Capture & Record Your Wildlife Encounters for Fun & for Science

WildObs: WILDlife OBServations

With camera in hand, families can be empowered as citizen scientists, capturing images of critters in their local environment and sharing them through WildObs. WildObs is an online wildlife sightings community that helps scientists with data and families in discovery of wildlife in various habitats, including their own! [Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield]

Does your family snap photos of the wildlife you see in your yard? Have you accumulated images amass, all featuring a feathered friend, shy mammal, crawly bug, or slippery amphibians? Share your wildlife sightings with WildObs, an online wildlife-finding community that both supports nature-loving folks in learning to spot hard-to-find creatures, but also contributes data and other useful information to organizations that solicit input from citizen scientists.

WildObs allows users to upload their own photos, paired with a location tag and a caption describing the species pictured, the action in the photograph, or any other important details that help others to understand what they’re looking at. Not only do users add their own photos to the database, but they can browse through others’ photographs to see what it really looks like to be up close and personal with everything from a grasshopper to a bear! Of course, it’s likely that you’ve already had lots of close ups with grasshoppers on your own, but thanks to the fact that WildObs users hail from all corners of the map, you might find photos of a variety of species that you’ve never seen in real life. And, while a real-life encounter is always better than a photograph, the images on WildObs are mostly taken by amateur wildlife enthusiasts, whose encounters with creatures are possible to replicate and don’t require any fancy gear, exorbitant fees, or jobs at National Geographic.  Read the rest of this entry »

Industry of the Past & Natural History Explored this Weekend

History of Logging & Hawley Bog
Pioneer Valley Institute Features Local Industry & Natural History Events This Weekend

Submitted image.

Western Massachusetts is rich with both local and natural history – both of which are topics that Greenfield Community College’s Pioneer Valley Institute highlights in its educational programs. Blending topics like geology and natural biodiversity with the study of local agriculture, industry, and culture, the Pioneer Valley Institute offers intriguing programs that allow community members to explore their surroundings while also learning about their natural and cultural significance. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Planting and Water Stations for Toddlers

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Next Stop: Planting Station

Spring is here and its time finally to start that garden. 
Toddlers love to play in the dirt, but are not always the most gentle with seedling and plant. This is a great learning opportunity, a time to teach your young children about the delicate parts of nature. Demonstrate to them how a stick is easy to snap; however, a seedling can break with just a gust of wind. At dinner time make the connection between food you serve and how it is grown and harvested.

Let your toddler explore the magic of the life cycle of plants by creating a planting station for them. Use an existing sand/water table or a child size picnic table to create an area just for them.  Here is what you will need… Read the rest of this entry »

Support Language Art & Community Engagement Through Poetry

Poem in Your Pocket Day
Supporting Language Art & Community Engagement

Thursday, April 24th, 2014, is national Poem in Your Pocket Day, a day when people select poems to share with others they encounter throughout their day. We love what the community in Charlottesville, VA, organized for this national day that celebrates poetry while supporting literacy. This great community building event was a collaboration between their library, schools and senior center.  It encouraged community engagement in various locations throughout their town, including their library, town common, hospital, and local businesses.  It also encourages literacy development and a love of language.

Wouldn’t it be great if communities, groups or individuals in Western MA did something similar? Tell us if you do! It could be as simple as a youth group doing something similar to this VA community on a much smaller scale, passing out poetry to passersby in Northampton, Greenfield, Pittsfield, Amherst or Springfield. Or you could become guerrilla poets, posting poems on community bulletin boards in your town. Share your ideas and be inspired!

Check out archived column, “One Clover & A Bee: Poems for Families to Learn & Love” for more encouragement that supports a love for poetry in our children and ourselves.

Poem-Mobiles: Bizarre Cars & Humorous Rhymes

Crazy Car Poems

In a nod to National Poetry Month and to my youngest, an April baby who loves things that go, here is a new book filled with humorous rhymes and fantastically bizarre cars. Poem-mobiles: Crazy Car Poems is the work of the 2011-2013 US Children’s Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis, and award-winning children’s poet, Douglas Florian. Together, they have created a collection of futuristic automobiles, from the Giant Bookmobile of Tomorrow and the Caterpillar Cab to the Eel-ectric Car and The Sloppy-Floppy-Nonstop-Jalopy, which will have readers wheeling with delight. The poems, cast in short lines, simple language, and clean rhymes, are highly accessible, great for reading aloud, and full of clever puns. Like the “Bathtub Car,” “With hot-water heating/ And porcelain seating,/ The bathtub is speeding – /A white limousine./ That’s sudsy with bubbles./ Forget your car troubles./ Its purpose? It doubles/ By keeping you clean!.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrate Sustainability on the Amherst Town Common

Amherst Sustainability Festival: April 26, 2014

The Amherst Farmers’ Market and Sustainability Festival takes place this Saturday, April 26th, on the Town Common. Pick up your starter plants and locally grown foods from the Market, and then head to the Common for a fabulous family-friendly festival featuring all things sustainable… including Hilltown Families! Stop by our tent where kids can plant seeds to take home with them while parents can learn about the mission of Hilltown Families.

With springtime comes an increase in our awareness of the natural world – as we plan our gardens and watch trees begin to leaf out, we’re reminded of how essential the earth is to us, and how important it is to live our lives in a way that ensures that our natural resources will be preserved for years to come. Celebrate springtime, sustainability, and all things green at the Amherst Sustainability Festival, an annual free community event that brings together local organizations and resources to promote local sustainability!

