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.

Online registration for the winter season is available program by program below
– look for the link under each program listing.

NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS

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.

Spring Birding Class

with Scott Surner
Classes: Wednesdays, 6:30pm-8pm – 2/1, 3/1, 4/12, 5/3, 5/17
Field Trips: 2/3-4, 3/5, 3/18, 4/8, 4/15, 4/29, 5/6, 5/13, 5/20, 6/10-11
Register here – this course is full, waitlist only
Join this Hitchcock tradition! Scott has been leading this class since 1979. Space is limited and in high demand. Class dates and locations. Online registration opens on January 10th at 9am. Members $275/Non-members $315.

Henry Street Spotted Salamander Egg Mass Count

Patrick O’Roark, Hitchcock Center Educator and Volunteers
Saturday, April 29, Noon-2 pm
Free – Registration required for program details
The ‘famous’ Henry Street spotted salamanders will have laid their egg masses in the swamp by early April. And we want to get out there and see how many there are! This is a good way to census a population that is otherwise tough to count even under the best conditions. We’ll be up to our hips in cold muddy water, looking for and counting the tennis ball-sized clear, jelly balls of eggs! Sound like fun? Come on out! Training provided.

Skydancer! Woodcock Program

with Dan Ziomek, local birder and host of Birdsongs on WRSI, the River
Friday, April 7, 6-9 pm

Member price $15/Non-Member price $18 Register here
Recommended for adults and young people 4th grade and up
Each spring a wonderful species of “shore” bird returns from their wintering grounds to nest near the wetlands and forests of the Valley. Mostly they are incredibly secretive, well-camouflaged and difficult to see. But during the mating season the males perform a beautiful sky dance at sunset; to attract a mate. Dan will explain the life cycle of the American Woodcock and then take us out to see the mating dance! Bring binoculars and dress warm for the evening chill! We may be carpooling to the dancing ground depending on where the action is this year!

Birding By Ear

John Green, Naturalist
Saturday, April 22 (Earth Day!), Station Road Rail Trail
Sunday, May 28 (Memorial Day Weekend!), Quabbin Park
Each walk, 7–10 am
Members $20/Non-members $30 per walk. Register here

John will guide you on a listening walk through a variety of local habitats. He will point out the songs and calls of a variety of spring nesting songbirds. He will share strategies about how to distinguish some of the sound-a-like songs and will help you connect the visual image with the sound! He will explore several varied habitats and specify which species live in each so you can more easily determine who is singing!

A Garden in the Woods of the Past

Eric Johnson, University of Massachusetts Archeological Services
Wednesday, April 26, 7:00 pm
Free – registration appreciated
What was life like here in western Massachusetts three to four thousand years ago? A combination of archaeological excavations and analysis of ancient sediments from Kampoosa Bog in Stockbridge yielded exciting new evidence that the ancient hunter-gatherers of this region practiced wildlife management. By controlled burning of the forest understory, they increased the abundance of important food animals and plants. They effectively created a garden in the woods. In this illustrated lecture, Eric will describe the archaeological and environmental studies under taken at Kampoosa and discuss the evidence they produced.

VALLEY BIRD DAYS – May 5-13
May is nature’s most magical month, the perfect time to celebrate the wonder of birds. At Valley Bird Days programs and events, you are invited to experience birds’ beauty and song, their diversity and identification, their amazing migration patterns and nesting strategies, and their other adaptations for survival. Valley Bird Days highlights bird conservation – how we learn about and help birds through the efforts of individuals and organizations.
 
Join the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Mass Audubon at Arcadia WIldlife Sanctuary, Kestrel Land Trust, US Fish and Wildlife Service – Region 5, and others for a range of programs at our individual sites – all to celebrate the beauty and stewardship of birds!

Check out the Valley Bird Days to view programs at all the sites or download Valley Bird Days (PDF) events.

Bird Walk at the Fort River Refuge

Sunday, May 7, 7:00-9:30 am
Ted Watt, Hitchcock Center naturalist
No registration necessary
Join us for a spring morning bird walk as part of Valley Bird Days. We’ll make our way along the new accessible trail, looking and listening for songbirds returning from the tropics for their spring nesting season. The colors and sounds of nature will heighten our sense of beauty and help us appreciate anew the amazing variety of life that share the planet with us! Think warblers! Bring binoculars and dress for the weather. It can still be quite cold early on a May morning. If it’s only misty or drizzly we’ll go, heavy rain cancels. This program is a part of Valley Bird Days.

Spring Wildflowers!

Nancy Goodman, local naturalist and plant conservation volunteer with the New England Wild Flower Society
Sunday, May 7, 9am-noon
Members $20/Non-members $30 Register here

Nancy will guide us on a leisurely stroll along a section of Mitch’s Way in Hadley. The unpaved road parallels the Connecticut River through extensive floodplain forest habitat. We will find a variety of trees and wildflowers; and probably some wonderful warblers, too! Bring binoculars, and hand lens, and be prepared to take notes.

