The natural world never sleeps. It is full of things to discover and it’s happening all around us, all the time, no matter where you live. From cityscapes to acres of undeveloped land, there is always something in nature to discover.
For 50 years, the Harris Center for Conservation Education, a non-profit organization in Hancock, has been helping people of all ages connect and fall in love with the natural world found in the Monadnock region. Whether it’s hands-on outside exploration with over 3,000 students and teachers in over 30 different area schools, offering free public nature programs across the community, organizing citizen volunteers to help migrating salamanders or hiking on one of the 21 miles of trails, the Harris Center has been part of this region’s fabric for half a century.
This summer and all year long, look to the Harris Center as somewhere to discover and connect to this place we call home. From wildlife observation to nature sight-seeing, here are some ways we will help you make this connection:
Guided Adventure. Throughout the year, you can almost always find an adventure led by a Harris Center naturalist, educator or a volunteer. From bird-watching walks and evening paddles to off-trail bushwhacking and snowshoe explorations, the Harris Center will help you discover new places, new people and new experiences. These programs are free and available to people of all ages. Visit the Harris Center’s events webpage — harriscenter.org/events — to find out what adventure is waiting for you. Also find out about the Center’s guidelines for safe public programs during the time of COVID-19.
Online Opportunities. The Harris Center continues to help inspire people to look at and connect with the natural world during these current challenging times. From weekly blog posts for families called “Go Wild” to a monthly list of suggested good reads in their Harris Center Reads posts, the Center is finding creative ways to engage people with nature. Check out the Harris Center’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/user/harriscenter. It is loaded with great programs for people of all ages. For kids, there are a series of “Wild at Home” movies that highlight everyday wildlife in our New England backyards, as well as sweet read-alouds and boisterous sing-alongs with singing naturalist John Benjamin.
Citizen Science Projects. Interested in finding out how to help wildlife in the Monadnock region? Then make sure to check out the Harris Center’s Conservation Research webpage at harriscenter.org/conservation-research. This is a great place to find out how the Harris Center, via working with college and graduate school students and area scientists, are making discoveries about our local flora and fauna. You can also discover ways to participate and contribute to citizen science projects including the Salamander Brigades and Nighthawk surveys.
Take a Class, Attend a Lecture, Learn Something New. Each year, the Harris Center offers over 100 nature-oriented programs to the public. Topics range from such things as how to landscape with wildlife in mind, reading groups on Thoreau and courses on the natural history of New Hampshire’s raptors. Many of these programs are free but there are a few that have a fee attached. All of these opportunities can be found at the Harris Center’s events page on their website: harriscenter.org/events. Many of these programs and events are currently being held online to still offer exciting nature learning opportunities during the pandemic. Check out the Harris Center’s monthly “Ask a Naturalist” Zoom event to help you solve your natural history mysteries and to see and hear what other people are wondering about as well.
The Trail is Calling You. What better way to connect with nature than to hit the trail. Check out one of the Harris Center’s maintained trails within 24,000 acres of conserved land. Whether you want to hike to the top of Skatutakee Mountain or take a leisurely ramble on a section of an old rail trail, check out the Harris Center’s trails on the website: harriscenter.org/trails-grounds-facilities/trails. Hike with your family or friends and you can even bring your leashed dog… but remember to follow appropriate social distancing.
The Harris Center for Conservation Recreation all started with one person’s vision… Eleanor Briggs grew up on Long Island, N.Y., and spent her summers at her grandmother’s house in Hancock. She watched the lush, forested Long Island she loved get paved over. In 1966, her father sold the Hancock property to a developer, but Ms. Briggs bought it back in 1968. She couldn’t bear to see the land, with all of its wild beauty, be lost to subdivisions or a ski resort.
By 1970, Ms. Briggs founded what would become the Harris Center for Conservation Education in her grandmother’s former home. To this day, the Harris Center continues to meet Ms. Brigg’s vision of “wanting people to fall in love with the nature all around us.” She goes on to say, “If we can help everybody connect to this beautiful world, they will want to protect it. And then there is hope.”
Susie Spikol is the Community Programs director and teacher-naturalist at the Harris Center for Conservation Education.