Author Archives: Shawn M

New things at Moose Hill Camp

Spring is here! Although as I look out the window this morning on April 2nd, I am watching the snow fall. Despite the snow outside, we here at Moose Hill Camp, are getting ready for summer camp 2018! We have several new programs and special weeks that we are offering this summer. As you plan your summer for your kids, consider having them join our community for one week or multiple weeks. Here are the new programs we are offering this summer. If you have any questions about any of these programs, or anything else about our summer programs, please contact Shawn at [email protected]

Writing: July 2-6. Week 3
Learn how to express yourself in words and pictures and craft your own book! You will learn how to create stories from beginning to end, and learn about telling stories with pictures. During this week, campers will spend time exploring Moose Hill’s property to find some inspiration for their stories regardless if the story is nature themed or not. Campers will also learn how to make their own paper from natural and recycled materials. We will use writing prompts and also learn about the process of telling a story.

Organic Art: July 23-27. Week 6
This week campers will spend the week harvesting materials from the landscape to make their own art and materials. We will be making our own charcoal, inks/ dyes, pens, brushes, and paper. While we will also use modern materials, the goal is to learn how to make some basic art tools that you can use at home.

Music Week: August 6-10. Week 8
This week we will be making our own music in a variety of ways. Monday and Tuesday we will get to explore music in nature, and several simple instruments. We might even make a few simple instruments. Then, Wednesday through Friday we will have Maine folk musician Doug Day as a musician in residence. On early Friday evening after camp, Doug will be giving a free concert with the campers who can be here playing a combination of his songs and ones written that week. Here is a little more about Doug from the Maine Arts Commission and the Sweet Chariot Music Festival.

Climate Science: July 2-6. Week 3
This week the campers will be looking at the Climate and Climate data from here in Massachusetts. Climate is a big topic, and we will look at breaking it down into smaller portions so we can get a good understanding of what is happening with our weather over a long period of time. We will also be using Mass Audubon’s State of the Birds as one of the resources in exploring climate effects in Massachusetts.

Conservation Science: July 16-20. Week 5
There are many ways that people help take care of and protect the nature of Massachusetts and beyond. During this week we will be looking at who are some famous conservationists and what they did to help save certain areas of nature. We will also be talking with some folks who are actively in the field doing conservation work. We will spend time exploring an invasive species removal project that we have going on here on Moose Hill.

Earth Science: July 30-August 3. Week 7
There are several systems that operate in the natural world in synchronicity. During this week, in addition to exploring Moose Hill, campers will learn about the water cycle, food web, geology, weather, and the atmosphere. While out on camp, they will get to see Earth Science up close and personal.

GARDEN CAMP: Ages 7-9. Weeks 5-10 (July 16-August 20)
We have had Farm camp for several years. And we had a number of younger campers express an interest in learning about farming. And so, we created Garden Camp. Garden Camp will be based at the Farm House which is just across the street from the main nature center at Moose Hill. We will have several raised garden beds that we will be learning about, tending, and harvesting from. Campers will get to plant, take care of plants in various stages of growth, and harvest vegetables from the garden. Garden campers will also explore Moose Hill’s extensive trail system and, of course, we will visit The Farm at Moose Hill during the week.

NATURE ADVENTURE CAMP: Ages 12-15. Weeks 2-10. (June 25-August 20)
This new program is for our older campers who still want to be outside and explore while learning some new skills. Nature Adventure Camp campers will get out and explore parts of Moose Hill that not many people get to see. This group will be small in size, no more than 6 most likely, and big on exploration. In addition, campers will be learning navigation skills, and basic survival skills around shelter, water, and fire. This group will be a small community that will really get to know Moose Hill in a different way.

Winter adventure!

I love winter in New England and I always have. Let me be more specific. I have lived in Missouri and the Bay Area of California and I do not enjoy those winters as much. Winter should be cold, full of snow, and provide opportunities to get outside and embrace the season! And even if you are not as enthusiastic about the winter season as I am, there are plenty of outdoor activities you can take part in to experience winter in Massachusetts and all over New England. If you are looking for ways to get outside this winter and experience nature in a different way, consider these activities to do by yourself, with your family, or with a group of friends.

