Camp Programs

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There’s no better place to discover the wonders of the outdoors! At Hitchcock camps, children enjoy, play and learn in the natural world. Each day is designed with outdoor adventures, along with cooperative games, art projects, singing, and science experiments.

Did you know that your EBT card can be used to access membership and programs at the Hitchcock Center? Learn more about the EBT Card to Culture Program.


Spring Vacation Camp
Ages 6-10, Grades K-5
Monday through Friday, April 16-20
Members: $60 per day/Non-members: $70 per day
Register here
Spend your days off from school learning and playing outside at the Hitchcock Center! We’ll explore topics in spring ecology while playing games, making crafts and spending time with our live animals. Sign up for as many days as you wish. Non-refundable within a week of the program, all refunds incur a 10% administrative fee. 


Registration opens for Members on February 2, and for Non-members on February 16.

Please note: A family/household membership is needed for early Nature Summer Camp registration. If you are a member, you should have already received (on 1/15/18) an email update on your membership status.  If you have any questions, please contact Shelly. Many, if not most sessions fill during the members-only registration period. Become a member today to sign up for summer camp on February 2 and get your first choice of sessions!

Check out our Nature Summer Camp Gallery 2017 for a glimpse into the fun and engaging world of our campers! If you have questions, please contact: Jeff Mazur, Camp Director via email or at 413-256-6006.

Frequently Asked Question About Nature Summer Camp


Nature Summer Camp 2018 postcards are mailed out to members of the Hitchcock Center in January 2018. Not sure if you’re on our mailing list? To request a postcard, please call or email at (413) 256-6006 or

Registration begins online in February.

Looking to register for camp, but you don’t have Internet access? No problem. Stop by or call our office during our open hours, Tuesday-Thursday, 9:00am-5:30pm, Friday, 9am-5pm.

**Due to increasing demand for our camp, we ask that you limit to two sessions per child.**

Financial Aid

The Hitchcock Center is able to provide a limited amount of financial aid for families who need assistance with camp tuition. To apply for partial financial aid, please download our application. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until funds are gone, so please apply early.

Hitchcock also provides scholarships for children for whom camp isn’t possible due to severe financial hardship. Full scholarships are awarded based on nominations from teachers and guidance counselors at local schools. If you feel you’re eligible for a full scholarship, please contact the camp director. Please note: the deadline for receiving these nominations is January 29, 2018. We expect all funds to be awarded and gone in February 2018.

Program Policies

Cancellation Policy

  • If you cancel prior to 30 days before the first day of your session, you will receive a full refund minus $50 of your deposit per camper per session.
  • If you cancel 15-30 days before the first day of your session, you will receive a full refund minus the $150 deposit per camper per session.
  • If you cancel less than 14 days before the first day of your session, you will not receive a refund, unless the program is full and we are able to fill your spot, then you may receive a 50% refund.
  • Refunds will not be given for absent or sick days.
  • Exceptions granted only in the case of health emergency, evidenced by a written physician’s statement, restricting the child from attending camp for the entire session.

