Maker Camp Makes Camp Come to You

Virtual camp brings a world of learning to kids in their own homes!

Held on weekdays from July 7th-August 15th, Maker Camp offers a new theme each week and, in addition to daily project tutorials, each week’s theme includes a virtual field trip or two.

This summer, Google and Make: are offering hands-on kids and teens an alternative to the traditional summer camp. Instead of following the typical camp structure that involves trails in the woods, friendship bracelet crafts, and canoe lessons, Maker Camp is totally web-based, and engages kids in creative and educational DIY activities in their own homes – and best of all, it’s completely free!

Offering six weeks worth of programming, the 2014 Maker Camp is filled with activities and virtual field trips that match the interests and abilities of an incredibly wide range of learners. Held on weekdays from July 7th-August 15th, Maker Camp offers a new theme each week and, in addition to daily project tutorials, each week’s theme includes a virtual field trip or two. Outlined on the Maker Camp schedule, themes include art and design, music, STEM skills, and fantasy, and field trips will take participants around the country and around the world to places like the workshop of Google’s self-driving car team and the birthplace of LEGO blocks in Billund, Denmark.
Read the rest of this entry »

Calling All Budding Botanists: Audio Tour at Lyman Conservatory

Calling All Budding Botanists…
Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory Offers Audio Tour for Kids & Adults!

The audio tour can be tailored to visitors’ particular interests, and there are separate tours available for kids and adults. The kids tour contains thirty different recordings spread out through the nine differently themed houses of the conservatory.

With winter approaching, fall is transitioning from a brightly colored celebration of cooler weather to a chilly, shadowy, hunkered-down, hollowed-out version of its former self. While the change in seasons is fascinating to watch, it’s not unreasonable to long for greener surroundings. Luckily, Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory in Northampton has just what you need to enjoy a day full of bright, summer-style plant life!

With ten different indoor exhibits to explore, the learning possibilities offered by the conservatory are endless. Tours are available to large groups of visitors, but families and individuals are welcome to visit during the conservatory’s regular hours to explore the hundreds of different plants housed there.

Despite the lack of human tour guides for smaller groups of visitors, tours are still available! Throughout the conservatory are quick response (QR) codes which, when scanned by a smart phone, generate an audio recording of information about a particular climate or type of plant. Visitors who don’t have smart phones can rent audio tour wands (which serve the same function) for $1 per person… Read the rest of this entry »

Online Resources to Support East Asian Studies

Online Resources to Support East Asian Studies

Creating lessons and finding materials to support students’ learning can be easy if you’re working on a popular topic, like the Revolutionary War or simple machines. Finding resources for less commonly studied topics can prove much more difficult, though!

Studies of east Asian culture and history can be particularly difficult to teach, as it is a topic not often included in curriculum guides or textbooks, and even if it is mentioned, it is generally only in high school level materials. However, thanks to the Five College Consortium, educators can find a wealth of easily accessible internet-based resources for teaching and learning about all things fascinating in eastern Asia. The Five Colleges’ website offers a categorized list filled with information-rich links – there’s everything from Asian news websites to web-page activities, travel information to online galleries of east Asian art: Online Resources to Support K-14 East Asian Studies.

The resources are broken down by country, topic, and purpose, and can be used by educators working with kids in grades K-12 (or older!), and homeschoolers of all ages. Some of the resources are best for educators to learn from before planning lessons, while others offer student-friendly formats. Integrating some web-based learning into a unit can not only broaden the scope of learning materials, but it can help students develop basic computer skills while working on a structured project.

For more opportunities to support east Asian studies, visit the Smith College Museum of Art, where an exhibit titled Collecting Art of Asia is on display in the galleries through May 26th, 2013.

[Photo credit: (ccl) epSos.de]

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.

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:

Bring a StoryWalk to Your Neighborhood

Berkshire Athenaeum Has Pre-Made StoryWalks for Borrowing!

The Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, MA has over 20 StoryWalks for patrons to borrow for free!  StoryWalks are great way to promote literacy in young children while having them engage in outdoor activities.

Reading a book and taking a walk outside share many similarities for children – they are, first of all, things that take place frequently in the life of a young person.  Stories and time outdoors are also ways that kids learn about the world around them.  Books offer a look into other places, contexts, and cultures, and can teach kids about virtually any subject.  Out-of-doors trips are learning experiences, too – kids observe their environment, learn how to interact with it, and make discoveries about the world.  So why not combine the two!?  A StoryWalk does just that!

