Adult Community Programs

The Hitchcock Center offers a wide range of adult education programs aimed at fostering greater environmental awareness, literacy and action. These programs are offered through our highly skilled education staff as well as through a strong network of scientists, naturalists, environmentalists, educators, advocates and organizations who partner with the Hitchcock Center.

Community programs are listed here by subject category. To view programs chronologically, please visit our calendar.

Did you know that your EBT card can be used to access membership and programs at the Hitchcock Center?
Learn more about the EBT Card to Culture Program.

Sustainability series programs sponsored by:

Wright Builders


Nature All Year Study Club 2017

Sundays once per month, 9:00 am – 12:00 noon (some class times may vary depending on topics)
Members $275/Non-members $325 for the full course
Drop-in cost is $27. For the Plum Island field trip, the drop-in cost is $45.
Register here
Join us for our fourth year of offering an in-depth natural history course for naturalists and citizen scientists. Each month, in our series of nature explorations with different local naturalists, we explore a focused, seasonal, natural history topic. We’ll look at nature in new ways, from broad habitat perspectives to close details of individual species. Over the course of the year we’ll visit a variety of natural habitats in the greater Pioneer Valley area. Identification skills, ecological connections, adaptations, and life cycles of organisms will be the focus of our observations.

Course dates and leaders are available here. Bring your curiosity and observation skills and be prepared to spend time outdoors. Dress for the weather as we rarely cancel due to inclement weather. Bring binoculars and a hand lens, water and snacks if you would like. Carpooling to more distant locations will be encouraged.

Monarch Tagging

Jennifer Unkles, Monarch tagger since 1997
Thursday, September 14, 4pm- 6pm

Sunday, September 17, 2pm- 4pm – Program filled
FREE, Registration appreciated
Help with this ongoing citizen science project and get up close and personal with Monarch butterflies. It’s a good year for Monarchs! Fun for all ages.

Garden Work Day

Saturday, September 16, 1-3pm
Registration appreciated
Come help with all our new native gardens and kids nature play areas. Bring tools and help us spruce up the place for autumn.

Oaks and Hickories

with Ted Watt and Nancy Goodman, naturalists
Saturday, Sept 30, 9am-2pm*
Members $25/Non-members $35
Space is limited. Registration required.

Join Nancy and Ted for another look at our Massachusetts oaks and hickories species. We have gathered leaves, twigs and nuts from the various species and will carefully review them with you. These species groups are extremely important to the diversity of our forests and provide tremendous mast for wildlife food as winter approaches. You will leave with a greater command of how to identify these challenging species! *Note: This program has been changed from it’s original schedule.

Saturday Family Science!

Second Saturdays, September – December
September 9, October 14, November 11, December 9
Registration appreciated. Groups of 6 or more please call ahead.

Join us for seasonal nature and science programs each second Saturday of the month. Designed for children with their parents, these programs will explore cool topics in nature. Learn more…

Saturday Science themes:
September 9 – Living with Black Bears
October 14 – Slime Time
November 11 – Composting Critters|
December 9 – Exploring Dinosaurs

The “Environmental Canon” Book Club – A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

with Rae Griffiths – Teaching Creatures and Casey Beebe – Hitchcock
First half of book: Sunday, November 5, 2pm-3:30pm OR Thursday, November 16, 6pm-7:30pm
Second half of book: Wednesday, January 10, 6pm-7:30pm OR Sunday, January 21, 2pm-3:30pm
FREE, Registration appreciated
Join us to read through some of the most classic and beloved books in environmental and nature writing. They stand the test of time and illuminate new things in the current era. Have you read this beautiful classic A Sand County Almanac. We hope you will join us in reading your favorites again or reading them for the first time.

Viewing the Night Sky

with James Lowenthal, Professor of Astronomy at Smith College and active in the International Dark-Sky Association
Friday, September 29, 7:15pm
Saturday, October 21, 7:00pm
Friday, November 10, 6:30pm
Saturday, December 2, 6:30pm
FREE, Registration appreciated
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
James will provide telescopes and help us view constellations, planets, galaxies and stars from our Hitchcock hilltop. We’ll discuss what we are viewing including science facts as well as legends from other cultures that teach deeper lessons about how we can connect with the sky. We, of course, cannot be sure of providing clear skies for viewing so, no matter what the sky conditions, we’ll have additional activities planned to teach you more about the sky. Dress for the weather and be prepared to expand your horizons!

Morning Nature Walks for Seniors

with John Green, naturalist
Thursday, October 12, 9am-11am – Hadley
Thursday, November 9, 9am-11am – Quabbin in New Salem
FREE but space is limited and registration required.
Join John Green a life long naturalist as he ambles through a habitat looking and listening. Fall is a wonderful time to explore nature and get breaths of fresh crisp air.

