Our Place Summer School 2017

Our Place Summer School is designed to “unplug” your child by bringing them into direct contact with the creatures, geologies, hydrologies and infrastructures of the Nonotuck biome and the Westfield River watershed.

For five six-hour days, we roam our place—the valley and the hilltowns—investigating our natural and cultural history with all of our senses, and enjoying the whole-being stimulation of deep biotic immersion.

(Click to read the Daily Gazette article about Our Place.)

Our Place activities are fun—and they’re designed to increase students’ perceptual abilities, activate their critical thinking skills, inspire their creative imaginations, and counteract “nature deficit disorder.”

Through active physical and mental engagement with “our place,” students gain a deep & lasting appreciation of it—and themselves. (Click here for basic Our Place program description.)

Wings and Sharpshins sessions:

—Wings sessions are designed for younger students who want to explore awesome places, & learn and have fun, without being forced to go on hikes that are too long and hard. The general, but not strict, age is from 6 to 10.

Wings move softly through forests, fields and rivers, and are encouraged to perceive how these places “open up” to those who are sensitive—i.e., “able to sense.” Expect 1 to 2.5 miles of hiking a day.

—Sharpshins Sessions are designed for students with more advanced field skills, which means they enjoy walking cross-country off-trail, can identify poison ivy/stinging nettle, & without prompting stay fueled and hydrated . The general, but not strict, age is from 10 to 13. Expect at least 1.5 – 4 miles hiking a day.

Counselor in Training Program

CITs are 6th to 8th graders who have attended at least two Our Place sessions during two different years and like field environmental philosophy studies so much they want to go to the next level, and help to execute Our Place’s adventure-learning curricula. For information, please click here.


Kurt Heidinger


Emmett Lollis-Taylor


Phoebe Gelbard


Rika Tsuji


Benn Johnson



Our Place Summer School 2017 will be conducted Monday-Friday, 9am-3pm during these weeks:

August 7-11—Wings and Shins sessions are full
August 14-18—Wings and Shins sessions are full
August 21-25—Wings and Shins sessions are full

  • Parents pack student’s food and water, and dress them in weather-appropriate clothing. River-walking shoes are required; Keens are the best.
  • Each Wings and Sharpshins session runs M-F, 9am-3pm, except the week of 4th of July.
  • Drop off and pick-up are at Sheldon Field in Northampton.

Every Wings and Sharpshins group consists of 2 adult teachers, a counselor in training (CIT), and up to 12 students. The 4 to 1 staff to student ratio lets us break up into smaller groups at any given moment, which allows students to lead investigations—a personal growth opportunity that, when conditions are right, we encourage.


Cost: Each 5 day, 30 hour Wings and Sharpshins session costs $330.00.

If you would like to register a spot for your child, please click on the registration link below and indicate the session you want.

Parents/Guardians will need to download the two forms and mail them to Biocitizen, 1 Stage Rd. Westhampton, MA 01027.

If you would like to learn more, please call 413.320.0522 and speak with Our Place director Kurt Heidinger, or send a note via our website.

Register Now!

In the Field

Wings Session

  • Basic principles of soil, forest, wetland, pond, river ecology
  • Basic principles of geology
  • Names and ways of local plants, fungi, insects and animals
  • Cultural history including architecture and patterns of human inhabitation
  • River Walking
  • Tubeless tubing
  • in toto: the dynamic biophysical characteristics of the five ecoregions of the Nonotuck Biome, and the East Branch of the Westfield River.

Sharpshins Session

In the field, Sharpshins learn all of the Wings curricula at levels of increased complexity, plus:

  • Walking off trail incl. route determination and cross country orienteering
  • Environmental philosophy, aesthetics, ethics, politics, regulation and conservation
  • Management of invasive species
  • Basic ideas of prominent environmental philosophers


Monday-Friday 9:00am to 3:00pm


Drop off and pick-up are at Sheldon Field in Northampton


See above dates