Youngsters explore outdoors and learn about the forest in celebration of Arbor Day. 

If there is a slug somewhere in the forest, preschooler Mabel Johnson will probably find it.

"This one is orange," she said to the group, pointing at a thick mandarin-colored slug perched on a tree stump — the third slug she had found that day. Soon a group of about 10 kids surrounded the small creature, inspecting its every move with magnifying glasses.

On Wednesday, April 27, students from the Community Arts Preschool and their families ventured into Springbrook Park to learn more about the trees and creatures that make up Lake Oswego. It also was a chance for kids and their parents to explore the forest together, said Anne Lider, a member of the Friends of Springbrook Park group.

Through the hourlong exploration, the preschoolers were geared up with buckets, magnifying glasses and clear tubes to pick up pieces of nature as they went about their walk.

PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Preschoolers explore Springbrook Park and learn what makes up the forest, like snails.

"I liked finding the slugs ... and looking at the trillium flowers," Mabel said. "(I learned about) the flowers when I was walking with my friend one time."

Sue Thomas, a volunteer guide with Friends of Springbrook Park, led the group on the nature walk, encouraging the young children to touch parts of nature like leaves, bark and even a snail. She also taught the group what a healthy tree looks like from its roots, leaves and stumps.

"Healthy trees are kind of like our group," she said, referencing the crowd of people huddled around her. "We have babies, medium-size and tall people. … The forest has all of these (characteristics)."

The children were exploring the natural landscape in honor of Arbor Day, which is dedicated to celebrating the trees and forestry in communities. The nature walk, however, is an annual event hosted by the Friends for over a decade.

"(My favorite part) is probably the excitement that children have when out in the forest," Thomas said. "It is really fun when they start to connect things. They see something, and then later on, they know what that plant is."

Throughout the walk, the students learned the anatomy of different plants, how to tell how old a tree is by the rings on its stump and how every single organism in the forest is a valued part of its ecosystem. PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Teacher Anne Carter guided one of her students to look at the leaves on a bush through her magnifying glass.

Anne Carter, a teacher at the preschool, said it's exciting to see her students experience nature.

"My favorite part is really seeing them experience nature and learn to respect the forest and understand that we leave the forest the way that we found it … and to see the excitement of watching things grow around us," Carter said. "(They can) really understand the importance of taking care of the forests."

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