6th Annual Geography Expo Supports Self-Directed Learning

Sign up for the 6th Annual Geography Expo
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Pittsfield, MA

The 6th Annual Geography Expo is an intergenerational geography fair featuring the work of students from all school choices throughout Berkshire County and beyond. It’s free to participate and open to all, taking place on Wednesday evening, April 2nd, at the Berkshire Atheaneum in Pittsfield, MA. Want to participate? Pick your country, state or region, sign up, and get busy studying and preparing your presentation! Sign up details below.

On Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014, the world will be on display from 6-8pm in the Community Room at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, MA. Sponsored by The Berkshire County Homeschool Community and Berkshire County 4-H, the 6th Annual Geography Expo will fill the library’s large Community Room with sights, sounds and culinary scents from around the globe.

We asked Teresa O’Brient of Stockbridge, and Elaine Caligiuri of Lee, organizers of The Expo, to share with our readers information on this great opportunity for students from all educational backgrounds (homeschool, public/private school, exchange students, etc.) to participate in a self-directed, community-based learning opportunity that explores cultures both near and far… Click here to find out what they shared and how youth around the region can participate in this free event!

HFVS Underground Railroad Episode (Podcast/Radio Show)

Listen to Podcast:

Hilltown Family Variety Show
Underground Railroad Episode

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured Video: “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” According to American folklore, this song was a “musical” map which led fugitive slaves north to freedom. For a history of the song, see www.followthedrinkinggourd.org.


Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

PLAYLIST

Discover the Songs: Lyrics & History

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Halloween Math: Counting Kit Kats & Charleston Chews

Masking Math in Halloween Adventures

Before Halloween, think of a question that you could research as a family, something that leads to collecting some basic data on Halloween night, and mask informal math studies with collecting and counting candy and costumes!

Of all of the subjects that are taught in elementary school, math can be the hardest one to explore creatively at home. Simple exercises in counting and basic addition and subtraction can be integrated into daily routines, and math concepts arise in cooking and baking projects, but more challenging and content-specific math concepts can be difficult to weave into day to day activities at home.

However, the candy collecting done on Halloween presents an opportunity for some informal at-home math studies! Even kids who are too old to trick-or-treat (or those who don’t collect candy) can use the holiday as an opportunity to practice what they know about basic logic, data collection, and statistical analysis…

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HFVS Sheep Shearing & Maple Syrup Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:

SHEEP SHEARING & MAPLE SYRUP EPISODE

Sheep Shearing

Shearing the sheep and skirting the fleece at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. Click on photo to see more images. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfie

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
March 9th & 10th, 2013
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA


 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

  • Lunch Money – “Wake Up, World” - Dizzy 
  • Pete Seeger – “Maple Syrup Time” – Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger
  • Kitty Donohoe  – “Maple Syrup” – Bunyan and Banjoes
  • Phil Rosenthal – “Buffalo Gals” – This Land is Your Land
  • Nashville Bluegrass Band & Kid Pan Alley – “Extra Hand” – Kid Pan Alley
  • Station Id: The Harmonica Pocket [www.harmonicapocket.com]
  • Carla Sciaky – “Sheep Shearing” – Spin the Weaver’s Song
  • Justin Roberts – “Field Trip” – Pop Fly
  • The Hipwaders – “Field Trip” – Goodie Bag 
  • Station Id: Steve Weeks [www.steveweeksmusic.com]
  • L. Frank Baum – The Story of Baa-Baa Black Sheep
  • Teresa Doyle – “The Shearing” – If Fish Could Sing … and Sheep Could Dance
  • Matt Nathanson – “Starfish and Coffee” – For the Kids Too
  • Moxy Fruvous – “Maple Syrup Time” – If I Had a Song: Songs of Pete Seeger Vol. 2
  • The Hipwaders – “Things You Want” – Goodie Bag 

Underground Railroad History & Quiz

Underground Railroad Quiz
Listen to the HFVS Podcast Before Taking

Lloyd Miller from the Deedle Deedle Dees writes:

Our friends at the Hilltown Family Variety Show (HFVS) put together a special program all about the Underground Railroad. Our songs “Underground Railroad” and “Henry Box Brown” are on it. So are great versions of traditional songs by Taj Mahal and Bill Harley, a story read by Morgan Freeman and much more. Listen to it right now:

And listen carefully. That’s the only way you’ll pass the quiz we made up related to the show. The quiz is for 4th grade and up (or advanced readers of any age) and may require some extra research in addition to listening to the HFVS podcast.  Post your answers on a blog or Facebook page or public Google doc and share your link here.

Try to avoid using Wikipedia. Searching songbooks, history books, Bibles, and other tomes you hopefully have on your family’s shelves — or in your local library — will be a much more enjoyable way to find the information you don’t know already (Western MA resources available here).

  1. In our song “Underground Railroad,” what is the secret password needed to board? It’s actually three words.
  2. Name three cities or towns that were part of the Underground Railroad — and that we mention in our song about it.
    What is the “drinking gourd” described in the story read by Morgan Freeman and sung about by Taj Mahal?
  3. In the traditional song “Wade In the Water,” (Bill Harley’s version can be heard on the podcast) who, as the lyrics ask, are “these children all dressed in red” and “that young girl dressed in white?” There isn’t one right answer — tell us what you’ve read and what you think. (Hint: Many spirituals and Underground Railroad songs contained coded lyrics and secret messages)
  4. Henry “Box” Brown mailed himself to freedom in a box. In which city did he finally climb out of his box a free man?
  5. A state and a musical instrument are mentioned in “Nelly Grey” (Phil Rosenthal sings the version you hear on the podcast). Which state? Which instrument?
  6. Why was “Nelly Grey” written (Another question without one answer. We want your opinions as well as the results of your research)?
  7. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (Leadbelly and a choir close out the podcast with their version) describes a trip to heaven — or to freedom — in a real or metaphorical chariot. Which prophet left life on this Earth in a chariot according to the Old Testament?

