There are a few acres of tree covered land behind the Showell Elementary School located off of route 589, just north of Ocean Pines. A mythical bird, named Willet, calls that wooded area his home. The story of Willet is one that every Showell Elementary student is informed of on their first day at the school. The woods on the school property belong to Willet and are used to educate children about the benefits of our local ecosystems.
As the story goes, “Willet is a shorebird who dropped out of the sky during a nor’easter. The principal found him and no one thought he’d live. She put him in the custodian’s warm room, let him water and food, and the recovered! He was bored and read every book in the media area, played in the gym, and played in the music and art room before eventually leaving. Willet always stays around and is in our hearts. A willet is always willing to do his best at school.”
The first principal of Showell Elementary began telling students the story of Willet over 36 years ago and the tale still lives today. A trail located at the school is dedicated to the shorebird himself. It’s known as Willet’s Walk.
A willet is a sandpiper of sorts; a long-winged shorebird unique to the Eastern Shore. The bird has black and white bands on its upper and lower wing surfaces. The 14 – 17 inch bird has long, skinny legs and a thin sharp bill. It is a greyish color on top with a white underside. Although willets aren’t typically seen in the woods (they call the shoreline home), the willet makes a perfect mascot for the school that educated children who live along the coast.
The trail itself is probably only ¾-of-a mile-long. The trail entrance is clearly marked and located beside the large playground. The path is covered in fallen leaves and is lined with fallen tree branches that guide the way through the woods. The curvy, thin paths are located under mature, older trees that offer shade and sway gently from gusts of wind. At various spots along the path there are cuts through the brush that allow access to the large, open soccer fields behind the school.
A nice observation deck marks the end of the trail. The deck is located in a cul-de-sac of sorts. The trail circles around making walkers loop back the same way they came in. The observation deck looks over a marshy runoff area, growing Hickory saplings, and trees covered in holes drilled by woodpeckers. One could sit on the benches built into the deck and watch nature in blissful quiet… except for the occasional sound of passing cars on Route 589.
A few years ago, teacher aids at the school walked their first grade students along the trail. The students created a rhyming story based on their surroundings in the woods. The production, called Counting on Willet’s Walk, was recorded, made into a video, and shared during American Education Week. Similar practices are still used as a way to encourage young ones to get outside and enjoy nature. This past Friday, students worked together to present a play based upon Willet. Willet’s Walk is a great educational tool – for both the students at Showell Elementary and others.
A willet is one of our most conspicuous large shorebirds. This trail is a gem in teaching children to enjoy our local natural settings. Children will love romping through the woods, running around the open ball field, and then playing on the school’s playground afterwards. Willet’s Walk is located close to Ocean Pines and is accessible to the public. Showell Elementary School representatives said that the path is open for public use after school hours and on weekends.