Make Us Smile with Your Amazon Purchases

As a non-profit organization devoted to delivering quality environmental education opportunities for children, families, and adults, we couldn't pursue this mission without the generous support of so many. 

This month we've joined Amazon's Smile program; by selecting us as your charity on Amazon Smile a percentage of your qualifying purchases will go to us in the form of a monetary contribution from Amazon. In order for us to receive this donation, you'll need to begin any Amazon shopping visit at This website offers the same selection as and it is brought to you by Amazon with all of the same security.

These small contributions add up and we thank you for pitching in this way if it suits you! Thank you in advance for thinking of us! 

Ben Kilham Presents "The Social Black Bear"

We are pleased to bring an exciting event presentation from independent wildlife biologist and bear rehabilitator Ben Kilham on October 26th at the NewsBank Conference Center in Chester. 

Kilham first aided a bear as a rehabilitator in 1992; the following year he raised twin wild orphaned black bears. He found the Kilham Black Bear Rehabilitation Center with his sister, Phoebe and together they have taken in, rehabilitated, and released over 130 bear cubs. His unconventional methods for rehabilitating bears, including serving as their stand-in mother and maintaining close physical contact, have won over many skeptics.

When asked what first peeked his interest in working closely with bears, Kilham explained: "My sister was invested in husbandry and I in behavior. I was interested in studying carnivores like coyotes, bobcats or fishers. None of those animals came our way, but bears did. There was no formal rehab of bears at the time. Bears turned out to be the ideal animal to study."

According to Kilham, these orphaned bear cubs can be trained to thrive in the wild if given the chance to tap into their instincts, "All wild animals have in their genome the knowledge of how to survive in their natural environment. We give them that opportunity to learn." 

Over the course of his working in close contact with bears, Kilham has made many discoveries related to the nuances of their social behaviors, which in many ways he says mirror the complexity of human social interactions.

Kilham is the author of two books, Out on a Limb: What Black Bears Have Taught Me About Intelligence and Intuition and Among the Bears: Raising Orphaned Cubs in the Wild. He is a resident of Lyme, New Hampshire, where he lives with his wife, Debbie.

Come join us on October 26th to learn more about this fascinating species local to the Green Mountains, including their social behaviors, and delve deeper into the success of Kilham's unusual methods.

Learn more about Ben's work on his website.

Meet Leah

Leah leading last month's Mighty Acorns Program

Leah leading last month's Mighty Acorns Program

We are excited to announce that we've added a new member to our Nature Museum team. Leah Kotok is our new Environmental Educator and she will be leading many future programs for kids at the Nature Museum, including our popular Mighty Acorns program. We recently asked Leah to share more about herself; please join us in welcoming her!

Tell us a little bit about yourself; where are you from/how long have you called Vermont home?

I've lived in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Michigan, and of course Vermont! I've owned my home in Andover, Vermont for 8 years, but I haven't been able to live here full time until this fall. I'm so excited to finally be able to call Vermont home!

I grew up in rural, central Massachusetts. I studied Biology and Environmental Science at Smith College and I have an MA in Environmental Education from University of New Hampshire. I've been a science teacher for most of the past fifteen years, most recently at the Indian Mountain School in Lakeville, Connecticut.

What's your favorite outdoor pursuit? Where do you go to pursue it?

I love hiking and I'm hoping to get to do it a lot more now that I'm in Vermont. My favorite hike is Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire. My family and friends have traditionally hiked Monadnock the weekend before Christmas every year since 1965 (obviously I haven't gone on all those hikes!).

As a part of your role as an environmental educator at The Nature Museum you'll be leading our popular Mighty Acorn program for ages 3-5. What do you love about exploring nature with this age group? What can participants look forward to later this month at the next Mighty Acorns program?

I love working with little ones because they see magic in nature. Even mundane details are new and exciting pieces of a puzzle that they use to piece together the world around them. Teaching to such wide-eyed wonderers is so much fun.

This month we're going to be investigating bats—not just a key part of Halloween but some of the most important animals in our ecosystem!

What's the last thing you read related to nature that made you feel good?

Often we read so many depressing things about nature in the news—species becoming endangered, habitats being destroyed, global temperatures rising—but every once in a while there is a positive story. A few weeks ago, the Channel Island Foxes off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, were removed from the endangered species list. This was remarkable because less than a dozen years ago they were considered critically endangered. Their recovery is considered the fastest in history!

This story also holds a special place in my heart as I actually got to work with these very foxes when I was a zookeeper at the Santa Barbara Zoo in 2003. It's so wonderful to know that these little guys have made such an extraordinary comeback and will now have a future as a species.

Twigs & Stems // October 2016

Here are a few links from around the web that caught our attention in recent weeks. Have you seen something that stuck with you that you'd like to share? Post it in the comments! Love what you see here? Follow us on Facebook, as we often post these goodies as we find them. 

Science Friday // Credit: Nature Conservancy

Science Friday // Credit: Nature Conservancy



Another Magical, Successful Fairy Fest

It's a week later and we are still feeling the magic from our 8th Annual Fairy House Festival. We want to send a big thank you to all 1,100 festival-goers who made it out! Thank you for choosing to spend such a pristine, beautiful fall day with us. The festival ticks along only with the participation of so many cheery volunteers and this year was no different. From setup to cleanup and everything in between, they were there. Thank you, thank you!

And last but not least, we want to express our gratitude to our builders whose creations draw wonder and excitement  and serve as the centerpiece of a very full weekend of people coming together to interact within nature. Thank you for building!

