Alternate Programming 20/21

Natural Science & History

Our school programs have been designed for homeschoolers and distance learners as well! On this page, you'll find programming available for families and pods, whether they choose to experience these at Hildene, or at home.

STANDARDS BASED PROGRAMS: The programs listed below follow Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Social Studies State Standards for academic year 2020/21. "Windows to the Past" is offered at Hildene. Each of our Natural science programs for homeschoolers take place outside on the grounds of Hildene. These are some of our most popular lessons, but delivered with consideration to COVID-19 best practice protocols, no matter what the location. Fees: $25/family. For more information on special Fall/Winter 2020/21 programming, contact Education Director Diane Newton: at 802-874-4787, or email: Special Note on Winter Programming: with participation in one of our on site programs, take advantage of discounted rates on snowshoe and ski rentals from our Pavilion! Rent your winter weather sports gear at $5/person, and make your visit all the more engaging, by heading out onto our trails then winding down by the fire. (Weather, and safety protocols, permitting.)

For information on our 2020 School Programs, visit our Learning/School Programs page.


Pullman Porters, education program LIVE, VIRTUAL: Pullman Porters: Unsung Heroes, Former Slaves, Labor Organizers, Middle Class Citizens & Civil Rights Activists

Winter • Grades: 6-8 • Length: 1 - 1 1/2 hours

PROGRAM OFFERED: WINTER, 2020/21 (launch: January 11, 2021)

During this live virtual program students discover the critical role that Pullman porters played in giving rise to America’s black middle class, the formation of the black labor movement, and the momentum for the civil rights movement. This slice of history spans 100 years beginning with the Emancipation Proclamation. Students engage in activities relating to what it was like to travel and work on a Pullman car and actively participate in discussion about the porters’ enduring fight for social change and justice in America. BIG IDEAS: Historical Connections; Human Rights; Impact of Economic Systems; and Nature of Conflict. SOCIAL STUDIES STANDARDS.

Windows to the Past, 2020/2021 programming AT HILDENE: Windows To The Past

Nov-Apr • Grades: 5-12 • Length: 1 1/2 hours


Students take a tour of Hildene, built by presidential son Robert Lincoln and his wife Mary in 1905, to learn about the family and their lives at the turn of the century. Students also visit the exhibit The American Ideal: Abraham Lincoln and the Second Inaugural, which includes one of Lincoln’s stovepipe hats of which there are only three in existence. 

Robert Lincoln, a captain of industry, served as president of the Pullman Company from 1901 to 1911. Students learn about his Pullman career through a visit to our fully restored 1903 Pullman car, Sunbeam. The interpretive exhibit “Many Voices” focuses on the Pullman Company that built the cars; the privileged families and executives who travelled in them and the Pullman porters who worked in them. The fourth voice is of those who visit the car and the conclusions they draw from the experience. BIG IDEA Historical Connections; Forces of Unity and Disunity & Nature of Conflict. STANDARDS


Black-Capped Chickadee, Adaptations, education programming Winter Adaptations: Coping with the Cold

Winter • Grades: 2-5 • Length: 1 - 1 1/2 hours


Colder temperatures and shorter days bring about many changes in the world around us. Students explore forest life through observation and exploration to discover the ways plants and trees adapt to winter’s challenges. They also examine the familiar black-capped chickadee to discover its remarkable survival strategies and complex language of calls. Weather permitting, students take a close look at the unique designs of snowflakes and examine the processes that form them. BIG IDEAS: Structure and Function; Cycles; and InterdependenceNGSS STANDARDS

Under and Over the Snow, education programming Under and Over the Snow

Winter • Grades: 1-3 & 4-5 • Length: 1 - 1 1/2 hours


How do animals adapt to Vermont’s long cold winter? Through outdoor activities, students examine the survival strategies of animals in winter and learn basic track identification skills. They examine prints and track patterns, learn to move like the mammals do, and practice their tracking skills in the woods nearby. BIG IDEAS: Structure and Function; and Place. NGSS STANDARDS

Secrets of Seeds_Hildene Educational Programming Secrets of Seeds

Fall • Grades: 1-2 & 3-4 • Length: 1 1/2 hours

How are animals, catapulting, and the forces of wind, water and gravity linked to seeds?  Students explore this and other questions during our investigations of seeds. Students examine how seeds are formed, identify the parts of a seed that grow into a new plant, and inspect selected seed bearing structures to look for evidence of how the seeds travel. BIG IDEAS: Interdependence; Cycles; Reproduction; and Structure and Function. NGSS

