School Programs

“Children are our legacy.”



Our programs utilize our entire property including its wetlands, streams, meadows, forests, pond and vernal pool. They are designed to provide experiential, inquiry-based learning opportunities while supporting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Through history and natural science themes, students explore big ideas, i.e., understandings that endure long after the details are forgotten, cultivate observation and inquiry skills, and engage in constructing evidence-based explanations. 


Natural Science

NEW Fibers to Felt

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

Students explore the fibers of sheep, alpaca and rabbit while learning what is required to raise and care for these animals. They discover the importance of each animals’ unique nutrition and behavior as they feed the alpaca, provide healthy pasture for the sheep, and tend to the rabbits’ hair. After interacting with the animals, students process sheep fleece into a product to take home! BIG IDEA: Interdependence; Systems; and Structure and Function  NGSS


seed image
The Significance 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 while investigating the fascinating world of seeds. Depending upon their prior knowledge, students discover how seeds are formed by examining parts of a flower. They may dissect a seed to identify the parts that grow into a new plant. They also examine the features of selected seed-bearing structures, locate the actual seeds inside, and look for evidence of how the seeds travel. While in the field, students search for many different seeds and determine how they might travel using evidence to support their ideas. BIG IDEA: Interdependence; Cycles; Interdependence; Reproduction; and Structure and Function. NGSS


Apple Trees: From Flowers to Fruit to Cider

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

The crisp days of fall are time for cider making. Using apples we have picked from Hildene’s trees, students wash and press the fruit into sweet cider. After it has been pasteurized, students sample the delicious juice. To appreciate the development of apple fruit, students explore the essential role of pollinators and dissect a simple flower to discover how its parts contribute to the process of pollination. Through investigation and pantomime, the life cycle of the apple tree, the functions of its parts and how it changes through the seasons will also be examined. BIG IDEA: Structure and Function; Interdependence; and Cycles. NGSS


Mighty Monarchs

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

Monarchs are the only butterflies to migrate north and south each year, yet no single individual completes the round-trip journey. Students explore the conservation of this magnificent butterfly, while learning about its habitat, life-cycle and migration, including tagging and releasing a monarch before it begins its fall journey to the mountains of Central Mexico. BIG IDEA: Interdependence; Cycles; and Structure and Function. NGSS


honey bee
The Buzz on Honey Bees

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

Who’s who in the hive? How is honey made and flowers pollinated? Students explore the world of honey bees with investigation, pantomime, and inspection of the bees in our observation hive. They examine the bee’s design, life-cycle, social structure and important role as a pollinator. BIG IDEA: Interdependence; Cycles and Structure and Function. NGSS


Bee Friends: Know Your Pollinators

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

Designed to inspire curiosity and care for pollinators of all kinds, this program introduces students to who the native pollinators are, the vital role that pollinators play in agriculture and natural communities, and the steps we can take to promote and protect pollinator habitat in our schoolyards and backyards. Students record pollinator and plant interactions in the field, examine the characteristics of pollinators, dissect and identify parts of flowers, visit our observation hive, and learn how to incorporate pollinator friendly features into gardens and landscapes. BIG IDEA: Interdependence; Cycles; and Structure and Function. NGSS


bumble bee
Bumble Bee Basics

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

Gentle and fuzzy, everyone has watched a bumble bee buzzing between flowers in summer; but what about the rest of the year? How do bumble bees overwinter? Where do they raise brood in the spring? How do they fly in the fall when it is chilly or raining? With indoor and outdoor activities, students examine the bumble bee’s life cycle, its habitat needs, and its vital role as a pollinator. They are introduced to the differences in color patterns between species, learn how to enhance pollinator habitat and may observe queens in search of nest sites, workers foraging or new queens preparing for winter. BIG IDEA: Interdependence; Cycles; Structure and Function. NGSS


Splendid Spiders

Fall • Grades: K-1 & 2-3 • Length: 1 hour

In our gardens, forests, fields and homes, spiders can be found, quietly focused on their important ecological role - capturing and eating insects. Students observe live spiders and build model spiders from their observations, discover the process of spiders capturing prey in a web, and go on a guided hunt to observe spiders, webs and record observations. We also examine the life cycle and vital ecological role of these terrestrial predators. BIG IDEA: Interdependence; Cycles; and Structure and Function. NGSS


Wild & Wary: Vermont’s Turkeys

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

Unlike earlier times, the turkey we enjoy today isn’t a wild bird, but rather farm-raised. While tasty, the domestic turkey is not nearly as fascinating in behavior or development as its wild cousin. With slides, touchable artifacts, and interactive activities, students explore the history, habitat, life-cycle and behavior of Vermont’s wild turkeys. Our inquiry includes activities highlighting the importance of predators in shaping the turkey's behavior and survival strategies. BIG IDEA: Interdependence; Cycles; and Change over Time.NGSS


Pond Discovery

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

To discover the remarkable diversity of the pond community, students explore the life in and around Hildene’s pond using nets, magnifiers and field guides. They collect creatures from different pond habitats, make observations about their differences, and identify ways they are adapted to live in a watery world. They also work together to create a pond food web. BIG IDEA: Systems; Diversity; Interdependence; and Structure and FunctionNGSS