Deedle Deedle Dee-Endorsed History Resources

Western MA Planetariums and Online Resources for Space Studies

Resources for Supporting the Study of Space Science

Hubble's Panoramic View of a Turbulent Star-Making Region

If, after diving head-first into all things astronomical, your student is completely enamored with space studies, consider entering Astronomy magazine’s essay contest! The grand prize is a trip to the 2013 Northeast Astronomy Forum in Suffern, NY, where the winner will be able to meet important people in the field of astronomy, learn about space programs and discoveries, and more! The topic for the contest is, “What I love most about astronomy,” and essays should be 300-500 words. Hurry, though – submissions are due by February 15th! More info at www.astronomy.com.

Studies of outer space can be mysterious and intriguing to young minds and there are many resources to support a students interest in the study of space, both online and in Western MA.

ONLINE RESOURCES

The website StarChild offers a wealth of information and basic internet-based activities that help students build their understanding of outer space.  Beginning with our solar system and moving outward, the information is grouped into two levels based on degrees of difficulty and background information needed in order to understand concepts.  Students can guide themselves through each lesson, learning astronomical vocabulary and facts about the universe.  At the end of each section, there are a variety of activities to do, such as identifying planets while in orbit, matching facts to their corresponding stars and planets, and pairing planets with their many moons.

Another resource online is NASA’s Afterschool Universe, “an out-of-school-time astronomy program for middle school students that explores basic astronomy concepts through engaging hands-on activities and then takes participants on a journey through the Universe beyond the Solar System.”

If you are interested in the Afterschool Universe program, visit their website at universe.nasa.gov/afterschool and their Afterschool Universe YouTube channel for more demonstration videos.

WESTERN MA RESOURCES

To experience astronomical phenomena in real life, visit a local observatory or planetarium in Western MA!  The Milham Planetarium at Williams College in Berkshire County, the Seymour Planetarium at the Springfield Museums in Hampden County, and the Bassett Planetarium at Amherst College in Hampshire County all offer planetarium shows and other learning experiences to visitors.  For other events, resources, and community learning opportunities, the Five College Astronomy Program, Springfield Stars Club, Arunah Hill Natural Science Center in Cummington, and the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomer’s Association hold events, workshops, and other astronomy-related events for the community year-round.

[Photo credit: (ccl) NASA Goddard Space Flight Center]

5 Resources to Supplement & Support Asian Studies in the Pioneer Valley this Winter

Asian Studies Supplemented in the Pioneer Valley
Exhibit, Educator Workshop, Guided Tours, Performance Art & Free Family Day

Image credit: Yue Minjun. Chinese, born 1962. The Grassland Series Woodcut 1 (Diving Figure), 2008 Woodcut on medium weight lightly textured cream wove paper. Gift of Pace Editions Incorporated and Ethan Cohen Fine Arts courtesy of Ann and Richard Solomon (Ann Weinbaum, class of 1959) and Ethan Cohen Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe.

Educational opportunities are numerous over the next few months for those interested in teaching and learning about Asian art!  The Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, MA will be opening a new exhibit on Asian art beginning February 1st through May 26th, 2013.  Titled, Collecting Art of Asia, the exhibit celebrates the 100th anniversary of the museum’s first acquisition of Asian art and includes work from the museum’s permanent collection, as well as promised gifts to the museum.  Work included in the two-floor exhibit comes from China, Japan, Korea, and much of south and southeastern Asia, and highlights significant movements and people in the history of Asian art, as well as significant and historic gifts to the museum’s collection.

Educators can attend a workshop hosted by the museum that will share suggestions for teaching about the interdisciplinary connections found between Asian and Western art objects.  Open to K-12 teachers, the workshop will also include an overview of “Collecting Art of Asia,” and resources for teaching shared by Five College Center for East Asian Studies director Anne Prescott.  The workshop takes place on February 6th from 10am-3pm ($).  Registration required – call 413-585-2781 or e-mail museduc@smith.edu to sign up.

The Smith College Museum of Art welcomes groups of students to visit, and offers guided tours of the museum.  Classes, homeschool groups, and other groups of learners from PreK-12th grade can visit the museum to supplement their studies of Asian art, culture, and history.  Tours can be designed to fit specific needs, or groups can participate in the general tour designed to accompany the exhibit.  Educators can use a visit to the museum to supplement explorations into the history of Asian art, as well as studies of Asian culture and history.

On Saturday, March 2nd from 10am-3pm, Smith College Museum of Art will host a free family day. Billed as “Art of Asia,” families can participate in hands-on projects that were inspired by fishermen, flowers and fireworks, all on view in the Collecting Art of Asia exhibition.  Projects are perfect for families with PreK-12th youth and their guardians.

