Note: This is an article from our Salamander Scoop eNewsletter in January, 2023. To read more and subscribe to Salamander Scoop, click here.
Hampshire College students in Professor Partan’s course, The Hampshire Woods: Creating a Long-Term Datbase of Animal Biodiversity at Hampshire College, work with Hitchcock educator Katie Koerten on aquatic entomology in September, 2022.
I have been at the Hitchcock Center for over year now, and continue to be impressed by the commitment of the staff, board, volunteers, and community to our mission, “to educate and inspire action for a healthy planet.” This work places us at the intersection of climate change, sustainability, and environmental justice. As the Center is now celebrating its 60th year, our impact continues to radiate from our sustainable Living Building into the communities around us.
Instead of simply teaching about climate change, the Hitchcock Center is helping people develop the skills needed to create climate solutions and foster climate resilience by helping them to reconnect to and learn from nature’s efficient and sustainable systems, to develop a problem-solving mindset, and to shape a positive vision for the future. We are developing hopeful, creative problem-solvers who can take on the challenges of climate change.
We are providing opportunities for people of all ages to develop a relationship with nature; we are leading sustainable engineering and design challenges for youth; we are teaching communication, organization, and leadership skill-building for teens; we are convening adults for discourse and civic engagement around climate change and sustainability; and we are continuing to broaden our reach to include communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change.
Here are some examples of our impact on the more than 10,000 people we reach each year in Western Massachusetts and beyond:
We recently received a $222,076 Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) matching grant for our SEEDS program – Schools Exploring Engineering, Design, and Sustainability in partnership with the Springfield Public Schools, that will reach all 3rd grade teachers over 3 years with a combination of professional development, resource kits, classroom activities, and field trips to the Hitchcock Center.
Our year-round collaboration with the Holyoke YMCA is enabling youth from ages 3-13 to get inspired by experiences with living creatures in Holyoke, work on problem solving and design challenges, and see sustainable engineering concepts implemented in the real world at the Hitchcock Center.
Teen leaders from the Western Massachusetts Youth Climate Summit (a collaboration between the Hitchcock Center and Mass Audubon) who worked with Climate Action Now to create the Little Leaders Summer Climate Convention, engaging 10-12 year olds in climate action, and are planning the Summit for this Fall.
Through collaboration with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, we are working with the statewide Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program to engage the public in towns such as Whately and Ashfield in making their communities more resilient to climate change. And, we are exploring collaboration with the Pioneer Valley Healthy Air coalition on how to engage the next generation in improving community health and resilience.
More than 30% of the 1,100 children, youth and families who participate in our homeschool, preschool, afterschool, vacation camp, and summer camp programs are benefiting from increased financial access provided by our tiered fee structure and scholarship program. In addition, we offered 21 free or low-cost science and nature programs for families.
We conducted 11 in-school and community residency programs in Amherst, Northampton, Pelham, Rowe, Granby, Ware, Shutesbury, Hatfield, Gill, and Holyoke and provided free outreach programs in 9 towns via libraries and other community organizations. In combination with school outreach and field trip programs, we reached more than 9,000 students.
We provided professional learning opportunities for college interns, pre-service and in-service teachers, and natural history programs and building tours for adults and college student groups.
This Fall we are excited to begin our new Climate Action Series, using our convening power to bring together experts, organizations, and community members with a combination of fireside chats, workshops, and civic forums.
We are all experiencing the impacts of climate change more each day, in our own communities and around the world. Recent federal and state legislation represents progress, but in order to successfully, and most importantly, equitably address climate change, having policies in place is not enough. We need community members who have the knowledge, skills, and values to successfully engage together in building a greener, just, and more economically vibrant future. We hope you will join us in this work, the health of our planet depends on it.
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