Welcome 2019 Nature Summer Camp Staff

Hello and welcome to Nature Summer Camp 2019! We are incredibly excited for our third Nature Summer Camp at the new Hitchcock Center. The counselors, Katie and I have been as busy as beavers around here getting ready for the first day of camp next week. We can’t wait to meet all the campers! I am super thrilled about our staff. We are lucky to have three returning counselors, four fabulous new ones, and two wonderful support staff! And now, let’s introduce them one by one…

Top Row L to R: Jesse,Peter, Katie, Aemelia, Laura, Sierra, Jeff Bottom Row L to R: Natalie, Kaila, Tara, Monya

Camp Directors 

Jeff Mazur
, Co-Director

Jeff is answering the call of the wild – to inspire others to be better stewards of our planet through helping children and adults more deeply connect to the natural world. This is Jeff’s third year as camp director and at the Hitchcock Center. During the school year, Jeff teaches our Homeschool II Program, Nature Play Afterschool Program, and teaches to classes that visit the Hitchcock Center on field trips.

Prior to joining the Hitchcock Center, Jeff worked for Mass Audubon as a teacher/naturalist at Drumlin Farm, Arcadia and Habitat Sanctuaries and created his own afterschool program called “Into the Woods” for the Lexington Montessori School. Jeff brings to his teaching a deep-felt gratitude for the earth, an innate and also continuously growing ability to experientially engage others in the wonders of nature, and his own wellspring of curiosity and delight at the surprises that unfold around us each day. When not at the Hitchcock Center, Jeff can be found in the woods keeping a keen lookout for mushrooms, swimming at Puffer’s Pond, biking or tending his garden.

Katie Koerten, Co-Director

Katie is the co-director of Hitchcock camp and an instructor of our Leadership Training Camp. Hitchcock Summer Camp was her first summer job out of college in 2007 and she’s been involved at Hitchcock ever since! During the school year she serves as the Center’s Children, Youth and Family Programs Coordinator, instructing programs for homeschoolers, afterschoolers and campers. Before Hitchcock she worked as a public school Kindergarten paraprofessional for three years and as an avian rehabilitation intern in Vermont. Katie is especially passionate about creating safe, empowering experiences for girls in nature, sharing her love for birds and plants with others, and teaching her 3-year old daughter about robins.



Tara Borgilt
Sessions 2-5

Tara is delighted to be returning as a summer camp counselor at the Hitchcock Center. She loves exploring the intricacies of the natural world, and looks forward to sharing her excitement and curiosity with the campers. Tara was born in the foothills of the Rouge Valley in Southwestern Oregon and grew up camping, skiing, picking up bugs and critters, backpacking, and climbing to high places with her family and friends. She is passionate about encouraging deep relationships to place, and grateful to have the opportunity to do so herself in this new part of the country. Since moving to the Pioneer Valley, Tara has been at the Hitchcock Center as a volunteer and as a co-counselor for April Vacation Camp. She has a BA in Spanish from Reed College in Portland, OR. She enjoys writing, mending broken things, going on night bike rides, and spying on the birds and squirrels with binoculars from her bedroom window.

Natalie Elliott
Sessions 1-5

Natalie is very enthusiastic about being a part of the Hitchcock Center community this summer as a counselor! She just finished her first year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN where she plans to major in Earth and Environmental Science. Even though she lives far away from Amherst during the school year, Natalie feels a special connection with the Pioneer Valley where she grew up scrambling up trees, trying to memorize edible plants, and splashing in swimming holes and is excited to pass along her deep love for where she grew up to her campers this summer. Natalie has spent the last few years hanging out with the the next generation of local explorers, innovators, and leaders, through teaching swim lessons for LSSE, volunteering with Multi Arts Children’s Camp, and running childcare at the Hampshire Athletic Club. She views each day as precious, brimming with opportunity and outside of spending time with campers, she spends her summer days rock climbing, making art, and crafting overly specific playlists.

Laura Ginsberg-Peltz
Session 1

Laura has taught in classrooms, worked in summer programs and taught children’s yoga for many years with children in preschool to grade 5.  She currently teaches fifth grade at the Shutesbury School. She has an M.Ed. in Integrated Learning and Elementary Education from Antioch. Throughout her independent and graduate studies, Laura has been inspired by Project Based Learning, Place Based Education and Reggio Emilia Education.  She  believes in organically responding to the passions and interests of her students and creating projects that emerge from these interests.  Laura has three boys of her own, ages 10, 13 and 16. She spends lots of time with her sons and husband outdoors, hiking, paddling, biking and playing games.  Laura also loves to read, cook, grow food, sing, do yoga and learn about mushrooms, birds and other outdoor wonders.

Kaila Goldstein
Sessions 1-5

Kaila is thrilled to be on staff for her first summer of camp at the Hitchcock Center! Kaila believes in the power of taking time to experience how everything in our world is interconnected, and she can’t wait to spend the summer exploring these ties together through adventure, investigation, and reflection, or as she’d rather say, wandering, wondering, and wonder! Passionate about engaging meaningfully with people and the environment, Kaila is majoring in Environmental Studies and Sociology at Mount Holyoke College. During the year, when she’s not learning about how a sense of connection changes mindsets and actions, she enjoys singing with the MHC Glee Club, hiking, skiing, yoga, organizing campus sustainability initiatives, trying new foods, and going on adventures with friends! Kaila has worked with ages 3-11 in classroom settings for the past five years, and has spent her summers as a sleepaway camp counselor. She is very excited for camp this summer and grateful that she gets to continue to learn from and alongside campers while exploring nature!