Finally, at the UMass Fine Arts Center in Amherst will host Chinese Theater Works performing Toy Theater Peony Pavilion as part of the Global Arts: Performances for Schools series.  The performance, open to grades 3-8, will take place at 10am on March 7th, 2013.  The show combines the 16th century Chinese Kun Opera with modern Western styles of puppetry to create a unique and beautiful story, following a young maiden through her dreams.

Studies of Asian art and performance can provide a window through which to examine Asian history and culture, and can help provide students with a critical understanding of the evolution of Asian cultures.  A look at Asian traditions can also help older students put relations between the United States and east Asian countries such as China and Japan into cultural context.  For more information on either the exhibit or the performance, contact the Smith College museum of Arts at 413-585-2781 or the UMass FAC at 413-545-2511.

Federal Fish and Wildlife Services’ Junior Duck Stamp Program

Supplement Habitat Studies with the Junior Duck Stamp Program

The Junior Duck Stamp Program offers an educational arts and science curriculum which educators can use for incorporating science, art, math and technology into habitat conservation studies. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Western Massachusetts is home to a wide variety of duck species.  These beautiful birds make their homes in wetland areas, a habitat in need of conservation.  Students can learn about duck species and help to promote wetland conservation by participating in the Federal Fish and Wildlife Services’ Junior Duck Stamp Program!  This contest calls for students to create their own stamps, featuring a specific duck species portrayed in its habitat.  Students should learn about their species of choice, so as to make the best and most accurate depiction possible!  Their design should reflect the group’s goal in creating the stamp – to share the beauty and importance of the species of the duck depicted.

Students should learn to understand the relationship between the duck and its specific environment, and should understand why the duck has such specific habitat requirements.  Students can also study other stamp designs to learn what makes a good stamp!

Entries in the contest will be judged in four different age groups, and the winning entry will be made into a stamp and released in June.  The contest is an opportunity for students to learn about local biodiversity, and to work on their understanding of the interrelatedness of species and their habitat.  Students can also work on their art skills, working carefully to clearly portray their duck.  The contest deadline is March 15th. For more information visit www.fws.gov/juniorduck.

Online resources for educators:

Social Learning Made Easy with Sophia

Sophia Flips the Classroom with New Social Education Platform

Are there topics that you want your kids to learn that haven’t yet been (or aren’t) covered in their school’s curriculum?  Are you a teacher looking for online information to supplement your student’s textbook or classroom notes, or a place to share your own curriculum?  Are you a homeschool or unschool learning facilitator wishing you had a map of topics in multiple disciplines? Sophia, an online learning resource, offers validated crowdsourced educational material that supports all these needs, and much more!

The site (www.sophia.org) offers a wealth of information – presented in a way that is social and conducive to learning – and is divided up into categories based on discipline, then broken down by specific topics and grade level appropriateness.   You can find anything from a unit on molecular structure for 10th-12th graders to a tutorial on the preterite and imperfect tenses of the Portuguese language!

Each topic section is also divided into units (arranged in a logical order) that, if followed closely, can lead a learner to a much deeper understanding of a topic.  The site isn’t, however, just another online textbook-style resource.  Within each topic are a variety of ways to learn, and users are able to choose which structure best fits their goals and/or learning style.  Within the website’s solid structure is a surprising amount of freedom!  Users can simply read up on a topic, or dig deeper by taking quizzes, playing games, create their own flashcards, etc.  The site is a great resource for parents, teachers, and students – especially as a supplement to other learning materials!  Check out this video to learn more:

6 Resources for Learning at Home During Frankenstorm While the Lights are On!

Hurricane Sandy and Halloween Offer Learning Opportunities Online

Hurricane Sandy might have schools closed while we await her arrival, but the learning can continue at home (so long as you have power!). Check out these online resources to brush up on math, chemistry, physiology, language arts and world & local history:

MATH

After you’ve battening down the shutters and have prepared your home & family for Hurricane Sandy (and still have power), let’s to use this event for real-world applications for learning. One online resource is “Math in the News” who takes current events as seen through the prism of mathematics every week. They are currently looking a probability maps for Hurricane Sandy.  Take a look with your kids at Math in the News and practice math skills:

CHEMISTRY

Who has Halloween candy laying around right now from events this past weekend or for passing out on Halloween night? Did you know you can use candy to conduct science experiments in the kitchen with your kids! Experiments include Acid Test using Pixy Stixs, Chromatography using M&M’s, Density experiment with Skittles, and many others!  Check out our post from last year, “Science Experiments with Candy” for ideas.

WORLD HISTORY

Here’s a succinct video about the history of Halloween produced by the History Channel: “Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.”

PHYSIOLOGY

Are your kids all about Zombies this Halloween? In this animated video from TEDed, Tim Verstynen & Bradley Voytek apply the various human medical possibilities that make zombies…zombies. Find out the physiology behind what’s happening in their brains to make them act as they do.  After watching this video check out the full lesson.

