Mission Planet Earth:

A Stronach Park Adventure

1.5 hours .6 km return Easy

Trail Info:

This walking trail is situated in a small yet diverse forest that is surrounded by wetlands that drain into the Annapolis River just 200 m away. It is a stroller and wheelchair accessible, flat trail including a picnic park on a small grassy hill beside a pond. There is also exercise equipment along the trail that families may want to try.

Directions:

Stronach Park Trailhead
View in Google Maps

Coming from the East on Highway 101, take Exit 16 and turn left off the ramp towards Kingston. After 800 m you will come to a stop sign and turn right onto the number 1 highway. Drive through Kingston 1 km and turn left at the lights onto Bridge Street. Drive 600 m and turn into the Stronach Park on the right. Kings Transit buses go down Bridge Street and will stop if asked in front of the park

Trail Tools

Bring a daypack with water, snacks, first aid kit and anything else you need. Prepare and gather these tools for each person before heading out on the trail.

  • Frame tool for alien finding
  • Plastic container (e.g., 500 ml or 1 litre yogurt-type container)
  • Scope for spying
  • Third Eye – magnifying lens (if you have one)

Destination Planet Earth

Start just past the fence and between the 2 big pine trees on the path just beyond the parking lot.

As an alien explorer on a spaceship from the planet Hanwavel, your mission is to find life forms on other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. One solar system has a very lively planet called Earth that you are lucky enough to land on. Use this guide to discover new life forms here. The scientists on Hanwavel will be so excited to see the cool stuff you discover. Some folks say that Earth has creatures that carry their homes on their backs and creatures that breathe through their skin. Maybe you will see some of these cool creatures. Use your Adventure Journal to describe all the creatures you see and be the best planet explorers ever!

First, give yourself an alien name. Now raise up and turn on your alien antennae so you can detect life forms by wiggling your index fingers above your head. Practice the Hanwavel greeting in case you meet strange life forms:

  1. Stand with your legs apart and bend your knees.
  2. Stick your arms out to the sides and wave them up and down.
  3. In your best alien voice, say “Ooga Booga Shmuk”.
  4. Do the Hanwavel greeting to any life form you see along your journey. 

Report to your ship’s galactic transporter to beam down to Earth:

  1. One at a time, stand between the 2 big trees.
  2. Hold your arms straight above your head.
  3. Turn around three times and jump forward.

Our Home – The Milky Way Galaxy

Our solar system, with the Sun at its centre, is home to 8 planets. Earth is the 3rd planet away from our sun, and the only one that we know can sustain life.

1. Earthling Welcome

Walk 25 m until you see the strange climbing structure to the left of the trail.

The Earthlings want to welcome you with this alien monument. Earthlings love strange things because they know that it takes all kinds of life forms to keep the planet working properly. Since Hanwavelians use all their senses to explore, climb on this monument to understand what it means to you.

  • Come up with 5 words to describe this monument.
  • Draw the monument and write your words in your Adventure Journal.

2. Greet the Wee Ones

Walk 15 m to where the trail widens and there is an exercise climber to the right.

Start small. Look at the forest floor in front of you with all the green things sticking out.

  1. Get low to the ground on your hands and knees and use your third eye (magnifying lens), or good eyes, to search for small life forms. 
  2. Be sure to gently look around leaves and rocks. You may find some delicate creatures that you don’t want to squish. There could be red-backed-sliders, 8-legged-jumpers, multi-leg-crawlers or slow-oozy-blobs or armoured-scramblers.
  3. Use your Adventure Journal to track your finds!
  4. Place any creatures gently back where you found them.

Do the Hanwavel greeting to these creatures.

When red-backed-sliders, which are called “salamanders” by some Earthlings, are threatened, they wiggle rapidly which startles a predator, causing them to be dropped so they can make a quick escape! When you walk along trail, do the Salamander Wiggle by moving your hips and arms side-to-side in opposite directions. When you hear a bird, freeze!

Look for red-backed salamanders under old logs all along the trail. Be sure to gently put them back and don’t handle them if you have bug spray or sunscreens on your hands. The best way to pick up creatures is in a leaf so that oils on your hands don’t affect their delicate skin.

Red Backed Salamanders 

This trail is a great spot to find salamanders because it is surrounded by wetland. They are born in water and then crawl out to live life on land as adults. Their skin is sensitive and although they have lungs, they also take oxygen in through their skin. This is why their skin needs to always be moist and chemicals can hurt them. The five kinds of salamanders living in Nova Scotia are the red-backed salamander, yellow-spotted salamander, red-spotted newt, four-toed salamander and blue-spotted salamander. Salamanders use sight and smell to find insects, worms, snails, spiders and slugs to eat.

http://canadianherpetology.ca/species/species_page.html?cname=Western%20Red-backed%20Salamander

3. Look for Life in Death

Take the path to the left and walk 45 m to where there is a trail going off to the left.

Look at this old dead tree with the holes in it. It looks like some kind of communication tower for life forms.

