Nature Workshops Offered in Woodstock
On Church Hill Road in Woodstock, a former dairy barn houses
the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and serves as headquarters for their statewide
environmental education programs. Nestled in a hollow in its 57-acre Bragdon
Nature Preserve, this office-library-meeting rooms-headquarters bustles with
activity. The phone seems to ring constantly with all types of questions for
the VINS staff: what are the purple birds at my feeder? How many kinds of
turtles live in Vermont? Can I bring my class for a bird banding session? All
these questions are cheerfully answered by VINS staff, now numbering eleven
including volunteers and inters. VINS is open 9:00 – 4:00 Monday through Friday
and several times a month on evenings for natural history lectures and
workshops and a few of the staff can always be found there. The remainder are
out daily in the communities around Vermont teaching environmental education in
the elementary schools through the community based ELF project (ELF-
Environmental Learning for the Future). Last spring the ELF Project, now in
fifteen Vermont communities, won the Distinguished Service Award from the
Governor’s Committee on Children and Youth.
ELF is a field trip based project where the elementary school children go out on monthly exploration to discover different aspect of nature. Each month has its own topic and all are related to one environmental concept. Thus the children learn about the many fascinating aspects of nature and about how man relates to and depends on the natural world. This year the ELF Project involves 200 volunteers and 2000 children.
VINS offers education programs for adults also with courses on bird identification, winter botany, spring flowers and other topics. This May every Friday morning at 7:00 AM morning birds walks will gather at VINS headquarters. Other lectures and field trips are offered monthly as part of the effort to help people learn to enjoy and appreciate Vermont’s natural heritage.
To many VINS means birds and indeed their research programs include the largest inland bird banding station in the eastern United States, operating under permits from the federal government. The stations nets and gently marks songbirds with lightweight numbered aluminum bands, thus tracking their migrations and documenting their lifestyles. School classes are frequent visitors for banding demonstrations as are local clubs. Visiting days are set each season for VINS members. Plans are also under to document the distribution of birds nesting in Vermont through the Atlas Breeding Bird Project and the help of birders is being actively sought.
How is all this supported? VINS is a membership organization now numbering some 1,200 members and is supported entirely by memberships and private contributions. Members receive regular publications, have library privileges and a discount at courses and events, but mostly they join to help support the work of Vermont’s only environmental organization engaged only in environmental education. For more information write Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Woodstock, Vermont 05091 or stop by the Preserve on Church Street to investigate VINS further.