This year, the Amherst Sustainability Festival will be held on Saturday, April 26th, 2014, from 10am-4pm. Centered around the Amherst Town Common, the event includes booths from local sustainability-related organizations and vendors, live music and theater performances, demonstrations of skills and techniques, live animals to visit and learn about, local food, and lots of other exciting and educational events and activities for families. Early risers can begin their day of sustainability in the morning by visiting the Amherst Farmers’ Market, whose second market of the season will bring a wide variety of delicious, healthy, local foods to the Town Common from 7:30am-1:30pm.

Once you’ve stocked up on local foods, begin your festival adventure by watching Piti Theater Company’s performance of their original show, To Bee or Not to Bee. Read the rest of this entry »

Earth Day Feature: Unique Recycling Programs

Recycle T-Shirt Sign

Three Unique Recycling Programs

Unidentified keys, trophies from the early 80′s & broken crayons… these three things can clutter up your junk drawer, attics and art supplies. Here are three unique recycling programs that recycle all three of these items for good causes. Gather items together with your kids, ask your neighbors if they have any to contribute too, then package up and ship off. These teaching moments can spark conversations with your kids about the importance of recycling and helping others: Earth Day Feature: Unique Recycling Programs.

Oak & Acorn: Sustainable and Wild Harvesting

Sustainable and Wild Harvesting

It’s officially spring in Western MA, which means so many things to me! After what feels like the longest winter, we are finally experiencing warmer temperatures and the sun is peeking in on us. Families is coming outdoors more to simply enjoy the change in weather. It’s still a little chilly out there, but at least we can put away our heavy coats and boots!

Spring is also a time for nature and wildlife to bring forth a new life of their own. Buds on branches begin to appear and grow, small flowers are sprouting their ways up, birds are building their nests, and so many plants in our woodlands are starting to grow.

I’ve mentioned a number of times, how much I love to forage for wild edibles. A lot of times my six year old daughter, Thu, goes with my partner and I.  She has learned to identify a lot in the past couple years, also because she is of smaller height, she tends to see things that I might walk right past without noticing. Read the rest of this entry »

Just My Type: Difference of Opinion

Difference of Opinion

In my little corner of Massachusetts, a town board and a town committee recently disagreed over the best course of action. The committee was charged with making a recommendation to the board, which it did; the board decided to go a different direction. The thing is, I believe both groups have people who are caring, hard-working and community-minded. — It’s really hard when there’s a fight but no clear villain.

That’s how I felt recently when I saw a Facebook post from the JDRF North Central CT/Western MA, our local chapter of the organization charged with finding a cure for type one diabetes. In their post, Not just a gadget, JDRF was encouraging people to rally against a New York Times article, Even Small Medical Advances Can Mean Big Jumps in Bills. In particular, JDRF objected to the term “gadget” The Times story used in referring to medical devices like insulin pumps.

I already had read the story before I saw JDRF’s post. I felt sick after reading it. I have long thought the idea of a cure for diabetes is not going to happen because pharmaceutical companies are making an obscene amount of money off of diabetics  Read the rest of this entry »

Recap Map: Western MA Weekend Summary & Family Guide for April 19th & 20th, 2014

Here’s a recap of news and information posted on Hilltown Families this past week, along with a map for finding out what’s happening this weekend and next week throughout Western MA!

MAP

Peruse our list of Suggested Events for April 19th-25th, 2014 for a comprehensive list of events happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, including Bulletin Board Announcements, Earth Day Events, & Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Also check our weekly column, Learn Local. Play Local. for 30 Community Highlights: Straw Rockets to Shakespeare. Easter to Earth Day., and our column, Berkshire Family Fun: April 2014, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

For your summer plans, our 2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA has a list of 50 summer camps & programs, and for your Easter plans, Easter Events in Western MA, 2014 has you covered!

April 19th-25th, 2014

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday


Citizen ScientistPaleontologyCollaborative ConsumptionCultural StudiesFilm StudiesSTEMMuseum AdventuresHistoryCommunity ServiceAnimal StudiesLiterary AdventuresHikingEntomologyMusic StudiesPastry ArtsEnvironmentalism

RECAP

Visit the Hilltown Families Facebook page and Twitter stream for more news and information!

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. Legends & Lore of Easter Icons
  2. Message of the Spring Peepers
  3. One Clover & A Bee: A Poem for Spring
  4. What’s Your Favorite Way to Discover and Explore History with Your Kids?
  5. HFVS with Guest DJ, Steve Weeks (Radio Show/Podcast)

RECAP MAP SPONSORS

Lui Collins' Upside Up Music
Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA Cup & Top in Florence, MA
Find out how you can be a sponsor too!

Click here to read the rest of our RECAP MAP!…

30 Community Highlights: Straw Rockets to Shakespeare. Easter to Earth Day.

Easter is Sunday and there are many Easter activities happening this weekend throughout the region. Dying eggs and Easter candy are perfect opportunities for incorporating a little science into your family traditions. Check out these featured Spring & Easter Science pins over on Pinterest and put a little STEA(rt)M into your celebration!

Straw Rockets to Bug Collages. Arctic Tern to American Alligator. Shakespeare to Aldo Leopold… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

Peruse our list below and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!

Featured learning highlight this week:  Did you know that dinosaurs lived right here in the Pioneer Valley millions of years ago? They are an important piece of the natural history of this area, and more can be learned about them and where they lived at the Dinosaur Footprints in Holyoke (Route 5). On Saturday morning April 19, The Trustees of Reservations are holding a free event for families that gives visitors a chance to “Walk Where Dinosaurs Roamed” and learn about their history in the area, what species might have lived here, how their footprints have been preserved over time, and what the local habitat was like.


