Western Mass Historical Heritage for All to Explore

Summer is History-Exploring Season in Western MA!

This summer, the Sheffield Historical Society hosts the Milt Barnum All American Tool Exhibit, an extensive show of tools used by workers of all kinds throughout the past few centuries. Check out our list of 15 historical societies and history museums below and find out what these community-based educational resources have to offer and discover your local history while nurturing a better sense of place in your kids and in yourself!

Nestled amongst the hills of western Massachusetts are pockets of history – the streets of cities and towns are lined with historic buildings, fields are dotted with centuries-old cemeteries, and even the landscape itself tells stories of generations past, its shape hinting at human influences. It’s obvious that our communities’ history surrounds us, but the challenge in learning about local history is learning how to access it in a meaningful way. Luckily, historical societies and museums across the region offer families a wide variety of ways to learn about the history of their community. From wartime tales to walking tours, resources for learning about local history abound during the summer in western Massachusetts.

An added bonus of the easy accessibility of local history resources is that children will be supported in learning about the history of their own community and a familiar landscape, but they’ll also learn about major historical events – events that took place on a national or international level – and the ways in which they affected folks here in western Massachusetts. In allowing children to learn about large-scale events or cultural shifts on a small scale, families can support learning about broad topics on a level that meets children where they’re at developmentally, while strengthening their sense of place. Adding familiar context to an unfamiliar or confusing topic can help children to understand it – and they’ll develop a deeper connection to their history once it becomes personal. Many local historical societies only open their doors to the public during summer months (for many reasons, including the availability of volunteer staff and the lack of heat in many old buildings), so don’t miss this year’s history-exploring season! In addition to open museum hours, many historical societies and museums offer interactive activities, speakers and educational events, and other special programming – be sure to check out your local society’s calendar for learning opportunities that extend beyond a visit to the local museum or archives. Here are history museums, historical societies and events to consider this summer with your family throughout the region: Read the rest of this entry »

Ticket Giveaway: 2014 Green River Festival!

Take the Family to the
GREEN RIVER FESTIVAL
Happening July 12th & 13th, 2014
Greenfield, MA

Enter for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the Green River Festival happening July 12th or 13th in Greenfield, MA. Kids 10 and under get in free. Win tickets and take the family! Deadline to enter for a chance to win: 7/2/14.

The 28th annual Green River Festival happens again this year on July 12th & 13th, 2014… and Hilltown Families has two pairs of tickets to giveaway, one pair for each day! With a pair of tickets, and free admittance for children ten and under, two adults can take a gaggle of kids and plan on spending the day at this great western Massachusetts music festival! Tickets do not including parking or food.

Click here to find out how you can enter for a chance to win!

Just Roots Community Farm Fosters Youth Collaboration

Innovative farm program uses accessible skillshare as community builder

Just Roots Community Farm isn’t “just” anything – never just this or just that, the farm incorporates many different projects, practices, and goals into its overarching purpose. Located on the former Poor Farm in Greenfield, MA, Just Roots works to promote knowledge of, demand for, and access to local food in Franklin County. Through a variety of offerings including community workshops, affordable CSA shares, volunteer workdays, and educational programming, Just Roots serves as a community-centered vehicle for resiliency, self-sufficiency, sustainability, and endless learning.

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Greenfield: A Town with an Innovative Past, Present and Future

Take an educational trip right into Greenfield’s innovative past, present and future

Taken from the upper story front porch of the Grand Trunk Hotel in Turners Falls, this image shows the trolley near Second Street and Avenue A (c.1890), an example of trolly use in the Pioneer Valley. – Courtesy Image.

The Pioneer Valley Institute is offering a day tour of the highlights of Greenfield on Saturday, June 7: “Spring into Greenfield: A Trolley Ride Through our Town’s History and Architecture.” The town’s trolley bus will be the mode of transportation for the day, and is a reminder of the active trolley system available 100 years ago throughout the Connecticut River Valley.