Medical Policy

  1. The Hitchcock Center will have the following information on site for all campers and staff: medical concerns, allergy information, current immunization record, emergency phone numbers, physician signature and/or parent signature pertaining to the camper’s ability to participate in camp. No camper will be admitted to camp without a completed health form, current physical and certicate of immunizations.
  2. All emergency phone numbers will be posted next to the phone of each camp. Those phone numbers include the number of the Camp Health Care Consultant, Police, Ambulance, Fire Department and MA Poison Information Center.
  3. All staff working with children are professionally trained and certified in Community CPR and Standard First Aid, or their equivalents.
  4. No camper may attend camp if they are sick. All communicable diseases must be reported to the Camp Director. All campers with fevers over 100°F and/or vomiting must leave the property as soon as possible and not return for 24 hours of being symptom free.
  5. No medication will be administered without written consent form from BOTH the parent/guardian AND the Camp Health Care Consultant. All prescription medication must be provided in the original prescription container with the pharmacy labels. For prescribed medicine, camp staff will not vary from the prescribed dose, appearing on the original label of the medication, without prior approval from the prescribing physician. All over the counter medications must be kept in the original containers, which shall include direction for use.All medication will be kept out of reach of the children in a locked cabinet. In the case of anaphylactic allergies, be sure that any necessary treatments are left at the Hitchcock Center and any EPI Pens are left with the Teacher Naturalists or Camp Director. Teacher Naturalists that have campers with anaphylactic allergic reactions will be trained in the administering of EPI Pens. All medications, with the exception of EPI Pens which are time critical, shall be administered by the health supervisor under the supervision of the health care consultant or a licensed health care professional. When no longer needed, medications shall be returned to a parent or guardian whenever possible. Outdated or unused medication will be properly disposed of.
  6. A Medical Log is kept for all medications given and disposed of and reported injuries.
  7. The camp office has a fully stocked First Aid kit on hand. In addition, the Teacher Naturalists will carry First Aid packs wherever they go.
  8. In the event of a major accident, injury or death during a Hitchcock program or trip, the following steps should be followed:
    1. Call 911 for medical/police assistance.The Amherst Fire Department Ambulance Service will dispatch an ambulance if needed.
    2. Attend to all serious/life threatening injuries immediately and administer First Aid/CPR as needed. Under no circumstances will the victim or other children be left unsupervised.
    3. When help arrives, call the Hitchcock Center for further assistance. Whether you reach a staff person or our voice mail system it is imperative that you leave a complete message with your name, the victim’s name and injury, your location, cell phone number, and the nature of the accident.
    4. The Camp Director will notify a parent/guardian or a parent alternate from the child’s form if unable to reach a parent.
    5. A Camper Injury Report Form will be completed by day’s end.In the event of a mild injury i.e. sprained ankle or wrist:
    6. The child will be given ice and a place to rest to keep the area elevated.
    7. If the child is unable to return to the camp activities the parent will be notified.
    8. The Camp Director will notify a parent/guardian or a parent alternate from the child’s form if unable to reach a parent.In the case of a mild sickness i.e. upset stomach:In the case of a mild sickness i.e. upset stomach:
    9. The child will be given a place to rest.
    10. The parent will be notified.
    11. The Camp Director will notify a parent/guardian or a parent alternate from the child’s form if unable to reach a parent.
    12. If the sickness warrants, the parents will be requested to pick up the child.
    13. When off site, at least one of the Teacher Naturalists will carry a cellular phone for emergency use only.
    14. Copies of the health forms for each camper are kept in the van for emergency uses.

Required Immunizations

Required Immunizations (430.155) For Campers and Staff under 18 Years Old:


5 doses; 4 doses are acceptable if the 4th dose is given on or after the 4th birthday. DT is only acceptable with a letter stating a medical contraindication to DTaP.


4 doses; 4th dose must be given on or after the 4th birthday and ≥6 months after the previous dose, or a 5th dose is required. 3 doses are acceptable if the 3rd dose is given on or after the 4th birthday and ≥6 months after the previous dose.

Hepatitis B

3 doses; laboratory evidence of immunity acceptable


2 doses; first dose must be given on or after the 1st birthday and the 2nd dose must be given ≥28 days after dose 1; laboratory evidence of immunity acceptable


2 doses; first dose must be given on or after the 1st birthday and 2nd dose must be given ≥28 days after dose 1; a reliable history of chickenpox* or laboratory evidence of immunity acceptable

* A reliable history of chickenpox includes a diagnosis of chickenpox, or interpretation of parent/guardian description of chickenpox, by a physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or designee.

Medical exemptions (dated statement signed by a physician stating that a vaccine(s) are medically contraindicated for a student) and religious exemptions (dated statement signed by a student or parent/guardian, if the student is <18 years of age, stating that a vaccine(s) are against sincerely held religious beliefs) must be renewed annually, at the start of the school year.

Parental Responsibilities

A parent, guardian or designated representative for the child shall not send the child to the program if they are ill or have a temperature. All contagious illnesses must be reported to the Camp Director.

If it is determined during the day that the child is ill or has a temperature, the parent/guardian will be notified. It is their responsibility to have the child picked up from camp as soon as possible.

The parent or guardian shall notify the Camp Director if a child will be absent on a regularly enrolled day.

Parents or guardians shall notify the campers Teacher Naturalist or the Camp Director when someone other than those named on the child’s Emergency Information will be picking up the child.

The parent or guardian will assist the staff in handling any behavior problems or other concerns by being open to discussions and conferences in order to best service their child.

Parents and guardians can request copies of the our background check, health care and discipline policies by contacting the Camp Director.

Parents’ and guardians’ questions, suggestions, and concerns are important to the success of Hitchcock Centers Summer Nature Camp. If a staff member is not free to speak with you immediately, please leave your name and phone number, and someone will call you as soon as possible. You can also email the Camp Director. We encourage you to inform the staff if your child is having difficulty at camp. Let them know if changes are occurring at home that are affecting your child’s mood or behavior. Also, if your camper enjoyed a particular event or activity and you appreciate something special at Camp, please tell the staff.

Camper Requirements

Due to the outdoor and exploratory nature of our camp program, campers must be able to move about on uneven terrain. Campers are expected to meaningfully participate in age-appropriate activities, including nature study. If your camper has special conditions, needs, or limitations, you must speak with the Camp Director annually prior to registering to determine whether your camper can be accommodated at camp. Non-disclosure may result in dismissal without refund.

