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A Culture of Care

Read Smith’s UPDATED plans as of August 5, 2020,
for an entirely remote fall 2020 semester.

MacLeish Field Station

The Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station, home to the Bechtel Environmental Classroom, is a 260-acre patchwork of forest and farmland in nearby Whately that provides opportunities for the Smith community to pursue environmental research, outdoor education and low-impact recreation. Students use, steward, program activities for and propose changes to the property. It is a uniquely liberal arts field station—a field station for all of Smith.

The Bechtel Environmental Classroom

Outside Bechtel Environmental Classroom, MacLeish Field Station, Whately, Mass.


Supported by a grant from the S. D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, Smith College completed the construction of a 2,300-square-foot building at the MacLeish Field Station in 2012. A 9.4-kW solar array generates more electricity than the building uses on an annual basis. In 2014, the building was designated as the fifth fully certified Living Building, having completed the rigorous Living Building Challenge overseen by the International Living Futures Institute. The building contains a seminar and lecture space, a "dry" lab room, a small office, a kitchenette and two composting toilets.

Students are actively engaged in research at MacLeish related to the hemlock woolly adelgid, groundwater quality, precipitation through fall, the mitigation of invasive species such as multiflora rose and oriental bittersweet, and historic use of the property.


The Arts Afield program, launched in April 2017, was designed to promote the arts and humanities at the Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station. Named for an artist and a poet respectively, the field station has always been a truly liberal arts space. It’s home to biological research, art installations, dance programs, writing retreats, star-gazing programs, and much more.

The Arts Afield program is modeled on a common academic research station model, the Long-Term Ecological Research Program, adapted for Smith’s liberal arts mission. Ten “research plots” for the arts and humanities have been created at MacLeish, where artists, visitors, and students alike are invited to pause, reflect, and create.

Learn more about the Arts Afield plots in this story map, created by Tess Abbot ’19.

Read more about Weathering Heights, the launch event of Arts Afield .

Arts Afield is an initiative of the Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability (CEEDS), and is co-chaired by Joanne Benkley, Assistant Director of ES&P and CEEDS and Michele Wick, a lecturer in psychology.

Environmental monitoring at MacLeish currently comprises measurement of meteorological variables and vegetation. Continuous measurements from atop an 80-foot tower include atmospheric pressure, temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, and wind speed and direction. The field station is also home to an EarthScope Station L61B seismometer. The three-component broadband sensors continuously sense, record and transmit ground motions from a wide range of seismic sources, including local and distant earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other natural and human-induced activities.

Advisory Board

Jesse Bellemare

Biological Sciences

Scott Johnson

Outdoor Adventures

Denise McKahn

Director of CEEDS

Amy Rhodes


Paul Wetzel

Field Station Manager

Each year student interns working at MacLeish plan a number of events there. Past events have included music jams in the Bechtel Environmental Classroom, and star-gazing under the station’s dark sky. Check the Green Events Calendar for information about upcoming events and how to sign up.

The MacLeish Field Station is available year round for faculty research, field trips, and independent student projects. For more information, contact Paul Wetzel, field station manager, at

The MacLeish Field Station is home to a “low elements” challenge course. This exciting resource was made possible by a generous donation from Trish Jackson, former vice president of development for the college, and was designed and constructed by High 5 Adventure of Brattleboro, Vermont. The course and its facilitators engage student organizations, houses, outdoor programs, athletic teams, classes, student government leaders, residential life staff, and administrative and academic department members engage in safe and challenging activities that can bring groups closer together, reveal important issues about power dynamics, and improve communication strategies. For more information, contact To inquire about use of the challenge course click here

Overnight camping is open to the Smith College community and visiting researchers. There are two designated camping areas and permission must be obtained by a formal request [see below], ideally seven days in advance. The smaller campsite is limited to six to eight people and the larger group site can accommodate 12 to 15. Fires are restricted to the two campsites within designated fire rings and the group fire pit south of the Chestnut orchard. Fires must be small and cooking sized (no large fires) and must be extinguished fully before going to sleep or leaving. Collect dead wood from the ground only—no cutting of live wood or bringing off-site firewood is allowed. 


Take a Virtual Tour of MacLeish

See and learn about all the ways you can use the field station for work and for leisure! Let Paul Wetzel, Field Station Manager, be your guide!

Out in the Field

John Brady on the Stones of MacLeish
Artist in the Wild
Maple Sugaring at MacLeish Station