Citizen ScientistPaleontologyCollaborative ConsumptionCultural StudiesFilm StudiesSTEMMuseum AdventuresHistoryCommunity ServiceAnimal StudiesLiterary AdventuresHikingEntomologyMusic StudiesPastry ArtsEnvironmentalism


Read the rest of this entry »

Suggested Events for April 19th-25th, 2014

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in western Massachusetts, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

“Hilltown Families lets me connect to great events that are slightly out of the way, but worth the drive! For example, I recently found out about several Earth Day events that are fun for my whole family!” – Sarah Kowalski (Springfield, MA)

Suggest EventIf you have a community event, educational program or service opportunity for youth/families happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, self-post your event at any time on our “Suggest An Event” bulletin board. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school/homeschool class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business/school, service, open house, volunteer opportunity or general announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families… help us help you! Click HERE to find out more.

SUMMER CAMPS IN WESTERN MA

Summer Camps in  Massachusetts

“Hilltown Families continues to be my go-to place for family events. I really appreciated the organized list of summer camps!”

Over 50 Summer Camps to choose from! Now is the time to start signing up for summer camp! Check out our featured post, 2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA for a comprehensive list of over 50 summer camps & programs in the region! Summer opportunities featured range from music, art, farming, theater, dance, science, nature, sports, speaking, yoga, rock ‘n roll… to traditional summer day or overnight camps/programs! There’s something for all ages, toddlers to teens! Check it out and start making your summer plans! — Do you have a summer camp or program you’d like to have included in our comprehensive list? Find out how you can submit your listing HERE.

BULLETIN BOARD

Apr 17-18; 21-25

For some educational, interactive family fun, bring your kids to the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT, a ninety minute drive from Boston and only twenty minutes from Hartford. Thurs., Apr. 17th- Open Cockpit; Fri., Apr. 18th- LEGO Contest & Easter Bunny Visit; Mon., Apr. 21st-Wed., Apr. 23rd- Open Cockpit & Museum Tours; Thurs., Apr. 24th- Zip Line Challenge; Fri., Apr. 25th- Blimp Maze. Also enjoy over 80 aircraft on display, interactive exhibits, guided tours and not to be missed-our newest exhibit “Flight Sim Spot” open daily.

Apr 18, 21-25

During April vacation, join the Springfield Museums for their amazing Puppet Festival, April 21-25, 2014. Classic fairy tales like Robin Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and Jack and the Beanstalk will be presented by renowned puppet ensembles including the National Marionette Theater and Crabgrass Puppets (shown here). There’s also live animal demonstrations, hands-on science and art activities, and roving puppetry by Caravan Puppets. The fun gets off to an early start with a performance of Spring into Easter by The Wayne Martin’s Puppets on Friday April 18 at 1pm, along with appearances by the Easter Bunny and more. For more information, visit www.SpringfieldMuseums.org

Apr 19

Skip down to the Odyssey Bookshop for a morning of fun with author, Paul Reynolds! Paul and his brother Peter have teamed up to bring us a fantastic new picture book. Going Places is about working together and letting your imagination soar. In celebration of this new book Odyssey is hosting the author and inviting you to use your imagination to make a creation of your own for a storytime and crafting fun on Saturday, April 19th at 11am. This event if free but RSVP encouraged at www.odysseybks.com. Great for ages 3 and up! Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College Street, South Hadley, MA, 01075.

Apr 21

The Academy of Music Theatre presents National Marionette Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast on Monday, April 21st at 10am. The classic story of a prince who is changed into a hideous beast by an evil enchantment that can only be broken by true love. When Beauty looks beyond the Beast’s external appearance, she learns to love him for who he truly is on the inside. Using meticulously crafted marionettes and beautifully painted scenery, National Marionette Theatre’s production is classical marionette theater at its finest. Appropriate for family audiences aged 4+. Tickets $7, plus box office fees. For more information and tickets, visit www.academyofmusictheatre.com or call the Box Office at 413-584-9032 ext. 105 Tuesdays-Fridays 3-6pm. Northampton, MA.

Apr 21, 23 & 25

April 21, 23 and 25 from 9am to 11am spring-inspired art projects help kids enliven their creativity at Spring Break Art Detox at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA. Discover how exhibiting artists preserve, re-purpose, and recycle materials. On Monday, preserve natural materials in resin; On Wednesday, re-purpose objects into a mobile planter; On Friday, recycle found items into sculpture. Parents can drop off their kids or join in the action. Pre-registration is recommended. Reservations are $7 per day for members and $10 for not-yet members, and can be made at the MASS MoCA box office. Sign up for one, two, or all three days. Registration is also open for summer art camps. Find out more online at kidspace.massmoca.org/art-camps.

Apr 21-27

Enjoy April vacation week at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art! Create paper sculptures in the Art Studio with guest artist Susan Schwake, go on an underwater storytime adventure with author/illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka, and see the classic tale The Bremen Town Musicians come to life on stage! Cap off this fun-filled week of activities, storytimes, films, and special guests with our Family Poetry Jam on Sunday, April 27! The Museum is open Monday, April 21 for Patriots’ Day. For event details and performance tickets, visit www.carlemuseum.org or call 413-658-1100.

Apr 26

Middle School Fair. Meet representatives from six independent middle schools: Academy Hill School, The Center School, Four Winds School, The Hartsbrook School, North Star: Self-Directed Learning, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School. Saturday, April 26, 2:00-4:00, at Four Winds School, 54 French King Highway (Route 2), in Gill, MA. More information at www.fourwindsschool.info or call 413-863-8055.

