Category Archives: Education

Home and Away

We are thrilled to have a guest post by the amazingly talented artist Sherrie York. She will be visiting the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon between July 28 to July 30 to display her art, lead several programs, and give an illustrated talk about her printmaking. She will be doing a workshop with our summer camp on July 28th, giving an illustrated talk and reception for her artwork on July 29th, and giving an all day printmaking workshop on July 30th.

Home and Away by Sherrie York

Travel and art-making have often gone hand-in-hand. (Or perhaps that’s brush-in-hand.) John Singer Sargent’s watercolors of Morocco revealed an intriguing faraway culture. John James Audubon’s journeys recorded North America’s flora and fauna and Albert Bierstadt’s romantic western landscapes helped inspire the first national parks.

I enjoy travel, too, and will be traveling from my Colorado stomping grounds to MABA this summer. In July I will exhibit some of my linoleum block prints in the estate house and present both a printmaking workshop and presentation about my work. Of course it doesn’t always take a passport, a suitcase, or a new frontier to find subject matter. Familiar places close to home are inspiring, too.


This is Sands Lake. It’s a scruffy little body of water next to the Arkansas River in the town of Salida, where I live. They call it a lake, but it’s really a settling pond for the fish hatchery upstream. Water flows from hatchery to lake via underground culverts, then spills out the far bank in to the river.

During the day the trail around the lake is filled with fishing enthusiasts, dog-walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and birders. More than one elicit teenager party has taken place there after dark. Pristine, exotic wilderness it’s not.

But for me this humble corner provides a wealth of inspiration and stories year-round, and no small number of linocuts, too.


Pas de Ducks: All year

At the upriver end of the lake, next to the inflow culvert, is a concrete fishing pier. The remains of cliff swallow nests were still attached when it was installed, a good indicator of its provenance as repurposed bridge. Hopeful mallards congregate below the pier looking for handouts, and from my elevated vantage point I enjoy watching the tracery they create in the reflection of the railing.


Cruisin’: Spring

Forget the robin as a harbinger of spring! Local birders know that spring migrants begin to appear weeks before the pelicans turn up at the lake, but their sheer size and brilliant whiteness assure that even the most bird-ambivalent will notice this sign of winter’s demise.

EPSON scanner image

EPSON scanner image

Usurper: Summer

Three species of bluebird are present in the area around the lake, but the mountain bluebird’s cobalt shimmer and soft call is the most common. Bluebird enthusiasts abound, too, as evidenced by nest boxes peppering the edges of yards, pastures, and the municipal golf course. Of course tree swallows don’t know they aren’t the intended occupants…


Coot du Jour: Autumn through Spring

Like mushrooms after rain, American coots sprout on the surface of the lake in early autumn. The antics of 70 or 80 over-wintering birds amuse me until spring, but before the trees have finished leafing out they are gone. I never see them arrive, and I never see them leave.


No Time Like the Present: Winter

Winter is the time for waterfowl on Sands Lake. Because so much water moves through from the hatchery the lake remains open even in the coldest days of winter. Common and Barrow’s goldeneye, buffleheads, scaup, wigeon, and more fill the lake with noise and motion and offer consolation for the absence of warblers and swallows.



Spring Has Sprung: Notes from the Field

Over the past few weeks, the sanctuary has been bursting with life as spring is “just around the corner”, even though we woke up to snow on April 5th. Join us at 8am on our weekly Friday bird and natural history hikes to see all the amazing creatures, plants, and views on the Morse Wildlife Sanctuary. Even better is the terrific company and being out in nature. 

Snoozing Raccoon

While I was investigating life in a vernal pool, some peaceful fur way way up in the crook of a tree caught my attention. A raccoon was snoozing the day away. Check out the ears on one side and the foot on the other.


Mystery Tree Damage

Near one of our smaller vernal pools, the damage to this tree puzzled me. Based on it’s teeth marks, it is clearly a rodent, but the damage is one inch deep at some points and is about 8 ft long. I’m are not sure what caused this damage, but could it be a porcupine? Let us know what you think.

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Deer Traffic Jam


Birding Highlights

Here are a few of the birds that have been seen over the past few weeks.