Greenfield, its buildings, its industries, and farmland, offers a complex story. This hub town for Franklin County is the site of fine examples of architectural design, of industrial innovation, and of current efforts to retrofit Greenfield’s fine older buildings to conserve energy for the coming decades. Greenfield was a crossroads for train freight service and will soon see restored passenger service. Waterpower and fine farmland attracted early settlers and investors, and innovators and businesses continue to recognize opportunities in the town.

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We (heart) the Deerfield River: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Art Garden Event: River Fest Parade

Hilltown Families and The Art Garden partner for a final community-service art-making event for the season

Our watersheds are vital and important ecosystems for animal and plant species. Celebrate the Deerfield River Watershed with friends, family, Hilltown Families and The Art Garden on Friday, June 6th, from 4-7pm in Shelburne Falls for our final community-service art-making event for the season.

At this event we will be focusing on what we love about the Deerfield River Watershed and preparing for the annual Deerfield RiverFest’s Frog and Flower parade on June 7. Be a part of creating large cardboard fish, frogs and flowers for the parade, as well as individual processional artworks. All ages can participate! Materials provided. Takes place at The Art Garden.

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service art-making on Friday, June 6th from 4-7pm at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA, for We (heart) the Deerfield River, the final event in a series of five free family community service nights!

The Art Garden is located at 14 Depot Street in Shelburne Falls, MA (in the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum building.) SEE MAP. Questions? Email Sienna at swildfield@hilltownfamilies.org.

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Fish Ladder & Lift Elevates Local Learning & Critical Thinking

All ages learn about wide variety of fish in their natural habitat and the environmental challenges facing river life

Community-based educational opportunities await children of all ages on the riverbank.

One of western Massachusetts’ (and western New England’s) most important and valuable natural resources is the Connecticut River. Over 400 miles long, the river runs from the Canadian border in Quebec to the Long Island Sound, and its waters and watershed provide habitat to thousands of species. However, our region’s history includes lots of water-powered manufacturing and hydroelectricity projects, all of which have permanently changed the Connecticut River.

Thanks to programs funded by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, educational resources are available for learning about the river and understanding the complexities of our current relationship with it. This time of year, the most fascinating way to learn about the river is by visiting a fish ladder or fish elevator, where numerous species of fish can be observed right in their natural habitat! Most importantly, families can learn about anadromous fish – ones who are born in freshwater, spend most of their lives in the ocean, and return to freshwater to spawn in the springtime. The many dams on the Connecticut River have caused a decline in populations of such fish, as they block the path from the ocean to many species’ spawning grounds. However, projects such as the fishlift at the Robert E. Barrett Fishway in Holyoke and the Turners Falls Fish Ladder attempt help to move fish from one side of a dam to another – allowing them a slightly better chance of reaching their destination and successfully spawning.

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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 »

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 Twentieth Century Craftwork and Artisans Featured at Historic Deerfield

Early Twentieth Century Craftwork and Artisans Featured at Historic Deerfield

Sarah Cowles (1845-1922), a member of the Pocumtuck Basket Makers, wove an image of Deerfield’s iconic c. 1699 Old Indian House in her basket. Cowles was one of a number of women who was swept up by the William Morris craze for making handmade goods. Founded in 1902 by Madeline Yale Wynne, the group made baskets principally of raffia, a product of Madagascar, and used natural dyes to color their work. Wynne chose the name Pocumtuck to reference the Native Americans who first lived in Deerfield.

The early 1900s sparked a renewed interest in the materials and craftsmanship roughly associated with the colonial period in the United States.  Known in the US as the “American Craftsman” school of thought or as the “Arts & Crafts Movement,” this interest in traditional methods, materials, and styles of craftwork was part of an international design revolution against the mass-production that new industry and machinery had made possible.  The movement, which began in the British Isles in the late 1890s, was initially a socialist rejection of the mechanized, assembly-line-style work that had all but eliminated the creativity and skill that craftsmen (and women) had demonstrated prior to the rise of industry. By elevating the aesthetic significance of these unique, unassuming, artisan-made objects, the Arts & Crafts movement created a new niche for craftworkers and pushed back against the increasing sense of excess in the design world. Ironically, these humble objects inspired by craftsmen of old were not accessible to everyone. Because the materials, time, and skill needed to create high-quality, authentic arts & crafts objects were harder to come by than what the factories produced, each object was competitively priced.