Saving American Kestrels & Other Avian Migrants

Dave King, Research Wildlife Biologist for the US Forest Service and Adjunct Associate Professor of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
May 9, 6:30 pm
$5 suggested donation. Registration appreciated

Dave specializes in the lives of migratory birds as well as the conservation of their global populations. As a member of the Kestrel Land Trust Advisory Council, he helped to spearhead the land trust’s efforts to save its namesake, the American Kestrel. This beautiful bird is the smallest falcon in North America, and its population is in decline. Dave will share the story of the trust’s Kestrel Nest Box program, and talk about the life history of these beautiful falcons, as well as efforts to conserve critical habitats for migratory birds of all kinds. You’ll be able to view the kestrel box in the field below the new Hitchcock Center and find out how you can get involved in this important effort to aid a species at risk!

Biothon 2017

May 12-14 and June 2-4
The Hitchcock Center’s 18th Annual 2017 Biothon starts May 12th! You’ve heard of marathons, walk-a-thons, and dance-a-thons: this is our version. Biothon is a fundraiser for the Hitchcock Center’s environmental education programs. And it’s a fun and educational way to document the biodiversity of our region. Biothon is a team event during peak spring biodiversity. Join a team, start your own team, or donate to support a team. Learn more about Biothon or register for a Biothon outing below.

Bluebirds and Bluebird House Building

Ted Watt, Hitchcock Center naturalist and David Dunn, woodworker
Saturday, May 13, 10-noon
Members $20 per family/per house/Non-members $30. $5 additional fee for walk-ins; all materials included. Recommended for adults and including young people 4th grade and up. Space is limited. Register here

Come on over to the new building and learn more about these beautiful birds. We’ll start with a slide show about the birds, their natural history, nesting cycle, and habitat requirements. If you have a big lawn, open, treeless land or pastures (but not wooded acreage) you might be able to attract them to nest boxes. After the slide show you will work with the bluebird house kits to assemble a house ready to take home and put up in the right place. Bring your own Phillips-head screwdriver and come prepared to take notes!

Explore A Rich Forest

Glenn Motzkin, Plant ecologist
Saturday, June 3, 9am-noon
Members $20/Non-members $30 Register here

In ecological terms a rich, mesic forest means one where the soils are not highly acid, are rich in certain minerals, and where the soil is moist but not wet. We will explore an area with a good variety of trees, wildflowers and ferns. Glenn will help bring the ecology of this habitat alive for you and will share recent understandings about the importance of these habitats. Be prepared for insects and perhaps ticks. Directions to our meeting location will be provided upon registration.

Tree and Wildflower Nature Walk

Nancy Goodman and Ted Watt, local naturalists and Plant Conservation Volunteers with the New England Wild Flower Society
Saturday, June 24, 9-noon
Members $20/Non-members $30 Register here

We’ll hike some of the trails at the Trustees of Reservations new Mt. Warner property in Hadley. We’ll look for wildflowers and at the variety of trees found on the reservation. And we’ll look and listen for nesting woodland birds along the way. Bring your curiosity, binoculars and be prepared to take notes.

The Hawley Bog!

Glenn Motzkin, Plant ecologist
July 1, 8:30 am – noon
Members $20/Non-members $30 Register here

If you haven’t explored Hawley Bog in the high Berkshires yet, don’t miss this opportunity. More common to our north, bogs are typically high-acid, nutrient-poor habitats. And the bog plants possess a variety of fascinating adaptations to help them thrive under these conditions. You’ll see insect-eating plants, the plant that makes peat moss, and several native orchids! We will be walking on a boardwalk and will be in the open hot sun for a portion of the trip so sun protection is suggested. Directions to our meeting location provided upon registration.

Ants in Your Plants

Elizabeth Farnsworth
Saturday, July 15, 2017, 1:00-3:30 pm
Members $33/Non-members $40 Register here
E.O. Wilson dubbed ants “the little things that run the world.” Discover these amazing creatures, led by a coauthor of Field Guide to Ants of New England. Enjoy a slideshow about their biology, followed by a foray to find many ants. Learn how to identify and appreciate these creatures, which are essential to the life of plants—and humans. Co-sponsored with the New England Wildflower Society.

Fun with Ferns

Elizabeth Farnsworth
Thursday, July 20, 2017, 10:00am – 2:30 pm
Members $60/Non-members $72 Register here
Elizabeth Farnsworth (aka “Fernsworth”), coauthor of the Peterson Field Guide to the Ferns, will introduce you to the major groups of true ferns, moonworts, horsetails, clubmosses, spikemosses, and quillworts. We will learn how to identify these plants, discuss their lifestyles and ecology, view specimens under a microscope, and travel into the field to view a variety of these diverse plants. Co-sponsored with the New England Wildflower Society.

River Flood Plain Explorations

Ted Watt, Hitchcock Center Naturalist
Saturdays, July 22, August 5 & August 26, 9am-noon
Members $50 for series or $20 per walk /Non-members $80 for series or $30 per walk Register here
One of our most significant natural habitats here in the Valley is our flood plain forests. We’ll visit 3 different flood plain forests, a different location each date, looking at the plants and exploring the natural history. We’ll identify a number of species and compare the plant communities at the 3 sites. We’ll explore mature forests with shrubby and diverse herbaceous understory. There will be poison ivy, mosquitoes, and probably ticks at all sites! Bring a hand lens and be ready to take notes. Walks available separately. Directions to sites provided upon registration.

SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMS

Sustainability series programs sponsored by Wright BuildersKeiter Builders, PV Squared, and Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI).

Our Living Building Tour Program

1st Fridays at 4pm – April 7, May 5, June 2
3rd Wednesdays at 12pm – April 19, May 17, June 21
FREE – registration appreciated
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. 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.

Celebrate Earth Day at the Sustainability Fair

Saturday, April 22, 10am-4pm
Amherst Town Common
Learn more
Join the Hitchcock Center for this Amherst tradition of sharing ways to make our world a better place.

Film Screening: A Plastic Ocean

Thursday, May 4, 7pm
$8 suggested donation, registration appreciated

In A Plastic Ocean, a new feature-length adventure documentary, an international team of adventurers, researchers, and Ocean ambassadors go on a mission around the globe to uncover the shocking truth about what is lurking beneath the surface of our Ocean. The proliferation of plastic products in the last 70 years has been extraordinary; quite simply we cannot now live without them. Plastic is cheap and incredibly versatile with properties that make it ideal for many applications. We have developed a “disposable” lifestyle and estimates are that around 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away. More than one million plastic bags are used every minute.

During its four-year production period, A Plastic Ocean was filmed in 20 locations around the world in beautiful and chilling detail to document the global effects of plastic pollution–and introduce workable technology and policy solutions that can, if implemented in time, change things for the better.

Changes in Solar Options & Incentives in 2017

with Sally Pick, SJP Environmental Consulting
Thursday, May 11, 7pm
FREE – registration appreciated

Changes to incentives for residential solar power are in the works in MA and potentially at the federal level. Learn which incentives are still available, how some incentives will change, and when these changes are expected to be in place. The workshop will start with an explanation of residential solar, its requirements, how to get the most out of your solar by first reducing your electric usage, and solar options.

What is Biomimicry?

Wednesday, May 31, 7pm
FREE – registration appreciated
A sustainable world already exists. Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. Come watch a short film that answers this question. The film will be followed by a Biomimcry tour of our Living Building.

Peace, Love, and Bonobos: How a Great Ape Can Lead Us to a Better World

Sally Jewell Coxe, co-founder Bonobo Conservation Initiative
Wednesday, June 7, 7pm
Registration appreciated, $10 Suggested donation to Bonobo Conservation Initiative
Download a flyer and share Peace, Love and Bonobos
Join Sally Jewell Coxe for a fascinating glimpse into the world of one of our closest great ape relatives, the bonobo. Bonobos were the last great ape to be discovered, and sadly, these magnificent beings face extinction due to hunting and habitat destruction. Working with Congolese partners, the Bonobo Conservation Initiative is leading efforts to safeguard bonobos and the vital rainforest in which they live. Ms. Coxe is the co-founder and president of the Bonobo Conservation Initiative. In this engaging, multimedia presentation, Ms. Coxe will share how protecting these peaceful, loving great apes can lead us all to a better future. Reception to follow.

What Can YOU Do About Climate Change?
Solutions and actions to help our community, economy and environment

June 10, 2017 1:00- 4:30pm FREE – Register here
The Center for EcoTechnology is proud to host this Speaker Series, in conjunction with the Hitchcock Center. We are pleased to offer this free of charge, but we encourage registration. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues we currently face. This event focuses on experts from our community that are addressing locally-relevant environmental issues. Speakers will discuss innovative and tangible solutions to various challenges associated with climate change through psychological, political and community-based strategies.

FAMILY PROGRAMS

New! Saturdays at the Hitchcock Center

Second and third Saturdays, 9am-1pm
Free
January through June
Drop in, see Hitchcock’s new home, and learn about our living building.

New! Second Saturday Science!

Second Saturdays, January through June
Free
10am-11am
January 14, February 11, March 11, April 8, May 13, June 10
No registration required. 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.

Saturday Science themes:
January 14 – Scutes and Scales
February 11 – The Science of Snow
March 11 – Meet the Trees
April 15 – Energy Is Electrifying!
May 13 – Backyard Birds
June 10 – Wonderful Water

Youth Birding

with Dan Ziomek, Local Birder and WRSI’s Bird Songs Radio Program
For young people ages 8-13
6 Saturdays – April 8 – May 13
7:30am-10am

Individual/Youth: Members $60 Non-members $75
Parent/Child Members $100/Non-members $120
Space is limited, registration required
Spring migration is the most exciting time of year to get out and see birds! Be the next generation of birders!

Celebrate Earth Day at the Sustainability Fair

Saturday, April 22, 10am-4pm
Amherst Town Common
Join the Hitchcock Center for this Amherst tradition of sharing ways to make our world a better place.

VALLEY BIRD DAYS – May 5-13

Join the Hitchcock Center, Mass Audubon at Arcadia, The Kestrel Land Trust, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to offer a range of programs at our individual sites – all to celebrate the beauty and stewardship of birds! Check out the Valley Bird Days to view programs at all the sites.

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Hitchcock Center for the Environment