LANGUAGE ARTS

H-A-Double L-O-W-Double E-N spells Halloween! Remember that song when you were a kid just learning to spell? Here’s a cool video for this song for your young kids to watch for a fun way to learn how to spell Halloween

LOCAL HISTORY

Are your kids learning about or interested in the Salem Witch Trials?  National Geographic has an interactive resource on the Salem Witch Hunt, Discovery Education has tips for teachers and home educators on the Salem Witch Trials for grade level 5-8, the National Teacher Training Institute offers lesson plans on the The Salem Witchcraft Trials and The Crucible for grades 5-12, and Historian Elizabeth Reis uses primary sources in an education video on the history of the Salem Witch Trials at Teaching History.  The History Channel offers this short video to help tell the tale of this event in Massachusetts history:

Free Friday Mornings at Tanglewood for Families & Educators this Summer

Students Can Discover the Symphony During Free Friday Mornings at Tanglewood: Summer 2012

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

This summer, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood are offering a unique FREE musical learning opportunity for kids in Lenox. MA!  Every Friday morning through August, the orchestra rehearses – and families, educators, homeschool groups, musicians, and other community members are invited to attend the rehearsals for free!

Before each rehearsal, there will be a Youth Music Presentation (including a “Quiz the Kid” Q+A), an engaging and informational tour of Tanglewood, and a pre-rehearsal talk on the music to be played, instruments in the orchestra, and fun facts about the music!  Those participating in the program are offered shed seating at the rehearsal, though kids under the age of 8 are asked to enjoy the show with their grown-ups from the lawn.

Attending the Free Friday Mornings program can teach kids about classical music, and its place within music history (and modern music!).  Kids will also learn about the many different instruments that make up the orchestra’s beautiful sound.  Older students can use the program to supplement studies of physics (think sound waves!), history, and material culture (take a look at how instruments have evolved over time, and how pieces reflect certain cultural eras).  

Education highlights include:

  • A pre-rehearsal youth music presentation and instrument demonstration.
  • An engaging and informative Tanglewood tour—different each week!
  • High level musician educators will give a talk about specific music topics directly related to the upcoming rehearsal (geared for middle school to adults)
  • Shed seating for a closed rehearsal of a Boston Symphony Orchestra performance.
    All ages are welcome, bring the whole family! (Children 3rd grade and up may listen in the Shed, while younger children are invited to enjoy the music from the lawn)
  • Following the rehearsal, guests are welcome explore the grounds, listen to a second hour of rehearsal music from the lawn, or enjoy a picnic lunch under the trees

HOW TO SIGN UP

It is ultra easy to come to a rehearsal, it is done by email. To reserve free Shed seating, simply EMAIL your request to Darlene White at dwhite@bso.org with the number of participants in your party. If you are a parent, educator or a community or youth leader, simply email your request, be sure to include phone and contact information, and your affiliation (such as teacher, parent, etc.).  Also include what Friday (or Fridays) you would like to attend, and how many persons will be attending in your group. If some in your group will be listening from the lawn, let Darlene know that as well. If you like, you can reserve more than one week in advance.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR TEACHERS

The education program runs year round and they have some great education resources, so If you are a teacher, let Darlene know your school, grade level, and subject.

SHED SEATING IS LIMITED

Because Shed seating is limited, reservations are confirmed on a first-come-first-serves basis. Groups are welcome, and it is best – especially for groups – to reserve early.

For more information, email Darlene White at the Boston Symphony Orchestra Berkshire Education and Community Programs Office: dwhite@bso.org.

The Bullroarer

Robert Krampf’s Experiment of the Week:  THE BULLROARER

This week’s experiment is an old one, but a fun one. The basic concept of the Bullroarer can be found in the distant history of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia.

While it is traditionally made of a flat piece of wood, this version is very quick, easy to make, and produces a similar sound. To try it, you will need:

  • a plastic spoon
  • a rubber band large enough to stretch around the spoon lengthwise
  • 2 or 3 feet of strong string

Tie one end of the string to the rubber band. Then stretch the rubber band around the spoon. Be sure to use a plastic spoon, not a metal one! If the spoon goes flying, you want to be sure it won’t cause injury or damage. Be sure to watch the bloopers at the end of the video.

Make sure you have plenty of space, so you don’t whack a lamp, the cat, or your little brother. (I know it’s tempting, but it would be wrong.) Hold the string about two feet from the spoon, and start swinging it in a circle. Start swinging slowly, and then gradually speed things up until you get a nice sound. If you don’t get much sound, reverse the direction of the spin, or try adjusting the rubber band. It does not take long to get a nice, loud, humming sound.

Why? As the spoon and rubber band move through the air, it causes the rubber band to vibrate. That causes the air around it to vibrate, and that vibration in the air is what we hear as sound.

You can alter the sound by changing how fast the rubber band vibrates. Making the rubber band tighter, or spinning it faster, will cause faster vibration and a higher pitched sound. Making the rubber band looser, or spinning it slower, will cause slower vibration and a lower pitched sound.

There is plenty of room for experimentation with this. Try different rubber bands. Try using more than one at a time. Try using a plastic fork instead. The more you experiment, the more you will learn, and the more fun you will have.

Have a wonder-filled week.


Reprinted with permission. © 2009. Robert Krampf’s Science Education

Town Meetings: Democracy in Action in Rural New England

Local Government in Rural Communities
Talk at the Meekins Library
Williamsburg ♦ April 15th @ 2pm

Robinson's book, "Town Meeting," "traces the origins of town-meeting democracy in Ashfield, a community of just under 2,000 people in the foothills of the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. Donald Robinson begins by recounting several crises at the town's founding in the eighteenth century that helped to shape its character. He shows how the town has changed since then and examines how democratic self-government functions in the modern context."