Cross Country Skiing
For me there are few activities like gliding through a winter forest landscape on a pair of cross-country skis. You get to experience the woods and fields in a different way. Faster than a walk, but not so fast that you miss details such as tracks or bird calls. You can become wrapped in the blanket of winter sounds and sights as you explore.
If you have never been cross country skiing I suggest renting a pair from a local ski resort or an outdoor store that does rentals or offer classes. Start slow, and don’t try and ski 10 miles your first time out. Take it slow. And if you want to challenge yourself, there are races too. One thing to remember with cross country skiing, and many winter activities, is that you will work up a sweat as you go so dress accordingly. Wear layers and when you start off, being a little cool is a good plan. Bring a warmer layer for when you stop to rest, you will cool off quickly. Also make sure you have a way to carry water and food. Dress for success.

If you are looking for an activity that has a lot of similarities to cross country skiing and has some very distinct differences, go snowshoeing! It is not as graceful as cross country skiing, and you get to experience nature a little slower. The best part of snowshoeing for me is the adventure of not knowing how deep the snow is under your feet! In many places you can find groomed areas for snowshoeing which can be great and allow you to move at decent pace. And there are other places where you can go explore “off trail” and this is where the adventure of discovering snow depth can be found.

Getting out and seeing what animals have been there before you can be a rewarding experience. Tracking in winter can be done on foot, skis or snow shoes. It can be done as a standalone activity or a great additional activity to do while you are doing something else. In winter learning to read tracks on the landscape when there is snow, even a dusting, can be a rewarding experience. You can go tracking almost anywhere, including your backyard, and learning the basics of tracking and identifying prints can be done fairly easily.

Check out our upcoming program, Tracks and Traces!

Maple sugaring
There is nothing like tasting real, pure maple syrup. And the smell of the sugaring process is almost magical! In New England there is a multitude of opportunities to see the sugaring process first hand. It is a great opportunity to experience a food to table process and get a great treat as well. Maple sugaring is a great group experience as well. Head out as a family or as a group of friends and find a local sugaring operation and learn more about this great New England tradition.

Check out our upcoming programs and events on maple sugaring!

The night sky in winter is a wonderful treat. Not that the summer sky isn’t grand, but the sky tends to be clearer in the winter. The challenge comes from staying warm while essentially standing still in the cold night air.

There are a few reasons why the winter sky is thought of as a special treat for backyard astronomers. The first is that cold air doesn’t hold as much moisture as warm air can. A second reason is that nights are also longer in the winter, giving us a greater window in which to enjoy the beauty of the night sky. And a third reason is in December, January and February, the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere looks out to the edge of our galaxy where there are fewer stars clustered together.

Check out our next Free Star Gazing Night!

For all of these activities there are some things to keep in mind in terms of being outside safely in winter weather. Remember this number; 98.6. That is the temperature in Fahrenheit that you want to keep your body as close to as possibly. Being safe outside in the winter boils down to keeping your body warm and dry and avoiding hypothermia. One of my favorite sayings about being outdoors goes something like this: “There is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices”. I have these words of wisdom in my head whenever I am planning on being outside for any real length of time, but especially in winter.

1) What is the level of my exertion going to be?
2) How long am I going to be outside?
3) How much fuel am I going to need? How much food and water should I take?
4) What are the temperatures and weather forecast?
5) What are the chances of things going wrong?
Answering these 5 questions will help you decide what you need to bring on your adventure. In general this will help you decide what clothes to wear and bring, how much food and water to take, and what other equipment you might want. Regardless of what activity you are doing, making good choices around these topics, can greatly increase the enjoyment of your activity.

Clothing is really a portable shelter. What we wear can make a huge difference in how we regulate our body temperature. In winter if you are going to be outside and you want to be warm and dry try to avoid wearing cotton. At least as a base layer. Cotton tends to hold in moisture and keeps it next to your body causing your body to spend energy trying to heat that moisture. Synthetic fabric or wool can keep your warm even when it is wet. If you are going to be moving slow, or maybe sitting for longer periods of time, say while you are tracking or looking for the northern lights, you are going to want clothing that has a lot of insulation. Something like a good base layer of synthetic fabric or a wool or wool blend layer. And then layers of insulation. A fleece or down layer, and then a shell or water proof layer. One quick point about down as an insulator – down is amazing at keeping you warm, unless it gets wet. Many companies now make down jackets and vests with a water resistant shell. If you are not moving much or very quickly, dress for warmth. Good gloves or mittens, a warm hat, good boots, and layers for your body.

If you are going to be moving a lot and generating body heat, then start your activity off feeling a little cool. As your body warms up and starts perspiring, you want to let that heat escape. Have extra layers available for when you stop to rest or refuel. You don’t want to let your body cool down too quickly. When I have been dog-sledding the high temperatures were around 5 degrees, but I was only wearing a thin base layer and light weight fleece on my top with a thin fleece hat. I had water proof pants with a thin under layer and warm boots and gloves. When we would stop to rest or eat, I would put on enough clothes to look like I was on Mt. Washington in January. Invest some time and maybe some money to make sure you are warm and comfortable.

