Culture in a Box Broadens World View and Promotes Diversity

Culture Box Swaps Offer Children the Collaborative Experience of Sharing and Learning about Different Cultures.

What would you include in a box to swap with someone from a different culture that best represents where you live? A western MA family could include maple syrup, a leaflet to an agricultural fair, an apple cutter, post cards from our many small towns, pictures of native animals, press local wild flowers… what else would you include? Think about what best represents your local culture that could easily be shared with someone wanting to learn more about life in your region.

Families in western Massachusetts are lucky to live in such a culturally diverse area, where communities are filled with opportunities for folks to learn about, and share cultural traditions. Engaging children in cultural studies – whether formally or informally – is a wonderful way to teach them about the many different traditions, histories, and world views that make up their own community and the entire world. Exploring a culture that’s different from your own can help children to try on many different metaphorical hats – they can test out different worldviews, consider the belief systems behind a variety of religions, and imagine existing in a community that’s vastly different from their own. Equally as meaningful as learning about different cultures is teaching others about your own. In working to explain the importance of certain things within their own family or community, culture can help children to better understand themselves, their community, and the roots of the traditions and belief system they share.

Families can engage in a combination of both of these activities – learning about other cultures and teaching about their own – by taking part in culture box swaps.  Culture box swaps are similar to participating in international pen pal relationships, except that the exchange takes place only once, and instead of letters, families send actual items that they’ve collected. Items included in culture boxes are intended to teach recipients about the culture from which they’ve emerged. While families must always be careful to obey international mailing rules, boxes can be filled with a wide variety of items to show families abroad what family culture is like here in western Massachusetts. Conversely, families who create and send boxes teaching about their local culture will receive a culture box in return, filled with a collection created by another family to showcase important parts of their own culture – wherever it may be from! Read the rest of this entry »

Bird Identification in Western Massachusetts Made Easy, and Fun!

The Fun of Bird Identification in Western Massachusetts Made Easy

Blue bunting in West Chesterfield, MA.

Birds are everywhere this time of year, some migrating, some that stay with us over winter. Do you know who you’re sharing your yard with? Birds of all sorts have long since migrated to and from western Massachusetts, nesting here for the summer or passing through in their migrations… and it’s high time to get out and get birding!

Birds species can, of course, be identified by looking at them – their size, shape, color, feather pattern, and other distinctive markings help to distinguish one species from another. But what happens if you can’t get a close look at a bird? What if a flash of red passes by up ahead on a trail, or you’ve spotted a raptor soaring high above you? Often times you’re left with only a roadside silhouette of a sighting with which to try and identify a species, and using physical features alone can sometimes be very difficult. On top of the challenges presented by partial sightings are the similarities that some species share – it can be hard to tell which small, semi-spotted brown-and-white bird you’re seeing if you don’t have binoculars allowing you a closer look.

Click here to read on for resources on how to identify birds by their calls and upcoming birding events in Western MA…

Recap Map: Western MA Weekend Summary & Family Guide for August 30th & 31st, 2014

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

MAP

Peruse our list of Suggested Events for August 30th-September 5th, 2014 for a comprehensive list of events happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, including Bulletin Board Announcements & Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Also check our weekly column, 23 Community Highlights: Corn Maze to Kimchi. Hoosac Tunnel to Marble Quarry., and our monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

August 30th-September 5th, 2014

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

AstronomyMusic StudiesHaunted HistoryGeology/Natural HistoryAgricultureFood HistoryMuseum AdventuresSkill Share/FermentationAgricultural FairsCulture/MusicCommunity MealOrnithologyPlant Studies

RECAP

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

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. How to Get Kids to Practice Their Musical Instruments
  2. 5 Solutions to Packing a Waste-Free Lunch
  3. Change of Seasons Bring Nature, Art & STEM Discoveries
  4. HFVS Back to School Episode with Guest DJ, Joanie Leeds (Radio Show/Podcast)
  5. Let’s Play: Organizing & Creating for Back-to-School

RECAP MAP SPONSORS

Lui Collins' Upside Up Music Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA
Cup & Top in Florence, MA

Find out how you can be a sponsor too!

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23 Community Highlights: Corn Maze to Kimchi. Hoosac Tunnel to Marble Quarry.

Teens and tweens can learn how to play the ukulélé at the Sunderland Public Library on Saturday afternoon, August 30! This is a free chance for kids to get introduced to this fun and unique instrument. Celebrate the SPL’s new ukulélés with this ukulélé workshop facilitated by musician, Julie Stepanek. Open to youth ages 10-18. Beginners welcomed!