Use it to create the Hanwavel “all is well” signal to send to your ship.

  1. Place small sticks in the holes in the tower to create a V–shape pattern.
  2. Send the signal by tapping out a message on the sticks.

Standing dead trees are called snags. Does this snag still have life? Look closely around the old snag and maybe you can find signs of other life forms using this old tree as a place to live. Do the Hanwavel greeting to all the creatures you find.

Figure out the size of this old snag for your Adventure Journal report by using your hands to measure around the trunk. Line your hands and the hands of your companions side by side around the tree and note how many hands it takes to go around. Then, estimate the height of the tree using yourself as a measuring tool. If you were to stand on your own head, how many of you would it take to reach the top?

4. Quick… Make Shelters!

Back on the main trail, walk 45 m to where the trail widens and there is a chin up bar.

Wiggle your antennae around. You detect a storm coming and rain makes you hiccup uncomfortably. You and your companions need to work together to quickly make a shelter for yourselves! Use the dead materials you find on the ground to build a comfy place to rest for a few minutes and have a snack and drink. If you have time, make mini-shelters for small creatures to show you are an earthling friend.

Leave-No-Trace – Once you are finished playing with the shelters, put the forest materials back where you found them for others to find and use later. Pick up any trash and leave the forest looking even more natural than you found it.

Netukulimk
Basket Making

Mi’kmaq depended on forest materials for their lifestyle. For example, Black ash (wisqoq in Mi’kmaw) is the material of choice for Mi’kmaw basket making. This smaller tree grows in damp areas of woods or on the borders of marshy streams or rivers. This trail is surrounded by marshy areas draining into the Annapolis River— a good place for Black Ash. Black Ash is easy to peel into thin strips and bend, making it ideal for basketmaking. It is a threatened species in Nova Scotia for a variety of reasons such as poor harvesting practices and vulnerability to disease, but its biggest threat is the Emerald Ash Borer, which is an invasive beetle that lives in the ash tree and can kill it within a few years. It was first spotted in Nova Scotia in Bedford in 2018.

http://bhort.bh.cornell.edu/tree/blackash.htm

Traditionally the Mi’kmaq were nomadic and baskets were needed to carry food and supplies from their camps near the water during the warm months to the inland camps during the winter. Originally baskets were made from roots and looked more like bags, but after European contact, the Mi’kmaq began to make splint baskets from ash trees. The need for large baskets for work diminished over time after the Europeans’ arrival and the availability of industrial products. Mi’kmaw basket makers began to make fancy baskets with intricate and colourful designs as well as wooden flowers.

Rita Smith, the first Chief of Glooscap First Nation (near Windsor), or Horton, as it was called at the time, was a world renowned basket maker. Some of her family members have carried on the tradition and still create baskets today. Check out wisqoq.ca, a wonderful resource for more information about traditional Mi’kmaq uses of Black Ash. It includes a video clip of Rita Smith and her grandchildren on Sesame Street, explaining how to make a basket. 

Learn about Netukulimk

6. Find Feathered Friends

Walk straight along the path for 60 m until you see 3 balance beams in front of you.

Everyone spread out with 2 meters between you and sit on the wooden beams facing the wet area. The flying creatures love this lush green wetland with its thick ferns and lots of bushy green plants. Use your alien spy scope or binoculars to search for feathered friends in the trees and bushes. Try calling some feathered flyers:

  1. Sit very still and quiet for 30 seconds.
  2. Then make this sound: “psh, psh, psh.”
  3. Repeat it several times. This often attracts feathered flyers.

Feathered flyers have excellent hearing.

  1. Spread out 5 meters along the trail and listen for a couple minutes.
  2. How many different calls do you hear? Compare your numbers.

Feathered flyers also use special calls to find each other. Try it.

  1. Partner up and each pair agrees on a feathered flyer song or call that you both can do. One person does not partner up and watches others for safety as below.
  2. The partners split and go 5 meters away from each other on the flat trail.
  3. Everyone closes their eyes.
  4. Make your agreed-upon call and with eyes closed try to find your partner. The spotter watches for safety.
  5. Give your partner a hug when you find them.

Do the Hanwavel greeting to all the feathered friends when you leave.

7. Discover Tree Beings

Walk 30 m to where there is a barrier in the path to the left and a tree in the middle of the trail. This activity is done along the trail for about 60 m and stops at the next trail going right.

Do you feel like you are being watched from above? Look up. Are these tall forms with wild branches the elders of the forest? They are ever present and silently growing from their tips while their lower branches die due to low light.

  1. Walk along the trail and stop at large tall being. Everyone finds their own being, lie down underneath it and look up.
  2. Get to know the being by looking at its fuzzy crown and branching arms, then look at its foot digging into the earth and the wrinkles in its ankle.
  3. Draw a picture of the being in your Adventure Journal. Give them a name and personality.

You have been gone a long time. Take out your alien face finding tool to see if you can find the faces of your friends and family in the forest. Hold it at arm’s length with both hands so you can see through it and find faces everywhere you turn. Look on tree bark, roots and in the branches to start.