Apr 27

The celebrated Alonzo King LINES Ballet comes to the UMass Fine Arts Center on Sunday, April 27th to enrapture audiences with works of luminous beauty. Described by The New Yorker as “hyper kinetic” and “exceptional,” the Lines Ballet performs exhilarating works that meld classical Western ballet with a diverse set of cultural traditions. The dancers’ flawless technique, mixed with King’s expressive choreography, creates a performance that is like no other. “Gripping, urgently beautiful choreography” hails the San Francisco Chronicle. For tickets call 413-545-2511 or 1-800-999-UMAS or go online to www.fineartcenter.com. Amherst, MA.

Open House: Jun 14

Worthington Swim Club. Enjoy family fun this summer at an outdoor pool in Worthington. The W S C is located at 35 Huntington Road (Rte 112) in a sunny, tree-screened setting. Membership is open to everyone and includes: Certified Lifeguard on duty Monday – Friday from noon to 5 p.m., Children over age 10 can swim without their parent during lifeguard hours, 24-hour key access for adult members (and children with an adult family member), a 25-yard-long pool w/ a low diving board, swimming lessons available. Swim free at open house, June 14th, noon-3 p.m. 2014 membership is: Family Plan $365, Individual Plan $160. Payment schedules available. Call Lynn at 238-8038 or Alain at 238-5954 or visit us on FB www.facebook.com/worthington.swimclub

ADVERTISE HERE: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! See your April vacation program, afterschool class, community event, open house, audition, homeschool program, workshop, wellness program or business featured here in the Bulletin Board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and in our weekly eNewsletter, reaching thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Find out more about our enhanced publicity packages and options and how you can partner with Hilltown Families in your online marketing by emailing us at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

Happy Easter: April 20th. During Easter many towns host egg hunts for their residents. Find an egg hunt nearest you, along with spring time craft opportunities, brunch and Easter Bunny appearances and make your family plans to get out into your community and celebrate. Check our list of Easter Events in Western MA, your go-to resource for Easter and spring time celebrations in the region!

Become a Contributing WriterJOIN OUR TEAM OF CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Interested in becoming a Contributing or Guest Writer for Hilltown Families? We welcome writings that reflect the community building and educational efforts parents, teens, teachers, artists, activists and community leaders work towards and accomplish and how that affects, supports and empowers our families. All writing styles welcomed, including local reviews, DIY posts, seasonal cooking/local food, and community-based educational & community service learning opportunities/resources. Send your query to hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.


LIST OF WEEKLY SUGGESTED EVENTS
April 19th-25th, 2014

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Suggest an Event | Forecast | Museum Passes | Weekly eNewsletter | Farmers’ Markets

Berkshire Family Fun

Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families Voted “Best Blog” by the Valley Advocate’s 2014 Best of the Valley Readers’ Poll!

Hilltown Families Voted as Best Blog for the 4th Year in a Row!

Best Of 2014

Hilltown Families placed 1st for the fourth year in a row as Best Blog in the Valley Advocate Best of the Valley Readers’ Poll for 2014! ♥ Thank you to our readers, sponsors and writers who sustain Hilltown Families with their ongoing support!

GOOD STUFF!

Hilltown Families believes in creating resilient and sustainable communities by developing and strengthening a sense of place in our children and citizens through community based education and engagement. We work to accomplish this by highlighting the embedded learning that is found everywhere in our communities, making the information accessible to families, and giving parents/educators access to opportunities that supports their children’s interests and education while encouraging community engagement. We do this by connecting, collaborating, and creating community building events, community based educational opportunities, and community service leaning experiences.

Founded in 2005 by Sienna Wildfield, Hilltown Families is incorporated as a non-profit in the state of Massachusetts, serving thousands of families living throughout western Massachusetts. Through an online grassroots communication network, Hilltown Families connects people and organizations in the widespread communities of western Massachusetts by helping area residents share ideas, organize activities, support their children’s education and increase participation in community life.

This past Fall, Hilltown Families Founder and Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield, was invited to present a TEDx Talk that shared her vision and mission behind Hilltown Families.  In this TEDx Talk, “Supporting Education Through Community Engagement,” Sienna shares her story on why feeling connected to where you live matters, and how community-based education and community-service learning can help grow active citizens who care about where they live.

JOIN US

If you’re interested in getting involved with Hilltown Families as either a contributing writer, sponsor, bulletin board manager, volunteer, fundraiser, committee member or intern, we’d love to hear from you. Email us with your interests at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

HILLTOWN FAMILIES CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Reaching over 1.3 million visitors to date, our blog continues to grow and expand! There are several ♥ amazing folks behind the scenes at Hilltown Families, along with an equally amazing team of ♥ contributing writers who believe in and support our mission!  Our current team of writers include: Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Creative-Free Play in the Spring

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

April Showers

Spring. The peas are planted. The bulb flowers are starting to emerge. The kids are running out of school seeking the sun and fresh air. Mud. Worms. Puddles. Bugs. Green grass.

One of the best things my mom did for us was providing hours of unstructured free play. She gave us the gift of just being kids.

With this fresh, new season I am challenging you to head outside with the kids, but take nothing from inside. No toys. No sports equipment. Nothing. Snack before you go. At least for an hour or two, forget all the ideas that today’s kids need classes and team sports and organized fun and electronics. It is okay to get bored to the point that you need to hunt around and investigate your surroundings to occupy yourself. Some of the best memories from my childhood are wandering about with my brother exploring the creatures living in the creek, poking at things with sticks and sending leaves floating in the puddles after a heavy rain. We had a lot of free play time growing up in the countryside in the 70s. My mom never had to be reminded that kids need exercise and fresh air. Read the rest of this entry »

Get Kids Excited About Poetry with Book Spine & Blackout Poetry

Book Spine & Blackout Poetry

What’s your favorite animal?
Lucy hares and itchy bears?
The runaway bunny?
Edward the emu?
Little polar bear and the husky pup?
Beware! These Animals are Poison!

