Our residency programs partner a skilled Hitchcock educator with schools to study local places, solve environmental issues, investigate engineering and design questions, or use natural areas close to your school for outdoor-oriented, project- and place-based learning. We can custom-design our residencies to the meet the unique needs of your school. In addition, we often partner with schools in seeking outside grant funding to support our naturalist-in-residence programs.

A Sample Overview of Our Residencies

Chain Reaction Machines in the Classroom

Swift River Elementary, Belchertown (2018), East Meadow School, Granby (2019), and Stanley M Koziol Elementary, Ware (2018, 2019)

In Katie Koerten’s “Chain Reaction Machines in the Classroom” residency, elementary students explore concepts of friction, gravity, force and momentum through designing and building Rube Goldberg-inspired chain reaction machines. Third graders meet with Katie between 3 and 5 times to create marble runs and chain reaction machines using simple materials such as paper tubes, dominoes and marbles. Working within the constraints of a limited amount of time and materials, students design and create contraptions meeting certain criteria, such as number of turns in a marble run or a contraption that rings a bell in 3 steps. Students encounter frustration as their marbles that get stuck, or their dominoes fall over before the students are ready. Group members might not agree on what idea to use, or maybe their ideas are too ambitious to be carried out within the allotted time. All these challenges make it all the more rewarding when their contraptions succeed. Katie’s residency culminates in a collaborative challenge in the school cafeteria, in which all third grade families are invited to participate. Alongside their parents, third graders construct a chain reaction machine with the allotted materials in 45 minutes. Sharing their new skills with their parents is fun, exciting and hopefully inspires new science connections for the family.

Local Systems in Nature

Jackson Street School in Northampton (2017/2018 and 2018/2019)

For the past 2 school years, Peter Lamdin has worked at the Jackson Street School in Northampton working with 3rd and 5th grades looking at “Local Systems in Nature.” For the first year of this study, both of the grade levels did a study of the school’s outdoor woods classroom. The 3rd graders adopted a tree, which was then visited in late fall, winter, early spring with a focus on identification, a look at the ecosystem the tree was situated in, the insects that were found on, in, and around the tree, and other plants in the area. In the 5th grade, the focus was similar, however the students chose a tree or plant to study and use the information they found to make a field guide to the woods classroom. Both grades then participated in the Hitchcock Center’s “Biothon,” wandering the woods and the areas around the school to try and identify as many plant, insect, bird, and animal species as possible. The study changed a bit in the 2018/2019 school year for the 5th grade, as the new science standards have a 5th grade focus on water and the water cycle, so while the 3rd grade program stayed the same, the 5th graders learned about water: how much water covers the earth, how much of that water is fresh water, and how much of that fresh water is actually available to us as people (well, and flora and fauna as well); then a look next at how the ground water in wells, rivers, lakes, etc. flows and is recharged, and what happens if pollution enters the system; a look at flooding and how the presence of absence of wetlands affects human habitation during storms; and finally an engineering challenge to design a “Rain water Capture System.” All activities are done in a very hands-on way, matching current science standards, learning, and having fun!

Our World and Our Place In It: Systems and Cycles in Nature

Pelham Elementary School (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)

This is our fourth year working in Pelham through the MCC STARS grant: “Our World and Our Place In It: Systems and Cycles in Nature.” Hitchcock educator, Helen Ann Sephton has worked with all grades K-6, with each grade using the local habitats around the school to supplement the class curriculum. Each grade has a different focus and over the 4 years they have explored seasonal changes, soil properties, animal adaptations, energy – as it cycles through ecosystems and also as humans use forms of energy in our lives. They have explored water systems and renewable energy through building models and visiting the Hitchcock Center’s living building.

Exploring and Protecting Local Resources

Rowe Elementary School

Our school is located in a beautiful, rural setting and we continually seek to deepen our students’ relationship with nature and their surroundings. Our staff and students have become increasingly interested in how we can connect with our broader environment and ensure its sustainability into the future. As a Project-Based Learning School, we are planning a year-long study, at all grade levels and across content areas, of ways for us to live sustainably on the Earth. Teachers will incorporate
lessons on sustainability in reading, writing, math, social studies, PE, art, as well as science, so that students will be able to make deeper, more concrete connections to the issues in the world around them.

Preschool will explore animal behaviors and habitats as well as human impact on those areas, using their five senses. They will also look at recycling, composting, reducing and reusing. Grades K, 1 and 2 will investigate our local pond, Pelham Lake, the flora and fauna it supports, the natural resources it provides, the impact that humans can have, both positive and negative. Grades 3 and 4 will focus on renewable energies in many forms, and how an understanding of renewable energies can lessen human impact on the world around them. Grades 5 and 6 will study energy and water systems, from personal, to school-wide, to regional scale. In each case, these explorations will be led by our Cultural Partner, Ted Watt, of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. Ted will lead classes at our school, the local pond, other local sites, and the Hitchcock Center.

Working as Scientists in our Local Environment

Leverett Elementary School (2019)

Through the MCC STARS Residency, Helen Ann Sephton is working with all grades K-6. The teachers and principal are committed to using the outdoors as part of the students’ curriculum, and each grade’s focus includes an outdoor component, with the students working as scientists in their own schoolyard. Students explore the woods, a vernal pool and a stream, learning about water quality, life cycles of plants and animals, earth processes through local geology, water systems and energy. They build and test models and design solutions to human problems such as water filtration.

Variation and Adaptation in Local Animals

Crocker Farm School, Amherst (2014)

The Hitchcock Center has been working in the Amherst Public Schools for 30 plus years. From field trips to the Hitchcock center in the 1980’s to the EcoBus program in the 90’s to ongoing Water Conservation education for half of the students in every school, to curriculum development with teachers, our connection and collaboration is strong.

In 2014 Crocker Farm School applied for and received a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Students and Teachers working with Artists, Scientists and Scholars (STARS) Residencies program. Hitchcock educator Helen Ann Sephton worked with the third grade classes on the project “Variation and Adaptation in Local Animals.” Students  observed live animals, mounted animals, and mammal skulls to learn how animals are adapted to their specific habitats. They explored a pond, learning about biodiversity and aquatic adaptations. On their school grounds, students collected and observed insects and other invertebrates. They demonstrated their learning through writing and drawing, and worked with art teacher, Diane Travis, to create models of fictitious animals. Students are excited to share their work at the June, 2015 science fair, which will include parents, other grades, local papers and the local cable station.

Field Guide to Plants and Trees of Fort River School

Fort River School, Amherst (2014)

In 2014 the fourth grade teachers at Fort River School also applied for and received a Massachusetts Cultural Council STARS grant to work with Hitchcock educator Helen Ann Sephton. Helen Ann has worked with this grade in the past to enrich their Trees and Plants unit by exploring the school grounds and identifying the plants found there. In the spring of 2014, John Keins’ class participated in the Hitchcock Center’s Biothon, identifying all species found around the school in one afternoon. They decided to take this to the next level, and this grant will fund the project: Field Guide to Plants and Trees of Fort River School. The guide will include plants and trees right around the school as well as at the Fort River, which runs nearby. The finished product will be presented to families at a community event in June, and a copy will be kept in the classrooms and the school library.

More residencies coming soon…

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Hitchcock Center for the Environment