  • Red-tailed hawk hunting pine voles

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  • Brown creepers
  • Eastern phoebes
  • Wood ducks
  • Hermit thrush
  • Hairy and downy woodpeckers
  • Flocks of dark-eyed juncos, chickadees, tufted titmouse, and American robins
  • Pair of nesting red-shouldered hawks
  • Red-bellied woodpeckers
  • Calling red-winged blackbirds in the red maple swamp (birding hotspot)
  • American woodcock
  • Our digital photography homeschool class observed a cooper’s hawk preying on a mallard.
  • Check out our bird blind by the gallery, our feeders are always stocked and there are usually lots of birds to photograph

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Flora Highlights

Stunk cabbage is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring. It is found near soggy or submerged soil and is usually pollinated by flies. This was taken near the Pequit Brook.

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Rattlesnake Plantain

Check out this amazing little orchid hiding under the pine needles. These pictures are from early March.

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One of the tiniest and earliest spring flowers

We have had over 10,000 of these flowers blooming in bare patches of soil and on our lawns. They are so easy to miss until you start looking for them.

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Vernal Pools in the Wildlife Sanctuary

In early March, when the weather cracked 60 degrees, the spring peepers and wood frogs started calling. Wood frogs sound more like ducks than frogs. Check out these two videos to hear them.

Wood frogs are abundant at our wildlife sanctuary and are always one of the first frogs to emerge from hibernation. This year, wood frogs were first observed on March 10 congregrating in large numbers at our main vernal pool and where I counted well over 60 wood frogs on March 11. Listen to their chorus from March 11, 2016.

Spotted salamanders have also been laying eggs and fairy shrimp are abundant.

Fairy Shrimp. Photo Credit: B. L. Dicks and D. J. Patterson

On April 3rd, Owen Cunningham and a volunteer spent the afternoon searching for life in our pools and were able to identify wood frog and spotted salamander eggs. This data will be submitted to the state and we expect that our vernal pools will be certified by the Mass Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

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Inquiry, Intentional Curiosity, Discovery, and Art!

Homeschool classes at MABA

In an environment rich with nature, science, and art, our homeschool classes are full of excitement, laughter, focused awareness, and curiosity. This blog post highlights some of the activities and programs we have done over the past few months at MABA. To learn or sign up for our spring courses, click here.

Animal Behavior Homeschool Class: Monarch Butterfly Natural History and Flight
The Biomechanics of Gliding

In one of our Animal Behavior sessions, we focused on the Monarch Butterfly migration to learn about animal migration and the biomechanics of flight.

Monarch butterflies via

Students created model monarch butterflies and conducted a test flight experiment in our museum.IMG_5032

To learn more about the incredible monarch butterfly migration, check out this fantastic BBC documentary

Monarch Butterfly amazing migration – BBC Life HD

Want to do more at home? Journey North is a great resource and citizen science project that tracks the migration of Monarch Butterflies and lets you contribute data that improves our understanding and conservation of these fantastic butterflies. We have tracked Monarch egg laying on the wildlife sanctuary and submitted data to journey north. Here is a publication that has used citizen science data from journey north to help us better understand migration and monarch population dynamics.

Learning about bird behavior and biology by making clay birds

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Learning about animal behavior and ethology by studying betta fish behavior & responding with art

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Field Biology, Pollinator Ecology, and Art Homeschool Class:
Exploring watercolor techniques and color theory

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To reinforce what we have learned about the biology and ecology of native bees and butterflies, each student cut out bee and butterfly silhouettes. They used these silhouettes to learned color theory and watercolor techniques, including wet on wet and wet on dry, by creating bold, fun, and colorful pollinators that they took home.

We have also learned about nesting habitats of native bees and created mason bee houses.


Studied the phenology of spring flowering plants through focused awareness and intentional curiosity

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Creating pollinators out of paper marbled with dye using the art of suminigashi

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Digital Photography Homeschool Class
Looking closely and creating nature’s treasure maps

In our digital photography class, students built a digital camera, learned about the technology in the camera, and the art of photography. We focused on composition, such as the rule of thirds, looking for geometry in nature, and taught students to be keen observers of the natural world by looking closely. We explored our expansive wildlife sanctuary and created nature treasure maps, thanks to the incredible naturalist and artist Jack (John Muir) Laws for this idea, both with sketchbooks and through photography.