Ukulélé to Shape Note SingingCorn Maze to KimchiHoosac Tunnel to Marble Quarry… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

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

Featured learning highlight this week:  Do you want to learn more about astronomy, but don’t know where or how to start? Arunah Hill Days is a free, family-oriented weekend all about astronomy, nature, and science education at Arunah Hill Natural Science Center  in Cummington. Come to Arunah Hill on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this Labor Day weekend for astronomy-related talks and activities for astronomy fans of all ages! Observe the night sky and search for Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, galaxies, star clusters, and more using large, powerful telescopes; see sunspots and solar prominences with a special filtered solar telescope in the daytime; enjoy guided nature walks, disc golf, and a rocket building/launch fest; and hear talks on telescope design and other astronomy topics. Bring the whole family and come early to camp on the Hill! This is a great opportunity to learn as a family and enjoy quality time spent together outdoors.


AstronomyMusic StudiesHaunted HistoryGeology/Natural HistoryAgricultureFood HistoryMuseum AdventuresSkill Share/FermentationAgricultural FairsCulture/MusicCommunity MealOrnithologyPlant Studies


Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

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Source to Sea Clean Up: Community Service Opportunity for Families & CT River Watershed

Join Up for a Day of River Care, and Empower Your Family to Create Community Impact

Families can show their love and appreciation for the river by participating in the Connecticut River Watershed Council’s annual Source to Sea Clean Up, an event that mobilizes volunteers from all over the Connecticut River watershed for a day of cleaning and caring for the river.

The Connecticut River dictates the landscape of much of western New England. Western Massachusetts’ hills and mountains provide a river- and stream-filled frame for the Connecticut River as it flows through towards Connecticut and, eventually, into the Atlantic Ocean. The Pioneer Valley’s rich farmland is a gift from the river, and delicious local food is grown and raised on the valley’s river banks. The Connecticut River is the lifeblood of our local landscape, and we depend on the many different natural features that make up its watershed for everything from swimming and hiking to healthy food and fresh water. Read the rest of this entry »

Recap Map: Western MA Weekend Summary & Family Guide for August 23rd & 24th, 2014

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

MAP

Peruse our list of Suggested Events for August 23rd-29th, 2014 for a comprehensive list of events happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, including Bulletin Board Announcements & Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Also check our weekly column, 29 Community Highlights: Poetry Slam to Classical Music. Back-to-School to Stargazing., and our monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun: August 2014, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

August 23rd-29th, 2014

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Plant StudiesLocal FoodTransportation HistoryLocal HistoryMusic StudiesBack-to-SchoolInsect StudiesSafetyAgricultural FairsSTEMAstronomyPoetrySummer Celebrations

RECAP

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

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. HFVS Back to School Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)
  2. 11 Suggestions on How Western MA Families Can Make Wise Back-to-School Purchases
  3. Q&A: Hair Cuts in Western MA
  4. Tips for a New School Year
  5. 6 Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

RECAP MAP SPONSORS

Lui Collins' Upside Up Music

Find out how you can be a sponsor too!

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29 Community Highlights: Poetry Slam to Classical Music. Back-to-School to Stargazing.

With only a few more weeks left of summer, wildflowers like goldenrod and joe-pye weed dot our landscape. The Hitchcock Center for the Environment is offering a Native Wildflower Workshop with naturalist Nancy Goodman on Saturday, August 23. Discover many of the beautiful and unique wildflowers that grow in the area and learn how to use Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, the most well-respected guide to northeastern wildflowers. Older students and adults can learn about these fascinating plants and their importance to our local ecology at this program in Amherst.

Poetry Slam to Classical Music. Back-to-School to Stargazing. Tomatoes to Pickles…These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

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

Featured learning highlight this week:  In the summer evenings, when the darken skies fill with a cacophony of sounds, have you ever wonder what insects are making these beautiful noises?  You can find out at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary’s Night Insect Sounds program in Easthampton on Thursday evening, August 28. Learn about katydids, grasshoppers, crickets, and others. The program starts with a slideshow of the insects and their sounds and then proceeds outside where you can try your hand at identifying the sounds. Best for older students and adults.


