For those of us with school age children, summer vacation presents both joys and challenges. It can be a welcome reprieve, not having to adhere to the bus and school routine five days a week. On the other hand, the relaxed schedule can be a mixed blessing: lots of opportunities to do those things for which we haven’t had time all year, but also lots of hours to fill.
If, like me, you’re home at least part-time with your kid(s) during these 10-or-so weeks, you may be looking for new ways to spend your days. Especially mid-summer, after the novelty of not having to rush out the door in the morning has worn off, and the word “bored” is showing up in conversations, you may be wondering what’s out there. We are fortunate, here on the South Shore, to have nearly endless options.  
There are camps, there are day programs, there are all sorts of events offered through local libraries and recreation departments. Blueberry picking (Scituate, Hanson) is always a favorite of ours, as are group explorations of conservation areas where the kids can enjoy unstructured play. The places we’ve enjoyed most so far, with our crew of friends (ages 5-10) and their parents, are Willow Brook Farm in Pembroke, Couch Beach (via Couch Cemetery) in North Marshfield, and the Norris Reservation in Norwell. All offer well-shaded trails and a respite from the summer heat.
One relatively new option on the local scene is offered by the North and South Rivers Watershed Association (NSRWA): a series of outdoors explorations for families otherwise known as Science Fridays in the ‘Shed.
Last year my son and I participated in the very first Science Friday. We joined a small group of parents and children, along with Samantha Woods and Sara Grady from the NSRWA, and hiked out from Third Cliff in Scituate to The Spit at the mouth of the North River. Along the way, we tested the salinity of marsh creeks, learned about some of the grasses and other vegetation that grows in the zone between the land and the sea, and kept our eyes open for shorebirds and horseshoe crabs. The trip was timed for low tide, so we could spend most of our time checking out the tide pools – familiarizing ourselves with the creatures and plants that make their home among the rocks at the edge of the ocean.
This year the NSRWA has expanded its Science Friday program. There will be four trips this summer, each on a Friday morning from 10-12.
On July 11th, you can learn about freshwater tributaries at the Norris Reservation in Norwell, through which Second Herring Brook flows as it makes its way to the North River.
On July 18th, NSRWA returns to The Spit in Scituate for tidepooling and barrier beach geology.
On July 25th, they will be exploring the North River marshes, via the Messer Conservation Area, off Union Street in North Marshfield.
And on August 15th, there will be a freshwater tidal exploration on the Indian Head River, at the Hanover Canoe Launch.
All of the programs are designed to introduce children and their families to the different habitats and ecology within the North and South Rivers watershed, aka “the ‘shed.” Participants will be actively engaged in collecting field data, and will use scientific sampling gear to analyze water quality and identify plants and animals.
Pre-registration is required. The best way is to sign up online at The cost is $5 per person for NSRWA members, $10 for non-members, and – this is the best part – no charge for kids 12 and under.
Last year the program sold out, so if you’re interested, consider signing up right away. If your children are at all interested in natural history, ecology, or outdoor exploration, you’ll be glad you did.
 by Kezia Bacon 
May 2014
Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit