BENNINGTON — Ever wonder if the sun is the world’s lightbulb?
Is the wind the world breathing?
What about if branches are the tree’s arms?
“If branches are the tree’s arms, can you spread your branches like a tree?” Linda Donigan, children’s librarian at the Bennington Free Library, asked several toddlers and their mothers Thursday as she led them along a section of the George Aiken Wildflower Trail, next to the Bennington Museum. Everyone in the group, including Deana Mallory, the museum’s director of public programs, raised their arms.
The poetic musings come from the children’s book “Wonder Walkers,” written and illustrated by New England artist Micha Archer. Donigan cut out and laminated the book’s colorful pages and placed them on posts along the trail, creating a “Trail Tale.”
A walk along part of the trail was part of a recent event through Museum ABCs, a collaboration between the museum and the library. The free program, established in 2009, aims to support literacy and familiarize young children with the museum.
Thursday’s event, which fell on a warm, sunny afternoon, also included an artmaking component, in which the children were invited to create art in a similar style to Archer’s illustrations — using collage and painting without brushes. At tables under the Hadwen Pavilion, the children painted with rollers, nature-themed stamps and various shapes. And occasionally, they would just use a finger.
“They’re so awesome. Everything is new to them. They’re discovering everything, and everything is kind of a wonder,” Mallory said of the preschool-aged participants.
This was perhaps no more evident than when a large trailer carrying multiple trucks flew by on Main Street, and Freddy Karis, 3, expressed his delight at the sight of a “truck full of trucks.” His excitement matched his T-shirt with trucks on it.
Freddy’s mother, Jan Buonanno of Bennington, said her family walks the George Aiken Wildflower Trail regularly, and she tries to bring her son to the Museum ABCs events when she can.
“Linda and Deana are just amazing, and this program feels like such a resource,” she said. “Freddy clearly loves trucks, but we get in a truck zone at home — it’s nice to have some other things.”
On the walk, Donigan gave the children magnifying glasses (and bottles of water) and invited them to explore nature, like the characters in “Wonder Walkers.” Freddy and his mother looked under a log. They thought they might find some bugs, and found a slug.
“OK, well, put the roof back on. They don’t want to get cooked,” Freddy’s mother told him when it came time to put the log back — the “roof” being the log.
Allie August of Arlington, there with her son, Ransom, 2, said this was their first time at a Museum ABCs event.
“It’s really wonderful that Miss Linda and Miss Deana put together such a nice program for the kids,” August said. “And it’s nice to be out in nature on such a gorgeous day.” She turned to Ransom and added, “You’ve been waiting all winter.”
Ali Sharpe of Bennington, said she has been coming to the Museum ABCs events for about a year. She said her daughter, Amelia, 3, does not go to day care or preschool, and the program gives her a chance to experience group activities. She noted that the organizers have done well at adapting to different ages. That day, she was also there with her son, Grant, 1.
When asked about favorite Museum ABCs events, she recalled one where the children learned about historical toys, then made their own toys out of wooden blocks.
“That was definitely a favorite,” Sharpe said.
Victoria Stubel of Bennington, was there Thursday with her son, Oskar, who will be 4 in July.
“I love that they’re always incorporating art and reading,” she said.
Donigan said the program provides an opportunity to see children “unscripted” at different developmental stages, “outside of school and outside of data.”
“They’re so creative. They see the world with such fresh eyes, and keeping with the story, their world is filled with wonder,” she said.
More information on the museum is at benningtonmuseum.org. Museum ABCs is supported by The Bank of Bennington. While organizers do not expect to hold Museum ABCs programming through the summer, the Trail Tale will stay up for the season.