Making sure that your body has enough fuel and water to stay warm in winter weather is very important, and can be lots of fun. You need to make sure that you are replacing the calories that you are burning while be outside. We lose a lot of body heat and moisture through simple things like breathing and sweating. And in the winter we can also lose a good deal of body heat through convection, radiation, and conduction cooling. When the air temperature is below 68 degrees Fahrenheit the body can lose a good deal of heat through radiation and conduction-the movement of heat from a warmer to colder environment. You need to keep those internal fires burning!

One of my favorite things about outdoor winter activities is that it gives me a reason to eat more. Even on a short run or cross country ski jaunt, it can be a good idea to make sure you give yourself some extra calories to burn. On average we burn between 1500-3000 calories a day. Winter camping or backpacking can burn upwards of 4000-5000 calories a day. Even if you are just out for a couple of hours of skiing or taking winter photos, make sure you pack enough food to keep you going. And make sure you have enough water! Even though you might not be sweating, your body is losing water through cooling and respiration. And if you are going to be out in really cold weather, make sure your water is kept warm enough to not freeze.

In addition to whatever equipment you need for your activity, you might consider bringing along a few extra things just in case. A basic first aid kit, a phone, a small thermal emergency blanket, a way to start a fire, a map of where you are going, and a good whistle. Not a lot of extra weight, but the essentials in case something does not go according to your plan. Or if you meet someone else whose plans have gone awry.

As for all the activities you can do during the winter, get out and enjoy them! Take classes, rent equipment, try something new. Go explore your local Mass Audubon sanctuaries and see what they look like in winter, and explore the classes we offer. Winter is natures’ way of slowing down and recharging it’s systems to get ready for the explosion of spring growth. Take this opportunity to do some recharging of your own. Go outside and explore!


Thursday Nights at Moose Hill: This Fall is a Time for Learning!

Moose Hill is excited to start a series of Thursday night talks and workshops this fall – a mixture of offerings for individual or families. These programs offer the public a variety of educational opportunities that can increase your knowledge of the natural world and stoke your curiosity. These programs also connect people from surrounding communities with similar interests to Moose Hill and to each other.

Most talks and workshops will run from 6:30pm – 8pm at Moose Hill in the main visitor center unless otherwise noted. Cost per program is $10 for adult Mass Audubon members; $15 for adult non-members and $5 for children under 18, unless otherwise noted. Registration is required so we can best plan for the evening – register today before you forget!

Nature Connection for Families: Thursday September 14, 6:30pm – 8pm

We live in a part of New England that has amazingly wonderful natural resources for our families to connect with. And in this time of trying to turn the tide of nature deficit disorder that effects both children and adults, spending time in nature can bring numerous benefits to all family members. In this session we will explore how your family can make nature connection a routine that your whole family can enjoy. And how to connect with other families to increase your connection to nature and your community.

Planning a Hike? What to Bring: Thursday September 21, 6:30pm – 8pm

The fall is a gorgeous time to get outside as a family and explore the natural world. Come and learn about some of the basic equipment you might consider taking with you on a short hike or a multi-day trip. We will also explore what skills you can learn together as a family that can help make your hiking adventures more rewarding and safer.

Climate Change in MA with Daniel Brown: Thursday September 28th 6:30pm – 8pm

Daniel Brown is Mass Audubon’s lead climate scientist. In this talk he will go through the data of what has been happening to the climate in Massachusetts over the last few decades and what that might mean for the nature of Massachusetts going forward. And some ideas of what you can do to make a difference.

Full Moon Hike: Thursday October 5, 7:30pm – 8:30pm

Discover the beauty of Moose Hill under a shining full moon. We will call for owls, try a solo walk, test our night vision, search the skies for constellations, and experience the sanctuary after hours. We will explore most of the time without flashlights, but feel free to bring one for the hike back. This program is designed for adults and families with children ages 6 and older. Mass Audubon members $6; non-members $9, per person

Moose Hill in the Fall: Thursday October 12, 6:30pm – 8pm

As our seasons change, so does the natural world around us. Come and learn about some of the changes that will be going on around Moose Hill as we move into autumn. What animals are leaving, what are coming and what causes our leaves to turn such beautiful colors?