Plant StudiesLocal FoodTransportation HistoryLocal HistoryMusic StudiesBack-to-SchoolInsect StudiesSafetyAgricultural FairsSTEMAstronomyPoetrySummer Celebrations


Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

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When Dinosaurs Walked…Western Mass

Paleontology Fascinates and Stimulates Learning in Kids

As one of They Might Be Giants’ best-loved (and paleontologist-narrated) children’s songs proclaims, “I love diggin’ in the dirt!” The potential for getting dirty is just what many kids need in order to become interested in dinosaurs, but it’s not the only hook. In addition to the fun that comes from digging and discovering, dinosaurs are fascinating to children for the magic and mystery that surrounds them – though we have lots of evidence that supports their long-ago existence, young ones whose understanding of time has not fully developed are astounded by the beasts of long ago. Drastically different from most of the creatures seen on Earth today (at first glance), dinosaurs’ shape, size, and even habitat are fascinating and almost unbelievable to youngsters.

Engaging children in dinosaur-related learning allows them not only to learn about the prehistoric beasts, but presents opportunities for lots of other types of learning as well. Learning to identify dinosaur species can help young children practice putting words to specific characteristics related to a species’ shape, size, and coloring, while for older learners, species identification serves as a means of understanding the role of each specific body part that distinguishes one type from the next – information that can help children to understand animal adaptations and evolution. Additionally, dinosaur studies supports children in learning about the climate- and landscape-related changes that the Earth undergoes over time. Read the rest of this entry »

Recap Map: Western MA Weekend Summary & Family Guide for August 16th & 17th, 2014

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

MAP

Peruse our list of Suggested Events for August 16th-22nd, 2014 for a comprehensive list of events happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, including Bulletin Board Announcements & Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Also check our weekly column, 30 Community Highlights: Peach Festival to Greek Festival. Harvest Supper to Stone Masonry.. Tap Dancing to Rotochutes. and our monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun: August 2014, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

For your summer plans, our Summer Bucket List for Western MA has a growing list of reader recommended places to go and see this summer, and our 2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA has a list of over 55 summer camps & programs.

Other posts to read for summer fun include 5 Hikes for Families in Western MA State Forests and Parks for outdoor walking adventures, Beach Day Trips for a list of shoreline adventures, Swimming Holes in Western MA for local discoveries, and Local Agricultural Fairs for a list of upcoming fairs in our region.

August 16th-22nd, 2014

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

School HistoryLocal HistorySTEMAgricultural FairsCommunity MealRepair & RepurposeCulture/GreekTransportation/IndustryFoodOutdoor AdventuresHorsesMuseum AdventuresAnimal StudiesKindergarten Readiness

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

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. Harriet the Spy Turns 50!
  2. MASS MoCA’s “It’s Only Human” Illuminates Art, Science & Education
  3. Springfield Museums’ New Exhibit Snapshots The Emergence of the 20th Century American Individual
  4. Time Capsule: Extraordinary Exhibit Lifts Lid on Historical Education
  5. Suggestions & Recommendations for Back-to-School

RECAP MAP SPONSORS

Lui Collins' Upside Up Music

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30 Community Highlights: Peach Festival to Greek Festival. Harvest Supper to Stone Masonry.

Peaches (cc) Phil Romans

Peach Festival at Outlook Farm this Sunday, August 17 in Westhampton!

Peach Festival to Greek Festival. Harvest Supper to Food Future. Stone Masonry to Copperheads… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

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

Featured learning highlight this week:  Summer is winding down and it’s time to get ready for school! Are your quills sharpened? Have you purchased your new chalk and slate? Wait a second – it’s not the 19th Century! What would “back-to-school” look like for children in the 1800’s? Families can step back to the time of quills and ink and one-room schoolhouses at Storrowton Village during their freeBack to School: 19th Century Style” event on Friday, August 22 in West Springfield. Here kids can experience hands-on school activities for this era, like writing with a quill, taking notes using chalk and slate, recess games, reciting in front of the class, and more. All ages will love getting to experience what school was like in another time and comparing it with school today!


School HistoryLocal HistorySTEMAgricultural FairsCommunity MealRepair & RepurposeCulture/GreekTransportation/IndustryFoodOutdoor AdventuresHorsesMuseum AdventuresAnimal StudiesKindergarten Readiness


Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

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Journal-Making: Creative Outlet for Bringing Family Together

Journal-Making: Inspiration for Writing & Drawing

Sharpen your pencils. Journaling is key to bringing ideas to life.

It’s no secret of parenting that kids have a lot to say. Just as our own adult brains are constantly stirring through ideas, memories, and observations, children’s brains are working just as hard. They make note of interesting things that they see in their surroundings, develop characters and stories inspired by their experiences, and they may even craft clever illustrations to their thoughts inside the confines of their neural connections. Giving kids an outlet isn’t difficult – younger children can often satisfy their creative urges with a basket of crayons and some recycled paper, while older children create more sophisticated drawings, diagrams, stories, or logs when they’ve got something to record.

