Family and Learning Pod Programs (In-Person and Virtual)
Registration for Winter Programs opens on Tuesday, December 1, 2020. Upcoming Fall Programs with open sessions are still open for registration.
We continue to find flexible and adaptive new ways to meet the needs of children and families during this pandemic. Our emphasis is on providing inquiry-based environmental and outdoor education programs for small groups, typically made up of no more than 10–12 individuals. Our programs, as always, are focused on learning from nature, but we are placing a heightened focus on meeting the need children have for unstructured time with their peers. It is essential to children’s social-emotional development and general sense of well-being to be able to play and be free outside with each other!
Programs may also be viewed in a calendar.
Second Saturday Science Walks
Ages ages 5–7 and Grades K–1
Limited to 12 participants.
Children must be accompanied by an adult. Limit of 3 children per adult.
with Aemelia Thompson
Second Saturdays, 10:00–10:45am
January 9, February 13, March 13
Suggested donation of $5-12 per family
For our Winter sessions of Second Saturday Science we are changing things up a little. In order to still provide a safe outdoor space to learn about nature, while keeping warm, our programs will be set up as forest walks that will focus on different seasonal topics. Designed for children with their parents, registration is required.
January 9: Birds of Winter
February 13: Tracks and Traces
March 13: Camouflage
Chain Reactions and Creative Contraptions (Virtual)
with Jay Mankita
Saturday, December 5
FREE, thanks to funding from the Amherst Cultural Council
Playful Engineer, Jay Mankita, promotes play-centered exploration from in-school to un-school! The program engages children and families in a hands-on, thought-provoking, and open-ended STEM and STEAM exploration using chain reaction machines with household materials, tools and toys. Jay offers a live demonstration and presentation session where kids will engage with him through Zoom with questions and comments. Following the program, children and families can continue to explore using his online library of pictorial instructions, video demonstrations, and thematic slide shows for inspiration.
Children will have ample opportunities to learn and explore:
- Physics principles: force and motion, scale, cause and effect
- Engineering practice: plan, build, test, improve
- Values: trial and error, persistence, growth mindset
Jay Mankita has presented hundreds of in-person, hands-on, school and library programs for grades K-8, including a virtual STARS residency for 6-8 graders at the Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School. His work dovetails well with Next Generation Science and National Core Arts curriculum, but is not tied to it.
Winter Nature Discovery Preschool Adventures
Ages 3–5 or Grades Pre-K
Limited to 12 participants (limit of 2 children per adult).
with Colleen Kelley
Fridays, 10:00–11:30am OR 1:00–2:30pm
January 15, 29, March 19
with Helen Ann Sephton
Fridays, 10:00–11:30am OR 1:00–2:30pm
February 12, 26, March 12, 19
Fee per Child: Tier A-$17 per day | Tier B-$13 per day | Tier C-$9 per day | Tier D- $7
Fee per Adult: Tier A-$21 per day | Tier B-$17 per day | Tier C-$13 per day | Tier D- $9
Come explore the wonders of winter! This award-winning adult and child preschool program offers weekly outdoor exploration together combined with multi-modal learning experiences to foster wonder and curiosity about the natural world. Each program includes movement, song, nature exploration, snack time, and a story. Sign up for one or more days and choose from one of two time offerings, Friday mornings or afternoons. An adult caregiver must attend with child(ren).
January 15: Winter Wonderland
January 29: Stick Stories
February 12: Snow Surprises
February 26: Plant Pleasures
March 12: Wild About Wind
March 19: Water Wonders
Class Programs (Virtual)
Ages 5–8 or Grades K–2
with Aemelia Thompson
Mondays or Tuesdays, 1pm
with Helen Ann Sephton
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. These are single session lessons and not a series.
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 Hitchcock Center Educators
Mondays–Thursdays, 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
VIRTUAL NATURE-BASED FIELD TRIP REGISTRATION
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
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.
Read our complete COVID-19 Program Participant Guidelines.
Our in-person programs will be held outdoors, even in the cold weather months. Outdoor 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.
- Tier A: The fee is set 25% higher than what it costs to run the program and helps to support those who cannot afford the full cost of the program.
- Tier B: The fee is set to cover 100% of the program costs.
- Tier C: The fee is set at 25% less than what it costs to run the program.
- Tier D: This fee is set at 50% less than what it costs to run the program. This option is available for EBT, WIC, and Connector Care Card to Culture participants, that is, households receiving benefits through the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance and the Massachusetts Health Connector