Small, rural towns are much different in structure than urban and suburban areas are.  Instead of electing officials to make decisions, many small towns have an annual town meeting where community members can contribute their thoughts on issues being voted on.  This unique structure of government allows rural communities the opportunity to practice democracy on a very small scale – and it offers the opportunity for more voices to be heard.

On Sunday, April 15th at 2pm, the Meekins Library in Williamsburg is hosting a talk with Don Robinson, author of Town Meeting: Practicing Democracy in Rural New England.  Robinson, an Ashfield resident and former Smith College government professor, will speak about the unique event that is town meeting and how it reflects the democratic structure that our government is based on.

The talk is great for older students who are studying American History and/or government, as well as those who are beginning to participate in the local community more.  Attending the talk can help students learn about the importance of local government and the autonomy that town meeting allows small towns to have.  For more information, call Meekins Library at 413-268-7472.

Family Geography Expo Open to All!

Discover the World!
Family Geography Expo at the
Berkshire Athenaeum on April 5th

Geography Expo at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield on Thursday, April 5th. Sign up to participate or just come visit. Students visiting the expo can discover countries worldwide, learning about the global geography, world languages, cultural differences, food and more!

Learn about international cultures together as a family by participating in the annual Geography Expo, hosted at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, MA, sponsored by the 4-H Earth Stars Club and the Berkshire County Homeschool Community.  The event gives kids the chance to delve into learning about a country and then share what they’ve learned about the culture, customs, etc. of the place with the community.

Students are asked to sign up for a country in advance (to avoid duplication).  Then, they’ll create a display that works as a learning tool for visitors to the expo.  Visitors will be able to “tour the world” and visit the display for each country.  Kids can offer samples of traditional foods, play music from their country, or let visitors examine objects that they’ve collected from their country.

Visitors will also be given a paper passport where they can collect stamps from each country they visit- students can create their own stamp, sticker, or other marker to represent their country!

The expo is a fantastic learning opportunity for kids, no matter whether they are participating or just visiting.  Students representing countries will, obviously, learn all about their country- from the activity they can learn to appreciate and respect cultural differences.  Students visiting the expo can discover countries worldwide, learning about the global geography, world languages, cultural differences, food and more!

The event is an excellent supplement to the studies of geography, history, and culture that kids get in school.  The Geography Expo takes place on Thursday, April 5th from 5-7pm at the Bekshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, MA and is sponsored by the 4-H Earth Stars Club and the Berkshire County Homeschool Community. To sign up as a participant, or for more information, contact organizer Teresa O’Brient: berkshierra@aol.com, 413-298-0099.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Woodley Wonder Works]

Students Invited to Create Wind Turbines & Sustainable Dollhouses for Expo

KidWind & Green Dollhouse Challenge at the
Western MA Science & Sustainability Expo

This May, Greenfield Community College will be hosting the first annual Western Massachusetts Science and Sustainability Exposition. The expo is an opportunity for educators and students to share and showcase their projects, initiatives, services, and resources surrounding the topic of sustainability.

The exposition also includes two exciting learning opportunities for students- the KidWind Challenge and the Green Dollhouse Challenge. Each of the challenges calls for students to design and build a realistic, working model.  KidWind calls for a wind turbine, and Green Dollhouse requires students to create a dollhouse that uses renewable energy sources and features sustainable materials and design.

KIDWIND ♦ For KidWind, the turbines will be judged based on a few different criteria, including energy harnessing efficiency and cost to create. More information is available at www.kidwind.org.

GREEN DOLLHOUSE ♦ In the Green DollHouse challenge, students will have to get creative to come up with as many different sustainable aspects as they can to incorporate into their house! From each challenge, students will learn about sustainably building, renewable energy, and architecture/design. Both projects can be tied in with studies of physics, environmental science, and/or architecture.

For more information about the expo or either of the challenges, contact Susan Reyes at 413-259-1658.

Fire & Ice: Early New England Culture, Industry and Ice at OSV

Fire and Ice Days at Old Sturbridge Village
January 28th & 29th, 2012

Ice harvesting on the OSV Mill Pond (Courtesy Photo)

If your family was without power during the Halloween blizzard, what did you do to keep your refrigerated goods cold?  It’s likely that you, like many families, buried them in the snow.  Before we had electric refrigeration, that used to be the only way to keep foods cold!  Ice was once an important “cash crop” in New England, and you can learn about the history and science behind ice harvesting at Old Sturbridge Village this weekend!

On January 28th and 29th, OSV hosts Fire and Ice Days, an event that includes ice harvesting, ice skating, sledding (on vintage 1830’s sleds!), and horse-drawn sleigh rides.  Visitors can join historians from OSV, as well as Storrowton Village’s own ice harvesting expert Dennis Picard, for demonstrations of ice harvesting at the village’s Mill Pond.  Visitors can even try out the saws and augers used by ice harvesters during the 1830’s.  Later in the day, there will be a bonfire where visitors can warm up and enjoy cider, songs, and stories!

Fire and Ice Days are both fun and educational- there are many hands-on activities for families to enjoy for a seasonal learning experience.  Learning about the importance of ice harvesting is a great way to supplement kids’ studies of early New England industries and culture, or maybe even food history!  

Old Sturbridge Village is open from 9:30-4pm each day with free entrance for kids during the month of January.  Ice harvesting, as well as other snow and ice related activities, is dependent on weather and proper conditions.  If conditions do not allow a harvest, the event will still take place but ice won’t be harvested.  For more information, call 800-733-1830 or visit www.osv.org.

