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 »

Historical Exhibit in Hatfield Gives Glimpse Into Civil War Life in Western MA

The Things They Left Us

While most of the major events of the Civil War took place further south than New England, the war plays a major role in the history of communities all over western Massachusetts. Not only did the area serve as part of the Underground Railroad and a home to abolitionists, but agrarian towns changed drastically during the Civil War, as men and boys who farmed in order to sustain their families left home to fight in the war.

Thanks to a new exhibit at the Hatfield Historical Museum, families can learn much about local ties to the major events that took place during the Civil War. A newly installed exhibit at the museum includes a variety of Civil War-era artifacts, including a blood-stained bible that once belonged to a soldier, the Civil War diary of Hatfield resident Daniel White Wells, a knapsack worn by soldiers in the Union volunteer infantry, a 32+2 star American flag, and a Confederate tourniquet, taken as a souvenir by a young Hatfield soldier.

A visit to the exhibit is educational and informative for students of all ages, even if they don’t have any background on the Civil War yet. Young students can compare the items displayed to their modern equivalent, so as to reflect on changes in technology, culture, and use of items, and they may also begin to think about what late 19th-century Hatfield must have been like with many of the men and boys gone to fight in the war. Older students who have already begun to learn about the Civil War in school can develop a better idea of what Civil War life was like for those who fought – the objects displayed in the exhibit convey the hard work, long distances traveled, and terrifying battles endured by those who left Hatfield (and communities just like it all over New England) to join in the war.

RELATED EVENTS

In celebration of the new exhibit, the Historical Society will be hosting two exciting opening events. On Saturday, April 5th, 2014, from 9:30am-12:30pm, families can visit the museum to meet members of the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry at an encampment, sample Civil War foods, and see demonstrations of drills that Civil War soldiers took part in. The Historical Society will host a similar event on Sunday, May 25th, 2014, from 10am-12noon as part of the town’s Memorial Day celebration – this event will feature a larger number of reenactors – three tents in all! Both events are free, and present a unique opportunity to experience living history. Read the rest of this entry »

Local Library Offers Financial Literacy Learning Opportunities

Money Smart Week Comes to the Jones Library in Amherst, MA

Libraries have long been advocates for reading and literacy for the people in their communities. Another community need now being addressed by libraries in an annual campaign is financial literacy and money management. Money Smart Week, a public awareness campaign designed to help consumers better manage their personal finances, will be observed with several free programs at the Jones Library in Amherst, MA, during the week of April 5 – 12, 2014… 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 19th. We’ll be adding to this list as events come in, so be sure to check back: Easter Events in Western MA 2014.

Edible Books Connect Culinary Arts & Literature

The Edible Book: A Benefit for the Friends of the Forbes & Lilly Libraries

The Forbes and Lilly Libraries are holding their Edible Book event on Sunday, April 6th this year, an annual event that crosses culinary arts and language arts with creative free play!

If you could make a piece of art that describes your favorite book, what would it look like? If you created a food whose flavor matches your family’s favorite story, what would it taste like? And what do you think would happen if you combined your art piece with the book’s perfect flavor match? Create a real-life edible artistic masterpiece – just like you’ve imagined! – by participating in Forbes Library’s event, Edible Book Northampton!

Read the rest of this entry »

PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT: Music from Around the World with Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton

Music from Around the World with
Sierra Leone‘s Refugee All Stars
Iron Horse Music Hall ♦ Northampton, MA
Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 @ 7pm

Tix Promo: Sierra Leones

Enter for a chance to win one of two pairs of tickets we’re giving away to see Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 at 7pm. Deadline to enter: 4/6/14. Details below.

Hilltown Families and Iron Horse Entertainment Group have partnered up to offer a chance to win free tickets to see adult venues in the Pioneer Valley for a PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT! You pay for the sitter, we’ll pay for the tickets!

We are continuing to offer tickets to Dean’s Beans Music from Around the World monthly concert series at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA. For April we have two pairs of tickets to giveaway to see Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, a musical group formed in West African refugee camps, at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA on Wednesday, April 9th at 7pm. Win a pair of tickets and take your spouse, partner or good friend for a night out. These concerts are also a great opportunity to expose older children with audience skills to music from around the world. Deadline to enter to win: 04/06 @ 11:59pm (EST). Enter for a chance to win!

ABOUT SIERRA LEONE’S REFUGEE ALL STARS

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars have risen like a phoenix out of the ashes of war and inflamed the passions of fans across the globe with their uplifting songs of hope, faith and joy. The band is a potent example of the redeeming power of music and the ability of the human spirit to persevere through unimaginable hardship and emerge with optimism intact. From their humble beginnings in West African refugee camps Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars have performed on some of the worlds most prestigious stages and matured into one of Africa’s top touring and recording bands. — www.refugeeallstars.org

Enter for a chance to win!