What is a StoryWalk?

Originating in Montpelier, VT, the concept takes classic children’s books (think Chicka, Chicka, Boom Boom and Where the Wild Things Are), enlarges them, divides them up into sections, and then posts them throughout an area like a park, downtown district, or a playground for families to read while they explore!  StoryWalks are a great way for kids to discover new stories – moving from section to section allows time for kids to process what they’ve read, ask questions, and share their thoughts just as they might in between pages during a normal read, but without the sitting still necessary for read-alouds at home.

Local Resource to Aid in Hosting a StoryWalk

StoryWalks can be used at schools, community centers, and daycares; they add learning experiences to community events and festivals; and promote literacy and literary appreciation!  Wish you could offer one to your students, share one with your neighborhood, or add one to an event?  The Berkshire Athenaeum has pre-made StoryWalk portfolios for borrowing!  There are stories of all types, ranging from Jan Brett classics to books about counting.  Each set includes laminated posters, instructions, and other useful resources (including some added by fellow StoryWalk borrowers).

The Berkshire Athenaeum has over 20 StoryWalk portfolios available to lend, including these titles:  Read the rest of this entry »

Food Security Resources for Families During Summer Months

Food Bank of Western MA Offers Food Resources for Families During Summer Months

Working with more than 350 member agencies that make up the emergency food network in our region, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts provides food to 15,000 people every week. Thirty-one percent of households who seek emergency food from those agencies have at least one working adult, but still do not earn enough to make ends meet. Nearly half of the families say they must make tough choices between paying for food and paying for utilities, heating fuel, rent, mortgage or medical care, because they don’t have enough money to meet all these basic needs.

Nearly 20 percent of all kids under 18 in Western Massachusetts live in food insecure households, and don’t always have enough to eat. As school lets out for summer, we are reminded that the next three months will be even harder for these kids. Without school meals, grocery budgets are stretched to the brink, and many parents find it difficult to replace the two to even three free meals they receive five days a week during the school year.

Luckily, many of the agencies The Food Bank works worth address this increased need directly by providing summer grocery bag programs and daily meals to help fill in the gaps.

Here are several area resources to help children and their parents during the summer months in the four counties of Western MA:

Read the rest of this entry »

Seven Western MA Community Coalitions To Know About

Seven Community Coalitions
Supporting and Serving Families in Western MA

Communities that Care Coalition brings together youth, parents, schools, community agencies, and local governments to promote the health and well-being of young people in Franklin County and the North Quabbin region. Programs include Healthy Youth Initiative (youth nutrition and physical activity), Bullying Prevention Workshop, education on parent social norms, mini grants to recognize youth for their contributions to the community, and more. For more information, visit communitiesthatcarecoalition.org.

North Quabbin Community Coalition is a community-wide alliance committed to improving the quality of life for all those living and working in the North Quabbin region. Their focus areas are liaison between the rural community and local legislators, task force groups to address local issues (substance abuse, economic development, etc.), and monthly forums to share information among community service providers. For more information, visit nqcc.org.

Northampton Prevention Council. This group’s mission is to prevent youth substance abuse in Northampton. They serve all youth who live in, go to school in, or work in Northampton, with programs such as parent education, compliance checks of liquor retailers, training for those who serve or sell alcohol, and more. For more information, visit northamptonprevents.org.

Northern Berkshire Community Coalition. The mission of the Coalition is to improve the quality of life for people in Northern Berkshire by organizing, supporting, and empowering the community. Programs include substance-free performing arts events for youth, teen writing workshops, youth leadership programs, community forums, and more. For more information, visit nbccoalition.org.

South Berkshire Community Coalition. Their mission is to prevent youth alcohol and drug abuse in South County in a long-term and sustainable manner. Programs include building community dialogue, coordinating prevention activities, conducting trainings, sponsoring workshops, and more. To learn more, visit southberkshirecommunitycoalition.org.

Southern Hilltown Domestic Violence Task Force covers nine rural towns which in Hampshire and Hampden counties, and meets monthly to develop and support local direct service projects and to launch a variety of prevention, outreach, training, and service coordination efforts. The Task Force works with local law enforcement, schools, and businesses on domestic violence prevention and education. For more information, email southernhillsdvtaskforce@gmail.com, or visit their Facebook page.