Did you know?

  • If insulated, ice could survive the 16,000-mile, 130-day trip from Boston to Bombay.
  • Chicagoans saw their first lobster in 1842, shipped from the East Coast.
  • The first shipment of ice to England melted because customs officials couldn’t decide how to classify the 300-ton cargo of ice.
  • Ship owners were at first reluctant to carry ice for fear it would melt in the holds of the ships and endanger them.
  • Sawdust, previously a worthless byproduct of sawmills, proved to be an excellent insulator for ice, and provided extra income for lumber mills.
  • Before ice:
    • In the heat of summer, milk would keep for only an hour or two before it began to spoil, and fresh meat wouldn’t keep much longer than a day
    • A chicken had to be cooked the day it was plucked
  • The story of Frederic Tudor, Boston’s “Ice King” who created the ice industry, was presented at the Harvard Business School in the 1930s as a model of the classic entrepreneur; someone who is determined, takes risk, fails, tries again and succeeds.

Excerpted from At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson

Pioneer Valley History Network Welcome Stories from Pioneer Valley History

Pioneer Valley History Network
“Disasters in the Pioneer Valley” Project

Pioneer Valley History Network: Celebrating Local History in Western MA

Last year, the Pioneer Valley History Network’s website featured the history of remarkable women throughout the Pioneer Valley.  The topic was incredibly popular, and even lead to museum exhibits, talks, and other events featuring information from the site!

This year, the group’s topic will be disasters in the Pioneer Valley.  Either natural  or man-made, disasters have a way of drawing communities together.  Disasters range in severity from a massive flood affecting numerous towns (such as the Mill River flood in 1874, which received worldwide news coverage- quite uncommon at that point in history) to a house fire that displaces a family.  Disasters call for a cohesive and directed initial response, and can shape a community and its culture for years to come.

There have certainly been numerous disasters throughout Pioneer Valley history, and while they’re nothing to celebrate, they are significant events that shaped what the community is today.  If your family has a story about a local disaster, create a write-up and submit it to the website!  This could also be turned into a learning activity- visit your local library or historical society and do some research!  If there’s a notable event, find out all you can.  Then, have your kids piece together the story- maybe even scan some old pictures! Students will learn about local history and will learn how to do advanced research.  To submit an event, e-mail a description to camcca@charter.net.  To visit the group’s website and learn more about the project, visit pvhn3.wordpress.com.

Video: Solar Power

Robert Krampf’s Experiment of the Week:
SOLAR POWER

Visiting the world’s largest solar power plants to explore reflection and refraction.

Video:  Solar Power

Discover History through Fabric at the American Textile History Museum

American Textile History Museum

American Textile History Museum Lowell

According to the museum's web site, "The American Textile History Museum houses one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. Its collections contain thousands of books, trade catalogs, business records and personal papers, prints and photographs, a growing costume collection, millions of textiles samples, and hundreds of machines used in textile manufacture. The Museum is an unparalleled resource for the study of textile history in the United States. You will find a wealth of information about textile art, factory architecture, textile production, technological invention, labor history, industrial organization and the everyday life of mill towns."

What do sheep and baseballs have in common?  Find out at the American Textile History Museum!  Located in Lowell, MA, a city that played an important role in the early development of the textile industry in the United States, the museum offers visitors a chance to learn about the evolution of textiles, both as an industry and as a science.

Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and supported by the MA Cultural Council, the museum currently has two main exhibits that families can tour and interact with: Textile Revolution lets visitors spin, weave, and design their way through history; while Aloft is an exhibit of kites from which visitors can learn about not only the textiles used to make kites but their significance within the history of science (think Benjamin Franklin!) and aviation. Future exhibits slated for a stay at the museum include Homefront & Battlefield: The Civil War through Quilts and Context (July 2012-November 2012) and Suited for Space (December 2012-February 2013).

The museum’s permanent collection is one of the largest of its kind, and includes costumes, textile samples, machinery and a library of literature that share the history of the production of textiles in America.

A visit to the museum offers a multidisciplinary educational experience!  Kids can learn about architecture by examining sample factory structures, technological innovations by observing the changes in machinery over time, and labor history by learning about the life of an early mill worker and the evolution of changes in working environments.

If you’re planning on taking the kids for a weekend excursion, check out their Textile Learning Center for a hands-on place kids of all ages can explore and have fun. There are self-guided tours for families, and guided, hands-on activities and tours for larger groups.

For schools, the museum has on-site school programs even offers Traveling Textile outreach programs, which brings the history of textiles straight to your classroom, supplying educators with teacher’s guides. Traveling programs include: The Goat in the Rug, Threaded Together, FUN-damentals of Weaving, A Stitch in Time: Coming to America, Mothers (and Fathers) of Invention, and Estimation Mania.

For homeschooling families/groups, the museum has home school programs too and offer several textile art classes, including Felting, Knitting and Crocheting, Sewing, Spinning, and Weaving.

The museum also has several volunteer opportunities, including volunteer duties suitable for high school students.

The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm to visitors, but scheduled tours can take place on Mondays and Tuesdays.   To find out more, visit the museum’s website at www.athm.org.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Anne Ruthmann]

Food Bank Offers Resources for Teaching About Hunger

Youth Against Hunger (YAH!)
Curriculum for Teaching About Hunger

The YAH! curriculum is designed for students grades K-12. Activities help pave the way for service projects and discussion addressing hunger and inequity in the United States.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts provides food and resources for people all over the region, and involvement with the organization is a great service learning opportunity for kids.  The Food Bank’s website includes a section for educators on ways to use involvement with the food bank to help kids learn about food insecurity and issues of inequality and socioeconomic status.