TICKET GIVEAWAY: Comedian Brian Regan at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton

Comedian Brian Regan
Calvin Theatre in Northampton, MA
Sunday, April 13th, 2014 8pm

Comedian Brian Regan comes to the Calvin Theatre at 8pm on Sunday, April 13th, 2014. Never lapsing into profanity or being gratuitously offensive, Brian is a great comedian for families with older children. Enter for a chance to win a 4-pack of tickets and take your family, or bring a group of friends!

Hilltown Families and Iron Horse Entertainment Group continue with our partnership to offering families a chance to win free tickets to see performances in Northampton, MA! For April we are pleased to offer a chance to win a 4-pack of tickets to see Comedian Brian Regan at the Calvin Theater in Northampton, MA at 8pm on Sunday, April 13th, 2014. Deadline to enter to win is Tuesday, 4/8/14 by 11:59pm (EST). Details below…

ABOUT BRIAN REGAN

Brian Regan has distinguished himself as one of the premier comedians in the country. The perfect balance of sophisticated writing and physicality, Brian fills theaters nationwide with fervent fans that span generations. Brian can turn the most mundane situations – like going to the eye doctor to get fitted forglasses, or trying to decide how many fig newtons to eat in one sitting – into side-splitting stand-up material. With his first appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in 1995, Brian solidified his place on the show and recently made his 26th appearance.  Never lapsing into profanity or being gratuitously offensive, Brian is a great comedian for families with older children.

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

Spring Equinox in the Pioneer Valley

Celebrate the Vernal Equinox at UMass Sunwheel in Amherst

This Thursday, March 20th, 2014, on the day of the vernal equinox, families can visit the UMass Sunwheel in Amherst for a morning and/or evening gathering…

As we spend the month of March scouring the local landscape for signs of spring to appear, we often forget to prepare ourselves for the truest sign of spring there is: the vernal equinox. Marking the very first official day of spring, the vernal equinox is the moment at which the sun is located directly over the Earth’s equator. Along with a shadow-less noontime around the equator, the equinox brings six months of darkness to the south pole and six months of a perpetually visible sun to the north pole. And here in western Massachusetts? We get the beginning of springtime, lengthening days, gradual warmth, sweet maple syrup, and community celebrations that mark the change of season… Read the rest of this entry »

Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950

Wistariahurst Museum is launching a new historical and cultural project entitled, Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950. With funding support from the Holyoke Cultural Council and the Country Dance and Song Society, Jacqueline Cooper is collaborating with the museum as the Project Director and is working to develop sketches of Holyoke’s past to form a collective of local music culture from 1800-1950.

Cooper and Wistariahurst are seeking to include community members of Holyoke and nearby towns to participate by sharing personal music-related memories. They are looking for community members, elders, descendants of earlier settlers, immigrants, and travelers who can share stories or family anecdotes related to particular songs that were listened to, played, sung, danced to and enjoyed in households, factories, at gatherings, or in clubs, churches, community centers, etc. They are looking for stories that not only represent local culture, but also reflect what working people at the heart of the community thrived on.

Do you, your parents, your grandparents, have a memory to share? Being interviewed for this project is an inspiring opportunity to have a music-related memory as part of Holyoke’s cultural heritage collection.  The research is the foundation for Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950, a live music and storytelling production to be performed at Wistariahurst in July of 2014.
Click here to find out how to participate…

2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA

Saturday Morning Music Party with Hilltown Families & Flywheel Arts Collective

Hilltown Families & Flywheel Arts Collective
Saturday Morning Music Party
March 15th, 10am, Easthampton, MA

The final Hilltown Families & Flywheel Saturday Morning Music Party takes place  on Saturday, March 15th at 10am! Come shake off your cabin fever with a pancake breakfast, screening of Pancake Mountain and a dance party with DJ Youthelectronix! Oh, and did we mention… it’s FREE!!! Join Hilltown Families and Flywheel in Easthampton on Saturday, March 15th at 10am!

Hilltown Families and the Flywheel Arts Collective of Easthampton continue our super fun  ‘Saturday Morning Music Party’ for a final Saturday this winter! Come enjoy a breakfast bash featuring free pancakes and an awesome dance party for all ages!

During a free breakfast of pancakes, juice, and fruit, a screening of Pancake Mountain will delight families. After the breakfast, kids can join DJ Youthelectronix for the “best ever dance party before noon.”  Get the kids moving and shaking off the winter blues.

Flywheel Arts Collective located in the old town hall in Easthampton (43 Main Street). This event is free and open to people of all ages.

DJ Youthelectronix, a.k.a. Jeremy Smith, a veteran Flywheel volunteer, led the effort to organize the Saturday Morning Music Party series in 2013, partnering with Hilltown Families. Driven to continue the success of past Saturday morning activities at Flywheel, Smith says, “We started the Saturday Morning Music Party to provide families with an affordable, fun activity that was enjoyable for adults as well as kids. We hope that families from all over the Valley will attend.” He’s particularly proud of the “diverse programming” to be offered, which is anything but the rote kids’ fare.