Mighty Monarchs: educational programming at Hildene Mighty Monarchs

Fall • Grades: K-3 • Length: 1 1/2 hours

Monarchs are the only butterflies to migrate north and south each year, yet no single insect completes the round-trip journey.  Students explore the conservation of this butterfly, while learning about its habitat, life cycle and migration, including tagging and releasing a monarch. BIG IDEAS: Interdependence; Cycles; and Structure & Function. NGSS

The Buzz on Bees_Hildene Educational Programming The Buzz on Honey Bees

Fall • Grades: K-2 & 3-4 • Length: 1 1/2 hours

How is honey made and a flower pollinated? Students explore the world of honey bees with investigation and pantomime.  They examine the honey bee’s design, life cycle, social structure, and important role as a pollinator. BIG IDEAS: Interdependence; Cycles; and Structure & Function. NGSS

home default Pond Critters!

Fall • Grades: 1-2 & 3-4 • Length: 1 1/2 hours  

Pond dwelling critters are remarkable for their diversity of size, shape and adaptations for finding food, moving and breathing.  Students examine their own pond critter, brought by Hildene educators, to make observations and to identify how they are adapted to live in a watery world. Students also become familiar with the differences between the young and adult forms of their critters and build a pond food web. BIG IDEAS: Diversity; Interdependence; and Structure & Function. NGSS

NATURAL SCIENCE INVESTIGATION KITS: Our Natural Science Investigation Kits are designed for children entering 1st through 4th grade, and are meant to spark curiosity and provide hands-on learning about the natural world. While supporting the Next Generation Science Standards, the kits provide opportunities for children to explore and make their own discoveries. Children practice important skills such as asking questions, making careful observations, communicating outcomes and reflecting upon results. Included in each kit is information related to the theme, the necessary equipment and special materials for the activities, and a 5-day grounds pass to Hildene, for the option to use Hildene’s property for the field investigations. The Next Generation Science Standards that are linked to each kit will be available here. Designed to be picked up at Hildene’s Museum Store, each kit costs $25 and contains the equipment and materials needed for one child. The kits may also be mailed for an additional fee to cover shipping costs. To order a kit or for more information, please contact Diane Newton, Education Director, at For a downloadable info sheet on Hildene's 2020 Home Study Natural Science Investigation kits, CLICK HERE.


Seeds to Fruits Home Study INVESTIGATION KIT: Seeds to Fruits

How does a seed become a fruit? What is in soil and how is it made? These questions and more are explored in this kit. Children dissect seeds, play Apple Tree Life Cycle Sort, and examine different fruits, searching for clues that they were once a flower. To better understand soil characteristics, children conduct soil experiments and build a micro composter to observe the life cycle of biodegradable materials. Related crafts and recipes complete the kit. NGSS Standards.

Forests Home Study INVESTIGATION KIT: Forests

Through journaling, crafting and investigation, this kit explores tree identification and anatomy, life in the forest, forest sensory activities, and the forest’s role in providing clean water. Children create their own micro forest ecosystem in a jar, make tree teas, build a forest food web, and learn about forest diversity through sampling a forest plot. NGSS standards.

Plants and Pollinators Home Study INVESTIGATION KIT: Plants and Pollinators

Pollinators literally put food on our tables. This kit is designed to inspire care for pollinators of all kinds. Children discover who the pollinators are, the vital role they play in agriculture and natural communities, and the steps that can be taken to promote and protect pollinator habitat in our backyards. Children dissect a flower, go on a pollinator hunt, make a bee’s wax candle, discover the differences in bumble bee color patterns and spread pollinator habitat! NGSS Standards.

Ponds and Wetlands Home Study INVESTIGATION KIT: Ponds and Wetlands

How are aquatic critters and plants adapted to live in a watery world? What benefits do wetlands provide that no other ecosystem does? Visit a nearby pond or wetland with the kit’s net, magnifying viewer, critter keys and activities to discover the answers. Follow up your field investigations by creating an aquatic food web, playing Presto, Change-o, and building a cattail duck to float! NGSS Standards.