Six Community-Based Resources Support Learning on the River
The Westfield and Connecticut River are ecosystems made up of beautiful landscapes and filled with fascinating natural history, home to a great many creatures of all shapes and sizes. By utilizing resources offered by community organizations and plugging into local networks, families can access the many community-based learning opportunities that our local habitat affords us. From species identification to Native American culture, the our rivers are filled with opportunities to engage in community-based education…
Westfield River Wild and Scenic Committee
The Westfield River Wild and Scenic Committee helps to protect and promote usage of over 78 miles of the Westfield River that have been federally designated as wild and scenic. The Westfield River stands as one of the most intact river systems in southern New England, and boasts not only excellent water quality and healthy populations of aquatic species, but the river is dotted with gems highlighting the area’s natural history (the Chesterfield Gorge and Glendale Falls, for example), as well as clues as to what life along the river was like in the past (such as the Keystone Arch Bridges). Families can take advantage of this summer’s Wild and Scenic Weekends in order to get out and about and learn within the watershed, and can engage further in river stewardship through the committee’s conservation programs, which include stream monitoring, trail maintenance, and habitat restoration.
Springfield Naturalists’ Club
Families wishing to branch out in their explorations of the Connecticut River watershed can peruse the offerings of the Springfield Naturalists’ Club, an all-volunteer organization offering outdoor explorations all over western Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire, and northern Connecticut. The Naturalists’ Club aims to teach community members about local natural history, and offers a very full schedule of community-based outdoor explorations, most of which are free and all of which are open to the public.
Pioneer Valley Institute
To incorporate studies of local natural history with human history in the Connecticut River Valley, families can look to the Pioneer Valley Institute and the Nolumbeka Project. Based at Greenfield Community College, the Pioneer Valley Institute offers opportunities to learn about the history of communities all along the Connecticut River Valley and the ways in which they have interacted with the landscape. Offering programs centered around the history, art, and culture of local communities and the ways in which these things are intertwined with geology and natural history, the Pioneer Valley Institute offers workshops and expeditions throughout the year. While the institute’s spring programming ended in early June, new offerings (field trips, talks, and exhibits) will be available in the fall.
Further explorations of humans’ role in the Connecticut River watershed can be done through the Nolumbeka Project, an organization whose mission is to promote accurate depictions of Native Americans before and during colonization, and to preserve sacred and historic sites in New England. The project offers educational opportunities and cultural events that aim to share the Native American history and culture that is specific to this area, allowing families the opportunity to look deeply (and further back) into local history and to approach further studies with a critical lens. In addition to offering educational opportunities, the Nolumbeka project protects Wissatinnewag and White Ash Swamp, two pieces of land of great importance to local Native American communities. Learning about the history of these two properties can help families understand the importance of their preservation, as well as the importance of including Native American history and culture in studies of the local watershed.
Connecticut River Watershed Council
The Connecticut River Watershed Council works to protect the watershed from source to sea. From alpine forests to tidal estuaries, rural farmlands to urban riverfronts, spotted salamanders to bald eagles and mussels to salmon, the Connecticut River watershed unites a diversity of habitats, communities and resources. For over 60 years CRWC has been leading the way to restore, protect and celebrate the river. CRWC sponsors community-based opportunities to get involved with the river in many different ways including water quality monitoring, tree-planting, and the popular annual Source to Sea Cleanup. Check out the CRWC website for watershed resources, recreational maps, and upcoming events.
River-Based Learning Events
Saturday, June 20, 2015. 10:30am — NATIVE FAUNA River otters, muskrats, and beavers live in the habitat along the Connecticut River, and the Sunderland Public Library invites children up to 8 years old and their caregivers to explore this habitat in depth during a library program happening on Saturday, June 20 at 10:30am. Participants will look for evidence of these animals and perhaps see the creatures themselves! 413-665-2642. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)
Tuesday, June 23, 2015. 10:30am – 11:30am — NATIVE FAUNA Children who come to understand and value nature often carry that perspective into adulthood. Give the children in your life a strong, early connection to the world around them through activities like Kidleidoscope Tuesdays at the Great Falls Discovery Center! Children ages 3-6 and their caregivers are invited to visit for a story, game, and craft related to the natural world. Today’s topic will be river otters! 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)
Wednesday, June 24, 2015. 6:30pm — LOCAL HISTORY Did you know that there are 13 intact dams along the Connecticut River? They range in height from 10 feet to 178 feet tall, and some produce hydroelectricity! Older students and adults will enjoy learning about when and why these dams were built from the South Hadley Historical Society’s Leo Lebonte. This event is part of the South Hadley Cultural Council‘s SH20 celebration highlighting South Hadley’s connection to the Connecticut River and its surrounding landforms, flora, fauna, and history. 413-538-5045. South Hadley Public Library, 2 Canal Street, South Hadley, MA. (FREE)