“Getting families with children of all ages out and engaged in their community has it’s challenges in the winter,” says Hilltown Families Founder, Sienna Wildfield.  “A free morning music party with pancakes, and dancing is a recipe of fun for kids of all ages, and inviting for parents too!”


This event is supported in part by a grant from the Easthampton Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT: Music from Around the World with Tinariwen at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton

Music from Around the World with
Tinariwen
Iron Horse Music Hall ♦ Northampton, MA
Thursday, March 27th, 2014 @ 7pm

From the Sahara Desert in northern Mali comes the Tuareg band of musicians known as Tinariwen, one of the most popular and best-selling African groups on the planet. Formed in 1979, the band has lived a story of rebellion, war, travel and triumph, as it became an internationally renowned touring act in the early 2000s. Rooted in the sounds of West Africa, Tinariwen mixes Western instruments with Tuareg rhythms and timbres. The power of their poetry makes for an intense and intimate live experience. – Enter for a chance to win one of two pairs of tickets we’re giving away to see Tinariwen at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Thursday, March 27th, 2014 at 7pm. Deadline to enter: 3/24/14. Details below.

Hilltown Families and Iron Horse Entertainment Group have partnered up to offer a chance to win free tickets to see adult venues in the Pioneer Valley for a PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT! You pay for the sitter, we’ll pay for the tickets!

We’re excited to continue offering tickets to Dean’s Beans Music from Around the World monthly concert series at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA. Each month this fabulous world music concert series features a wide variety of the world’s premier international performers. Check with us each month for an opportunity to win a pair of tickets to see these world class acts happening right here in our region!

For March we have two pairs of tickets to giveaway to see the Tuareg band of musicians known as Tinariwen at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA on Thursday, March 27th at 7pm. Win a pair of tickets and take your spouse, partner or good friend for a night out. These concerts are also a great opportunity to expose older children with audience skills to music from around the world. Deadline to enter to win: 03/24 @ 11:59pm (EST). Enter for a chance to win!

ABOUT TINARIWEN

Tinariwen are poet-guitarists and soul rebels from the Southern Sahara desert. Their music expresses the aspirations of their people, the Kel Tamashek or Touareg of the southern Sahara desert. The guitar is their weapon. Simplicity is Freedom. Tinariwen are often associated with just one image: that of Touareg rebels leading the charge, machine gun in hand and electric guitar slung over the shoulder but the founding members abandoned their weapons long ago and have since engineered a minor aesthetic revolution by setting the electric guitar  the instrument which became their mascot and made them famous  to one side and giving pride of place to acoustic sounds. The desert is the landscape of their existence, the cradle of their culture and the source of their inspiration. They’ve recently collaborated with members of TV On The Radio, Nels Cline (Wilcos guitarist) and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.- tinariwen.com

Enter for a chance to win!

The Carle Commemorates Life and Works of Bernard Waber

The Carle Commemorates Life and Works
of Author/Illustrator, Bernard Waber
Tuesday, March 18 through Sunday, June 8, 2014

Last May, children and adults alike mourned the passing of beloved children’s book author and illustrator Bernard Waber. Perhaps best known for his depictions of the adventures of Lyle the crocodile, Waber wrote, illustrated, and published (through Houghton Mifflin) over thirty books over the course of his career.

This spring, Houghton Mifflin and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art have collaborated to put on a display of Waber’s work: both well-known images from his books, plus preliminary sketches and source material and even some of his earlier art from his time as a designer for Condé Nast and Time, Inc. Curated by Leonard S. Marcus, an expert on children’s literature, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and Friends: The Art of Bernard Waber will be on view from March 18 through June 8, 2014. The exhibition will be accompanied by a 40-page catalog featuring Bernard Waber’s last interview…  Read the rest of this entry »

Service-Based Learning: Volunteer Land Monitors

Service-Based Learning: Volunteer Land Monitors
Hilltown Land Trust

Participating in land maintenance with a conservation organization can be an empowering experience for teens. Building on experiences from their childhood, they will experience nature in a new way – not only will they be enjoying its beauty while immersed in it, they will be responsible for helping to ensure that an area continues to be available to them and to others. Making close observations of an area can help volunteers to develop a deeper connection to the area, and can help to open their eyes to tiny details of nature. Teens who are required to do community service in order to receive a high school diploma can use work with the Hilltown Land Trust to satisfy that requirement – and as an added bonus, their work will overlap with concepts that they learn in biology and environmental science courses! (Photo source: HLT)

Land conservation, like many things, begins at home. Young child can learn to appreciate natural resources by exploring and caring for their immediate surroundings, and in doing so will develop respect and appreciation for the environment. As they get older, their appreciation for their local environment begins to broaden into the larger community. Community-service opportunities, like Land Monitors for the Hilltown Land Trust, are ways older students can participate in service-based learning while supporting natural resources they have grown to care about.

Teens and their parents can help to promote conservation and land preservation together by serving as Volunteer Land Monitors for the Hilltown Land Trust. The Hilltown Land Trust’s many properties are set aside as protected land to ensure that the numerous species that call them home will continue to do so for years to come. However, as these lands are also open to human visitors and have human neighbors, they require some monitoring. Truly caring for preserved land means ensuring that it has been properly used – a task designated to the organization’s Volunteer Land Monitors.

On Saturday, March 15th, 2014, the Hilltown Land Trust and the Kestrel Trust will hold a Volunteer Stewardship Training Workshop at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton…  Click here to find out more about this community service opportunity!

Hats, Architecture, and Industry: Things that Inspired Dr. Seuss

Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!

The Hats Off to Dr. Seuss! exhibition at R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view a selection of original hats collected by Dr. Seuss over a period of 60 years. Exhibit up through March 8, 2014. Special Dr. Seuss Birthday celebration on Saturday, March 1st from 6-8pm.

Sam-I-Am, Yertle the Turtle, Marvin K. Mooney, the Cat in the Hat, and other silly Dr. Seuss characters have been well-loved by young readers for decades. Best known for his invented words, imaginary animals, and silly yet thought provoking plots, Dr. Seuss is one of the most well-known children’s authors of all time (and two of his books rank amongst the 20 best-selling children’s books ever).

A native of western Massachusetts, Dr. Seuss drew upon his surroundings in order to create images for his stories. The industrial landscape of his hometown of Springfield is reflected in the zany, unaffected-by-gravity architecture found in many illustrations, and the town of Whoville is rumored to be based upon the city of Easthampton and towering Mt. Tom. He is honored locally by the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, a tribute to the author’s ingenious work. Located at the Springfield Museums, the garden is filled with sculptures pulled straight from the pages – visitors can meet the Grinch, Horton the Elephant, and the Lorax up close and personal.

Many of Seuss’ beloved characters, in addition to creative anatomy and goofy personalities, sport headgear the likes of which have never been seen before – until now. For the first time ever, Dr. Seuss’ personal hat collection will be on view! Northampton’s R. Michelson Galleries (132 Main Street) will host Hats off to Dr. Seuss, a nationally touring exhibition that includes not only Seuss’ collection of head fashions but selected works from a secret art collection – all of which have been adapted from Seuss originals.

The exhibition will be on view at the galleries through March 8th, 2014, and fans of all ages and sizes can enjoy a special event in honor of what would’ve been Dr. Seuss’ 110th birthday (held a day early!) from 6-8pm on Saturday, March 1st… Read the rest of this entry »

UMass Exhibition Examines Changes in Historical American Landscapes

A Genius for Place: American Landscape of the Country Place Era
A Panel Exhibition from the Library of American Landscape History

The UMass Amherst Libraries are hosting a traveling exhibition called “A Genius For Place,” on view now through May 10th, 2014.  Organized by the Library of American Landscape History (LALH), the exhibition illustrates and analyzes the chronological development of North American landscape design throughout the “Country Place Era,” or the period of time (1890 to 1930) between the Gilded Age through the end of the Great Depression.  During that time, many wealthy American families, convinced that their hectic, crowded, and unclean city lives required periodic retreats to the fresh air and far-ranging vistas of the countryside for renewal and recovery, erected country “cottages” (some of which were more extravagant than the average mansion today).  Of course, these homes were not complete without elegantly sculpted garden paths, man-made reflecting pools, outdoor courtyards, and a spectacular view to top off the experience of nature-filled country life.  Landscape architects creating the perfect outdoor environments for their clients employed a wide range of techniques, structures, and both modern and historical iconography in their designs.  It was a transitional moment, both for the country as a whole and for the practice of landscape design.

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Robin Karson, founding director of LALH, sees the Country Place Era as a significant time in the history of American landscape architecture: balancing on the cusp of the twentieth century, still weighted with the ideas and traditions of bygone years.  One such was the notion of the genius loci, or the “spirit of the place.”  While in some cultures this spirit takes the form of a protective, guardian-like presence, Western cultures more commonly use the phrase “spirit of the place” to refer to a site’s distinctive energy or aura.  In her book A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place Era, Karson suggests that landscape architects during this time were guided by the genius loci to preserve the natural beauty and quirks of the original landscape while injecting more modern, experimental architectural elements into their designs… Read the rest of this entry »

Saturday Morning Music Party with Hilltown Families & Flywheel Arts Collective

Hilltown Families & Flywheel Arts Collective
Saturday Morning Music Party
March 15th, 10am, Easthampton, MA

The final Hilltown Families & Flywheel Saturday Morning Music Party takes place  on Saturday, March 15th at 10am! Come shake off your cabin fever with a pancake breakfast, screening of Pancake Mountain and a dance party with DJ Youthelectronix! Oh, and did we mention… it’s FREE!!! Join Hilltown Families and Flywheel in Easthampton on Saturday, March 15th at 10am!