On their website is a curriculum, called Youth Against Hunger (YAH!), which can be used in classrooms or families supplementing their children’s education at home to raise awareness and knowledge of how hunger affects their community- it would be particularly effective in conjunction with a visit to the food bank and/or a classroom, family, or neighborhood food drive or fundraiser.

They have also put together a suggested reading list for children to further supplement hunger education.

For more information, visit www.foodbankwma.org.

Local History, Natural Science & Art at the Springfield Museums

Educational Programs for Kids at the Springfield Museums

One educational program the museums host is "Eye Spy." This program encourages young artists to look beyond the canvas into the details, textures, materials and stories that make up a work of art. Curriculum connections include discussion, questioning, listening and vocabulary/concept development. Click on the image to see all programs offered at the Springfield Museums!

There are numerous educational opportunities and adventures to be had at the Springfield Museums!

Visitors can explore topics and ideas anywhere from important figures in local history to coral reef ecosystems.

There are five different museums, each with a theme of local history, natural science, and art. The museums offer guided tours as well as self-guided tours (which are really educational odysseys!) to groups both big and small. Classrooms, schools, homeschool groups, youth groups, etc. can all benefit from a museum tour tailored specifically to fit the group’s needs!

For more information on tours and to check out options, visit www.springfieldmuseums.org or email schooltours@springfieldmuseums.org.

Student Tours at Hancock Shaker Village

Student Tours at Hancock Shaker Village

Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield is a fantastic resource for learning about local history and Shaker culture, and the village even offers educational group tours!  Designed specifically to fit within the state’s learning standards, the tours teach kids all about life during the 19th century.  Though the tours are designed for classes, homeschool groups, scout troops, and other groups of kids can do the tours, too!  During November, 90 minute guided tours of the village are available by appointment.  This is a great way to supplement learning about local pioneers!  To learn more, visit www.hancockshakervillage.org.

The Happy Scientist: Lessons in Electricity

Robert Krampf’s Experiment of the Week:
Bird on a Wire

How can birds sit on power lines without getting shocked?

100 Links (Spring/Summer 2011)

100 Links (Spring/Summer 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing of online resource that are educational and entertaining!

Follow Me on DeliciousWhere are these links? Hilltown Families Del.ici.ous Page!  This icon can be found at the top of our site, in the left-hand column.  Click any time to see what links we’ve added!

Below is the latest 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page). All links are provided as a courtesy and not as an endorsement:

Read the rest of this entry »

Free Friday Mornings at Tanglewood for Families & Educators

Students Can Discover the Symphony During Free Friday Mornings at Tanglewood: Summer 2011

The Boston Symphony Orchestra's Education and Community Programs will be offering a weekly FREE kid-friendly education program every Friday morning at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA for students ages 8 and up. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Families, homeschoolers, educators, and community and youth groups in Western MA are invited to reserve Shed seating for a closed rehearsal of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood (Main Gate, 297 West St, Lenox, MA). It’s called the Friday Morning Rehearsal, and happens each Friday beginning July 8th at the Tanglewood Main gate 9-11am, running through August 26th, 2011. It is a festive morning education program for families that offers a free, fun, and kid friendly approach to classical music.

Each week children and adults are treated to a delightful music presentation by a young musician from the area, a brief tour, and a few words about the upcoming rehearsal, before entering the Shed for a closed session–all free of charge. The Shed is open to third grade age and up, as the intensity of quiet and stillness required is often to much for younger kids. But this is a family friendly program where parents with young children often bring a picnic or just relax on the lawn. Children love to listen from the lawn, and can often be seen twirling to the music.

Education highlights include:

  • A pre-rehearsal youth music presentation and instrument demonstration.
  • An engaging and informative Tanglewood tour—different each week!
  • High level musician educators will give a talk about specific music topics directly related to the upcoming rehearsal (geared for middle school to adults)
  • Shed seating for a closed rehearsal of a Boston Symphony Orchestra performance.
    All ages are welcome, bring the whole family! (Children 3rd grade and up may listen in the Shed, while younger children are invited to enjoy the music from the lawn)
  • Following the rehearsal, guests are welcome explore the grounds, listen to a second hour of rehearsal music from the lawn, or enjoy a picnic lunch under the trees

HOW TO SIGN UP

It is ultra easy to come to a rehearsal, it is done by email. To reserve free Shed seating, simply EMAIL your request to Darlene White at dwhite@bso.org with the number of participants in your party. If you are a parent, educator or a community or youth leader, simply email your request, be sure to include phone and contact information, and your affiliation (such as teacher, parent, etc.).  Also include what Friday (or Fridays) you would like to attend, and how many persons will be attending in your group. If some in your group will be listening from the lawn, let Darlene know that as well. If you like, you can reserve more than one week in advance.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR TEACHERS

The education program runs year round and they have some great education resources, so If you are a teacher, let Darlene know your school, grade level, and subject.

SHED SEATING IS LIMITED

Because Shed seating is limited, reservations are confirmed on a first-come-first-serves basis. Groups are welcome, and it is best – especially for groups – to reserve early.