Exploring for Mushrooms

with Dianna Smith, Pioneer Valley Mycological Association
Saturday, October 14, 9am – 12pm, Mt Toby State Reservation
Members $20/Non-members $25
Space is limited. Register here.
Join Dianna for an in-depth exploration of our fungi. She can identify to species whatever we find and fill us in on each species’ unique adaptations, identifying characters, and ecology. You will leave her walks with a greatly increased knowledge base of our local mushrooms and motivation to keep learning on your own. Visit her web site for more information Dress for being outdoors. Directions to the meeting site will be provided prior to the program.

Pumpkins and Bats Oh My: A Fall Evening Family Program

Friday, October 27, 6pm- 7:30pm
Members $10 per child/Non-members $12 per child, must come with an adult.
Space is limited, registration required.

Join us for an enchanted fall evening of a pumpkin lit walk and a family program about bats. In lieu of Enchanted Forest (which is being revamped) this year we will be offering this family program.

PLEASE NOTE: The Enchanted Forest is closed for renovation. We are taking a break this year to revamp the event.

“Holey Basalt”: Amazing Geologic Stories in the Holyoke Range

with Richard Little, Geologist
Friday, November 3, 7pm – 8:30pm (indoor presentation)
Saturday, November 4, 9am – 12pm (field trip)
Members $32/Non-members $40
Space is limited. Register here.
The Holyoke Range runs east-west extending to the west from the Amherst area and then curves southward extending across Connecticut. It is composed of more than 400 feet of basalt lava formed during the Age of Dinosaurs’ Jurassic Period. Find out about the development of this significant major landscape feature, the backbone of the Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts and Connecticut. You will learn about Pangaea, flood basalts, dikes, sills, glaciers, and the development of the Connecticut Valley, its dramatic topography and Lake Hitchcock. And you will see some fascinating rock formations! Many interesting mysteries will be unraveled in this program.

Naturally Curious

Mary Holland, Naturalist, Blogger and Author
Sunday, November 5, 1pm-2:30pm
Ages 4th grade and up.
Members $12/Non-members $15
Registration appreciated.

In her presentation Mary will describe in detail natural events that take place each month throughout the year. Her talk will be richly illustrated with her own projected images: lady’s slippers in bloom, beavers chewing, red maple flowers welcoming spring…and more. She also brings an extensive natural history artifact collection for you to examine before and after the program. She will make time after her presentation for your nature questions so come prepared to ask. She will bring her books for sale.  For further information check out her beloved blog.

Swallows in Massachusetts—How You Can Help

Mara Silver, Local swallow researcher and dedicated conservationist
Wednesday, November 15, 7pm- 8:30pm
FREE, Registration appreciated
Swallows are aerial insectivores, which means that they catch insects on the wing. Unfortunately, many species in this group are declining at an alarming rate. We don’t know all the reasons why, but possibilities include habitat loss, climate change, pesticide use, and increasingly intense agricultural practices. Fortunately there are ways we can help these birds during their four-month breeding season with us. Mara will discuss the natural history of the swallows that breed in western Massachusetts and describe simple techniques she has used to increase breeding success at her study sites.

An Invisible Terror: Birds and Window Collisions

Brandon Hedrick, evolutionary and conservation biologist at Harvard University and collaborating scientist with the Hitchcock Center
Friday, November 17, 6:30-7:30 pm
FREE, Registration appreciated
Following deforestation, window collisions are the number one, human-made cause of bird mortality, with estimates as high as 1 billion birds per year in the United States alone. By identifying areas that are particularly dangerous for birds, we can better mitigate this problem by targeting specific windows and locations for intervention. Of particular concern are the glass breezeways connecting buildings. He will also share some of the solutions designed to avoid this problem. Come learn more about the Amherst Bird Strikes Project and how you can help us protect our local and migratory birds. There will be time at the end for questions and comments.


Our Living Building Tour Program

First Fridays at 4pm: September 1, October 6, November 3, December 1
Third Wednesdays at 12pm: August 16, September 20, October 18, November 15, December 20
FREE but please register online
Come meet our newest educator – our building! It is designed to model systems in nature, it is net zero energy, net zero water, has composting toilets, and has been made with responsibly sourced non-toxic materials, come check it out at one of our bi-monthly tours. Tours typically last from 1-1.5 hours. Note: We are pleased to be able to offer Spanish language translators for our building tours. If you or someone you know could benefit from translation, please let us know in advance, so that we may schedule a translator for your tour date.