If you’ve ever gazed at a bookshelf and seen sentences, then the Forbes Library’s Book Spine Poetry Contest is for you! Book spine poetry, a form of “writing” that involves stacking books so that the titles on their spines create a poem, is an art form accessible to readers of all ages and sizes. In order to participate, families need only to snap a photo of their poem as pictured here and upload it to the library’s Facebook page. While there’s no rush to write (or stack!), the contest ends on April 30th – so be sure to start soon! Prizes will be awarded to the best poem for adults, best poem for teens, and a handful of other categories as well.

Though being limited to only the possibilities granted by book spines might feel restrictive at first, book spine poetry actually offers lots of space for creativity and original ideas. The huge number of books at Forbes (or in any local library) offer thousands and thousands of titles to turn into lines in a poem. Families can experiment with different styles of poetry, too – perhaps a haiku, end rhyme, or alliterative verse might be possible to create using some of your favorite titles. Read the rest of this entry »

Kites: Educational & Recreational

April is National Kite Month

Learning & creative opportunities for celebrating National Kite Month at home are endless! Kites lend themselves to lessons in geometry, physics, measurement, design, history, culture, literature, and more – and such lessons can be exciting and informative for kids of all ages.

Part of many momentous scientific discoveries, kites have served for centuries as a means of studying weather, have been used in examining the principles of flight, and, of course, played a central role in Benjamin Franklin’s discovery of electricity. These days, kites are used for recreation much more often then they are for scientific research, but a day of kite flying is an experiment in math and science in and of itself. Celebrate springtime as a family by spending a blustery day testing out your kite flying skills!

April is National Kite Month, an annual month-long celebration of history, design, modern use, and outdoor activities of kites. Organized by the American Kitefliers Association and the Kite Trade Association International, National Kite Month promotes the educational and recreational value of kite-flying to folks of all ages, incorporating online resources and community events in order to support families in learning to understand, build, and fly kites. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: When Your Child Loves Your Spouse More Than You

I Love Daddy More!

Ila’s chin quivered as I undid her car seat buckle after school a week ago.

“Is daddy home?”  She asked.

“No, sweetie, he’s working,” I replied gently.

And then…the saddest cry in all humanity came from the depths of her.  Tears swelled and cascaded down her tiny face.  She cried hard…her-little-mouth-opening-with-no-sound-coming-out hard.  I scooped her up and asked, “Sweetheart, what is the matter?” Read the rest of this entry »

Bee Weeks in Western MA

Western Massachusetts will be Buzzing During Bee Weeks!

During the spring and early summer, Piti Theater Company’s Bee Weeks will take place in four different communities in Western MA. Find out where and join them for a buzzing good time!

For humans, to bee or not to bee isn’t truly a question – we must always bee! Bees and other pollinators help to ensure that our crops produce food, and they are a critical part of ecosystems all over the world. Despite their importance, however, pollinator populations are declining worldwide and many native species of bees have already gone extinct. How is it that a species so important to our survival is disappearing? Lack of proper habitat is one of the major factors contributing to bees’ recent struggles, and lack of awareness isn’t helping them either! However, thanks to Piti Theater Company, western Massachusetts will be enjoying a spring filled with bee-related events and learning opportunities – helping to increase pollinator habitat, raise awareness about conserving local pollinator populations, and teaching families about the role of pollinators in our food systems. Read the rest of this entry »

Awaken to the Moments

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

Grace Uncommon

I hope we can all awaken to the moments when we are in the presence of such gifts, and better still, to recognize the potential for it in ourselves. The good news is that grace will come, even when you are too busy to roll down the window and wake up.

Spring comes as a miraculous surprise to me every year.  The fresh air arrives out of nowhere and makes me giddy.  The branches are bare and the ground is muddy, but I am intoxicated by the scent of the wind.  In the bustle of my life I often overlook graceful simplicity, because I can’t seem to slow myself down to see it.  Like many parents, I spend most of my time in a minivan.  But when I happen to roll the window down, the unexpected, graceful spring air wafts in and I am blessed; I stop feeling sorry for myself and I step back into my body.  Persephone has returned, and so have I, fully awakened by the uncommon grace of spring.

Two weeks ago I accompanied my daughter to the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton.  She was performing in the ballet Beauty and the Beast with the Pioneer Valley Ballet (PVB).  As I waited to drop off my darling dancer along with the other parents, a little boy not more than four exclaimed, “Look!  The fust- flowah-a-spring!”  All of us swung our heads to view this improbability, and lo and behold, he was right.  There it was, poking its dainty purple crown purposefully out of the mud.  The spell was broken when the same sweet cherub jabbed his umbrella within a hair of this purple miracle and announced, “I’ne- gonna-deeg-et-up.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Paying it Forward with a Small Act of Kindness!

Intergenerational Community Service Workshop Spreads Kindness into Western MA Communities

On Friday, April 11th, 2014, Hilltown Families and the Art Garden presented a Flowers for Friends Workshop, the fourth workshop in a 5-part free Friday family workshop series in Shelburne Falls, MA. Families gathered to paint terracotta flower pots, planting them with violas to pass along to others in their community. Participating families were encouraged to give their flowers to an elder in their neighborhood, or their librarian, classroom teacher, receptionist at the hospital or animal shelter, or other community space of their choice. — Paying it forward with a small act of kindness!

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Do this project at home or with your youth/community group too! Simply paint terracotta pots with acrylic paint (no need to prime). Wait for the paint to dry (20 min.). Fill your pot with dirt and a pansy or viola. Write a note of encouragement, support and/or kindness on card stock and adhere it to a popsicle stick to stick into the dirt with your flower. Give to people in your community!

