Family and Learning Pod Programs (In-Person and Virtual)

Family Monarch Tagging Program (In-Person)

with Jennifer Unkles
Ages 3+
Tuesday, September 8, 4-5:30pm
Wednesdays, September 9 and 16, 4-5:30pm
Thursday, September 17, 4-5:30pm
Suggested Donation: $5–$12 per person
Limited to 10 participants

The monarch butterflies are back and their cycle continues! Come for a small group class to see them up close, learn about their fascinating life cycle, tag and release pre-caught butterflies and then take a hike to find some others. Nets and supplies will be provided. Data collected will be added for scientific research through the Monarch Watch Citizen Science Project.

Second Saturday Family Science (In-Person)

with Aemelia Thompson
Ages ages 5–7 and Grades  K–1
Saturdays, 10–11am
September 12, October 10, November 15, December 12
Suggested Donation: $5–$12 per family
Limited to 10 participants. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Limit of 3 children per adult.

Join us for seasonal nature and science programs each second Saturday of the month. Designed for children (ages 5–7) with their parents, these programs will explore cool topics in nature.

  • September 12: Pollinators
  • October 10: Our Trees in Autumn
  • November 14: Reptiles in Winter
  • December 12: Fantastic Foxes

Class Programs (Virtual)

with Aemelia Thompson
Ages 5–8 or Grades K–2
Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 1–2pm
September 21–December 18 (no program September 28 or November 2)
Fee per program: Tier A-$61  | Tier B-$50  | Tier C-$37  | Tier D-$18
Group size: up to 22 students, including at least one adult


Have a Hitchcock educator pay a virtual visit to your classroom or home! Our virtual class programs will be focused on specific topics to fit with your science curriculum. You will receive special topic-focused, take-home resources, and a remotely accessible video of a Hitchcock educator that will spark student interest. This will be paired with a 40-minute interactive lesson on Zoom with a Hitchcock educator that will end with a fun game that will check for students’ understanding and reinforce lesson goals.

When registering, choose your first and second preference for a date and time and one of the Virtual Class Program themes below:

  • Life Underground: Does a hole in the earth sound like a comfy place to live? To some animals it absolutely does! Living underground takes serious work but it is also a place many animals make their homes or live out their whole lives. Many of the animals that use the earth as their dwelling live right here in Massachusetts. Come dig in with us!
  • Predator and Prey: Trying to survive out in the wild can be a tough job for any animal, whether you’re a fox looking for a mouse to snack on, or the mouse hiding from the fox! Predatory animals have to hunt other animals for their food and their prey must be smart to avoid them. Both have their place in the ecosystem. Learn more about their special adaptations in this classroom program.
  • Flowers and Plants: Can you eat sunlight and help bees make honey? Flowers aren’t just beautiful to see and pick, they are a vital part of nature. In this lesson we’ll look at flowers, the special adaptations they use to thrive in our world, and how we’ve come to depend on them as humans.
  • Insects: What makes an animal an insect? What role do insects play in our world and how are they important to people? Come learn about the adaptations, life cycles and ecology of one of the most successful groups of animals on earth.
  • Decomposers: What happens to plants and animals after they die? Or the banana peel you aren’t going to eat? They become a tasty buffet for some vital critters in the food chain. Decomposers act as nature’s “clean-up crew”– they consume dead animal carcasses, decaying plant material and waste products from other members of the ecosystem. At home you can search for, observe, and study the work of decomposers, and together we’ll explore why these small critters play such a big role.
  • Metamorphosis: We all go through changes in our life, but metamorphosis tops any changes humans can do. Butterflies, frogs, millipedes, all of them experience this incredible process. Learn about the life cycles of our metamorphosing friends in this virtual classroom program.

Nature-based Field Trips (Virtual)

with varied Hitchcock Center environmental educators
Mondays–Fridays, 10am, 11am or 1pm
Field trip length: approximately 45 minutes
September 21–December 18
Fee per Program: Tier A-$94  | Tier B-$75  | Tier C-$56  | Tier D-$28
Group Size: up to 22 participants, including at least one adult

When registering, choose your first and second date and time preference and one of the Virtual Nature-based Field Trips themes below:

These live-stream virtual field trips use Zoom to offer interactive, inquiry-based learning opportunities for families and learning pods. Upon registration, a field-based “pre-trip” video along with suggested activities and resources will be provided to help engage participants in the learning process prior to participating in the live session. Each field trip has been designed to address grade-level STEM standards. We require one individual to sign up for a group. The price remains the same regardless of group size. It is expected that at least one to two adults attend the field trip via Zoom meeting with their child participants.