Carbon Pricing: The Keystone to Saving Our Planet?
with Mary Jo Maffei, Chair of Carbon Pollution and Rebate Committee, Climate Action Now and Mark Hart, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Amherst
Wednesday, September 27, 7pm
FREE, Registration appreciated 

Have you been wondering what Carbon Pricing is or what a Carbon Pollution Fee and Rebate would be? It is a broad, market-based initiative that is critical to lowering carbon emissions.  Virtually all economist support this approach and it has been successfully implemented around the world Massachusetts currently has two bills in the State House (S1821 and H1726) that would put a fee on carbon pollution. MA legislation is particularly important because it can become a model for other states and our country. There is a coalition of groups working to pass these bills. This presentation will include ways that you can help pass this essential legislation. This program is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Living Building Docent Training Series

Wednesdays, October 4, 11, 18, 25, 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Registration required
Hampshire College and the Hitchcock Center are working together to train docents in the Living Building Challenge and to lead innovative building tours for the public and special groups at our two new LBC buildings. Each building is a valuable educational tool to teach about energy efficiency, rainwater capture, composting toilets, non toxic building materials, etc. We are looking for individuals passionate about green building and comfortable leading and talking to the public to train as Living Building Docents.

The Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge

Jessica Schultz, Living Building Challenge Ambassador
Thursday, October 5, 7pm-8:30pm
FREE, Registration appreciated
The Hitchcock Center took the Living Building Challenge in building its new building. The Challenge is an innovative philosophy that asks us, “What does good look like?” What does it mean to build healthy homes and communities that are regenerative, socially and environmentally just? Come learn about the Challenge and how it can be a framework for influencing decisions we make in our daily lives.

Moving Toward Zero Waste for Amherst

Thursday, October 19, 6pm-9pm
FREE, Registration appreciated

With the League of Women Voters of Amherst, the Recycling and Refuse Management Committee of Amherst, the Sustainability Department of Amherst and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment
Join us to learn about this new initiative to raise awareness about zero waste and to educate the community about how to move toward this goal. This evening will be used to plan action steps to reduce waste on an individual and municipal level. There will an interesting audio-visual program, large group interaction and smaller group work to develop individual and community strategies to adopt a plan to reduce waste.
6pm-7pm: Refreshments and tour of Hitchcock Center
7pm-9pm: Learn about what’s being planned and share your ideas for helping to reduce waste and promote recycling in Amherst

Repair Public: An Experiment in Community Fixery

Sunday, October 22, 1pm- 4pm
FREE, registration appreciated
Repair Public is an exercise in community resourcefulness. The basic idea is to encourage people to learn how and/or where to fix broken items instead of tossing them into a landfill and buying replacements. The participants and facilitators are local community members just like you. You bring a broken item that you want help repairing as well as a willingness to try to fix it. There will be repair facilitators on-hand to help you figure out how to fix your treasure, each with one or more areas of specialty. We’ll have various tools available for use, as well as some basic supplies like screws, tape, glue, wire nuts, needles, threads, and probably appliance cord with some plug-ends. With all these ingredients, we intend to repair whatever you decide to bring in.

DO bring:

Generally speaking, DON’T bring:

What We Can Do About Light Pollution

James Lowenthal, Professor of Astronomy at Smith College and active in the International Dark-Sky Association
Wednesday, November 8, 7pm- 8:30pm
FREE, Registration appreciated

You may have seen images of Earth’s continents at night with metropolitan areas glowing from all our lights! James will lead a discussion of the current impacts that our use of lighting is having both on our own health and on the animals and plants that share the planet with us. Not only are these lights bad for nature but they are bad for us, too. James will describe work he and others are doing to reduce unnecessary light and offer opportunities for you to get involved in helping make progress around this important issue. Weather permitting we’ll also spend some time star-gazing!

Tour of Amherst Wastewater Treatment Facility

Thursday, November 16, 10am-11:30am
FREE but space is limited, Registration is required.

We think it is good to know where our water comes from and where it goes. We just turn on our faucets and flush our toilets but what’s the infrastructure that makes that possible. Come tour the facility that receives Amherst’s wastewater and see what happens there. At this special facility tiny microorganisms normally present in wastewater are given optimum conditions to feed on biodegradable matter, come check it out.

Air Source Heat Pumps – The Latest in Efficient Heating & Cooling

with Center for EcoTechnology
Wednesday, December 6, 7- 8:30pm
FREE, Registration appreciated

An air source heat pump is a system which transfers heat from outside to inside a building, or vice versa. Air at any temperature above absolute zero contains some energy. An air-source heat pump transfers (‘pumps’) some of this energy as heat from one place to another, for example between the outside and inside of a building. This can provide space heating or cooling. A single system can be designed to transfer heat in either direction, to heat or cool the interior of the building in winter and summer respectively.



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