For more information, email Darlene White at the Boston Symphony Orchestra Berkshire Education and Community Programs Office: dwhite@bso.org.

100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011)

100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box below.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader, nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime we share these links on the Hilltown Families Facebook page, with members of our listserv, or even Tweet about a few – but if you visit Hilltown Families on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend.” There you’ll find our list of the most recent recommended links.

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our list of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll down.

100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the most recent 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):

Read the rest of this entry »

Kids Becoming World Citizens: Recommended Reading

Peace Travelers: Kids Becoming World Citizens
By HF Contributing Writer, Tony(a) Lemos

Up until last year my daughter was in a homeschooling program that I co-wrote with my friend Kate O’Shea called Peace Travelers. The program is presently taking a hiatus, but the organization is still meeting and we are continuing the development of programs and curriculums.

GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP & CONNECTEDNESS

One of our favorite books for exploring global citizenship is One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway. I have read it to my daughter several times and it has sparked many conversations. We have also borrowed If the World Were Village from the library a number of times (based on the quote I have included below) along with One Well, the Story of Water on Earth.

Just this week I realize that these titles are included in the CitizenKid collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.

One Hen reminds me a little of Beatrices Goat by Page McBrier, based on the Heiffer International approach: when a new goat arrives in Beatrice’s poor Ugandan village, big changes can be made.

Another element of these stories that I really like is that they can also fit into a geography curriculum as each one is set in a different country: Uganda, Honduras, Ghana, etc.

The Good Garden: How One Family Went From Hunger to Having Enough, also by Katie Smith Milway, and illustrated by Sylvia Daigneault, is another fabulous book to set kids on the “Peace Traveling” path; helping them understand some of the issues while promoting global connectedness, community, and the concept of world citizens. The Good Garden tells simple stories about big global issues; such as: food security, community and water.  There is also an interactive website connected the The Good Garden full of further activities for children aged 8-12ish: www.thegoodgarden.org.

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Hilltown Spring Festival Offers Opportunities for Young Entrepreneurs

Middle and High School Students Invited to Create and Operate Games at the 5th Annual Hilltown Spring Festival

Entrepreneur opportunity in the hilltowns for middle and high school students at the Hilltown Spring Festival on May 14th at the Cummington Fairgrounds! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Middle school and high school students are invited to participate in the fifth annual Hilltown Spring Festival, which will take place this year on May 14th at the Cummington Fairgrounds. Students are encouraged to create games which can be played by younger children. The youthful game creators may charge a fee to each player who chooses to play their game. Proposals for all kinds of games are welcome. A description of the game, and the proposed fee, should be submitted in advance to Hilltown CDC. Email staff@hilltowncdc.org for more information.

These games will be in addition to the Kids-Made Craft Bazaar, which was very successful last year. More than a dozen children of all ages offered their handmade crafts for sale.

The Hilltown Spring Festival was visited by 2,000 people last year. It features music all day on three stages, food from local vendors, children’s activities all day long, a Sustainable Living Expo, and displays by area businesses, non-profits, and artists and craftspeople. Admission is $5 per person; children 12 and under are admitted free. For more information visit the Hilltown CDC.

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011)

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box below.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime we share these links on the Hilltown Families Facebook page, with members of our listserv, or even Tweet about a few – but if you visit Hilltown Families on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend.” There you’ll find our list of the most recent recommended links.

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our list of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll down.

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the most recent 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):

Read the rest of this entry »

Free Friday Mornings at Tanglewood for Families & Educators

The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Education and Community Programs Present Free Friday Mornings for the Tanglewood 2010 Season

Free kid-friendly education program every Friday morning at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA for students ages 8 and up. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Homeschool parents, educators, and community and youth groups in Western MA are invited to reserve Shed seating for a closed rehearsal of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood (Main Gate, 297 West St, Lenox, MA). It’s called the Friday Morning Rehearsal, and happens each Friday at the Tanglewood Main gate at 8:30am. It is a festive morning education program for families that offers a free, fun, and kid friendly approach to classical music.

Each week children and adults are treated to a delightful music presentation by a young musician from the area, a brief tour, and a few words about the upcoming rehearsal, before entering the Shed for a closed session–all free of charge. The Shed is open to third grade age and up, as the intensity of quiet and stillness required is often to much for younger kids. But this is a family friendly program where parents with young children often bring a picnic or just relax on the lawn. Children love to listen from the lawn, and can often be seen twirling to the music.

HOW TO SIGN UP

It is ultra easy to come to a rehearsal, it is done by email. The person to contact is education manager Darlene White at dwhite@bso.org. If you are a parent, educator or a community or youth leader, simply email your request, be sure to include phone and contact information, and your affiliation (such as teacher, parent, etc.).  Also include what Friday (or Fridays) you would like to attend, and how many persons will be attending in your group. If some in your group will be listening from the lawn, let Darlene know that as well. If you like, you can reserve more than one week in advance.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR TEACHERS

The education program runs year round and they have some great education resources, so If you are a teacher, let Darlene know your school, grade level, and subject.

SHED SEATING IS LIMITED

Because Shed seating is limited, reservations are confirmed on a first-come-first-serves basis. Groups are welcome, and it is best – especially for groups – to reserve early.

For more information, email Darlene White at the Boston Symphony Orchestra Berkshire Education and Community Programs Office: dwhite@bso.org.

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