Educational fun, Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Amherst

By Carol Lollis Photos by Kevin Gutting, Dan Little, Jerry Roberts Daily Hampshire Gazette

Every year, nearly 9,000 folks take advantage of programs at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment at 525 South Pleasant St. in Amherst. The nonprofit center, founded in 1962, offers 370 outdoor educational programs to participants who come mainly from western Massachusetts.

It’s a place, says the center’s education director, Colleen Kelley, that offers programs for children and families that allow them to connect with and learn about their local environment.

Hampshire Life photographers caught up with children and their parents as they explored the outdoors last week during an after-school program that encourages kids to climb trees, play in the mud and run in the fields, and during a home-school program, in which participants this week learned about the life cycles of insects.

“It gets kids outside, running around and getting mucky. I think its good for them,” said Laura Quilter of Amherst, whose daughter Ada, 7, attends the after-school program.

“It’s pretty fun,” said Patrick O’Roark, an environmental educator at the center. “I have to make sure everything is going according to plan and the kids are happy and safe. But half the time, I’m just thinking, ‘I wish there were no kids here so I could just play with all this awesome stuff.’ ”

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Hitchcock Center for the Environment