-5506
Saturday and Sunday; most programs at 10 a.m.
Discovery Quests Hiking Trails, Saturday and Sunday mid-April to mid-November, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., trails free, guidebook $5 can be shared.
Wildlife Education Center. 25 Boulevard. Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, noon-4 p.m. Meet the Animals program at 2:30 p.m.