Artists in New England were particularly drawn to the resurgence of traditional handicrafts, and many joined the arts and crafts community that had sprung up in Deerfield.  These artists – ranging from metalsmiths, potters, and furniture makers, to photographers, embroiderers, and basket makers – were heavily inspired by the history of the Deerfield area, and incorporated references to the town’s history in their work.  Several Deerfield artists even achieved national recognition for their crafts.  It is these artists and their work that Historic Deerfield celebrates in their current exhibition, “A Community of Craftwork,” on view now through February 2015.   Read the rest of this entry »

Easter Events in Western MA, 2014

Easter Events in Western MA 2014

During Easter many towns host egg hunts for their residents. Check our list of Easter events for an egg hunt nearest you, along with Easter craft opportunities, brunch and Easter Bunny appearances.

Community events that celebrate Easter take place through April 20th. We’ll be adding to this list as events come in, so be sure to check back: Easter Events in Western MA 2014.

Flowers for Friends: Free Friday Family Workshop with Hilltown Families

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:

Flowers for Friends is the fourth in a series of five Free Friday Family Community Service Nights that Hilltown Families and The Art Garden are offering, thanks to a grant from the Xeric Foundation. All materials included. Space is limited for this free event and pre-registration encouraged.

Click here to sign up…

Grassroots Diaper Drive to Support Families in Need

Spring Diaper Drive in Franklin County to Support Community

Host a Diaper Drive this spring in your place of work, faith community, neighborhood, school, civic organization, or any group you belong to. It is easy and a positive way to support families and a great way to incorporate service-based learning with your children.

Diapers matter in a big way!  The health and social consequences for babies and families who do not have sufficient diapers can lead to a whole mountain of problems. To help mothers and families in need, Spring Diaper Drives are being organized to benefit young children and families living in Franklin County.

Sponsored by the Perinatal Support Coalition and the Early Childhood Mental Health Roundtable, two groups of professionals from a range of organizations that serve young children and families, this Spring Diaper Drive can help “close the diaper gap” and help low incomes mothers and families meet their diaper needs… and organizers are looking for families who want to volunteer by organizing a diaper drive in their community to donate to the Spring Diaper Drive!

Reducing diaper need for low income mothers has huge ramifications for maternal and child health, mental health, the child’s development and school success, and the mother’s access to future economic opportunity.  Did you know that….  Read the rest of this entry »

2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA

Children of the Swift River Valley: 19th and Early 20th Century Images

 Children of the Swift River Valley

Underneath the depths of the Quabbin Reservoir is ground upon which a rich history of industry, agriculture, community, and culture took place. While the physical remnants of the Swift River Valley’s past were stripped to make way for flooding, the people and memories of the place live on thanks to local museums and historians.

On Saturday, February 8th, from 1-3pm, an exhibit of photographs of children from the Swift River Valley will be unveiled and celebrated at the Great Falls Discovery Center. Curated by the Swift River Valley Historical Society’s Elizabeth Pierce, Children of the Swift River Valley features early tintype photographs and carte-de-visites, as well as 20th century photographs taken not long before the community disappeared. In addition to the photographs, students from the Hallmark Institute of Photography will take antique-style portraits of families visiting the exhibit – prints can be ordered after the event for a small fee.

The exhibit celebrates the lost-but-not-forgotten communities that once populated the towns of Dana, Enfield, Prescott, and Greenwich, and does so in a way that is easily accessible for children. While it may be difficult for children to conceptualize the cultural and technological changes that have taken place since the photographs were taken, they definitely understand what it’s like to be a kid. By comparing the similarities and differences between them and the children in the photographs, they will be able to gain an understanding of what life for a child may have been like in the Swift River Valley between 100 and 150 years ago! Read the rest of this entry »

Random Acts of Kindness with Handmade Valentines!

Handmade Valentine Workshop for Families on Friday, Feb. 7th from 4-7pm The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls

Make Your Own Handmade Valentines with Hilltown Families at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls during a free family workshop: Friday, February 7th, from 4-7pm.

