Our Place Summer School

All Sessions
Our Place Summer School


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

  • June 17 – 21
  • June 24 – 28
  • July 1 – 3, 5  (holiday 4th)
  • July 8 – 12
  • July 15 – 19
  • July 22 – 26
  • July 29 – August 2
  • August 5 – 9
  • August 12 – 16
  • August 19 – 23
  • August 26 – 30

Tuition is $400.00

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.

Students learn how read the land and watercourses, comport themselves responsibly in sensitive habitats, and gain awareness of their ecobiotic self—the self that is not industrially based, that is the gift of our ancestors shared by us all. 

This self, the “biocitizen,” is more than citizen of a nation; we are participants in an evolutionary history that includes every other lifeform, past and present. We explore the land that gives us life and, through questions raised or that jump out on the trail, we build a sense-based, actual understanding of how we fit into “our place”—our place in place! When we know where we are, we can actually know who we are; and with these understandings, can take care of the land and ourselves thereby.

Read our article in the new book: Field Environmental PhilosophyEducation for Biocultural Conservation.

Our Place Summer School

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.

Our Place Summer School

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 Summer School

Wings 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.

  • 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 Sessions

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.

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


Dr. Kurt Heidinger

Dr. Kurt Heidinger

President and Executive Director of Biocitizen

Jake Young

Jake Young

FEP Teacher

Lavery Greenfield

Lavery Greenfield

FEP Teaching Assistant

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