Classroom Programs

Our classroom programs use the scientific process, live animals, and hands-on activities to help students learn about a wide range of life, earth, physical and environmental science topics. In addition to the classroom programs listed below, a number of our field trips can be adapted to a one-hour classroom program including our Habitat Studies, Animals in Winter, Tree and Me, Forest Ecology, Insect Investigations, Life in a Pond, and Pond Ecosystems. All programs meet Massachusetts Curriculum Standards.

Program Length
1 hour

Program Fee Effective July 1, 2017
$195 + travel fee

For help selecting the best program for your class, view our Scope and Sequence Chart to find field trips and classroom programs listed by grade level and science discipline.

Classroom Programs

Animal Builders

Grade Levels: PreK, K, 2
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
In the Fall, the focus of this activity is squirrels as builders. We will learn from squirrels the engineering and design of nests and dreys, and build models of squirrel homes. If this program takes place in Spring when birds are building nests, we will build too! We will look closely at the materials that nests are built out of and think about how birds construct their nests.

Properties of Matter

Grade Levels: K–2
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
Students investigate properties of different materials, both solid and liquid. They then explore oobleck, a polymer, and carry out a design challenge to create a vehicle that will land on this unusual substance.

Small Animals and the Practice of Science

Grade Levels: PreK–2

Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
Children are naturally drawn to animals and our programs foster this curiosity and wonder while teaching respect for all living things. Children will have the opportunity to watch a box turtle crawl on their classroom floor and to observe a variety of other animals up close. Working as scientists in a live animal lab, students will make observations and record them through drawing and writing. Our selection of live animals does change periodically, but we currently have box turtles, land snails, Annam Stick Insects, and various other arthropods.

Sound Challenge

Grade Levels: 1
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
Using “kitchen gongs”, students explore the sounds they can make by vibrating different materials. They work in groups and choose from a variety of materials to design and build a device that will carry sound signals to each other. They test and compare their devices to determine how they might be improved.

Soil Erosion Challenge

Grade levels 2-4
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
Students will investigate how water can change the shape of land. They will begin by exploring the properties of materials and how they interact with water. Using this knowledge, they will design and create a model and test its effectiveness in preventing soil erosion.

Live Animal Investigation

Grade Levels: 2-4
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
Inquiry is the natural way we find things out about our environment and our relationship to it. It involves making observations, asking questions, and investigating those questions. In this exciting lesson, students will carry out an inquiry investigation of a live animal, learning the steps scientists take to set up a fair test and record data. They will come away with a deeper understanding, both of the process of doing science and the animal they investigate.

Chain Reaction Machines

Grade Levels: 3-5
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
A chain reaction machine is often a whimsical and delightful contraption that performs a simple task in the most complicated way possible. Students will be presented with a task and a variety of materials. They will design, build and test their machines, watching energy move from one object to another to complete the task.

Rainwater Capture Challenge

Grade levels 3-5
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
In this activity, students will be presented with a real world problem – a shortage of water. They are challenged to create a model of a roof to capture and store rainwater and snowmelt. They must meet certain criteria and work within the constraints of materials, time and cost. Students will test and compare solutions, and discuss improvements to the model.

Water Filtration Challenge

Grade Levels 3-5
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
Clean water is essential for human life. Students will be presented with a situation where a human practice has polluted drinking water. They will choose appropriate materials to design and build a water filtration system. Students will compare different systems and discuss improvements to their designs.

Local Animals and Their Adaptations

Grade Levels: 3–4
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
How do animals survive in the wild? Meet some live and mounted local animals, and learn how their biology and behavior helps them to survive in their habitat. An educator will bring animals from forest, field and wetland habitats to your classroom, and students will learn about the amazing diversity of life in our area.

Busy Beavers: An Engineering Design Challenge

Grade Levels: 4-6

Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
Beavers are often called “nature’s engineers” due to their remarkable ability to change their habitat. This keystone species has amazing adaptations that enable it to survive and thrive, especially in the northeast, and students may have seen evidence of beavers in their community. This lesson aims to introduce students to beaver adaptations and then focus on the engineering aspect of building dams. After learning why and how beavers build dams in the wild, students will design their own dam using provided materials, work with a team on a unifying design, and build, test, re-design, and re-test their dams.

Wind Energy: The Turbine Design Challenge

Grade Levels 4-6
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
Students will investigate how wind can generate electricity using fans and small motors. They will view photos of various wind turbine designs to inspire them in creating their own prototype. Students build and test their models by measuring electricity generated. They then evaluate design features and plan for re-design.

Earthquake Challenge

Grade Levels: 4, 7
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
In areas of tectonic activity, people must design for potential earthquakes. In this activity, students design and use simple materials to build small buildings (models) to withstand earthquakes of varying intensities. Buildings are tested on a “shake table.”

Energy Investigations

Grade Levels: 4, 7-8
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
Energy is both in the news and in the Massachusetts Framework. This award-winning curriculum will help you and your students understand where our energy comes from in Massachusetts and how it is generated. You will explore both renewable and non-renewable energy sources and generate electricity using a simple generator, solar collectors, mini-wind mills (turbines), and water wheels (turbines). There is an emphasis on sustainable technologies and carbon emissions, and making the connection between human activities and climate change.

Water in our World

Grade Levels: 2, 5
Massachusetts Curriculum Standards
Where does our drinking water come from? How much water do we need? How do we protect this precious resource? These questions are explored through hands-on activities, discussion and small group work. Lesson content varies with grade level, focusing on the water cycle and conservation in the early grades, and ground water issues in older grades.


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Hitchcock Center for the Environment