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.


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.

Community Read
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

This year we will be collaborating with the Jones Library for the 2017 community read On the Same Page—Amherst. To learn more, please visit:


    Culminating Event:

Salamander Tunnel Maintenance

A weekend day – timing depends on weather conditions and snow cover.
Call or sign up online to be notified

The salamanders are coming! Come out and help get ready for their annual spring migration! We’ll gather on Henry Street in North Amherst and work on the tunnels. We’ll rake out the tunnel entrances, repair the drift fences that direct the animals into the tunnel entrances, pick up litter, and more! Wear work gloves and come prepared to get dirty! There will be a presentation on the salamanders’ amazing lives during a work break!

Wildflowers of Spring

A special dinner with presentation by Ted Watt
Friday, March 10, 5:30-8:30pm
Held at Red Gate Farm Education Center, Buckland, MA
Tickets $25/person or $40/two people
Information & registration.
Got the winter blues and longing for spring? Spend an evening with naturalist Ted Watt immersed in images of our most beautiful native wildflowers and learn about their natural history. Share information about the many species, where to find them and their roles in the complex ecology of our fields and woods. Ted is the Naturalist for the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. Join us at the farm for a fresh cooked dinner and dessert followed by a slide show presentation.

THE MESSENGER Film Screening

Thursday, March 16, 7pm
FREE registration appreciated
Imagine a world without birdsong. This film is an artful investigation into the causes of songbird mass depletion and the compassionate people who are working to turn the tide. The film takes viewers on a visually stunning journey revealing how the problems facing birds also pose daunting implications for our planet and ourselves.

Citizen Science: Red-Backed Salamander Population Monitoring

with Ted Watt
Saturday, March 18, 10 am-noon
FREE registration appreciated

You’ve probably been within inches of red-backed salamanders many times and just not seen them. Come learn about their life histories and their role in the ecology of our forests. They’re common and very important, even though they’re only 4 inches long! We’ll also visit our red-backed salamander monitoring plots and learn about the study we are participating in. The study is a region-wide monitoring project to gauge the animals’ population status across their range, from the maritimes, to Minnesota to Georgia, and establish a baseline from which to gauge their responses to coming climate changes. Visit for more information on the study.

Senior Walk – Quabbin Park

with John Green
Wednesday, March 22, 9am-11am
FREE, space is limited registration required
Join naturalist John Green for a nature walk at Quabbin. See what signs of spring are emerging and maybe hear the first red-winged blackbirds of the season or see the first turkey vultures. Directions provided with registration.

Hampshire Woods Walk and Wildlife Sightings Database Update

with Ted Watt
Saturday, March 25, 10am – 12noon
FREE registration appreciated

Hampshire College, with some input from the Hitchcock Center, has set up a public online database project to record sightings of animals and plants and other organisms on the Hampshire Campus. Join us for an exploration of a portion of the Hampshire Woods, recording sightings as we go. Then we’ll gather back at the Center and hear about the database and its capabilities. Afterwards we’ll practice entering our data into the site and retrieving information as well. You can also use web-based databases to create your own project and track your own sightings for any location you choose. Come learn more!

Through the Seasons with Wildflowers

with Ted Watt
Wednesday, March 29, 7pm
FREE registration appreciated

Are you looking forward to the coming of spring? Here’s a way to anticipate the beauties. Ted will show his images of wildflowers and narrate the images with fascinating details about their life histories and adaptations. We’ll begin with hepatica and end with New England aster and enjoy the beauties of so many of the blooms in between. Join us for a colorful taste of what is to come.

Henry Street Spotted Salamander Egg Mass Count

Ted Watt, Hitchcock Center Naturalist and Volunteers
A weekend afternoon in April, depending on weather – we will contact you with the date
Registration recommended 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.


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!


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

Our Living Building Tour Program

First Fridays at 4pm – January 6, February 3, March 3
Third Wednesdays at 12pm January 18, February 15, March 15
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. 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.

The Latest in Efficient Heating and Cooling: What are Air Source Heat Pumps?

Jamie Overby, Center for EcoTechnology
Thursday, January 26, 7pm
Register here
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.

It All Starts at Home: What YOU Can Do for the Climate

with Sally Pick, SJP Environmental Consulting
Tuesday, January 31, 7-8:30pm
FREE registration appreciated
In a time when policies addressing climate change are being challenged, find out what you can do to reduce your home’s climate impact, by making it less reliant on fossil fuels, with renewables like solar and with an energy savvy home that wastes less electricity and heat. Even if federal benefits are cut, Massachusetts offers incentives for solar power, solar hot water, electric cars, and energy saving options for your home like insulation and efficient heating and cooling. Learn how to waste less energy in your home, produce your own renewable electricity and/or hot water from solar, evaluate electric vehicles, find related incentives and low-interest loans, and best prioritize energy savings projects. Be empowered to work toward climate solutions, by starting at home.