Safety and Behavior Policy

One of our primary goals at the Hitchcock Center is to provide a safe and positive environment for all of the children who participate in our programs, all of the time. At day camp, it is not possible for us to work one-on-one with children with behavioral difficulties. We have designed a general policy to be used with all camp children. There can be no exceptions to this policy. We will handle disruptive and aggressive behavior (hitting, bad language, disrespect to other children or to staff, bullying etc.) as follows:

  • If there is one incident, the parent will be informed.
  • If there are two incidents, we will have a parent, child, and camp director meeting.
  • If the behavior continues and cannot be controlled, the child will be disenrolled. The Executive Director, acting with the advice of the Camp Director or Counselor, will make this decision.

Parents should judge beforehand whether their child is capable of handling a camp setting, as the Hitchcock Center will not refund camp fees for these reasons. This policy represents our best effort to protect children with behavioral problems, their families, other children and our staff.

The Camp Director reserves the right to dismiss a camper when, in his/her judgment, the camper’s behavior interferes with the rights of others or the smooth functioning of the group or activity, or violates the camp’s behavior policy.  In such cases no refunds will be provided.

Safety and Behavior Agreements
  • We promote a culture of using our words to solve problems and to alert staff if a camper is hurt by another camper or otherwise needs help. Staff are trained to facilitate conflict resolution among campers.
  • We foster a culture of respect and care for ourselves, each other, Counselors, and the environment. When disrespect is shown, staff facilitate conflict resolution.
  • Children eat their own food brought from home or snacks given by Counselors only.
  • Children will never be left unsupervised or left alone with a volunteer Junior Counselor.
  • Shoes must be worn at all times while outside.
  • All children wash their hands before meals.
  • No child shall be denied food or shelter as a form of punishment; subjected to cruel or severe punishment, humiliation, verbal abuse, or corporal punishment, including spanking; or be punished for soiling, wetting or not using the toilet.
Staff Recruitment

The following is our standard procedure to ensure that our employees have a background free of conduct that has an adverse effect on his/ her ability to provide for the safety and well being of the campers. The following are minimum requirements for each new prospective employee who may have unsupervised contact with a camper:

  1. Prior Work History (address, phone number)
  2. Three positive reference checks from individuals not related to the staff person including, but not limited to previous employers or school administration.
  3. Inquiry by agency into the individual’s prior criminal history (CORI check and SORI). All staff who live outside of MA are to provide documentation from their local chief of police indicating their prior criminal history.
  4. Based on the required information we will then determine if the potential employees history should disqualify them from any type of contact or presence at the camp.
A Typical Camp Day

8:30 – Arrival, Mystery Corner, Outside Game

9:00 – Morning Circle: Name Games, Songs, Group Challenge, Theme of the Day

10:00 – Snack

10:15 – Outdoor Adventure or Field Trip

12:00 – Lunch

12:30 – Quiet Time

1:00 – Outside Play

1:30 – Craft/Science Time

2:45 – Closing Circle

3:00 – Pick-Up Time

Each day consists of outdoor play, guided hikes and field investigations, songs, crafts and team building games. Campers spend each day doing activities related to the daily theme, such as Hunter/Hunted or The Nutrient Cycle. Snack time, lunch, quiet time, and unstructured play time are also parts of each day. The Eco-Investigators (ages 7-9) travel by van to field trip sites, such as local conservation areas and museums, once per week. The Nature Explorers (ages 9-11) travel by van to the field trip sites two times per week. On the last Friday of the two-week sessions, we hold Camp Share at 2:30. Campers gather to share presentations with each other about what they have learned at camp. Families are welcome to arrive at 2:30pm that day to attend this event.

What to Bring to Camp
  • Hearty snack and lunch that do not require heating or refrigeration
  • Proper footwear. We recommend bringing one pair that can get wet/muddy (ie: Keens or Crocs) and one sturdy closed-toe pair for hiking and running. No flip flops, please.
  • Change of clothes: shirt, bottoms, underwear and socks. This can stay in camper’s cubby throughout the session.
  • Rain gear
  • Water bottle (screw top or canteen style, no straws please)
  • Back pack that fits and is comfortable to wear
  • Hat with brim for sun protection
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent (please apply before camp each day)
  • Swim suit and towel for water games
  • No toys or candy, please
Counselor in Training and Junior Counselor Programs

The Hitchcock Center Nature Summer Camp has great opportunities for teens in 2018! Our “Counselor-in-Training (CIT)” program, is for teens entering 7-9th grade, who love nature and working with children. Our  “Junior Counselor (JC)” program for 10-12th graders ready for more of a leadership role. Applicants for both programs should earnestly wish to build their leadership skills and contribute to a fun, safe camp environment by being mature and appropriate role models for the kids. Learn more…

Nature Summer Camp Sessions

Young Naturalists: Ages 5-7, Entering grades 1-2
Eco-investigators: Ages 7-9, Entering grades 3-4
Nature Explorers: Ages 9-11, Entering grades 5-6
Leaders in Training: Ages 12-14, Entering grades 7-9
Note: Leadership Training Camp is only open to ages 12-14, all other camp sessions are open to ages 5-11. You will select the age group during registration.