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Taking opportunities when they arise: A coopers hawk had a mallard for lunch

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Exploring the technology behind the camera lens

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Exploring the end of winter and start of spring behind the camera lens


Whooooos coming!!! Owls that’s who!

Fun for the whole family! On Saturday March 19, from 1-4pm, explore the wonders of owls as the Museum of American Bird Art (MABA) host our popular Owls Live! festival. Be amazed when you see owls up close, explore the sanctuary, and create art. Drop in any time between 1 and 4pm on Saturday for Owls Live! The cost of admission is $5 per person and all ages are welcome. The museum is located on Washington Street in Canton directly across from Canton High School. Follow us on Facebook to keep up with our events and news.

Long-eared Owl. Photo Credit: Shawn Carey

Long-eared Owl. Photo Credit: Shawn Carey

 See Owls Up Close!

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Activities include owl cookie decorating, face painting, and making owl masks.

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Our Owl Quest will encourage visitors to follow a set of clues in the exhibition gallery and around the 121 acre wildlife sanctuary to learn more about owls and the wonders of spring. Raffle baskets will include a week of the Wild at Art summer camp, Mass Audubon family membership and fun pack, and a framed print by MABA benefactor Mildred Morse Allen with the framing donated by the Village Gallery in Canton. Tickets to the event include admission to the current exhibition, Life on the Leaf Edge, Photographs of Native Caterpillars by Sam Jaffe

Proceeds from the Owls Live! Festival support MABA’s Wild at Art summer camp. Families will have an opportunity to meet MABA’s camp director, Sean Kent, and senior staff. You can learn about the upcoming camp season, which is designed to engage campers in the discovery and stewardship of nature and encourage artistic expression. Sean is an experienced and skilled educator who has worked with elementary through college age students in both formal and outdoor settings.

Check out last year’s camp!

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Learn, Create, and Express Yourself at our Digital Photography Homeschool Program

Build your own digital camera!

IMG_2601On February 3rd, we will kick off our winter STEAM Ahead Photography homeschool course, only a few spots remain so sign up today. This program focuses on fostering curiosity, creativity, innovative thinking, and problem solving and is designed and taught by Sean Kent, a dedicated science educator, field biologist, and accomplished amateur photographer. Students will build a digital camera and learn about the science behind the camera lens, while exploring the art of photography. As an art museum and a 121 acre wildlife sanctuary, students will have the unique opportunity to learn about the science, art, and technology of photography, while also being immersed in project based learning focused on our environment. To learn more about homeschool courses offered at Mass Audubon’s Museum of American Bird Art, check out a blog post about our Fall 2015 courses.


Photography students exploring the brook and completing a photography scavenger hunt. Photo credit: Sean Kent

During the photography course, students will

  • Learn about the science, engineering and technology behind the camera lens, including power generation, how an image is created by a lens, and how the microcontroller in a digital camera works
  • Learn about the anatomy and physiology of the human eye
  • Explore the artistic tools used to compose a photograph, including the rule of thirds and leading lines

“The homeschool classes at the Museum of American Bird Art are the most thoughtfully designed programs my children have ever attended.” – PARENT

For members, the course fee is 160$ with a 100$ materials fee for the cost of the digital camera that a students build.


Learn more about the course instructor

Sean Kent, the education coordinator for the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon, designed and will teach the digital photography course. Sean is a skilled educator with broad experience working with elementary through college-age students in art studio, classroom, and outdoor settings. He has a master’s degree in biology, and his research on native plants and pollinators has taken him from the Boston Harbor Islands to Belize. He is an art enthusiast, birder, and accomplished amateur photographer.