Sierra Hausthor
Sessions 1-5

Sierra is thrilled to be returning to the Hitchcock Center this summer! She worked one summer as a junior counselor and two summers as a Teacher Naturalist at Hitchcock summer camps and spring camps. She spent a year running the birthday party program at Hitchcock as well. She is beyond excited to be coming back after a summer away. Sierra spent her year away from Hitchcock working as a full-time au pair for a family in France, growing and bonding with the child in her care as she navigated language and new environments. She is now working on her undergraduate degree in Psychology with focus on women, gender, and sexuality studies, and child psychology. Sierra spent her childhood at Hitchcock camps, throughout summers and homeschool programs as she grew up in the Pioneer Valley. Sierra simply adores her summers spent playing, climbing, teaching, laughing, and getting muddy with the wonderful groups of campers at Hitchcock and she can’t wait to be back this year!

Monya Relles
Sessions 1-5

Monya Relles has been educating young people outdoors in the American Northeast since she was thirteen. Most recently she served for two years in AmeriCorps teaching alongside New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Some of her favorite things to teach about are eels, safe practices while building fire, and how to identify trees by building fairy houses. When she’s not teaching you can find her studying at Hampshire College, contra dancing, or looking for red efts in the Holyoke Mountain Range. This is her first year working with the Hitchcock Center and she’s excited for new adventures at camp!


Aemelia Thompson
Sessions 1-5

Aemelia is looking forward to spending her summer time outside with all the young naturalists at the Hitchcock Center. Though originally from Vermont, Aemelia now lives in Easthampton Massachusetts and has been in the valley for nearly a decade. After graduating from Hampshire College with a license in early childhood teaching Aemelia found work and fulfillment working in the indoors and outdoors in several of the valleys schools. She now works as a gardening instructor at schools in Easthampton and Northampton. She spends most of her time outside with her dog Bean, who shares her love of getting dirty and working hard. In all weather they spend their days to running, hiking, swimming, and seeking out the lessons and therapeutic effects of nature. Aemelia loves practicing awareness about the natural world around her, and often encourages her students to simply observe and reflect on their experiences in it. She’s looking forward to having a wonderful time with all the campers and all the flora and fauna they come across!

Jesse Near
Sessions 1-5

Jesse is beyond excited to join the Hitchcock Center for his first year as a Nature Summer Camp counselor. His love for nature was instilled in him at a young age through years of exploring vernal pools to find frogs and salamanders, while admiring the beauty of local plants and animals at forests and campgrounds within the Pioneer Valley. Curiosity for the natural world developed throughout his childhood as Jesse attended various nature-oriented summer camps at local institutions. Such passion and curiosity compelled him to attend the UMass Amherst Honors College to receive a B.S. in Biology, where he focused his studies on the natural history of local reptiles and fishes and cared for snakes, lizards and turtles at the university’s herpetological vivarium. When Jesse isn’t out hiking or fishing, he can be found playing concerts at local venues, with one of his bands, or instructing guitar at the Feeding Hills Music Academy.


Katie Koerten

Katie Koerten is excited to for the first season of summer camp in the new Hitchcock Center. This summer she will be leading camp along with Jeff Mazur and teaching Leadership Training Camp with Peter Lamdin. Katie has been at the Hitchcock Center for 6 years and serves as the Children and Family Programs Coordinator. During the school year she teaches Girls into the Wild, Homeschool I, Homeschool Discovery Days and Girl Scout Programs. Before Hitchcock she worked in a public school Kindergarten for three years and had an avian rehabilitation internship in Vermont. She loves birds, wildflowers, and playing with her daughter!

Peter Lamdin

Peter is looking forward to his fifth year as a co-instructor, with Katie Koerten,  of our popular Leadership Training Camp.  Leadership camp continues to evolve and grow in exciting ways. It is now 43 years ago that Peter first worked as a camp counselor at the Hitchcock Center (although it was then called the Long Plain Nature Center and centered out in Leverett)!  In those early years he also worked on school programs, which helped lead to his decision to become a classroom teacher.  For most of his 35 years in the classroom, Peter taught 6th grade here in Amherst, loving the joys and challenges of the work, and developing wonderful relationships with his students and parents.  Five years ago, Peter retired from the classroom and returned to the Hitchcock Center as a field trip educator, curriculum writer, and camp instructor. Working with children in the outdoors was Peter’s first love as an educator, and that love continues!

Camp Support

Colleen Kelley, Education Director

We are very lucky to have Colleen assisting us with camp this summer. Colleen is going on 34 years of being part of the Hitchcock Center staff, and has worked on just about everything here, from camp to school residencies to homeschool to afterschool to her all-time favorite program, Nature Discovery Preschool! All that experience has led to her current role as Education Director, in which she provides leadership and support for the education staff, Hitchcock’s Living Building project, professional development programs, college interns and loads more. In her spare time Colleen loves to get moving outdoors, from swimming to running to cycling to hiking!

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