Handmade valentines are wonderful expressions of thoughtfulness that can be shared with neighbors and friends, or with people you might not know. Join us to make many! Think about making a valentine for your librarian, postal worker, or teacher. Make several and deliver them to a nearby homeless shelter, nursing home, or an elderly neighbor in your community. Send them in the mail to long lost friends or relatives you have never met!

Handmade valentines are lovely tokens of kindness to share with others!  Join us to make a batch of your own! Drop in anytime. All materials included, but feel free to bring any materials you’d like to incorporate into your handmade valentines. Space is limited for this free event and pre-registration encouraged. Click here to sign up!

Winter Celebrations Warm Up Western MA!

During this part of the year, the cold and dark make it difficult to truly enjoy the outdoors. For the past month, temperatures in the single digits have kept kids and adults alike on the couch instead of in the snow… and we’re all starting to get cabin fever! Luckily, mid-winter ’tis the season for winter festivals, and the coming weeks bring a deluge of indoor and outdoor community celebrations happening in all four counties of Western MA!  Find out about winter celebrations happening in Amherst, Easthampton, Greenfield, Holyoke and North Adams…

DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition
Friday, January 17th, 2014 from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service art-making on Friday, Jan. 17th from 4-7pm at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA, for DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition, the second in a series of five free family community service nights!

What better gift to receive in the winter than a warm pair of handmade mittens or cozy handmade scarf; and what better gift to give to someone in your community than something you have lovingly made?

On Friday, January 17th from 4-7pm, Hilltown Families will be hosting a Free Family Community Service Night with The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls.  We are inviting families to join us for an evening of DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition. Come with an outgrown felted wool sweater, and/or fleece outerwear to be repurposed into easy-to-sew mittens and scarves to donate to New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT).  No previous experience is needed and there will be tasks for all ages… Join Us!

Handmade Valentines Workshop: Spreading Random Acts of Kindness with Hilltown Families & The Art Garden

Handmade Valentine Workshop for Families on Friday, Feb. 7th from 4-7pm The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls

Make Your Own Handmade Valentines with Hilltown Families at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls during a free family workshop: Friday, February 7th, from 4-7pm.

Handmade valentines are wonderful expressions of thoughtfulness that can be shared with neighbors and friends, or with people you might not know. Join us to make many! Think about making a valentine for your librarian, postal worker, or teacher. Make several and deliver them to a nearby homeless shelter, nursing home, or an elderly neighbor in your community. Send them in the mail to long lost friends or relatives you have never met!

Handmade valentines are lovely tokens of kindness to share with others!  Join us to make a batch of your own! Drop in anytime. All materials included, but feel free to bring any materials you’d like to incorporate into your handmade valentines. Space is limited for this free event and pre-registration encouraged. Click here to sign up!

DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition
Friday, January 17th, 2014 from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service art-making on Friday, Jan. 17th from 4-7pm at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA, for DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition, the second in a series of five free family community service nights!

What better gift to receive in the winter than a warm pair of handmade mittens or cozy handmade scarf; and what better gift to give to someone in your community than something you have lovingly made?

On Friday, January 17th from 4-7pm, Hilltown Families will be hosting a Free Family Community Service Night with The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls.  We are inviting families to join us for an evening of DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition. Come with an outgrown felted wool sweater, and/or fleece outerwear to be repurposed into easy-to-sew mittens and scarves to donate to New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT).  No previous experience is needed and there will be tasks for all ages… Join Us!

A Serving of Art: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
A Serving of Art: Placemat Making
Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service on Friday, Dec. 13th in Shelburne Falls at The Art Garden, for A Serving of Art: Placemat Making, the first in a series of five family community service nights!

During the holidays, many families find themselves wanting to give back to their community by supporting food security and connecting with their neighbors. This time of year can also see children with a bad case of the “gimmies.” A family night of community service is one way to support your community while helping children focus on the needs of others. Using art and making your own gifts creates a well rounded recipe for the holidays.

Hilltown Families and The Art Garden will be collaborating again this year in a series of Free Family Community Service Nights! The first in the series will be on Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm: A Serving of Art: Placemat Making.