SPIFFY Coalition is made up of over 60 community groups working together to improve the lives of youth in Hampshire County. Programs include parent education, community task forces, educator training, and youth engagement. Check out their awesome project PhotoVoice, which allows youth to express their views on underage drinking while learning photographic skills. For more information, visit spiffycoalition.org.

Kids Can Curate an Exhibit for The Clark

Wanted: Museum Curators
Design Your Own Virtual Exhibit for The Clark

Not only will kids get a chance to practice executing their ideas, but the museum will be selecting some of the suggested shows for real life installation!

What goes into designing a museum exhibition?  How do the curators come up with an idea or theme, and how do they manage to bring together works to illustrate that theme or to convey an idea together as a whole?  The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA is now offering a resource that allows kids to experiment with creating their own museum exhibits!

The museum’s website now features a section called Remix, which is a virtual gallery featuring over 400 paintings, sculptures, and other items from the museum’s galleries.  Within Remix is a tool called uCurate, where kids can browse through pieces and design their own gallery shows!  Not only will kids get a chance to practice executing their ideas, but the museum will be selecting some of the suggested shows for real life installation!  Remix and uCurate offer numerous opportunities for kids to learn about art history, techniques of painting and sculpture, are theory, and more!  Check out the site at www.clarkart.edu and start curating! (Note: These applications work best using Google Chrome.)

12 Great Educational Web Sites for Kids

Educational Web Sites for Kids

Today, I’ll point out some great educational web sites for kids. At our home, we attempt to balance educational and “just for fun” web sites with our five year old son.  For younger kids, simple things like printing out coloring pages (use Google Images with Safe Search set to Strict) or simply printing out posters of favorite characters or animals are some easy and fun ways to use the Internet.   We also look up answers to questions that we can’t answer ourselves at on Factmonster or using Google.   We also try to model appropriate use of the Internet.  Kids seem to ultimately follow what we do more than the limits we set for them. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Choose Non-Commercial Toys that Promote Creative Free Play this Holiday Season

TRUCE Action Guides: Toys, Media & Children

TRUCE is a national group of educators deeply concerned about the impact of children’s entertainment and toys on their play and behavior. Their goal is to raise public awareness about the negative effects of violent, sexualized, and stereotyped toys and media on children, families, schools, and society.

It’s Black Friday and many parents have holiday gift buying on their minds.  The discussion of holiday buying looms large in our community, with folks chatting about buying local, buying handmade, and buying non-commercial.

Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE), a Massachusetts based group of educators concerned about how children’s toys and entertainment are affecting the play and behavior of kids, has a few guides available on media and play that will help aid parents in making informed decisions and choices when it comes to toys that promote creative free play:

Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide

This guide will help parents and educators promote children’s creative and constructive play, and make informed choices about toys, and work with others at home, school, and in the community to support positive play.

In this guide TRUCE highlights that toys have high play value when they…

  • Can be used in many ways.
  • Allow children to be in charge of the play.
  • Appeal to children at more than one age or level of development.
  • Are not linked to video games, computers, TV, or movies.
  • Can be used with other toys for new and more complex play.
  • Will stand the test of time and continue to be part of play as children develop new interests and
    skills.
  • Promote respectful, non-stereotyped, non-violent interactions among children.
  • Help children develop skills important for further learning and a sense of mastery.
  • Can be used by children to play alone as well as with others. Can be enjoyed by both girls and boys.

TRUCE invites parents to copy and distribute their guides to help spread the word in your community.  Download this guide here:

TRUCE: Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide (pdf)
TRUCE: Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide (Spanish pdf)

Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide

Want to provide your little one with experiences that will enhance healthy play and development? This guide will help you understand why quality play is vital for your child’s growth and what you can do to support it.

In this guide TRUCE warns parents to  “Beware of BRANDING! Children’s media characters are often used by marketers on toys, clothing, and foods to capture young children’s attention. Why is this a problem? Whenever kids see it, they want it because it’s familiar. These kinds of licensing agreements, which support branding efforts, can lead to unwise buying choices, unhealthy eating habits and nagging.”

Download this guide here:

TRUCE: Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide (Spanish pdf)
TRUCE: Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide (pdf)

To learn more about TRUCE, visit www.truceteachers.org.


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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.

Holiday Help Available For Families in Need in the Hilltowns

Turkey dinners, gifts for teens, cords of wood, help with payment of a utility bill are examples of some of the unique offerings that have come out of the community to help out other local residents.