Streams: Life Beneath the Flow

Fall & Spring • Grades:-2-4 & 4-5 • Length: 1 1/2 hours

Students explore the variety of habitats and interconnected web of animals and plants within a stream. They catch and identify aquatic insects, build a river food web, and learn how insect life can teach us about a stream’s health. They also discover important adaptations that are vital for life in these ever-changing ecosystems. BIG IDEA: Interdependence; Systems; and Diversity. NGSS


Wetlands are Working Lands

Fall • Grades: 3-5 • Length: 2 hours

Students investigate Hildene’s wetland to discover the indispensable properties and functions of these unique habitats. From a floating boardwalk that extends 600’ through the marsh, students assess the water quality based on the macroinvertebrate population, discover the characteristics of wetland soils, and examine the adaptations of wetland plants to further their understanding of the ecological importance of these ecosystems. BIG IDEA: Interdependence; Systems; Diversity; and Structure and Function. NGSS


Vernal Pools: Unique Amphibian Nurseries

Spring • Grades: 3-5 • Length: 2 hours

With slides, investigation and observation of live animals, students discover the critical support vernal pools provide to certain amphibians. They examine the energy and nutrient source of these temporary pools, become familiar with some of the “obligate” vernal pool species and learn why these pools are called the “hatchery of the forest.” BIG IDEA: Interdependence; and Systems.NGSS


Under and Over the Snow

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

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


Goats, Gouda & Gastric Microbe

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

As students interact with the does and kids at our goat dairy, the life cycle, anatomy and care of goats are examined. While learning about the processes of milking and cheese, students participate in chores, identify goat products and bottle feed the kids. BIG IDEA: Cycles; and Structure and Function. NGSS



Lincoln's Hat

Spring • Grades 2-3 • Length: 1 1/2 hours

Students learn who President Lincoln was, where he came from and some of the beliefs and values of this famous president. Against the background of the book Abe Lincoln's Hat by Martha Brenner, they discover the attributes Lincoln possessed and how they helped him become a great leader. During the program, students roleplay, share their own experiences and match Lincoln's life experiences to those needed to be a great president. Students also visit our Lincoln exhibit to view one of the president's iconic stovepipe hats. CCSS


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

Fall, Winter & Spring • Grades: 5-6 & 7-8 • Length: 2 1/2hours 

Our restored 1903 wooden Pullman car, Sunbeam, provides the setting for students to 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; a slice of history that spans 100 years beginning with the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Students role-play what it was like to travel and work on a Pullman car, use primary sources that relate to the era, examine a timeline of milestones in African American civil rights, and visit the mansion where Robert Lincoln conducted Pullman business when he was in Vermont. BIG IDEA Historical Connections; Traditional and Social Histories; Human Rights; Forces of Unity and Disunity; Impact of Economic Systems; and Nature of Conflict. CCSS


hollow school
The Hollow School

Fall, Early Winter & Spring • Grades: 1-2 & 3-4 • Length: 1 1/2 hours

Our fully restored one-room schoolhouse provides the setting for students to experience the lessons and tasks of children in early Vermont schools. Our “school day” commences when the bell is rung. Role-playing 19th century scholars, students use reproduction texts, slates and quill pens for their lessons, which include memorization and recitation. They also play old time games during the recess break. BIG IDEA Historical Connections.CCSS


Historic Crafts

Fall, Winter & Spring • Grades: 1-3 & 4-6 • Length: 1 - 2 hours 

In early America making crafts was an essential part of everyday life. Students make everyday household items like dipped candles or baskets. Increasing students’ appreciation of the early settler’s self-sufficiency, this program introduces each craft in an historical context. Choose from the list below the craft(s) you would like to do: 

  • Dipped Candles 1 1/2 hours (1st-5th)
  • Pierced-Tin Candle Shades 1 hour (1st-5th)
  • Cornhusk Dolls 1 1/2 hours (3rd-6th)
  • Basket Weaving 2 hours (5th-6th)

BIG IDEA Historical Connections; Movements and Settlements; Impact of Economic Systems. CCSS


A Vermont Story: The Equinox Guards & Civil War Camp Life

Spring • Grades: 5-6 • Length: 1 1/2 hours

This program tells the story of the 87 young men from the Manchester area, the North Shire, who served in the Civil War. Our story, based primarily on soldiers’ letters and newspaper accounts, follows these men from their enlistment and training in 1861, to the Battle at Savage’s Station in 1862, where many of them were killed, to the reunions held years later. Students role-play actual members of the Equinox Guards. They practice roll call, drills, marches and other activities including letter writing, singing, food sampling and sewing. By making connections between family, community, Vermont history, and United States history, this program is a resource to augment Vermont history or Civil War curricula. BIG IDEA Historical Connections; Forces of Unity and Disunity; and Nature of Conflict. CCSS


Windows To The Past

Nov-Apr • Grades: 3-12 • 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. CCSS


Lincoln and the Telegraph: The Innovator with the Innovation

Fall, Winter & Spring • Grades 5-6 • Length: 1 1/2 hours

An innovator at heart, President Lincoln revolutionized the use of the telegraph during the Civil War. Lincoln used this new communications tool to gather information and assert his leadership to the front. 

Students learn about the critical role of the telegraph in the Civil War, use telegraphs to send and receive messages that are combined to reveal one of Lincoln’s most important decisions and then view related artifacts in our exhibit, The American Ideal: Abraham Lincoln and the Second Inaugural. 
BIG IDEA Historical Connections; Forces of Unity and Disunity; and Nature of Conflict. CCSS