Bird Banding at Moose Hill: Thursday October 19, 7:30pm – 9:30pm

photo by Sarah Keates

Did you know that the individual identification of birds provides useful information for both research and management projects? Information gathered during bird banding makes possible studies of dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth. Join us to learn about the history of bird banding, the various bird banding stations within Mass Audubon, and about the saw-whet owl banding at Moose Hill. After the presentation, we will take a night walk and meet with our bird banding leader, Vin Zollo. If we are lucky, we will have a chance to see a saw-whet owl up close and watch the whole process – capture, weigh, measure, examine, and release.


Carve a Pumpkin: Thursday October 26, 1pm – 8pm

Help us carve pumpkins into Jack-O-Lanterns for our annual Halloween Prowl. We will have plenty of pumpkins and a few design ideas, but we need your carving expertise. All abilities are welcome to help. Please bring your own carving sets/knives. It’s a great opportunity for scout troops or other organized groups. Stop by any time after 1 pm and help us get a jump on the project. If you wish to claim your Jack-O-Lantern after the event, stop by and check the Visitor Center side yard and/or the barn on our Billings Trail anytime beginning Monday, October 30, through noon on Tuesday, October 31, to pick it up for your own Halloween celebration. Our thanks to Ward’s Berry Farm for the pumpkins!

Tracking Basics: Thursday November 2, 6:30pm – 8pm

The animals in the environment around us are constantly leaving traces of their passing. Learning to read the traces on the land is a fun and informative skill. In this talk we will explore how to see tracks, identify what made them, when they were there, and how to read the traces left when there are no tracks left behind.

Exploring Nature at Night: Thursday Nov 9, 6:30pm – 8pm

Being outdoors at night can be a rewarding experience. In this talk we will explore the nocturnal world and what wakes up as we go to bed. What animals spend their nights out and about? We will also explore ways that you can learn more about the evening sky and the changing constellations.

Bird Language: Thursday November 16, 6:30pm – 8pm

Understanding the language of birds – what they are telling each other and what they are telling us – will enrich your life in practical & surprising ways. Birds and animals use a common language. Their calls and alarms help them communicate important information to each other. We can learn to understand this language. In fact, we are “hard wired” to learn this, as countless generations of our ancestors depended on this ancient skill to survive, around the world. Learning the language of the birds is fun, and provide you with a tool to connect with nature in a personal way.

Cookie’s Garden: Moose Hill’s Nature Play Space.

Here at Moose Hill we are excited about a new feature on our property for people to explore. It is called Cookie’s Garden: Moose Hill’s Nature Play Space. The play area is located just outside our main building right next to our bird feeder area in our front yard.

welcome to Cookie’s Garden

While many parks and playgrounds have a traditional wood, plastic and metal play structure, our nature play space combines the surrounding landscape and vegetation with intentionally designed stations that allow children to explore, create, and design their nature play experience.

boulder field

snake walk, a.k.a. stump jump

Research indicates that when children play and learn in nature, they do so with more enthusiasm, connection, imagination and cooperation than in an artificial or traditional playscape type of environment. And in many cases symptoms of attention deficit and depression are reduced while creativity and imaginative play increases.

Naturalist, researchers and educators like David Sobel, Richard Louv, Jon Young, and Dr. Scott Sampson agree that children need access to nature the same way they need good nutrition and adequate sleep. Cookie’s Garden will help children develop an attitude of curiosity and provide the opportunity to connect directly with the natural world.

While Cookie’s Garden is a constructed landscape, the features within the area are designed to mimic areas and features in the natural world. Logs and stumps to balance on, tunnels to crawl through, hills to stand on, mud to play with, and opportunities to create using items found in the natural world. There are also spaces designed to help children appreciate nature in other ways, like the giant paint easel and the musical area. Allowing children the opportunity to explore and wander without time constraints or set plans can allow children to explore their curiosity and learn at their pace.

hill and tunnel

musical area

While Cookie’s Garden is not fully complete, we encourage people to come out to Moose Hill and let your kids explore the area. Of course adults are welcome to explore too. We will be adding the remaining features over the next several months. In the spirit with which we have created the play area, I want to leave you with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience”.

If you would like to learn more about Cookie’s Garden, contact sanctuary director Karen Stein or make a donation to Cookie’s Garden so that we can complete all the projects for the play space.

If you have any questions about our camp, schools, or adult education programs, please contact me, Shawn, at [email protected] .

There are still spaces available in our camp – learn more about our program, what a day at camp looks like, our philosophy and credentials, and register today!

We look forward to seeing you at the sanctuary and exploring Cookie’s Garden.