HFVS Using Your Imagination Episode with Chris & Jessie Apple (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

Using Your Imagination Episode with Chris & Jessie Apple of The Little Rockers Band

LISTEN TO PODCAST:


Chris & Jessie Apple of the Little Rockers Bank guest DJ this week, taking listeners on a journey into the imagination with a collection of songs, stories and musical games to get your brain bubbling. They’ve assembled a playlist of songs, old and new, to provide the soundtrack for their magical musical tour. Come along, but dress warm, you might get wet! − www.littlerockersmusic.com

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
April 12th & 13th, 2014
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured video:  First music video from The Little Rockers Band’s CD Count Me In! Chris & Jessie imagine what life would be like in the olden days of the wild west.


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PLAYLIST

  • Pure Imagination – Gene Wilder
  • Hi, Hi, Hi – The Little Rockers Band
  • I Just Had An Idea – Elska
  • Somewhere Over The Rainbow – IZ
  • Just My Imagination – The Rolling Stones
  • Wild Wild West – The Little Rockers Band
  • Effervescing Elephant – Syd Barrett
  • Everybody’s Pirates – Clint Perry & The Boo-Hoo Crew
  • Yellow Submarine – The Beatles
  • In The Bathtub – The Little Rockers Band
  • Flying Machine – Dan Zanes, Father Goose & Sheryl Crow
  • Dream Weaver – Gary Wright
  • Fortune Cookie – The Little Rockers Band

Recap Map: Western MA Weekend Summary & Family Guide for April 12th & 13th, 2014

Here’s a recap of news and information posted on Hilltown Families this past week, along with a map for finding out what’s happening this weekend and next week throughout Western MA!

MAP

Peruse our list of Suggested Events for April 12th-18th, 2014 for a comprehensive list of events happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, including Bulletin Board Announcements & Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Also check our weekly column, Learn Local. Play Local. for 31 Community Highlights: Pollinators to Polliwogs. Seed Bombs to Black-Out Poetry., and our column, Berkshire Family Fun: April 2014, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

For your summer plans, our 2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA has a list of 50 summer camps & programs, and for your Easter plans, Easter Events in Western MA, 2014 has you covered!

April 12th-18th, 2014

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday


Vernal PoolsEarth DayActivismCommunity ServiceFiber ArtsSTEMCultural StudiesPoetryNature StudiesOrnithologyArtHistoryEntomologyInternet SafetyParent Workshop

RECAP

Visit the Hilltown Families Facebook page and Twitter stream for more news and information!

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. HFVS with Guest DJ, Steve Roslonek of SteveSongs (Radio Show/Podcast)
  2. Sunflower & Popcorn Houses
  3. Tis the Season for Vernal Pools
  4. Video Review: 525,600 Minutes of a Vernal Pool
  5. 3Rs Episode: Hilltown Family Variety Show (Podcast/Radio Show)

RECAP MAP SPONSORS

Lui Collins' Upside Up Music
Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA Cup & Top in Florence, MA
Find out how you can be a sponsor too!

Click here to read the rest of our RECAP MAP!…

31 Community Highlights: Pollinators to Polliwogs. Seed Bombs to Black-Out Poetry.

Several vernal pool events happening this weekend throughout the region!

Pollinators to Polliwogs. Seed Bombs to Black-Out Poetry. Rockets to Knitting… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

Peruse our list below and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!

Featured learning highlight this week: Celebrate Spring and all things green at Easthampton’s Waste Not Want Not Art Walk on Saturday evening, April 12th. Explore Easthampton’s art scene and do free activities, like make seed bombs with Easthampton Community Garden at Nash Gallery, learn how to build raised beds at Old Town Hall, make your own notecards and envelopes at Knack, and more! This is a fun evening out that lets you experience some of the great art- and environment-related opportunities Easthampton has to offer!


Vernal PoolsEarth DayActivismCommunity ServiceFiber ArtsSTEMCultural StudiesPoetryNature StudiesOrnithologyArtHistoryEntomologyInternet SafetyParent Workshop


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Suggested Events for April 12th-18th, 2014

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in western Massachusetts, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

“Hilltown Families is my go-to place to look for upcoming family activities in my community (and the surrounding communities). I truly appreciate this site and all of the work that’s put into it!” – Renee Hill (Easthampton, MA)

Suggest EventIf you have a community event, educational program or service opportunity for youth/families happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, self-post your event at any time on our “Suggest An Event” bulletin board. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school/homeschool class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business/school, service, open house, volunteer opportunity or general announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families… help us help you! Click HERE to find out more.

SUMMER CAMPS IN WESTERN MA

Summer Camps in  Massachusetts

“Hilltown Families continues to be my go-to place for family events. I really appreciated the organized list of summer camps!”

50 Summer Camps to choose from! Now is the time to start signing up for summer camp! Check out our featured post, 2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA for a comprehensive list of 50 summer camps & programs in the region! Summer opportunities featured range from music, art, farming, theater, dance, science, nature, sports, speaking, yoga, rock ‘n roll… to traditional summer day or overnight camps/programs! There’s something for all ages, toddlers to teens! Check it out and start making your summer plans! — Do you have a summer camp or program you’d like to have included in our comprehensive list? Find out how you can submit your listing HERE.