Hilltown Social Services writes:

The Gateway National Honor Society will again be working with Hilltown Social Services to help families with lower incomes by providing holiday gifts for children, newborns up through age twelve, who live in the towns in the Gateway School District. This will be the eighteenth continuous year for this community service project. Local residents, businesses, churches and other organization also donate to this effort.

Wish Lists will be available for families with young children, through age twelve, at Hilltown Social Services, 9 Russell Road located across from the fire station on Route 20 in Huntington through Monday November 21, 2011. Each eligible household and child will be assigned and identified by a number to maintain confidentially. The gifts will be ready for pick up on Thursday, December 15, 2011 from 1 ­-4pm at Hilltown Social Services.

In past years there has been a variety of other generous gift offers that Hilltown Social Services and the Gateway Family Center have directed to appreciative recipients. Turkey dinners, gifts for teens, cords of wood, help with payment of a utility bill are examples of some of the unique offerings that have come out of the community to help out other local residents. Hilltown Social Services, a program of Hilltown Community Health Centers, Inc., coordinates this project. If you or your organization is interested in contributing please call Diane Meehan or Kim Savery at 413-­667­-2203.

[Photo credit (ccl) Frank Tellez]

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.

Remarkable Women of the Pioneer Valley: Local History Resource

Remarkable Women of the Pioneer Valley
A Pioneer Valley History Network Resource

Pioneer Valley History Network: Remarkable WomenMost Western MA kids probably know that Theodore Seuss Geisel is from Springfield and that Norman Rockwell lived in Stockbridge.  But do they know about Catherine Howard Mary Dole?  Probably not.  The Pioneer Valley History Network has established “Remarkable Women of the Pioneer Valley,” a website that offers biographical information on local important women.  This page is a great resource for students learning about local history, as it describes the establishment of many places that continue to be important today (Smith and Mt. Holyoke Colleges, for example) and teaches children about the important role that women have played within the development of local industry and culture.  The page is located at pvhn2.wordpress.com.  Check it out!

Cyberbullying Toolkit for Teachers

Common Sense Media
Cyberbullying Toolkit for Educators

Common Sense Media has developed a Cyberbullying Toolkit for educators!  The curriculum is adaptable for all ages, elementary through high school, and can be used in any educational context to teach kids about identifying and standing up against cyberbullying.  Teaching kids how about this topic helps to foster positive learning environments and healthy social interactions.  Their website also offers resources specifically for kids and teens, too!  The curriculum and resources are available at www.commonsensemedia.org.

Are your children’s back to school supplies safe?

Make sure your children’s back to school supplies are safe & PVC free!

Did you know your child’s school supplies may be loaded with toxic PVC plastic? Go PVC-free this Back to School Season with their free guide.

The Center For Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) has created a Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies allowing parents and children healthier and safer options when it comes to choosing school supplies. CHEJ’s product list of PVC-free items include:

  • backpacks
  • binders
  • notebooks
  • lunch boxes, food wrappers & dishware
  • raincoats
  • shoes
  • art supplies
  • clothes
  • electronics
  • and more

Click here to download their free guide.

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 »

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 »

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 »

100 Links (Summer/Fall 2010)

100 Links (Summer/Fall 2010)

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 bank of the most recent 25 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 (Summer/Fall 2010): 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):


  • One Hungry Mama Guide to Halloween
  • Daddy Issues: How Can I Keep My Daughter Loving Science? (article)
  • Science Experiments You Can Do At Home or School
  • Booklists for Teens (Boston Public Library)
  • AAASpell.com – Practice Your Spelling
  • The wisdom of teenagers (article)
  • Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic
  • Out in the Berkshires (LGBT Life in the Berkshires)
  • Day of the Dead: History, Facts, and Resources
  • Maths Teaching Ideas
  • Sidekicks: Graphic Novel Reviews for Kids
  • HauntedHappenings.org (Halloween in Salem, MA)
  • Banking Curriculum
  • Best Documentaries on Eating Green
  • Math Game: 100s Grid
  • Glow in the Woods (For Babylost Parents)
  • My Science Box
  • Ashfield Local Goods Catalog
  • Johnnie’s Math Page
  • RECOMMENDED DVD: Life in the Undergrowth w/ David Attenborough (Nature Science)
  • ArtsVivants/ArtsAlive
  • Kids Caving
  • Online Spelling Course
  • Virtual Skies
  • Smithsonian Education for Students
  • Read the rest of this entry »
  • Medical Equipment for Children with Special Needs

    Pass It On

    Last year my son, Ivan, was in dire need of a special stroller for kids with low muscle tone. He was using a mainstream stroller at the time, but it just wasn’t giving him the support he needed. The poor guy was slumped over whenever he was in it!