Hilltown Families and the Flywheel Arts Collective of Easthampton continue our super fun  ‘Saturday Morning Music Party’ for a final Saturday this winter! Come enjoy a breakfast bash featuring free pancakes and an awesome dance party for all ages!

During a free breakfast of pancakes, juice, and fruit, a screening of Pancake Mountain will delight families. After the breakfast, kids can join DJ Youthelectronix for the “best ever dance party before noon.”  Get the kids moving and shaking off the winter blues.

Flywheel Arts Collective located in the old town hall in Easthampton (43 Main Street). This event is free and open to people of all ages.

DJ Youthelectronix, a.k.a. Jeremy Smith, a veteran Flywheel volunteer, led the effort to organize the Saturday Morning Music Party series in 2013, partnering with Hilltown Families. Driven to continue the success of past Saturday morning activities at Flywheel, Smith says, “We started the Saturday Morning Music Party to provide families with an affordable, fun activity that was enjoyable for adults as well as kids. We hope that families from all over the Valley will attend.” He’s particularly proud of the “diverse programming” to be offered, which is anything but the rote kids’ fare.

“Getting families with children of all ages out and engaged in their community has it’s challenges in the winter,” says Hilltown Families Founder, Sienna Wildfield.  “A free morning music party with pancakes, and dancing is a recipe of fun for kids of all ages, and inviting for parents too!”


This event is supported in part by a grant from the Easthampton Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT: Music from Around the World with Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton

Music from Around the World with
Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi
Iron Horse Music Hall ♦ Northampton, MA
Thursday, March 6th, 2014 @ 7pm

Enter for a chance to win one of two pairs of tickets we’re giving away to see Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Thursday, March 6th, 2014 at 7pm. Deadline to enter: 3/3/14. Details below.

Hilltown Families and Iron Horse Entertainment Group have partnered up to offer a chance to win free tickets to see adult venues in the Pioneer Valley for a PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT! You pay for the sitter, we’ll pay for the tickets!

We’re excited to continue offering tickets to Dean’s Beans Music from Around the World monthly concert series at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA. Each month this fabulous world music concert series features a wide variety of the world’s premier international performers. Check with us each month for an opportunity to win a pair of tickets to see these world class acts happening right here in our region!

For March we have two pairs of tickets to giveaway to see Zimbabwean musician, Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA on Thursday, March 6th at 7pm. Win a pair of tickets and take your spouse, partner or good friend for a night out. These concerts are also a great opportunity to expose older children with audience skills to music from around the world. Deadline to enter to win: 03/03 @ 11:59pm (EST). Enter for a chance to win!

ABOUT OLIVER MTUKUDZI

 Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi is arguably the most powerful creative force to emerge from Zimbabwe in 30 years, (along with Angelique Kidjo, Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo). Balancing compelling rhythms and accessible melodies with insightful lyrics, Tuku has built a vast body of work that is politically and socially relevant and accessible to a worldwide audience. Throughout a career that spans more than 45 recordings and virtually every corner of the globe, he and his band, The Black Spirits, continually play to enthusiastic audiences in even the most remote regions. — www.tukumusik.com

Enter for a chance to win!

Orchids & Tulips: Learning About Botany & Habitat

Flower Shows Offer Lessons in Botany & Habitat

Annual flower shows like the Amherst Orchid Society Show (Feb 22-23, 2014), Smith College Spring Bulb Show and Mt. Holyoke Spring Flower Show (both Mar 1-16, 2014) can support interest and learning about botany and plant habitats when winter lingers on.

Every winter, the Pioneer Valley’s greenhouses burst into bloom despite the cold weather outside. Bulbs, planted in the fall, come to life and bloom just as the dreariest time of year begins to relent. Not only do these first blossoms bring hope towards the end of winter with their color and fragrances, they present a seasonal opportunity for families to learn together about habitat, the life cycle of plants, and the structural nuances that differentiate one species from another.

Beginning in February and continuing through the first few weeks of March, three different flower shows will be open to visitors. The first of the three is the Amherst Orchid Society’s annual show , which takes place from 9am-4pm on Saturday, February 22nd and Sunday, February 23rd at Smith Vocational High School at 80 Locust Street in Northampton. For a $5 admission (kids under 12 get in for free!), visitors can see displays of orchids created by orchid societies from all over southern New England.

Following the Amherst Orchid Society’s show, both the Smith College Botanical Garden and the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden will show off extensive collections of flowering bulbs in their greenhouses. Smith College’s annual Spring Bulb Show will take place at the Lyman Conservatory (16 College Lane in Northampton) from March 1st-16th. Families can visit between 10am and 4pm daily, or enjoy special extended hours on Fridays March 7th and 14th, when the show will be open until 8pm. Visitors are asked to make a $2 donation to the plant house when visiting the show.