  1. Find the Grumpy face of Uncle Glug.
  2. Find the Happy face of Grandma Boop.
  3. Find the Surprised face of Cousin Farfle.
  4. Find the Silly face of your best friend Lalee .
  5. What other faces can you find? Share them with your group.

8. Catch a Critter

From the spot where the last activity ended, where a side trail turns right, walk 40 m on the main trail and turn down the second trail that goes to the right, across from the balance ropes.

Practice your spotting skills by catching critters on the move! Keep on the look out for quick and noisy bushy-tailed climbers and striped-ground-burrowers. Greet them the Hanwavel way! Bushy-tails prefer to spend time in the trees scolding intruders and ground-burrowers scurry and chirp warning calls from piles of brush on the forest floor.

  1. Choose one Critter Catcher and everyone else are Critters.
  2. The Catcher stands at least 3 meters away from the Critters.
  3. The Catcher turns away while the Critters pretend they are squirrels or chipmunks.
  4. The Critters start to move and the Catcher turns around unexpectedly and tries to catch the Critters moving.
  5. The Critters must move to a different position each time the Catcher turns away.
  6. The first Critter to get caught moving trades places with the Catcher.

BONUS CHALLENGE – If you see a striped-ground-burrower, see how close you can get to it before it runs away. How do you need to act to get really close? Some folks report getting to within a metre!

9. Find Pond Life

Continue along this trail for 70 m and walk to the edge of the pond and turn left.

Walk along the edge of the pond towards the cattails. Look in the water for strange life forms. Some of these life forms have shells that they carry around on their backs and some can hop quite well and hold their breath for a long time. Do you know what they are? Write down all the life forms you see in and around the pond.

Try to take a picture of a hopping creature along the water’s edge. You will need to sneak very slowly and quietly to get close up.

Use your plastic container to scoop up water from the pond and find water creatures in the squelchy muck.

Creatures in the Pond

Look out for woodturtles in the pond. They are one of the four species of turtles in Nova Scotia and are listed as threatened in this area. They have a bumpy shell that is dark grey to brown, with orange markings when wet. The skin of the throat, tail, and limbs are orange-red. Other native species you might see are snapping turtles, green frogs, dragonflies and black ducks. Invasive species you might see are giant water snails, goldfish and red-eared slider turtles.

Not all of these creatures are from here. Some of them are also alien species, but they come from other places on Earth. Unlike you, they don’t plan on leaving. Some of these alien species are not good for wild places and can out-compete the native species and take over their habitat. Some alien animal species here are giant spiral-shells, golden-swimmers and shelled-red-ears. In your Adventure Journal, draw and write your own descriptions about the animals you see in and around the pond. 

Invasive giant water snail

Earth Steps

Invasive alien species are species that have been introduced from distant places. They can quickly spread and replace native species and take over habitats and ecosystems. Nova Scotia has a long history of species introductions. Up to a third of the plants in our province are exotic species introduced by humans, but only some are invasive and a problem for natural ecosystems. Here are some things you can do to slow the spread of invasive species…

•  Learn what invasive species are in your area and keep a look out for them.

• Make sure you do not carry or spread seeds of invasive plants from place to place, or release pet creatures.

• Plant native species in gardens rather than exotic ones, especially exotics that spread easy.

• Tell others about invasive species in Nova Scotia.

10. Discover Hanwavel Symbol

Walk back along the pond to the gate between the edge of the pond and the parking lot.

There are old stories back on Hanwavel of a previous group of explorers coming to this place. They were called the ‘Earth Adventures Mission’ and they are said to have left a symbol of one of their favourite creature discoveries here on earth where few could find it. It is said to be somewhere very near the stone structure and gate, but it is attached to wood.

If you find it, make a rubbing of it in your Adventure Journal to prove you were here. Post the name of the creature on it below to get your creature sticker.

The plaque symbol is:

!

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You may also want to upload a few of your favourite photos to the Photo Gallery.

11. Beam Back to Your Ship

Stay at the gate.

It is time to return to your ship. You can place your creature bark shape here as a gift to the Earthlings or you can keep it as a souvenir. Do the Hanwavel greeting once more, as it also means goodbye and thank you. Stand on the bridge before the gate and jump as high as you can through it to beam back up.

Congratulations, you have successfully completed your exploratory planet Earth mission. Have everyone compare their lists of Earth creatures when you return to your ship. How many did you find?

More information about Stronach Park can be found at the Village of Kingston’s website and Valley Family Fun.

Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) Stronach Park is just 200 meters away from the Annapolis river and home to some special animals and plants that are important parts of the river ecosystem. Some of these species include the Wood Turtle, Snapping Turtle and many wetland plants. The health of the park is important to the whole river system and the Clean Annapolis River Project Society works to promote the health of the river system, including all water ways that lead to the Annapolis River. Find out about and get involved in any of the many conservation and education projects that CARP is working on in your area.

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Tap share and then "Add to Homescreen".