BULLETIN BOARD

Apr 13

Take your family on a tour through pre-historic Australia with Erth’s DINOSAUR ZOO Live™ where an eye-popping array of ancient creatures come to life on stage. Meet a menagerie of insects, mammals & dinosaurs in their ancient environment, in this highly imaginative, entertaining & educational live show. Brought to life by skilled performers & puppeteers, you’ll experience the sweetly curious baby Dryosaur, the peaceful hulk Titanosaur, and the teeth-gnashing T-rex. It all happens at the FAC Concert Hall on Sunday, April 13 at 4pm. Free pre-show family fest at 3pm in lobby. Tickets are only $20/adults & $10/kids 17 & under. Family 4-packs are $50. For tickets call 413-545-2511 or 1-800-999-UMAS or online: www.fineartcenter.com. Amherst, MA.

Apr 13, 18, 21-25

Spring into spring at the Springfield Museums! There’s a variety of family-friendly events and activities happening all month long, starting with the annual Earth Day Festival on Sunday, April 13 from 11am-4pm, with music, environmental displays, and live animal demonstrations. There’s more fun on Friday April 18, with appearances by the Easter Bunny and a performance of Spring into Easter by The Wayne Martin’s Puppets at 1pm. Then enjoy a week of hands-on activities and shows by the region’s finest puppet ensembles during their amazing Puppet Festival, April 21-25, featuring tales like Robin Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Beauty and the Beast. For more information, visit www.SpringfieldMuseums.org.

Apr 14-18; 21-25

For some educational, interactive family fun, bring your kids to the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT, a ninety minute drive from Boston and only twenty minutes from Hartford. Mon., Apr. 14th- Aero Modeling Workshop; Tues., Apr. 15th- Glider Engineering Design Challenge; Wed., Apr. 16th- Parachute Drop; Thurs., Apr. 17th- Open Cockpit; Fri., Apr. 18th- LEGO Contest & Easter Bunny Visit; Mon., Apr. 21st-Wed., Apr. 23rd- Open Cockpit & Museum Tours; Thurs., Apr. 24th- Zip Line Challenge; Fri., Apr. 25th- Blimp Maze. Also enjoy over 80 aircraft on display, interactive exhibits, guided tours and not to be missed-our newest exhibit “Flight Sim Spot” open daily.

Apr 17-19; 24-26

In a city reminiscent of Batman’s Gotham, water is worth its weight in gold due to a 20-year shortage. The citizens must use toilets run by a corrupt corporation willing to do anything to make a buck. In this desolate world, one young man has decided enough is enough and begins a rebellion to save the oppressed poor. Urinetown: The Musical is an irreverent musical satire- a tale of greed, corruption, revolution, and love. April 17-19 and 24-26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $10 general admission, $7 students/seniors. Tickets are available at: wnsboxoffice.tixato.com/buy/urinetown. The Williston Theatre is located in Scott Hall at 18 Payson Avenue, Easthampton. Parking is available, free of charge, behind the building.

Apr 19

Skip down to the Odyssey Bookshop for a morning of fun with author, Paul Reynolds! Paul and his brother Peter have teamed up to bring us a fantastic new picture book. Going Places is about working together and letting your imagination soar. In celebration of this new book Odyssey is hosting the author and inviting you to use your imagination to make a creation of your own for a storytime and crafting fun on Saturday, April 19th at 11am. This event if free but RSVP encouraged at www.odysseybks.com. Great for ages 3 and up! Odyssey Bookshop, 9 college street, South Hadley, MA, 01075.

Apr 21

The Academy of Music Theatre presents National Marionette Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast on Monday, April 21st at 10am. The classic story of a prince who is changed into a hideous beast by an evil enchantment that can only be broken by true love. When Beauty looks beyond the Beast’s external appearance, she learns to love him for who he truly is on the inside. Using meticulously crafted marionettes and beautifully painted scenery, National Marionette Theatre’s production is classical marionette theater at its finest. Appropriate for family audiences aged 4+. Tickets $7, plus box office fees. For more information and tickets, visit www.academyofmusictheatre.com or call the Box Office at 413-584-9032 ext. 105 Tuesdays-Fridays 3-6pm. Northampton, MA.

Apr 21, 23 & 25

April 21, 23 and 25 from 9am to 11am spring-inspired art projects help kids enliven their creativity at Spring Break Art Detox at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA. Discover how exhibiting artists preserve, re-purpose, and recycle materials. On Monday, preserve natural materials in resin; On Wednesday, re-purpose objects into a mobile planter; On Friday, recycle found items into sculpture. Parents can drop off their kids or join in the action. Pre-registration is recommended. Reservations are $7 per day for members and $10 for not-yet members, and can be made at the MASS MoCA box office. Sign up for one, two, or all three days. Registration is also open for summer art camps. Find out more online at kidspace.massmoca.org/art-camps.

ADVERTISE HERE: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! See your April vacation program, afterschool class, community event, open house, audition, homeschool program, workshop, wellness program or business featured here in the Bulletin Board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and in our weekly eNewsletter, reaching thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Find out more about our enhanced publicity packages and options and how you can partner with Hilltown Families in your online marketing by emailing us at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

Easter is around the corner: April 20th. During Easter many towns host egg hunts for their residents. Find an egg hunt nearest you, along with spring time craft opportunities, brunch and Easter Bunny appearances and make your family plans to get out into your community and celebrate. Check our list of Easter Events in Western MA.  With nearly 40 opportunities already posted, this growing list is your go-to resource for Easter and spring time celebrations in the region!

Become a Contributing WriterJOIN OUR TEAM OF CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Interested in becoming a Contributing or Guest Writer for Hilltown Families? We welcome writings that reflect the community building and educational efforts parents, teens, teachers, artists, activists and community leaders work towards and accomplish and how that affects, supports and empowers our families. All writing styles welcomed, including local reviews, DIY posts, seasonal cooking/local food, and community-based educational & community service learning opportunities/resources. Send your query to hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.