From Hurricane to Climate Change Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Thursday, February 2, 7pm
Doug Challenger, Film Director and Editor, Professor of Sociology, Franklin Pierce University
Dwayne Breger, Director of Clean Energy Extension, UMass Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment
Christine Hatch, Extension Assistant Professor of Hydrogeology & Climate Change, UMass Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment
Chris Mason, Energy and Sustainability Office, City of Northampton
Michael SenEnglish Department, Umass
FREE registration appreciated
This short film documents how the Monadnock region of New Hampshire is addressing the challenges of an increasingly unstable climate. The film opens with scenes from the Hurricane of 1938, the most dramatic meteorological event in recent memory. Towns like Peterborough came together, rebuilding flood-ravaged streets and supporting the construction of projects like the McDowell Dam. Today the threats we face are different. Human activities that release carbon into the atmosphere are causing temperatures to rise and episodes of extreme precipitation to increase. The film highlights a range of regional responses designed to adapt to this new norm and to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Culverts are being resized; businesses are competing to introduce renewable energy; young people are growing crops and investing in farmers markets; and townspeople are working together to envision and implement community resilience. Integrating the voices of experts and ordinary citizens, the film offers a model of response for this looming environmental challenge for communities across New England and beyond. 

Passive House Tour

with Alexi Arango
Saturday, February 4, 10-11am
FREE registration appreciated
A comfortable, affordable home that doesn’t use a single drop of fossil fuels, The Potwine Passive House uses 8 times less energy than the typical Massachusetts home while not compromising on style, affordability, comfort, or convenience. Body heat and the sun provide a remarkable 75% of the super-insulated home’s heating needs while efficient lighting, appliances, and smart design save electricity all around. The affordable home is the first Certified Passive House in Western Massachusetts. The term “passive house” refers to a modern approach to home design that relies on computer modeling, new building techniques, advanced window technology, and clever energy saving features. In the same way that your thermos holds in heat, a continuous layer of foam surrounds the home, even underneath, to keep the inhabitants warm during the winter and cool during the summer. Award-winning architecture firm GO Logic designed the home to feel spacious and modern on the inside, despite the modest 1,100 square foot size, and clean and elegant on the outside, using exterior styling cues reminiscent of early New England colonial architecture. The home was built by the Amherst-based firm Integrity Development and Construction and completed in 2015.

Drive Green

The Center for EcoTechnology
Saturday, February 18, 9am – 1pm
FREE registration appreciated
Green your ride and your electric bill with Drive Green and New England Green Start! The Center for EcoTechnology, in partnership with Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, is promoting a limited time opportunity to buy or lease a brand new Electric Vehicle at a deeply discounted price. And you can power your new EV with 100% New England generated renewable energy, making a dramatic reduction in your carbon footprint! CET will be at the Hitchcock Center from 9am to 1pm  to answer your questions about these exciting programs that can help you dramatically reduce your reliance on fossil fuels, and will offer a presentation on the programs from 11AM-Noon. You will also have an opportunity to see and test drive an electric car!

Drinking Water, From Source to Your Tap: Quantity and Quality of a Precious Resource

with John Tobiason and Joanna Spaulding
Wednesday, March 1, 7pm
FREE registration appreciated
It is easy to take for granted the availability of high quality drinking water from convenient faucets and taps in our homes and workplaces. We are able to do so because of long-term and continuing investment and attention to maintaining the physical infrastructure and human resources needed to supply us safe water. This evening’s presentation will provide an overview of our local (Amherst) drinking water system from sources to your tap, and consider our local situation in the context of regional, national and global water issues. Topics include water supply and usage in light of drought concerns as well as current water quality concerns including lead and copper at consumer taps. Ample time will be allotted for discussion of questions and issues that are of interest and importance to the audience. The program presenters are John E. Tobiason, PhD, PE, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMass Amherst and Joanna Spaulding, EIT, Graduate student in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering at UMass. The evening program is supported by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Drinking Water Program.

Understanding Everyday Toxins

Emily Monosson, author and toxicologist
Tuesday, March 7, 6pm-8pm
FREE registration appreciated
Local author and toxicologist Emily Monosson will be offering a discussion/workshop about toxicology and the kinds of things toxicologists think about. She will begin with the familiar, the drugs we take: dosing; problems with combinations; and why do we hear so often about liver and kidney toxicity? Then have us consider the toxic chemicals we don’t choose to ingest, pesticides, plastics, pcbs and others, which pose more of a problem and to whom? Emily’s goal is for you to be able to be well prepared when you read about toxic chemicals in the news. This program is supported by a grant from the Toxics Use Reduction Institute.


New! Saturdays at the Hitchcock Center

Second and third Saturdays, 9am-1pm
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
January 14, February 11, March 11, April 15, May 13, June 10
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. No registration required. Groups of 6 or more please call ahead.

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

Prowling For Owls

with Dan Ziomek, local birder and naturalist
Saturday, January 28, 8pm-10pm
Saturday, February 11, 8pm -10pm
Saturday, March 4, 4:30am
Register here
Dress INCREDIBLY warm because we’ll be standing around in the dark a lot. Bring your sharp ears, a flashlight, and a thermos of something hot to drink.  We’ll meet at the Hitchcock Center. Members $10/Non-members $15 per night, youth 8 and older welcome with an adult. Space is limited, please register.

Screech Owls are Cool!

with Ted Watt
Saturday, February 18, 10-noon
$25 per family, per house, all materials included, recommended for young people 4th grade and up
Registration required
Come to the Hitchcock Center and learn about these cool, nocturnal predators! They’re little (less than 10“ tall) and they eat all kinds of creatures! We’ll start off with a 20 minute presentation on these wonderful critters – how they live and what they love to eat! We’ll hear recordings of their ghostly calls! Then we’ll move to the work tables and each family will assemble a nesting box for screech owls. Families will take their boxes home to see if they can put them up and get nesting ‘screechies’ in your backyard! Directions on where and how to put up the boxes will be provided. Bring your own Phillips head screw driver.

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

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!

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Hitchcock Center for the Environment