The Spring Flower Show at Mt. Holyoke will be held in the college’s Talcott Greenhouse in South Hadley, also from March 1st through 16th. Read the rest of this entry »

The Children’s Garden Project Brings Garden-Based Learning into the Community

The Children’s Garden Project

Working on garden bedsA childhood filled with playing in the dirt is something that rural folks can almost take for granted. Small lessons about seeds, plant growth, weather, and seasonal changes almost teach themselves when kids are able to explore the earth – and the things that grow in it – for themselves. But what happens when the dirt to dig in is covered with pavement? How do we help children to learn these lessons when the materials aren’t quite so handy?

Thanks to The Children’s Garden Project , kids in the urban areas of Hampden and Hampshire counties have easier access to dig-able, plant-able, fascination-inducing earth! The organization – which begun their work just last year – has helped to bring gardens to locations in Holyoke and West Springfield. This year, the organization has partnered with Head Start to bring gardens to seven new locations in Holyoke, Springfield, and Chicopee.

While school gardens are becoming increasingly more and more prevalent, the founders of The Children’s Garden Project saw one major flaw with the model of using school gardens as a tool for teaching…  Read the rest of this entry »

Mead Art Museum Supports Community-Based Education

Family Fun Days at the Mead Art Museum in Amherst

“Family Fun Days have been so popular in the past, we decided to make them even more frequent,” noted Wendy Somes, Coordinator of Community Programs. The increase is part of the Mead’s ongoing mission to connect families, teachers, and community organizations with their local art museum, she said. “We believe that museums are educational AND fun places for families to learn together.”

When we think of places in our community we can visit to support our children’s interests and education, museums are often the first institutions we think of… and rightly so! Their exhibit-filled galleries offer lots of educational potential, with both permanent and changing exhibits families can use to learn about a variety of topics throughout the year. However, without interpretation or support, the vast amount of information present in museum exhibits can be difficult to navigate and make accessible for children with little background knowledge.

Keeping this in mind, the Mead Art Museum in Amherst, MA, is now offering monthly Family Fun Days, making museum-based learning not only more accessible for families with younger children, but a whole lot of fun too! Family Fun Days aren’t new to the Museum,  but their popularity has encouraged the Museum to host them as a monthly event! Each month brings a new theme that matches an exhibit hanging in the museum’s galleries, and families will get a chance to learn about the theme through hands-on activities, guided gallery tours, read-alouds of children’s books, and group discussions. Not only will the educational potential of the museum be unlocked by museum guides and interpreters, but children will be able to learn in a collaborative, multi-age environment where they share their thoughts and observations with others and gain insight from information shared by other visitors.

February’s Family Fun Day will be held on Saturday, February 15th from 11am-2pm – and admission is free! This month’s theme is feasts and medieval life, and will include a kid-friendly tour of the museum’s Rotherwas Room. Read the rest of this entry »

Pancakes & Polka!

Hilltown Families & Flywheel Arts Collective will host a  ‘Saturday Morning Music Party’ with performances by Shiprock and Anchordog and the Eddie Forman Orchestra on Saturday, February 8th at 10am in Easthampton, MA!

Hilltown Families and the Flywheel Arts Collective of Easthampton have revived the beloved ‘Saturday Morning Music Party’ series, a breakfast bash featuring food, dancing, performances and diversions for kids. Hosting three music parties this winter, two more remain: February 8 (as part of Easthampton’s Fire & Ice Festival) and March 11, 2014.

FEBRUARY 8TH: The second of three installments of the Saturday Morning Music Party kicks off the Easthampton Fire and Ice Festival on Saturday, February 8th at 10am at Flywheel Arts Collective located in the old town hall in Easthampton (43 Main Street).  This event is $12 per family, or $6 per individual, and open to people of all ages.

Following a free breakfast of pancakes, juice, and fruit, the February 8th event features performances by the storytelling band Shiprock and Anchordog and the legendary western Mass polka band the Eddie Forman Orchestra.

“Getting families with children of all ages out and engaged in their community has it’s challenges in the winter,” says Hilltown Families Founder, Sienna Wildfield.  “A Saturday morning music party with free pancakes and live music is sure to get families on their feet and dancing the winter blues away!”

Jeremy Smith, a veteran Flywheel volunteer, led the effort to organize the Saturday Morning Music Party series in 2013. Driven to continue the success of past Saturday morning activities at Flywheel, Smith says, “We started the Saturday Morning Music Party to provide families with an affordable, fun activity that was enjoyable for adults as well as kids. We hope that families from all over the Valley will attend.” He’s particularly proud of the “diverse programming” to be offered, which is anything but the rote kids’ fare.