Amazing Animal Adaptations
Ages 5–9 or Grades K–4
How do animals survive in the wild? We will focus on the amazing diversity of life on the planet and in our area. In our pre-recorded video, participants will be introduced to live teaching animals by tuning into the talk show “Good Morning Animals.” Students will learn about how biology and behavior helps animals survive in habitat in unique ways. In our interactive live-stream video session, we will come together to share our experiences with local animal adaptations in addition to observation of our teaching animals and stuffed mounts. We will also explore the concept of biomimicry and human adaptations through conversation and games. STEM standards

Insect Investigations
Ages 5–9 or Grades K–4
What makes an animal an insect? What role do insects play in our world and how are they important to people? In our pre-recorded video, we will become entomologists with a Hitchcock educator to adventure into the woods and search for insects. Learn how to identify an insect, where to find them, and the tools you’ll need to collect them. Plus, learn a ton of cool insect facts along the way! We will also come together in an interactive live-stream video session to share our experiences with insects, observe live teaching insects close up, learn about their complex life cycles, and participate in identification games and quizzes. STEM standards

Life in a Pond
Ages 5–10 or Grades K–5
A pond is much more than frogs and fish! In a pre-recorded video, we will demonstrate the beautiful web of pond life from algae and microscopic organisms to insect larvae and amphibians. We will learn how to make a simple pond net, read about what makes a pond a pond, and go on a virtual pond tour. You will be given a list of simple equipment to use to successfully collect pond animals, and will be shown how to safely collect and release these animals. Then we will share our experiences through an interactive live-stream session where we wil get a close-up look at pond invertebrates (animals without backbones), do a scientific drawing, and experiment with the surface tension of water. STEM standards

Mountains and Valleys
Ages 9–10 or Grade 4–5
Discover the stories in the stones around us! The Holyoke Range can tell us much about how the Earth’s crust is shaped. It is a geologically unique area, where we can find evidence of shifting tectonic plates, earthquakes, volcanoes, glaciers, and erosion, all in one place! In this virtual field trip, we will first learn how the everyday landscape provides intriguing clues to the past in a pre-recorded video. Together, we will then explore local geology through video, hands-on experimentation and a live stream video session. STEM standards

Nature-based Field Trips (In-Person)

with Katie KoertenHelen Ann Sephton, or Aemelia Thompson
Fee per Child:  Tier A-$24 per trip  |  Tier B-$19 per trip  |  Tier C-$14 per trip | Tier D- $7
Fee per Adult:  Tier A-$28 per trip  |  Tier B-$23 per trip  |  Tier C-$18 per trip | Tier D- $9
Limited to 12 participants. Children must be accompanied by an adult (limit 1 adult and up to 4 children).

Attention families, homeschoolers, and learning pods! Back by popular demand, this is a continuation of our summer field trip program for learners and their adults.

Life in a Stream
with Helen Ann Sephton
Minimum Age 5
Fridays, 10am–12noon
September 4–October 16 (no program September 11)


with Aemelia Thompson
Saturday, 10am- 12noon on September 26 only

Streams are an excellent place for the science of discovery and investigation. The critters who make their home in the stream demonstrate a beautiful web of life, from algae and microscopic organisms, to insect larvae and amphibians. We’ll begin at the Hitchcock Center and use our limnology lab tools to practice techniques for observing small aquatic creatures and learning about their unique life cycles and adaptations. We’ll then head to the Fort River at Groff park, where we will collect and observe several varieties of invertebrates that depend on this habitat.

Mountains and Valleys
with Helen Ann Sephton
Minimum Age 8
Fridays, 10am–12pm
October 23 – December 11
No program November 27


with Aemelia Thompson
Minimum Age 8
Saturdays, 10am–12pm
October 17  & November 28 only

Discover the stories in the stones around us! The Holyoke Range can tell us much about how the Earth’s crust is shaped. It is a geologically unique area, where we can find evidence of shifting tectonic plates, earthquakes, volcanoes, glaciers, and erosion, all in one day’s field trip! We will learn how fascinating geology can be and how the everyday landscape provides intriguing clues to the past. This trip is based at Skinner State Park and involves mostly light hiking with several short steep sections of trail.

COVID-19 Safety

Read our complete COVID-19 Program Participant Guidelines.

Our in-person programs will be held outdoors, even in the cold weather monthsOutdoor learning environments have been shown to be one of the safest ways to teach while  preventing the spread of COVID-19.  

Masks will be required at all times when social distancing (six feet apart) is not able to be maintained. This will continue until our local and state health officials say otherwise.

As much as our teaching approach is “hands-on,” we will be limiting touching and sharing. If any equipment or materials are needed as part of the program, we will provide participants with their own. All equipment and materials will be returned and individually disinfected at the end of the program.

Participants need to come prepared for all outdoor weather conditions. We suggest bringing a backpack with extra layers, including socks and hats, bottled water, and snacks, as well as insect repellent and sunscreen as-needed.


Given this time of financial hardship for our community and our organization, we are offering a new sliding scale fee structure aimed to provide greater flexibility in choosing a price that is right for you and your family.

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Hitchcock Center for the Environment