    We tried going through our insurance, but because Ivan was small (less than 30 pounds), the insurance company felt he was fine with the stroller he had. Our PT then told us about Pass it On, a charitable organization in Mashpee, MA that provides gently-used medical equipment to families with special needs kids. We gave them a call, got on their
    waiting list, and in less than a month Ivan was strolling about town in his new (at least for us) Convaid Cruiser. And all it cost us was the small delivery charge of $25!

    If you’re looking for medical equipment, definitely give these guys a call. They’re always happy to help and if they don’t have the item you’re looking for they’ll put you on a waiting list. If you have an old wheelchair or gait trainer that your child no longer uses, consider donating it to Pass it On so another family can use it. And they always accept money donations to keep the operation going, too!

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Free Access to National Parks

    Free Access to National Parks

    Summer is a time for exploring, and what better day trip than to explore a national park right here in Massachusetts? It’s local, it’s educational, and it won’t bust your budget!

    For families with disabled kids, visiting a national park can be a real nice adventure. You can expose your child to all sorts of new experiences (from outdoor scenery and sounds to historical monuments), plus, since the parks are here in our state, you don’t have to worry about traveling too far or spending the night in a hotel, which can be tough for some families.

    There are many parks in Massachusetts. Just check their website to locate one near you. Over here in Boston, we love the Harbor Islands which includes an exciting boat ride out to the islands. And on August 1st the Toe Jam Puppet Band will be playing a set of free environmental concerts on Georges Island. That sounds like a fun day!

    And here’s even better news: It’s possible for you to obtain a free pass to all the National Parks in the U.S.!

    Here’s the info:

    The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is a lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities.

    Documentation is required to obtain the pass. Acceptable documentation includes: statement by a licensed physician; document issued by a Federal agency such as the Veteran’s Administration, Social Security Disability Income or Supplemental Security Income; or document issued by a State agency such as a vocational rehabilitation agency.

    The pass provides access to, and use of, Federal recreation sites that charge an Entrance or Standard Amenity. The pass admits the pass holder and passengers in a non-commercial vehicle at per vehicle fee
    areas and pass holder + 3 adults, not to exceed 4 adults, at per person fee areas (children under 16 are admitted free).

    The pass can only be obtained in person at the park. The Access Pass provides a 50 percent discount on some Expanded Amenity Fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and specialized interpretive services. In some cases where Expanded Amenity Fees are charged, only the pass holder will be given the 50 percent price reduction. The pass is non-transferable and generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessionaires.

    Visit their site for more info: www.nps.gov/pub_aff/access/access_pass.htm

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

    Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on WonderBaby.org or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on BostonChildrensMusic.com. But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. info@bostonchildrensmusic.com.

    100 Links (Spring/Summer 2010)

    100 Links (Spring/Summer 2010)

    Nearly every day I 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 I 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 bank of the most recent 25 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 (Spring/Summer 2010): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the last 100 links we’ve posted in the past three months: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):

  • Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning
  • Asian Longhorned Beetle Reporting Form
  • Field Trip Earth: Choose a Field Trip
  • Khan Academy: Online Learning
  • Teen Homeschool Reading: College Without High School
  • Teen Homeschool Reading: The Teenage Liberation Handbook
  • Best Educational Web Sites
  • Sphinx Kids: Classical Music
  • Folk Tales (audio/video)
  • Science Is Fun: Home Experiments
  • A History of the World (BBC)
  • Recall: Kellogg Recalls 4 Junk Food Cereals
  • Daiso Recalls Children’s Coin Purses and Jewelry Due to Risk of Lead Exposure
  • 30 Great Books for Girls!
  • Children’s Jewelry Recalled by SmileMakers Due to High Levels of Cadmium
  • Summer Fire Safety
  • July 4th at History.com
  • How Should Schools Handle Cyberbullying? (article)
  • DCR’s Swimming Pools, Wading Pools and Spray Decks in MA
  • Earth911.com (Find Recycling Centers and Learn How To Recycle)
  • National Center for Home Food Preservation
  • The Medieval Bestiary
  • RECALL: Youth Tiara Recalled by Wilton Industries Due to Lead Exposure Hazard
  • RECALL: Target Recalls Children’s Belts Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard
  • Watermelon Wednesdays
  • Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield
  • Movable Feast, Western MA
  • Mohawk Trail Concerts (Charlemont, MA)
  • Books for Boys
  • Read Kiddo Read
  • American History Calendar
  • Virtual African Safari
  • Virtual Gametone Instuments
  • The Science of Making Butter (video)
  • Card Games
  • RECALL: Movie Themed Drinking Glasses Due to Potential Cadmium Risk
  • ReRun Sports Shoes (Charity)
  • The Big Oil Spill
  • Dine Without Whine
  • Monthly Family Meal Planner
  • Food and Recipes at Parents.com
  • ZisBoomBah: Create Kid Friendly Dinners
  • Healthy Menu and Shopping List
  • A&E Classroom: Classroom Tips
  • PBS Teachers: Resources For The Classroom
  • Book Recommendation: “Movies as Literature”
  • Teaching History through Film: Film Teaching Guides
  • F.I.L.M.: Finding Inspriation in Literature and Movies
  • Butterfly Metamorphosis
  • Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program
  • Read the rest of this entry »