To all our participants, we thank you for supporting us here at The Nature Museum. The fairy house festival is our largest fundraiser of the year. The money raised bolsters our efforts to provide quality programming to children, families, and adults year-around that fosters a connection with nature that we hope only grows stronger each year. Much like our little festival. 

We've pulled together a photo gallery with shots from this year's events! Check it out!

On Being a Turkey (In Winter)

By Bob Engel
Marlboro College Professor Emeritus of Biology and Environmental Science

The American turkey fascinates me.  They’re big and clunky, yet they fly fairly gracefully onto the branches of tall trees where they roost.  When they’re wandering around here they see me through our house windows with ease —their beady little eyes taking in my movements.

Coyotes and foxes, trading some eyesight for smell, are much less observant.  I can see why Benjamin Franklin promoted turkeys as the National bird. They’re wily, surprisingly hard to see (unless they move), they use a wide range of habitats, and they’re numerically successful. Around here, some of the hens have stared down our cat as they wander around the place with their chicks, eating grasshoppers and new grass seed.

But when you look at the range of these birds, it’s as if someone snapped a chalk line at the U.S./Canadian border.  These are patriotic birds; they don’t do Canada.  Why not?

I used to teach a course on wildlife management that was really an excuse to teach the ecology of big, charismatic animals.  As a result, I came across a lot of research papers of “game” animals, including turkeys.  Some of articles surprised me.

Maybe not so surprising is the fact that turkeys have trouble finding food in deeper snow.  A study done in Pennsylvania found that turkeys are unable to get to bare ground — and food — with as little as a foot of fresh snow.  What, then, do they eat?  They’re big birds and they have to shovel in quite a bit.  Buds?  A few withered fruits?  The occasional big insect pupa?  It must be tough.

But a second paper was even more of a shock.  It was about their thermal competences and what they were able to navigate in terms of winter temperatures.  A bit of background first.

When a “warm blooded” animal is warmer than its environment it loses heat to that environment.  The bigger the temperature difference between body and ambient temperatures, the greater the heat loss (we think birds and mammals here, but some bigger marine fish, and even large insects like bumblebees and sphinx moths can elevate their body temperatures to permit activity in colder environments).

There are a few ways for winter animals to deal with this heat loss (other than eating enough to compensate for the loss….food becomes heat, after all).  One is to be large like a cow or a horse.  The deal here is that heat is lost across the surface area of the hot-blooded animal.  The smaller the ratio of the surface area to the volume that produces that heat, the lower the rate of heat loss.  So a good evolutionary solution to losing heat and having to replace it with food, is to be large and as spherical as possible.  A sphere is the shape that minimizes the surface/volume ratio, and, therefore, attendant heat loss. That’s why a dog or cat curls up like s/he does.  Because they live in heat-sucking cold water, all marine mammals are large and chunky; ditto for bears, deer, elk, moose and so on.  Those ungulates are just barrels on sticks.

Small mammals and birds are in a real bind here.  To survive the cold, unless they hibernate, they must eat incessantly.  A turkey is not a small bird, so that’s a plus.  But, as the temperature drops, all warm blooded animals eventually have to increase heat production.  The outside temperature where the metabolic rate starts to increase is called the lower critical temperature, and depends on size, shape, insulation, and so on.   It is astoundingly low in a husky dog: minus 40 degrees!  Is a turkey similarly endowed?  It does have insulation in the form of feathers, but the answer is no.

The lower critical temperature for a turkey is a balmy 52 degrees F.  Thus, anything colder than fifty and a turkey has to amp up its metabolic rate.  That can only occur with adequate food. With three feet of snow on the ground, where is that food?  Starvation has to be a constant threat.  No wonder they can’t make it in Canada.  I’m amazed they can survive here.

Mr. Franklin was right.  They are magnificent animals.

Vendors Ramp Up for Another Exciting Fairy House Fest!

We are delighted to have several vendors participating in the the Fairy House Festival taking place THIS weekend, September 24-25th. 

With the fairy walk and all of the other activities and excitement of the festival, it's very easy to build up an appetite. While we welcome folks to pack a picnic lunch, you may wish to save room instead for the fresh fare on offer from two special locally-based food vendors participating in the festival.

It doesn't get more local than MKT: Grafton, our hometown's star newcomer.  The modern general store, located on Grafton's Main Street, will be selling an assortment of delicious fare at the festival this year. Lunch will be served both days from 11am-3pm at their festival booth; fairy lunch boxes and an assortment of fresh salads will be on offer for purchase. Visitors will also find a wide range of fairy themed snacks, thoughtful souvenirs, and lots of local food products.

Regarding the market's enthusiasm for the festival, co-owner Ali Hartman explained, "As a big believer in magic, our store is thrilled to be serving up goodness at the Fairy House Festival! The festival weekend turns our little town into a whimsical, wonderful adventure and is one of our team's favorite events of the year!" 

Returning vendor Jamaican Jewelz Catering, based out of Rockingham, will be serving a selection of freshly prepared plates, including jerk chicken and other Jamaican cuisine favorites. Owner and chef Julian Perkins says she looks forward to the weekend because, "The festival means peace & tranquility to me and my family." She added, "It's two days we get to spend enjoying the company of others who share our beliefs in fairies and nature."

In addition to all the tasty fare that will be available at the festival, we are excited to welcome back talented body artist and face painter extraordinaire Mona Frye of Springfield, Vermont. Don't forget to stop by her tent!

Festival tickets are on sale now; take advantage of our reduced advanced tickets and save! Have questions about the fest? Check out our FAQ page. 

The Nature Museum and our vendors can't wait to welcome you to the fest! See you soon!