Session 1: Making and Tinkering Camp

July 2-6 (one week)
Members $295/Non-members $330
Openings for Young Naturalists only, wait list for other ages
The Hitchcock Center is taking Rube Goldberg camp one step further! Making and tinkering is all about taking things apart to see how they work, finding out what you can make out of loose parts, and most of all, trial and error! Campers will get unstructured explore time with simple machines, circuitry, batteries and motors and will be given building and creating challenges. We’ll take apart toys and other everyday objects to find out how they work. And yes, Rube Goldberg machines will be part of the fun too! Although this camp focuses on physical science we’ll still be going outside for games each day. There will be no field trips this week.

Session 2: Patterns in Nature

July 9-20 (two weeks)
Members $535/Non-members $595
From chipmunk stripes to ladybug spots, spiral seashells to sunflowers, patterns are everywhere you look in nature. In this camp session we will discover what makes a pattern and find out how these designs can help animals, plants and people. We’ll explore animal patterns such as stripes, spots, camouflage and more subtle designs such as branching, waves, wrinkles and packing. Each day will include outdoor adventures and creating art projects and campers will become expert pattern pioneers and savvy design detectives.

Session 2: Leadership Training Camp – Session full, wait list only

July 9-20 (two weeks)
Members $635/Non-members$695
Leadership Training Camp (LTC) has been evolving over the years to continue to meet the growing needs of older and returning campers. Think of LTC as the next step in Hitchcock Camps, where new leaders are developing their skills as naturalists, activity leaders, outdoorspeople, and community members. LTC is designed both for those who want to be a Counselor-in-Training or Junior Counselor at Hitchcock or other camps, and those who just want a chance to develop leadership skills that can apply to school and in life. We will continue to incorporate favorite games, challenges, and activities from years past, and to add in new ones. LTC will involve a number of field trips, such as rock climbing, a ropes course, and hiking, as well as an overnight camping experience. While LTC is designed to be active, we also take time to talk about our experiences and how they help us to become better leaders. We’ll practice what we learn with each other and younger campers. New this year will be what we’re calling “spirals.” The spirals represent how often you have been an LTC camper (spiral 1 for 1st year campers, spiral 2, for 2nd year campers, etc.) and will hold slightly different expectations/skills at each spiral. LTC is designed for all Hitchcock campers aged 12-14 (entering 7th, 8th, and 9th grades) looking to learn what it takes to lead others in the outdoors, and we’ll have lots of fun in the process!

Session 3: Ew, that’s Gross!

July 23-27 (one week)
Members $295/Non-members $330
Do you love bugs, snakes and slugs? Do you love digging in the dirt? Then this is the session for you! During this week we’ll make slime, play in the mud and discover the insects and other creatures that live in the soil. We’ll find out who’s who in the creepy crawly world and learn about the important jobs these animals have in their environment as decomposers, predators and food for other animals. Hands-on animal observation, hikes and crafts are all part of the fun! There will be no field trips this week.

Session 4: Biologists in Training

July 30-August 10 (two weeks)
Members $535/Non-members $595
In this newly evolved camp session, we will become science detectives, learning more about the life all around us. We will explore life in all sorts of ways – venturing into different of habitats and encountering creatures of different shapes and sizes. We will discover what is underfoot, in the water, or growing right before our eyes. With games, experiments, hikes and special visitors we will have close encounters with different types of living creatures and learn how they survive and thrive.

Session 5: Mountains and Valleys

August 13-17 (one week)
Members $295/Non-members $330
Openings for Young Naturalists and Eco-Investigators only
Discover the stories in the stones around us!  We live in a geologically unique area, and the landscape provides intriguing clues to the past. We will find evidence of shifting plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, glaciers, and the power of water. We will hike up mountains, collect rocks, and explore the rivers that have cut through the land all in the midst of stories, songs, art and outdoor play.  Join us for this fun filled educational week.

Scholarships are available. Vouchers accepted. Nature Summer Camp must comply with regulations of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and be licensed by the local Board of Health.

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Hitchcock Center for the Environment