This event is supported in part by a grant from the Easthampton Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Science on Screen Series at Amherst Cinema

The Law of Physics and Groundhog Day
Science on Screen Series at Amherst Cinema

What does the tradition of Groundhog Day have to do with learning science? Well, when you throw in a classic Bill Murray film, the three things combine for an interesting examination of time loops and the physics behind such a concept!

As part of the Science on Screen series, Amherst Cinema will screening Groundhog Day on Monday, February 3rd at 7pm. A comedic classic, the film features Murray as a TV weatherman sent out on his least favorite annual assignment – covering the emergence of Punxsutawney Phil from his hole. Much to his horror, Murrary’s character gets snowed in after the event, and wakes to find himself in a time loop where he experiences Groundhog Day over and over and over. Eventually, he is forced to get creative with his extra lopping time and works to become more in touch with himself.

Along with the film, the event will feature a discussion with Amherst College physics professor Dr. Kannan Jagannathan. Using the film as a reference, Jagannathan will discuss time travel’s presence in fiction and the roots of such stories in physics principles (or not!). While there is a place in science for examining the potential for time travel, there is much more space for examining the rules of physics broken within plots that include time traveling adventures. Jagannathan will point out instances of such rule breaking in the film, and will help viewers to understand Einstein’s theory of relativity and the ways in which it applies to the instances from the film.  Read the rest of this entry »

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…

PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT: Music from Around the World with Habib Koité at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton

Music from Around the World with Habib Koité
Iron Horse Music Hall ♦ Northampton, MA
Sunday, Feb 16th, 2014 @ 7pm

Enter for a chance to win one of two pairs of tickets we’re giving away to see Habib Koité at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Sunday, Feb 16th, 2014 at 7pm. Deadline to enter: 2/11/14. Details below.

Hilltown Families and Iron Horse Entertainment Group have partnered up to offer a chance to win free tickets to see adult venues in the Pioneer Valley for a PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT! You pay for the sitter, we’ll pay for the tickets!

We’re excited to announce that we will be offering tickets to Dean’s Beans Music from Around the World monthly concert series taking place at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA, over the months to come! Each month this fabulous world music concert series features a wide variety of the world’s premier international performers. Check with us each month for an opportunity to win a pair of tickets to see  these world class acts happening right here in our region!

For February we have two pairs of tickets to giveaway to see Malian guitarist, Habib Koité, one of Africa’s most popular and recognized musicians, at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA on Sunday, February 16th at 7pm. Win a pair of tickets and take your spouse, partner or good friend for a night out. These concerts are also a great opportunity to expose older children with audience skills to music from around the world. Deadline to enter to win: 02/11 @ 11:59pm (EST). Enter for a chance to win!

ABOUT HABIB KOITE

While many Malian guitarists are known for their mastery of their tribes strumming vernacular, Habib Koité has become adept at a number of styles. For him, the common thread is the sound of traditional Malian stringed instruments. Koit seeks to capture those warm sonics on his guitar via the pentatonic scale, and by utilizing open tunings. Whether one understands what hes doing technically, theres no denying the beauty in how his guitar notes and vocals interact with the lush sounds of the xylophone-like balafon and the insistent pulse of his groups rhythm section. - www.habibkoite.com

Enter for a chance to win!

Saturday Morning Music Party with Hilltown Families & Flywheel to Kick Off Easthampton Fire & Ice Festival!

Hilltown Families & Flywheel Arts Collective will host a  ‘Saturday Morning Music Party’ with performances by Shiprock and Anchordog and the Eddie Forman Orchestra on Saturday, February 8th at 10am in Easthampton, MA!

Hilltown Families and the Flywheel Arts Collective of Easthampton have revived the beloved ‘Saturday Morning Music Party’ series, a breakfast bash featuring food, dancing, performances and diversions for kids. Hosting three music parties this winter, two more remain: February 8 (as part of Easthampton’s Fire & Ice Festival) and March 11, 2014.

FEBRUARY 8TH: The second of three installments of the Saturday Morning Music Party kicks off the Easthampton Fire and Ice Festival on Saturday, February 8th at 10am at Flywheel Arts Collective located in the old town hall in Easthampton (43 Main Street).  This event is $12 per family, or $6 per individual, and open to people of all ages.

Following a free breakfast of pancakes, juice, and fruit, the February 8th event features performances by the storytelling band Shiprock and Anchordog and the legendary western Mass polka band the Eddie Forman Orchestra.

“Getting families with children of all ages out and engaged in their community has it’s challenges in the winter,” says Hilltown Families Founder, Sienna Wildfield.  “A Saturday morning music party with free pancakes and live music is sure to get families on their feet and dancing the winter blues away!”

Jeremy Smith, a veteran Flywheel volunteer, led the effort to organize the Saturday Morning Music Party series in 2013. Driven to continue the success of past Saturday morning activities at Flywheel, Smith says, “We started the Saturday Morning Music Party to provide families with an affordable, fun activity that was enjoyable for adults as well as kids. We hope that families from all over the Valley will attend.” He’s particularly proud of the “diverse programming” to be offered, which is anything but the rote kids’ fare.


