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Trail Mix: Ways to get out and learn about nature

Great Falls Discovery Center

2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, 413-863-3676, www.greatfallsdiscoverycenter.org. Open to the public 7 days a week from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. All programs are free to the public unless otherwise noted. Facilities are accessible.

∎ In the Great Hall: Photography by David Albeck, July 1 to 31.

∎ Sunday, July 14, 21, 28, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Canal-Side Nature and History Walk. Meet outside the main entrance at 8:30 am. We will leisurely explore level, paved bike trails to learn about plants, animals, and mill town history. Your interests will determine our focus — perhaps birds, fish, wildflowers, or industrial history. Bring water, bug repellant, and sun screen.

∎ Sunday, July 14, 21, 28, 1 to 3 p.m. Habitat Highlights Museum Tours. On demand, every half hour on Sundays, just ask for a tour at the front desk. Explore the center’s Connecticut River watershed dioramas in a guided tour of the special habitats along the river. Each habitat plays a vital role in creating a home or rest stop for the thousands of animals and plants that depend on the watershed.

∎ Monday, July 15, 22, 29, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Junior rangers is a four-part nature education workshop for young naturalists ages 8 to 11. Children with a parent or guardian should meet at the Discovery Center lobby at 10:30 a.m., and each day we will explore themes related to the Connecticut River watershed. Junior Ranger programs are free and open to all, but space is limited so call 413-863-3221 to register.

∎ Tuesday, July 16, 23, 30, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Kidleidoscope is a kid-friendly, environmental experience for young children. Each topic is based on the theme “we share our home” and includes a story, interactive games and craft activities to help children explore the natural world. For ages from 3 to 6 years, accompanied by an adult.

∎ Thursday, July 11, 18, 25, and Aug. 1, 10:30 a.m. to noon. Junior Refuge Explorers is a four-part nature investigation for children ages 8 to 11. Each week, there will be hands-on explorations, games, and activities that will allow children to actively learn about the Connecticut River and the many critters that live in its watershed. This program will run four Thursdays in July and August (11, 18, 25, and August 1). Children who complete the program will get official badges identifying them as Junior Refuge Managers. There is a maximum of 10 children so register early at 413-863-3221.

∎ Friday, July 12, 7 to 9 p.m. Great Falls Coffeehouse Presents: The Lonesome Brothers. This is hick rock! Smells like diesel! Original, creative, pumping, swaying, digging, rocking, blues busting, curve making, straight shooting songs and solos distinguish the Lonesome Brothers from any other band you’ve ever heard. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., concert begins at 7. Refreshments available. Museum and museum store open at intermission. Donations ($6 to $12 suggested) help the Friends support free programming at the Great Falls Discovery Center.

∎ Saturday, July 13, 10:30 a.m. to noon. Watershed Investigators: Aquatic Life. “Watershed Investigators” is a monthly kid-oriented program that focuses on hands-on discovery of local nature. Join refuge staff as we explore different ways to look at the natural world around us. Methods of discovery may include crafts, games, stories, and exploration. This program is geared towards grades 2 to 5, but everyone is welcome.

∎ Saturday, July 13, noon to 2 p.m. Montague Sandplain Hike. Come learn about the story of fire on the Montague sandplain. Explore a unique habitat designed by fire, ice and sand. Find: Sand dunes, Scrub oak, Pitch Pine, and blueberries. Join an interpreter for an introduction to this threatened habitat. Easy to intermediate difficulty. Bring water, bug repellent and sun screen. Meet at the Great Falls Discovery Center to carpool to the site.

∎ Saturday, July 13, 3 to 5 p.m. Artist Reception. Join us in the Great Hall to welcome photographer David Albeck, and to view his exhibit featuring baby animals in the spring, insects in the summer, berries and mushrooms in the autumn, and mammals in the winter. Refreshments will be served.

∎ Friday, July 26, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Discovery Hour: Cool Caterpillars. Young children ages 3 to 6 and their parents are invited to join refuge staff. Be ready to be crafty and have fun.

∎ Friday, July 26, 6 p.m. Watershed History: Brickyards. Local industrial-era mills, businesses, tenements and homes were built from the ground up — quite literally from the clay found on the banks of the Connecticut River right here in town. Come learn about local brick manufacturing and architectural styles and designs with brick in Turners Falls.

