Our Place Summer School

All Sessions

Our Place Summerschool 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.

PLEASE read our most recent COVID-19 procedures and policies update before registering.

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. Field Environmental Philosophy is what we engage in: the gentle unforced spontaneous student-prompted opening of the question “how do we fit in to all that’s around us?”—

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. 

Additional Information

  • 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.
  • Subject to COVID policies: drop off and pick-up are at Sheldon Field in Northampton. We will probably have a hybrid mix of drop off/pick up at Sheldon Field and drop off/pick up at trailheads located within a 1/2 hour of Sheldon.

Every Wings and Sharpshins group consists of 1 adult teacher, 1 ass’t teacher, 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 we encourage.


Our Place Summerschool is conducted Monday-Friday, 9am-3pm during these weeks:

  • June 19 -23
  • June 26 – 30
  • July 3, 5 – 8
  • July 10 – 14
  • July 17 – 21 
  • July 24 – 28 
  • July 31 – August 4
  • August 7 – 11
  • August 14 – 18
  • August 21 – 25

Tuition is $375.00

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.

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

Counselor in Training Program

CITs are 7th to 9th 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

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