This event is supported in part by a grant from the Easthampton Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Owl Prowl for Snowy Owls with Jane Yolen, Author of “Owl Moon”

Snowy Owls & an Owl Prowl in the Hilltowns

Get your family excited about the winter outdoors by going owling! On Friday, January 24th at 7pm at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, children’s book authors Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple will lead an engaging evening program about owls. After learning about owls and hearing Yolen read Owl Moon, participants will walk to Petticoat Hill Reservation to listen for (and maybe see!) some wild owls. Dress warmly, wear comfortable shoes, and bring a flashlight for the owling adventure. – Due to limited space at the library, all participants will need to RSVP before the event. Those who are not on the RSVP list will be welcomed on a first-come basis. Email: hltlandsteward@ttor.org or call 413-628-4485 ext. 4.

Here in Massachusetts, we’re experiencing an abundance of snowy owls this winter! Known scientifically as an irruption of snowy owls , the uptick in population of these beautiful birds is due to an abundance of lemmings in northern Quebec, providing them with more than enough food during the breeding season. While the birds are most common in the coastal portions of the state (in particular, as many as fifteen at a time have been spotted at Logan Airport), they can be spotted here in western Massachusetts as well.

Identified by their striped feathery chest, back, and head, snowy owls are well-camouflaged in a winter landscape. Though they stand nearly two feet tall, the unique coloring of their feathers allows them to visually become part of their surroundings. Unless you look closely, it would be easy to miss such a bird amongst the snowy leafless trees of a local forest.

To learn how to spot a snowy owl, join the Trustees of Reservations and local author Jane Yolen at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, MA for an Owl Prowl! Find out when and where…

Jewish Immigration History Exhibit

No One Remembers Alone: Memory, Migration, and the Making of an American Family
Through March 2014

Keeping the history and cultural ideals of the 1900s versus the present era in mind, have your family or group consider the differences between the immigrant experience, then and now.

On view at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA, now through March 2014, is an up-close look at the life-work of a Jewish immigrant couple in the early 1900s. “No One Remembers Alone: Memory, Migration, and the Making of an American Family,” a selection of postcards and other historical materials curated by Patricia Klindienst, explores the story of Abram Spiwak and Sophie Schochetman. Abram, a successful flower-grower in Queens, NY, and Sophie, a renowned dressmaker with a sense of “artistry” when it came to flowers, became quite prosperous and, in many ways, lived the ideal of the “American Dream.”

Read the rest of this entry »

‘Saturday Morning Music Party’ with Hilltown Families & Flywheel Arts Collective

Hilltown Families & Flywheel Arts Collective
Winter 2014 ‘Saturday Morning Music Party’
January 11th, February 8th & March 11th

The Saturday Morning Music Party begins again for the second year in a row! Come shake off your cabin fever with a pancake breakfast, screening of an 80s-era cult-classic kids’ TV show (can you guess which one?) and a dance party with DJ Youthelectronix! Oh, and did we mention… it’s FREE!!! Join Hilltown Families and Flywheel in Easthampton on Saturday, January 11th at 10am!

Hilltown Families and the Flywheel Arts Collective of Easthampton are reviving the beloved ‘Saturday Morning Music Party’ series for another year with a breakfast bash featuring food, dancing, performances and diversions for kids! The Music Party Series will include three events this winter: January 11, February 8 (as part of Easthampton’s Fire & Ice Festival), and March 11, 2014.

JANUARY 11th: The first of three installments of the Saturday Morning Music Party begins on Saturday, January 11th at 10am at Flywheel Arts Collective located in the old town hall in Easthampton (43 Main Street). This event is free and open to people of all ages.

Following a free breakfast of pancakes, juice, and fruit, the January 11th event features a screening of an episode of an 80s-era cult-classic kids’ television show (can you guess which one?). After the show, kids can join DJ Youthelectronix for the “best ever dance party before noon.”  Get the kids moving and shaking off the winter blues… Read the rest of this entry »

Children’s Volunteer Morning at The Food Bank

Children’s Volunteer Morning at The Food Bank
Monday, December 23rd, 2013

This community service-based learning opportunity will take place during school vacation week on Monday, December 23rd, 2013, and offers kids and their families a chance to volunteer together while learning about food security and the important work the Food Bank does to support food security in the region.

1 in 5 children in Western Massachusetts live in food insecure households. The holidays are a particularly difficult time for families in need, who must juggle higher heating costs, children needing more meals at home (instead of at school), and recent cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), all while trying to put food on the table and make the holidays a special time for the whole family.

You and your family can help the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts provide food for your neighbors in need during a special Children’s Volunteer Morning in Hatfield.   Find out more…

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