Western MA State Forests & Parks Supporting Nature-Based Education through Community Engagement

Learning through the Lens of Local Habitat at Western MA State Forests & Parks
By Guest Writer, Gini Traub

As a tax-supported agency, DCR’s educational programs are offered free of charge. They are available to public, private, and home school groups, scouts, and adult learners. Here’s a quick run-down of field trip opportunities in the Connecticut River Valley.

When you hear the term, “Field Trip,” what do you think?

Recently I spoke with a teacher at the Christa McAuliffe Regional Charter School in Framingham. This middle school emphasizes expeditionary education with field trips for students. “But we don’t call them field trips,” the teacher said. “Students think a field trip is a day to goof off. We call them field work and field research, just like scientists do.”

I couldn’t agree more, even though I still call them “field trips.” I’m a regional educator for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the agency that manages the state forests and parks. There is so much to learn and discover in them. And it fits with so much of what’s taught in the classroom.

Why not take classroom learning and see how it’s applied in the field? The subjects can be geology, soils, plants, and ecology. It can be history, too: No matter where we walk in wooded Massachusetts, chances are we will find evidence of past human activity, what I sometimes call hidden history. Read the rest of this entry »

State Forests & Parks: Treasure for all to Enjoy

Massachusetts State Forests & Parks Connect Community to Local Habitat and Natural Resources

In the extreme southwest corner of Massachusetts is a cluster of state parks noted for their spectacular scenery and breathtaking views, including Mount Washington State Forest. Adjacent to the state forest is Bash Bish Falls, one of the state’s most dramatic waterfalls. Cascading water tumbles through a series of gorges, and then plummets some 60 feet into a sparkling pool below. One of the many “so much fun for so little money” locations the DCR manages.

  • “Come out and play!”
  • “Find yourself in a state park.”
  • “It’s your nature.”

These are some of the phrases Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has used over the years to invite visitors to Massachusetts state Forests and Parks.  They are all true. Here’s another one:  “So much fun for so little money!” It’s unofficial, of my own invention, and so true, too.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation – the state forests and parks – kicks its recreation season into high gear in June.  Plan a visit.  Plan lots of visits.  Let’s talk about the “so much fun” part first.  “For so little money” is covered later in this article.


The first thing to know about your state Forests and Parks is that there are lots of them – approximately 150 sites throughout Massachusetts. They range from small “pocket parks,” such as playgrounds, in eastern Massachusetts, to several thousand acre forests in western Massachusetts. October Mountain in Berkshire County, at over 16,000 acres, is one of the largest.

The point is this:  Each park is special in its own unique way, whether it is a geologic wonder, like Natural Bridge‘s marble formations in North Adams; or the state’s highest peak, Mt. Greylock State Reservation, in Lanesboro; or waterfalls like the 80-foot Bash Bish Falls in Mt. Washington; or even re-claimed forest land, such as Erving State Forest and many of our other state forests. Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Hiking Adventures at Mount Greylock State Reservation

9 Hiking Adventures For All Ages in the Berkshires

Join state park interpreters this summer for fun, family-friendly explorations on Mount Greylock State Reservation. For all programs, be prepared for weather, bring a snack and water. Sponsored by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. For more information contact 413-499-4262.

Get outside and explore a local mountain (and landmark!) with the family this summer!  The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is offering nearly ten different weekly hikes throughout the summer at Mount Greylock State Reservation, the highest point in the state of Massachusetts.  Families of all ages and hiking abilities will find multiple opportunities each week to venture to various parts of the reservation – hikes highlight everything from waterfalls to local flora and fauna, hiking and woods skills to summit habitats.

Families with young children can introduce small kiddos to the wonder of the natural world and the fun of hiking at the weekly Tyke Hike, an easy and slow woods adventure that ends with a nature-themed storytime.  Older kids can enjoy more strenuous hikes or take part in Hiking 101, designed to teach confidence on the trails and equip participants with the skills necessary to become seasoned hikers.

Along with introducing kids to the love hiking, the weekly adventures provide families with regular opportunities to engage with and learn about their local surroundings…

Read the rest of this entry »

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