Join us in Shelburne Falls for an evening of art and community service, making reusable handmade canvas placemats and collecting nonperishable foods, both to donate to Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield, MA. Families will also be invited to make a second canvas placemat to take and give to an elder in their life or a home-bound senior in their community… Find out more about this community service event…

Welcome Yule 2013: A Midwinter Celebration Shea Theater

Welcome Yule: A Midwinter Celebration Shea Theater in Turners Falls, MA

As art imitates life, the songs, stories and plays in this year’s show highlight the pleasures of passing on the seasonal traditions of family and community. Join the families of Welcome Yule as they sing and dance away winter’s darkness and call back the warmth and light of spring.

The Welcome Yule players will be hosting their annual Midwinter Celebration with delightful music, dance, songs and stories at the Shea Theatre in Turners Falls on December 13th-15th, 2013. This yearly show close to the winter solstice celebrates the return of light at the heart of winter’s darkness.

The Swedish tradition of Santa Lucia Day is featured in this year’s 29th annual production of Welcome Yule. As local wassailers make their way through their English village they invite a newly arrived family from Sweden to take part in the festivities. The English villagers and Swedes share in each others’ customs, songs and dances as they celebrate the light together on the longest night of the year. Traditional carols, wassailing songs, shape-note tunes and Welcome Yule classics will be featured, with plenty of opportunities for audience members to join in the singing. Dancing is also featured, with Swedish couples dances, a Molly Dance, and a perennial favorite, the Abbots Bromley Horn DanceRead the rest of this entry »

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2013

Turners Falls Encoded: New QR Walking Tour

Turners Falls Encoded

Turners Falls Encoded is a unique community project in that it offers information that would likely not be accessible otherwise. Families can use Turners Falls Encoded as a way to learn more about their surroundings – brainstorm what and who your community is made up of before scanning any of the codes, and see how your thoughts do or don’t match up with what you find.

Do you ever have questions about your surroundings while you wander through them? Once upon a time, books were the main way of finding answers to the things that we wondered as we wandered. Nowadays, technology has made it such that we can find answers almost immediately – and not just using internet searches! There are apps that can be used to identify plants and trees, search for signs of animals, and identify seasonal changes around us. However, there are fewer apps that can be used to teach us about the parts of our local surroundings that were created by humans. Often, we are left to ponder our questions about the buildings, the businesses, and the infrastructure around us on our own.

Turners Falls Encoded is a new community project that offers easy access to information about the Turners Falls community to anyone using a smart phone. Created by Hampshire College student RJ Sakai and Turners Falls RiverCulture, Turners Falls Encoded is a series of scannable quick response (QR) codes that connect visitors to videos and information about different aspects of the community and the people involved with them. Each code links to a different vignette narrated by community members, explaining what they do and why. Families can learn about everything from dinosaur tracks to recycled goods, and each informational page includes resources for further learning about the topic addressed in the video… Read the rest of this entry »

A Serving of Art: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
A Serving of Art: Placemat Making
Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service on Friday, Dec. 13th in Shelburne Falls at The Art Garden, for A Serving of Art: Placemat Making, the first in a series of five family community service nights!

During the holidays, many families find themselves wanting to give back to their community by supporting food security and connecting with their neighbors. This time of year can also see children with a bad case of the “gimmies.” A family night of community service is one way to support your community while helping children focus on the needs of others. Using art and making your own gifts creates a well rounded recipe for the holidays.

Hilltown Families and The Art Garden will be collaborating again this year in a series of Free Family Community Service Nights! The first in the series will be on Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm: A Serving of Art: Placemat Making.

Join us in Shelburne Falls for an evening of art and community service, making reusable handmade canvas placemats and collecting nonperishable foods, both to donate to Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield, MA. Families will also be invited to make a second canvas placemat to take and give to an elder in their life or a home-bound senior in their community… Read the rest of this entry »

The Stone Soup Cafe: Community Engagement One Meal at a Time

Greenfield’s Stone Soup Cafe
Bringing Community Together One Meal at a Time

It can be easy to go through your family’s daily, weekly, and monthly routines without actively engaging with a diverse cross section of the community. Even families who routinely do volunteer work or explore new areas are somewhat limited in their ability to connect with others whose experiences – in the same physical location – are very different from their own. Strong communities, though, depend on interconnectedness amongst all of their members. In order to be resilient, a community must allow for those from all walks of life to have a voice, to be respected, and to be understood.