LIST OF WEEKLY SUGGESTED EVENTS
April 12th-18th, 2014

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Suggest an Event | Forecast | Museum Passes | Weekly eNewsletter | Farmers’ Markets

Berkshire Family Fun

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Random Acts of Kindness on Friday with Hilltown Families at The Art Garden

Flowers for Friends: Family Workshop
with Hilltown Families at The Art Garden
Friday, April 11th, 2014 from 4-7pm

Share a small act of kindness to another! Decorate pots and plant posies to pass along to others in your community with Hilltown Families at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls on Friday, April 11th from 4-7pm (FREE).

In the spirit of spreading kindness to others, Hilltown Families presents a free family workshop, Flowers for Friends, at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls on Friday, April 11th, 2014, from 4-7pm.  Families are invite to join neighbors & friends in a free community art event, painting terracotta flower pots to plant with pansies and pass along to another in their community.

Participating families are encouraged to give their posy to an elder in their neighborhood, or their librarian, classroom teacher, receptionist at the hospital or animal shelter, or other community space of their choice.  — Pay it forward with a small act of kindness!

This is the second year in a row we are coordinating this event. See photos from last year here and check out this video that features last year’s event: Read the rest of this entry »

Early Spring Gardening in the Hilltowns

April Vegetables and the Family Garden

The ground is warming up! Time to get those seeds into the ground. Below are five recommended seeds to plant now in the Hilltowns that do best in early spring!

Normally by early April we can start thinking about planting the first veggies. Even though we still have some piles of snow here in the hills the soil temperature can rise up to 50’s in just a few weeks. Choosing what to plant should be dictated by the seeds ability to germinate at low temperatures and handle frost and snow. If you tried a squash or tomato seed at this time of the year it would possibly be dormant for weeks, maybe months before germination. But even more likely it would rot while waiting for the soil temperatures to rise.

I have been planting in the Hilltown’s now for two decades. Here is my list of what I am likely to plant, in order of what is most likely to germinate fastest, into the cold and wet soil of New England in the early spring: Read the rest of this entry »

A Flock of New Bird Books Take Flight

A Flock of New Bird Books Take Flight

Standing in the middle of Northampton, the day before spring equinox, I looked up at the sky just as a flock of geese were veering north. The forecast may have called for freezing rain and snow, but the geese knew otherwise. They knew winter was sinking, and spring was most certainly on the rise. I love birds for that. Their return to our feeders, their songs weaving through newly budded branches, their nests taking shape under the eaves of our porch – are all signs of spring. And this year, to our delight, a flock of new bird books has landed in our reading repertoire just as the first robins have returned to our yard. A perfect complement to bird watching, here are seven new bird books to share with your own little peeps.

Mama Built A Little Nest, written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is just right for the youngest bird enthusiasts. Combining a playful four-line poem with a few lines of scientific facts, the picture book introduces a specific bird and the type of nest they make for their young. Includes the weaver bird, hummingbird, penguin, falcon, woodpecker, and more. A great creative nonfiction pick for wee learners.

  • Mama Built A Little Nest written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Published by Beach Lane Books, 2014. ISBN: 978-1442421165

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Global Youth Service Day

Global Youth Service Day
Community Service-Based Learning

Families interested in participating in community service can use Global Youth Service Day as an opportunity to choose a cause and begin donating their time and efforts to it.

Every single day, kids are making a difference in their communities. Whether it’s through collecting donations for a food bank, volunteering to walk dogs at a local animal shelter, delivering meals to senior citizens, or helping to raise awareness and support for an important cause, kids can (and do) accomplish some really wonderful things through community service. Not only do such efforts benefit communities, they also help kids to learn important lessons about fairness and equality, community activism, and leadership.

This year, GenerationOn honors the efforts of youth around the world with Global Youth Service Day – an event designed to celebrate kid-lead projects and to encourage youth to become engaged in service within their communities. Taking place from April 11th-13th, 2014, Global Youth Service Day honors youth on six continents and in over 135 countries for their service. In addition to celebrating efforts that are already being made, Global Youth Service Day is designed to promote community service and to draw in youth as volunteers to support a wide variety of causes.
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Over 25 Walking Tours Support Community-Based Education in Western MA

Learn About Western Massachusetts Communities & History on Foot with Self-Guided Walking Tours!

We’re rich in walking tours here in western Massachusetts, an excellent community-based educational learning activity families can do together. Unlike scheduled tours guided by interpreters, self-guided walking tours offer  lots of flexibility. Families can use walking tours as a way to expand on a subject that children learn about in school. Alternately, families can utilize available tours as a means of answering questions that they’ve stumbled upon together.

Spring is here! Alongside the longer days and afternoons filled with sunlight comes warmer weather, and as the out-of-doors draws us from our winter hibernation, each day brings opportunities to explore our community. All over western Massachusetts, community organizations have organized self-guided walking tours, helping to add a new layer to the discoveries made while meandering through a neighborhood or district. Using paper maps and brochures, as well as tech-y resources like QR codes and interactive tablet and smartphone maps, families can use a spring walk as an opportunity to learn more about the fascinating history behind buildings, monuments, neighborhoods, and communities as a whole.

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6 Remedies to the Pre-Dinner Snack Dilemma

The Snack Dilemma

As a dad, every day is full of food dilemmas: is this meal healthy enough? Should I make them try everything on their plate? How to get five fruits and vegetables a day? One that comes up a lot is, should I feed my kids after school, so close to dinnertime?  Will it ruin dinner? I have a few rules that help me through.

Veggies and Hummus

Click here to read remedies to the pre-dinner snack dilemma John uses with his family…

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