Check out our other Winter Homeschool Classes


  1. Animal Ecology, Behavior, and Art (Two classes: Ages 7 to 9, and Ages 10 to 15)
  2. Where in the World: Wildlife, Geography, and Art! (One class: Ages 7 to 9)
  3. Pollinator Ecology, Inquiry, and Art (One class: Age 10 to 15)


  1. Painting Immersion – Famous Nature Artists and You (Two Classes: Ages 7 to 9, and Ages 10 to 15)


  1. STEAM Ahead Photography Homeschool Program

Connecting homeschool children through art, observation, and inquiry

At MABA, we believe that strong links exist between creativity, brain function and learning, so concepts from each homeschool class are reinforced by creating art. Check out our homeschool offerings for Winter 2016 and keep reading to learn more about our fantastic and engaging fall 2015 programs.

“The homeschool classes at the Museum of American Bird Art are the most thoughtfully designed programs my children have ever attended.” – PARENT

Ecology and Art homeschool students counting maple seeds along a transect

Ecology and Art homeschool students counting maple seeds along a transect

This past fall homeschool students and their families connected with nature, created art, had lots of fun, and delved deep into STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, art, and math) subjects during our two homeschool classes: 1) Ecology and Art and 2) STEAM Ahead Photography. Our homeschool classes focused on close observation of nature and activities that encourage creativity, imagination, and inquiry.

“These are the best homeschool classes I have ever taken” – Homeschool Student


Two students from the STEAM Ahead Photography class planning their photography at our brook

What did we do during the Ecology and Art Class?

During the Ecology and Art class, students investigated seasonal changes that occur in the fall. We focused on how seeds move and how plants and animals prepare for winter. For example:

  • Students each built their own transects – the same type used in ecological research – and explored how the wind and animals move seeds from one place to another.IMG_3360
  • Students explored the vernal pool and brook to see how salamanders and other animals prepared for winter.DSC_6589
  • Students created art that was inspired by nature and concepts from each class. This opportunity allowed them to expand their understanding and better realize their artistic ability.

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What did we do during the STEAM Ahead Photography Class?

During the STEAM Ahead Photography class, students built a digital camera on their own to better understand the science, engineering, and technology behind digital photography. In addition, they explored the wildlife sanctuary to connect the art of photography with a better understanding of their environment and acquired different artistic tools for photography.





Blue Skies of Autumn, Part 1

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, Natick on October 15, 2015

Yellow-rump Studies, Broadmoor - at 72 dpi

sketchbook page of yellow-rumped warblers, 9″ x 12″

Autumn is coming on strong and touches of fall color are everywhere on this large reserve in Natick. The shortening of the days is ushering in the fall migrants: white-throated and swamp sparrows, ruby-crowned kinglets, palm and yellow-rumped warblers. Yellow-rumps are everywhere today, announcing their presence with soft “check” notes. I watch them forage high and low in oaks, maples, birches, cedars, and even poking around in the cattails near the All-persons Trail.

Fall Color at Broadmoor - at 72 dpi

along the boardwalk at Broadmoor…

Along the boardwalk, I meet Director Elissa Landre and she suggests the Old Orchard Trail as a good place for my artistic explorations. And, it proves to be a good tip. The open fields here are not only scenic, but attractive to a variety of birds. I set up my painting kit as overhead a Cooper’s hawk makes lazy circles in a deep blue sky before peeling off to the South.
A nearly unbroken swath of little bluestem grass carpets the gentle knoll of the Old Orchard, suffusing the landscape with a strange orange-pink hue. A rounded rock outcrop emerges from the grass, and scattered pines and cedars lend some dark accents. A few bright maples flare with crimson amid the softer greens of the field edge. The sky is so blue you could reach out and touch it. The scene is begging to be painted, so I get to work.

Old Orchard at Broadmoor - SKETCH - at 72 dpi

preliminary sketch at the Old Orchard, 4″ x 6″

Before starting on my sheet of watercolor paper, I do a simple pencil drawing in my sketchbook. This helps me figure out how to “crop” the landscape spread out before me, and to organize the elements into a satisfying composition. I almost always make changes to a scene that I’m painting – who says you can’t improve on Nature?