Greenfield’s Stone Soup Cafe offers a venue that supports just that! Stone Soup is a weekly pay-what-you-can community cafe that serves fresh, homemade food to community members of all ages, backgrounds and dietary restrictions (gluten-free & vegan options). Located at All Souls Church in Greenfield, MA, (and supported by the congregation), the cafe is run based on the idea that food is a common thread in all communities, and that in sharing it, people from all backgrounds can bridge differences and connect with each other. In addition to community-building efforts, Stone Soup is also helping to address the issue of hunger in Franklin County. The cafe is the only place in Greenfield to get a free meal on Saturdays, making it a necessity in the lives of many families and community members.

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Dig Up Local History at Historic Deerfield’s Archaeology Day!

Archaeology Day at Historic Deerfield

Archaeologists don’t just dig up dinosaur bones and arrowheads, they work to recover building foundations, fragments of tools and dishes, and other evidence of life and human culture.

Dig up some local history at Historic Deerfield’s Archaeology Day on Saturday, October 19th! Families with children of all ages can learn about the role that archaeology has played in explorations of local history at this free event, which features special exhibits, tours, lectures, and hands-on activities.

Held from 10:30am-4pm, Archaeology Day is hosted by Historic Deerfield in conjunction with the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, and the University of Massachusetts. Families can learn about local history and local archaeological digs by taking part in an archaeological tour of the historic village, searching for artifacts in a mock dig site, attending a lecture on digs that have taken place at the former site of the Pocumtuck Fort, or visiting a display of artifacts that have been recovered from two local sites – Sanford Tavern and Taylor’s Fort.

The event presents a unique opportunity for students to learn about the role of archaeology in piecing together history. The context in which students most often learn about archaeology is in studies of prehistoric beasts and primitive cultures, but archaeology is used in order to learn more about the plants, animals, and people who lived during nearly any time period in history and in any part of the world. Archaeologists don’t just dig up dinosaur bones and arrowheads, they work to recover building foundations, fragments of tools and dishes, and other evidence of life and human culture…

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TEDx Comes to the Hilltowns of Western MA

TEDxShelburneFalls: Oct 12th & 13th, 2013
Ideas Worth Spreading

What place are you from? What defines a place? What is the history and nature of the places you most love and most dislike? What can you do to make the places you live, work and play better? Attend 2013 TEDxShelburneFalls conference, themed A Sense of Place, on Saturday October 12, 2013 to talk about and hear how your neighbors are answering these questions.

This weekend, October 12th & 13th, thirteen community members share their thoughts and experiences surrounding the development of a sense of place at TEDxShelburneFalls.

Including two sessions of talks on Saturday, the event features speakers who have had a wide variety of life experiences and whose understanding of the importance of a sense of place takes on many different personas.

The internationally known TED talks, which stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design,”  is a democratically run organization which allows for their platform to be utilized by communities across the country in regional TEDx talks, and makes their videos available for free on the internet (They are translated into more than 90 languages.).

In allowing for this, TEDx broadens the scope of their library of talks and works to engage diverse groups of people in international conversation.

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ARTeens: Art Program for Teens in Franklin County

ARTeens: Free Art Program for Teens at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls

Franklin County teens have a new after school option this school year!  The Art Garden, a community-supported art-making studio, is hosting ARTeens, a free after school art program in Shelburne Falls.  Co-facilitated by local artists Phyllis Labanowski and Jane Beatrice Wegscheider, ARTeens offers local middle and high school students a space to exercise their creativity, try out new materials, and work on skills in creating a variety of different styles of artwork.

