Meet our 2016 Summer Camp Staff

camp staff 2016

L to R: Hannah French, Josia Gertz DeChiara, Jeff Mazur, Sierra Hausthor, Patrick O’Rourke, Katie Koerten, Lori Eldridge, Martha Walker, Peter Lamdin (not pictured: Colleen Kelley)

By Jeff Mazur

June 24, 2016

Hello and welcome to Nature Summer Camp 2016! I am incredibly excited for my first Nature Summer Camp with the Hitchcock Center. The teacher naturalists, Katie and I have been as busy as beavers around here getting ready for the first day of camp next week. We can’t wait to meet all the campers! I am super thrilled about our staff. We are lucky to have three returning counselors, three fabulous new ones, a dedicated volunteer teacher naturalist and two wonderful support staff! And now, let’s introduce them one by one…

Josia Gertz DeChiara

Many years ago, Josia Gertz DeChiara was a camper at the Hitchcock Center, climbing trees and playing in mud puddles. Her fascination with the magical inner workings of plants drew her to study molecular ecology at Hampshire College, where she will be a senior. Josia has been a Hitchcock Center intern since the fall of 2013, where she has been assisting with Nature Play Afterschool, Girls In The Wild, Nature Discovery Preschool, and Hitchcock Homeschool programs. She joins us now as a teacher naturalist for the first session of Young Naturalists and co-leading the Leadership Training Camp with Peter Lamdin. She loves how excited children are to explore the natural world and is grateful for the opportunity to be part of their play and learning. When she is not studying or tramping around Larch Hill, she can often be found running, making kimchi, or trying to identify ferns and moss.

Lori Eldridge

Lori is very excited for the opportunity to volunteer at this year’s summer camp for the first time. She graduated from UCONN with her BSN in the 80’s and has been working as a nurse for the past 30+ years. She is in the process of a career change to Sustainability and Agriculture and is currently taking classes. She has also volunteered at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary as a Walk Leader for children, worked on 2 organic farms and is a Big Sister. She loves children and teaching as well as the outdoors and looks forward to a rich and rewarding summer experience working at Hitchcock. In her spare time, she loves to garden, cook, hike, swim, sail, kayak, camp (anything outdoors) as well as knit or work on a community project with a group of people.

Hannah French

Hannah is thrilled to return to Hitchcock Nature Summer Camp for her third summer as a Teacher Naturalist. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from UMass Amherst, and is more than halfway through her Master’s program in Elementary Education and Science/Environmental Education at Antioch University of New England. In addition to working at Camp, Hannah has spent three seasons as a Hitchcock Intern working on a variety of projects. This spring, she had a blast co-leading Nature Play Afterschool with Josia and co-teaching Homeschool I with Jeff. Hannah loves to sing, and when she’s not at camp she can often be found playing the fiddle, the banjo, or the ukulele. She can’t wait for camp to begin!

Sierra Hausthor

Sierra is so excited for her first year as a teacher naturalist for the Young Naturalists at Hitchcock! Growing up in the valley, she spent her childhood in the woods studying outdoor survival, enjoying time in the forest and learning about animals. From attending Hitchcock summer camp as a kid, to the homeschool program, to working as a junior counselor last summer, she has spent much of her life at the Hitchcock Center. Sierra has worked with kids of all ages for many years and it’s always been a passion of hers. She’s been a babysitter for about eight years and has worked as an intern at the High School Preschool program over the last year. She very much looks forward to pursuing study in outdoor education and oceanography after finishing her last year of high school. If Sierra’s not at the Hitchcock Center, you can usually find her babysitting, performing theater, hiking with her dog, or spending time with her friends.

Colleen Kelley

We are very lucky to have Colleen assisting us with camp this summer. Colleen is going on 32 years of being part of the Hitchcock Center staff, and has worked on just about everything here, from camp to school residencies to homeschool to afterschool to her all-time favorite program, Nature Discovery Preschool! All that experience has led to her current role as Education Director, in which she provides leadership and support for the education staff, Hitchcock’s Living Building project, professional development programs, college interns and loads more. In her spare time Colleen loves to get moving outdoors, from swimming to running to cycling to hiking!

Katie Koerten

This summer Katie is stepping into the role of Assistant Camp Director. She has worn several hats at camp, including Director for 5 years, a counselor for 2 years, and a Leadership Training Camp Instructor with Peter Lamdin. She began at Hitchcock as a camp counselor in the summer of 2007, when she fell in love with the Pioneer Valley and the Hitchcock Center. She spent three years working in a public school Kindergarten classroom and then took an internship working as an avian rehabilitator and educator at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. She joined Hitchcock’s staff full time in 2011, when she became Children and Family Programs Coordinator, teaching homeschool, afterschool, camps and other children and family programs. When Katie is not at Hitchcock she can be found birdwatching, admiring wildflowers and hiking with her new baby daughter.

Peter Lamdin

We could not be more excited to have Peter back for his third year as a co-instructor of our popular Leadership Training Camp. After 30+ years as an educator in public schools, Peter has re-joined the Hitchcock Center staff (in retirement, no less!) as a field trip educator and camp instructor. Peter is beloved by many in the community and some families were eager to sign up for his camp because he was such a wonderful 6th grade teacher. But what many do not know is that Peter was one of Hitchcock’s first camp counselors in the earliest days of Hitchcock camp programming! Welcome back Peter!

Jeffrey Mazur

Jeff is answering the call of the wild – to inspire others to be better stewards of our planet through helping children and adults more deeply connect to the natural world. Jeff joined the Hitchcock Center in January, co-teaching the Homeschool I program. For the previous two years, Jeff worked for Mass Audubon as a teacher/naturalist at Arcadia, Drumlin Farm and Habitat Sanctuaries and created his own afterschool program called “Into the Woods” for the Lexington Montessori School. Jeff brings to his teaching a deep-felt gratitude for the earth, an innate and also continuously growing ability to experientially engage others in the wonders of nature, and his own wellspring of curiosity and delight at the surprises that unfold around us each day. Jeff, his wife Jackie, and two children Adam and Raquel, recently moved to Amherst from the Boston area. Jeff will be teaching the Homeschool II program and Nature Afterschool Program in the fall. When not at the Hitchcock Center, Jeff can be found in the woods keeping a keen lookout for mushrooms, swimming at Puffer’s Pond, biking or tending his garden. 

Patrick O’Roark

Patrick is thrilled to back for his fourth season with Hitchcock Nature Summer Camp as Teacher Naturalist for the Explorers. Over the last few years he’s fallen in love with the Hitchcock Center and in the spring of 2015 joined as a full time staff member. In addition to summer and school vacation camps he teaches the Discovery Days, school field trip programs, school residency programs, and is Hitchcock’s Live Animal Caretaker. When not teaching or tending to the critters, Patrick can be found lurking about in art museums and movie theaters or barefoot hiking somewhere in the Mount Holyoke Range.

Martha Walker

Martha is so looking forward to spending her first summer as a teacher naturalist for the Explorers at the Hitchcock Center! A native of Chicago, Martha will be a senior at Colorado College fulfilling a degree in Environmental Science. She has worked as a counselor for the past four summers, the last two spent as an environmental educator at the Lake Forest Open Lands Association. Her love of adventuring in the outdoors spurred her to travel throughout Ecuador, Peru, and India, learning about everything from permaculture farming and tracking Himalayan snow leopards, to replanting native forests and taking care of Macaque monkeys in Goa. She is beyond excited to explore nature with Hitchcock Center campers, and couldn’t imagine spending her summer any other way!

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