Old Orchard at Broadmoor 3 - at 72 dpi

The Old Orchard at Broadmoor, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 9″ x 13″

Once I get into the painting, I don’t hold back on the colors. I make the sky extra blue and the little bluestem a strong orange-pink. However, I’m also careful to provide neutral colors where the eye gets a rest – the muted greens of the tree line, and the cool grays of the boulder out-crop.
As luck would have it, Elissa comes by with Nils Navarro and Lisa Sorenson, and Lisa offers to take some photos of me at work. Thanks, Lisa!

Artist Barry Van Dusen at Broadmoor - cropped and retouched 3

Connecting children with nature through art, observation, and inquiry


This fall many 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders have connected with nature, created art, and have had lots of fun on field trips to the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon. Students have explored our Wildlife Sanctuary, became enthralled by the exhibition of Larry Barth’s amazing sculptures, and created art inspired by nature in our studio and outside on our sanctuary. Our field trips have been focused on close observation of nature and activities that encourage creativity, imagination, and inquiry.

What have we done on the field trips?

On the field trips, students investigated seasonal changes that occur in the fall, focusing on how seeds move and how plants and animals prepare for winter. For example, students explored how the wind and animals move seeds from one place to another.


“It looks like the field is full of bubbles.” Overheard while students investigated how milkweed seeds have adaptations to disperse via the wind.

In addition, they closely observed the sculptures by Larry Barth in our museum. Everyone marveled at Barth’s incredible attention to detail.

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Using inspiration from the natural world and Barth’s sculptures, students created landscape art using seeds and other natural materials.

Check out the landscape art that students have created

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Using inspiration from the natural world and those amazing sculptures, students created a series of monotype prints.

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Lecture by Deborah Cramer, author of A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and An Epic Journey on October 17th at 3pm


Knots on beach in New Jersey: credit © Christophe Buidin

The Museum of American Bird Art is excited to announce a free lecture by Deborah Cramer, author of A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey on Saturday, October 17th at 3:00 pm in our gallery. Book signing to follow the lecture.  Click here for directions.

The Museum of the American Bird has on display (a generous loan from the estate of Dix Campbell) two beautiful and rare decoys of the red knot, a sandpiper that once frequented the southern coast of Massachusetts.  Ornithologists once described this bird as representing “an untrammeled wildness and freedom that equaled by few and surpassed by none.”

In her new book, The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey, Deborah Cramer follows the knot along its extraordinary 19,000 mile annual migration, tracking birds on remote windswept beaches along the Strait of Magellan, and  into the icy tundra where it nests.

Deborah Cramer, author, at Wingersheek Beach in Gloucester, MA, November 13, 2014. © 2014 Shawn G. Henry • 978.590.4869

Deborah Cramer, author, at Wingersheek Beach in Gloucester, MA, November 13, 2014.
© 2014 Shawn G. Henry • 978.590.4869

She follows them in Delaware Bay, where at the new and full moon of spring’s highest tides, she finds  the world’s greatest concentration of horseshoe crabs, whose eggs fuel shorebird migration and whose blue blood safeguards human health.  The red knot, newly listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, its existence threatened by global warming, has become the twenty-first century’s “canary in the coal mine.”

Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer-winning author of The Sixth Extinction, wrote that The Narrow Edge is “at once an intimate portrait of the small red knot and a much larger exploration of our wondrous, imperiled world.” National Geographic Conservation Fellow Tom Lovejoy wrote that Cramer’s account is “more thrilling than the Kentucky Derby.”

Join Cramer to follow the birds’ odyssey, and to explore what’s at stake for millions of shorebirds.

Learn More:

Top Moments from the butterflies and metamorphosis week (Wild at Art Week 6)

We have been having a fantastic week during our Natural Connections week at Camp. All the campers have been creating amazing art, learning about caterpillars, butterflies, and the process of metamorphosis. Come see all their amazing art displayed on Friday at 2:30 at our weekly art show. Here are some of the top moments from the week!

Top Moment #1: Making and painting masks

Making Masks

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Painting Masks

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Top Moment #2: Making butterfly wings

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Top Moment #3: Exploring the brook and catching crayfish

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Top Moment #4: Catching Butterflies

1-DSC_4442 2-DSC_4443 3-DSC_4445 4-DSC_4446 5-DSC_4452Top Moment #5: Being excited about nature and creating art inspired by nature (and also catching cicadas!)

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