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AMHERST — The Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst was recently awarded a $222,076 Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) FY2022 Museums for America grant for its SEEDS (Schools Exploring Engineering, Design, and Sustainability) program in partnership with Springfield Public Schools. This grant requires a 1:1 match in funding and will rely upon community support to fully fund this new initiative.

“The Hitchcock Center for the Environment’s SEEDS program is opening doors to STEM education for children in our Commonwealth, preparing them for a bright, green, net-zero future,” U.S. Sen. Ed Markey said. “These young people will inherit the responsibility of protecting our planet someday soon, and thanks to the Hitchcock Center and its supporters, they will have the curiosity, knowledge, and drive to do so.”

SEEDS is a new Hitchcock Center program that focuses on using an engineering design-challenge approach to build STEM capacity in third-grade classrooms in the Springfield school system. Project activities will include developing and implementing experiential learning in classrooms through school-based design challenges and creating professional training and mentoring support for each teacher participating in the program. The center will schedule field trips for participating classrooms to its certified Living Building, a net-zero energy facility that harvests and recycles its own water, uses composting toilets, and was constructed with responsibly sourced, non-toxic materials. The project will enhance materials and curriculum for participating schools and encourage students and teachers to explore the intersections of engineering, technology, and design and their role in addressing environmental challenges that confront society.

“The Springfield Public Schools are very happy to be able to partner with the Hitchcock Center, who will work with our teachers to get our kids excited and inspired about science and nature,” said Ronald St. Amand, director of Science for Springfield Public Schools, adding that SEEDS “will provide our students with opportunities to learn about STEM careers and to see themselves in STEM. Through the program, kids will come to understand that climate change is urgent, but that we are not powerless against it. Our students can be hopeful about and be part of climate-change solutions.”

The mission of the Hitchcock Center is to educate and to inspire action for a healthy planet. Instead of simply teaching about climate change, the Hitchcock Center is helping people develop the skills needed to create climate solutions and foster climate resilience by helping them reconnect to and learn from nature’s efficient and sustainable systems, develop a problem-solving mindset, and share a positive vision for the future.

“It is critical that younger generations feel empowered to combat climate change. The Hitchcock Center’s incredible work ensures everyone can learn about environmental and energy issues impacting our community, country, and planet,” U.S. Rep. James McGovern said. “The funding announced for their SEEDS program is well-deserved. It will go a long way in expanding learning opportunities that further students’ knowledge about STEM and its power to protect our environment. This grant is great news for the Hitchcock Center and the people of Amherst, and I look forward to seeing how they continue to equip future leaders with the skills they need to tackle the climate crisis.”

Daily News

AMHERST — The Hitchcock Center for the Environment announced William “Billy” Spitzer as its new executive director. He brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership experience in the areas of science education, climate communication, and network building along with a vast network of national and international connections. Spitzer will be influential in the continued growth and impact that the center has seen in recent years as it continues on its mission to educate and inspire action for a healthy planet.

Spitzer comes to the center as the former vice president for Learning and Community at the New England Aquarium, where he was responsible for applying learning and social-science research across education programs, exhibits, visitor experience, and community outreach for more than 20 years. Working with organizations such as the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation, Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network, and North American Assoc. for Environmental Education, he has been involved in many successful collaborative projects with a focus on environmental education and awareness along with the promotion of public engagement in climate change.

In 2014, Spitzer was recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change for Engaging the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders. In 2016, he received a Visionary Award from the Gulf of Maine Council for innovation, creativity, and commitment to marine protection. He holds a Ph.D. in oceanography from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The Hitchcock Center worked with search consultant Cathy Cohen of TSNE MissionWorks to review more than 70 applicants for the position. After an extensive search, which saw a wide variety of candidates vetted and interviewed, the board of directors enthusiastically chose Spitzer as the best-qualified to lead the center into the future.

Board President Clay Ballantine called Spitzer “an exceptionally skilled and accomplished professional who comes to the center at the perfect time. [He] is smart, approachable, thoughtful, has high emotional intelligence, and a track record of success — a perfect fit as the center continues to forge an unwavering path forward to be a leader addressing the challenges of climate change head on and ensuring a world where people, communities, and ecosystems thrive.”