    Q&A: Where to Donate Toys?

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    QUESTION AND ANSWERS

    (Photo credit: David Castillo)

    Heather Richardson writes: Anyone know where I can donate toys? My boys just have too many and I’d like to pass them on to someone who could use them either another family, daycare, or charity. I know Good Will does not take them. Thanks!

    • Diane Hinze Kanzler replies: Salvation Army in Turners will take them, I have no doubt. Call ahead.
    • Karen O’Connell Leet replies: You could try Freecycling them: groups.yahoo.com/group/hilltownfreecycle
    • Sally Campbell Galman replies: I think Amherst Survival Center always needs toys.
    • Sandie DeLuca Richardson replies: I know it’s far out, but there is a family in Pownal, VT that just lost everything in a fire – there is an article in thetranscript.com with details as to who to call, and where to send.
    • Barbara Solow replies: Horizons for Homeless Children, a nonprofit that sets up playspaces for kids living in homeless and rehab shelters across the state.

    Summer Resources for Children with Special Needs

    Summer Resources for Children with Special Needs

    Summer is just around the corner and you’re probably looking forward to getting outside with your family. Kids are all about the summer activities: summer camp, swimming, hiking, sailing, you name it!

    If your child is physically or intellectually disabled you’ll still certainly feel just as much need to get outside, but you may be worrying that there aren’t as many programs available that will cater to your child’s needs.

    Look no further! There is an entire world of outdoor events and programs designed for special needs kids and, believe it or not, Massachusetts is home to many of them!

    Every year the Physical Therapy department at the Franciscan Hospital for Children compiles a comprehensive guide to organizations and programs providing physical activity opportunities for children with special needs in Massachusetts and New England. All you need to do is check out their guide, find an activity suitable for your kid, and sign up!

    Here is the Franciscan Hospital for Children: Physical Activity and Recreational Guide.

    And if your child is visually impaired you may also want to join MAPVI, The Massachusetts Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired. They organize all sorts of fun family events too. Our favorites are the assisted sailing event and the Fishing Derby.

    Have a fun and adventurous summer!

    Like This!


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

    Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on WonderBaby.org or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on BostonChildrensMusic.com. But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. info@bostonchildrensmusic.com.

    100 Links (February 2010/March 2010)

    100 Links (February 2010/March 2010)

    Nearly every day I 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.

    Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime I 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 bank of the most recent 25 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 up or down.

    100 Links (February 2010/March 2010): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the last 100 links we’ve posted in the past two months: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Cool Zoo Web Site

    Amy Najimy of Western Mass writes:

    The kids and I found this cool website from the San Diego Zoo. They have webcams and several informative and interesting videos to watch about the various animals. We watched several videos as our science for today!

    Link: www.sandiegozoo.org/videos/index.html

    Fantastic Math Resource in the NYTimes

    Joy Lamberton of Boston, MA writes:

    My husband is a PhD candidate @Harvard SEAS and he sent this to me after years of joking that as the kids started to learn math he would teach me as well, starting over with basic arithmetic. This NYTimes contributor beat him to the punch. He is two blog entries in to teaching math. The exercises and resources mentioned would be invaluable to homeschoolers, I think!

    I am already learning a lot. For the first time odd number addition equaling perfect squares makes sense!
    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/category/steven-strogatz/

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