∎ Saturday, July 27 (All day) Upper Valley Music Festival. We are one of several venues in Turners Falls for this great yearly all day music festival that raises money for cancer research and features great talent. www.uppervalleymusicfest.com

Northfield Mountain

99 Millers Falls Road (Route 63), Northfield. 413-659-3714 or 800-859-2960. Owned and operated by FirstLight Power Resources. www.firstlightpower.com/

■ Astronomy Conjunction. Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13, Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center will host the 30th Annual Connecticut River Valley Astronomer’s Conjunction. Enjoy the camaraderie of amateur astronomers learning and observing together at Northfield Mountain. Held during the dark of the moon, the weekend will be jam-packed full of slide presentations, talks, and Friday and Saturday night sky viewing through telescopes of all shapes and sizes. Check out the conjunction website at: http://www.philharrington.net/astroconjunction/. Registration forms available from Richard Sanderson at RSanderson@springfieldmuseums.org or by writing Jack Megas, Astronomy Conjunction, 311 Surrey Road, Springfield, MA 01118. For ages 12 and older.

■ Demon Chaser and Quaker Rouge; Plant Lore Ramble. Come ramble across the lower slopes of Northfield Mountain and explore the fields and forests. Join Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center naturalist Kim Noyes on Saturday, July 13, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and learn to identify common wildflowers, shrubs and trees. Hear stories about how they have been used by Native Americans, Colonial Americans and modern-day folk. Which shrub was called “magic water,” which tree was featured on a 1600s Massachusetts coin, which flower was called Demon Chaser? Plant lore will abound on this summer morning walk as we look for plants with beautiful flowers, wonderful aromas and fascinating legends. Plant-loving children ages 10 and older are welcome to join us. This is a free event. Register by calling 1-800-859-2960.

■ Simple Machines: Water Turbines with Rachel Roberts. Join educator Rachel Roberts at Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center on Saturday, July 20, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. for an program about simple machines focusing on water turbines. Together we will do a variety of hands-on science activities connected to the general concept of transforming the power of moving water into electricity. This class will reinforce participants’ understanding of simple machines, generating power and how electricity is made. The Northfield Mountain facility uses a water turbine (a rotary engine that takes energy from moving water) to generate electrical power on-site and will provide exhibits and models of their station for participants’ observation of a local water turbine in action. This workshop is free and intended for families. Call Northfield Mountain to register at 1-800-859-2960.

■ Wildlife on Board the Quinnetukut ll. On Saturday, July 20, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., bring your binoculars and interest in wildlife on board the Quinnetukut Riverboat for this special cruise. Ralph Taylor, Mass Wildlife’s Connecticut Valley district manager, will be on board to answer questions and share an update on the status of bald eagles and other species of interest. How is the river important as a migratory corridor for waterfowl and fish? What kinds of fish inhabit this stretch of the river? What is happening to wildlife populations both in the river and along its shores? Learn about the success of the Bald Eagle Restoration Project, evident in restored breeding populations along the river, in Massachusetts and in surrounding states. Taylor will also give an update on populations of Connecticut Valley residents such as black bear, deer and moose. Bring your questions and sign up for this special cruise along a scenic six-mile stretch of the Connecticut, as we explore the French King Gorge, the “narrows” and Barton Cove. Free with a Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center Quinnetukut ll Riverboat ticket ($6 child, $12 adult, $11 senior). Reserve your seat by calling Northfield Mountain at 1-800-859-2960.

■ Sunset Moonrise Paddle. On Sunday, July 21, from 6:30 to 8:45 p.m., enjoy an evening paddle with Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center’s naturalist Kim Noyes as we explore Barton Cove and the narrows of the Connecticut River. We’ll watch the moon rise and the sun set accompanied by the sounds of the river at twilight. The program, appropriate for both beginning and experienced paddlers, will include moon lore, wildlife sightings and river stories from days gone by. Bring dinner or snacks to eat and a flashlight. Single and tandem kayak rentals available. For ages 16 and older. Free with own kayak, $25 with rental. Register by calling Northfield Mountain at 1-800-859-2960.

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