Held on Tuesday afternoons from 3-6pm, the program begins on Tuesday, October 22nd and will run in three different six-week sessions throughout the school year.  In order to participate, interested teens must complete an application (a short and simple one!) including basic information about themselves and their artistic interests.  Applications must be submitted by Monday, October 7th, and students will be notified about participation by Monday, October 14th.  While the series is free for Franklin County teens, those residing in other counties may be able to tuition into the grant-funded program.  Students at Mohawk Trail Regional School can utilize bus transportation from the school in order to get to The Art Garden; others will need to arrange their own transportation…

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Kids Day of Community Service Benefits Many!

Hilltown Families &  Whole Foods Market
Kids Day of Community Service Benefits Many!

This past Saturday at Atlas Farm in Deerfield, Hilltown Families collaborated with Whole Foods Market and brought families together in the fields for a day of community service, gleaning 669 POUNDS of organic kale, collards, chard and broccoli leftover from a recent harvest to donate to the Food Bank of Western MA!

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This community service-based learning experience is one in a string of events Hilltown Families has organized over the past year in a effort to support food security in the region, offering families opportunities to participate in community service together. Last September (2012), Hilltown Families organized a field trip to the Food Bank of Western MA where families were able to see how the Food Bank operates while learning about food security efforts in the region and participating in hands-on community service projects. This past May (2013) at the Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event we partnered with Grow Food Northampton and empowered families to grow an extra row of vegetables in their home gardens to harvest and donate to their local food pantries.

When Whole Foods Market in Hadley approached Hilltown Families this summer with the idea of collaborating in a community service event during Hunger Action Month, we wanted to tie it in to this theme of supporting food security in the region.  We suggested collaborating with a local farm and organizing a trip to glean left over vegetables from their fields to donate to The Food Bank. Atlas Farm, a local vendor at Whole Foods Market, welcomed the idea and together we were able to bring in families and glean 669 pounds of organic vegetable! Whole Kids Foundation provided a build-your-own salad-bar lunch following work in the field, giving families a chance to enjoy healthy eating together.

“Hilltown Families and Whole Foods Market Kids Day of Community Service was a wonderful service learning experience for my son,” writes Ronna Kullberg of Northampton, MA. “Not only did he get a deeper understanding of community involvement, but a closer look at where his food comes from. Terrific experience all around!”

Collaborating in the creation of community service experiences gives Western MA families opportunities to be engaged in their community.  This directly supports Hilltown Families mission to nurture and create resilient and sustainable communities by developing and strengthening a sense of place in our children and citizens.  Whole Foods Market in Hadley has consistently been a supporter of the community building work of Hilltown Families and we thank them for their ongoing support and service to our community!

In this video, volunteer Andy Wallace covered a couple of Hilltown Families community service events, including our collaboration with the Art Garden for Flowers for Friends,  and our Family Community Service Event this past May. Check it out and get a glimpse into the mission of Hilltown Families and how community service-based learning is an important piece of community engagement and in developing a sense of place in our children:

Thank you Andy Wallace for the video and Steve Roslonek of SteveSongs for the soundtrack!

Volunteer at the County Fair!

Community Service Opportunities at
the Franklin County Fair

Volunteers are needed to assist with the recycling and compost program at the Franklin County Fair in Greenfield. The fair runs from Sept 5-8 and volunteers are needed from Sept 4-11.  Volunteers will be responsible for collecting recyclables and compostable material from the designated bins, sorting and processing the materials, and monitoring the bins during fair hours.  All volunteers get free admission to the Fair and are able to explore the fairgrounds and enjoy all the fair has to offer before and after shifts and during breaks.  A great community service opportunity for teens and families to do together!

Last year volunteers helped the Fair recycled and composted over 3.5 tons of materials!  This volunteer opportunity would be good for older students, especially those interested in composting and/or recycling.  Volunteering at a large event like the Franklin County Fair can teach students the importance of community service and how valuable volunteers are when it comes to making events like this run with minimal waste.

The sign-up deadline for volunteers is Sept 4th at 5pm.  Sign up &  more information here.  Please email or call Amy Donovan if you have any questions at amy@franklincountywastedistrict.org or 413-772-2438.  The fair takes place at 89 Wisdom Way in Greenfield, MA.  More information on the Franklin County Fair can be found on the fair’s website.

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