A great project to do as a family to encourage kids’ writing and drawing skills is journal-making.. Read the rest of this entry »

Recap Map: Western MA Weekend Summary & Family Guide for August 9th & 10th, 2014

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

MAP

Peruse our list of Suggested Events for August 9th-15th, 2014 for a comprehensive list of events happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, including Bulletin Board Announcements & Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Also check our weekly column, 30 Community Highlights: Water Mills to Urban Forestry. Fibonacci Sequence to Artbotics.. Tap Dancing to Rotochutes. and our monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun: August 2014, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

For your summer plans, our Summer Bucket List for Western MA has a growing list of reader recommended places to go and see this summer, and our 2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA has a list of over 55 summer camps & programs.

Other posts to read for summer fun include 5 Hikes for Families in Western MA State Forests and Parks for outdoor walking adventures, Beach Day Trips for a list of shoreline adventures, Swimming Holes in Western MA for local discoveries, and Local Agricultural Fairs for a list of upcoming fairs in our region.

August 9th-15th, 2014

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Citizen ScientistLocal HistorySTEMNature StudiesGeologyHikingCultural Studies/MusicIndustrial HistoryCommunity ServiceArtFilm StudiesAgriculture/Dairy FarmingAnimal StudiesOrnithology/RaptorsEducators WorkshopCurrent Affairs

RECAP

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

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. Tidal Pool Day Trips from Western MA
  2. The Dinner Table: Extending Dinner Time with Walking Desserts
  3. Exhibiting at the Fair
  4.  How Does Your Family Handle Screen Time Limits in the Summer?
  5.  Q&A: Ear Piercing

RECAP MAP SPONSORS

Lui Collins' Upside Up Music

Find out how you can be a sponsor too!

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30 Community Highlights: Water Mills to Urban Forestry. Fibonacci Sequence to Artbotics.

The Holyoke Public Library hosts Nature’s Designs, a special program that will show how the Fibonacci Sequence and Golden Ratio appear in nature, using plant and animal shapes to illustrate on Friday, morning August 15. Presented by Kevin Kopchynski, the free program will be exciting, informative, and surprising! Read our post, Fibonacci Sequence & Golden Ratio Drive Nature Based Education, to discover how nature’s patterns reveal mathematical reasoning!

Fibonacci Sequence to Artbotics. Silent Film to Art Walk. Water Mills to Urban Forestry… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

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

Featured learning highlight this week:  Do you want to learn more about notable Worthington residents of the past? Discover interesting bits of local history on a free cemetery tour with the Worthington Historical Society on Saturday evening, August 9. One night before the full moon, you can explore Worthington’s oldest surviving cemetery (Center Cemetery) and see the grave sites of notable residents. The tour will also take you past the site of the town’s first cemetery, which is now a pasture, as well as the town’s first parsonage and oldest building. Cemetery tours can teach about local history through their focus on people who lived in the past – who lived here? What did they do? How/when did they die? What legacy did they leave behind? Older students who are interested in local history will enjoy this opportunity to discover the history of the Hilltowns in Worthington.


Citizen ScientistLocal HistorySTEMNature StudiesGeologyHikingCultural Studies/MusicIndustrial HistoryCommunity ServiceArtFilm StudiesAgriculture/Dairy FarmingAnimal StudiesOrnithology/RaptorsEducators WorkshopCurrent Affairs


Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

Read the rest of this entry »

Recap Map: Western MA Weekend Summary & Family Guide for August 2nd & 3rd, 2014

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

MAP

Peruse our list of Suggested Events for August 2nd-8th, 2014 for a comprehensive list of events happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, including Bulletin Board Announcements & Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Also check our weekly column, 29 Community Highlights: Bottle Rockets to Binoculars. Meadowlands to Beavers.. Tap Dancing to Rotochutes. and our monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun: August 2014, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

For your summer plans, our Summer Bucket List for Western MA has a growing list of reader recommended places to go and see this summer, and our 2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA has a list of over 55 summer camps & programs.

Other posts to read for summer fun include 5 Hikes for Families in Western MA State Forests and Parks  for outdoor walking adventures,  Beach Day Trips for a list of shoreline adventures, Swimming Holes in Western MA for local discoveries, and Local Agricultural Fairs for a list of upcoming fairs in our region.

August 2nd-8th, 2014

SaturdaySundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

RocketsBlacksmithing/ToolsService Based Learning/Food SecurityInsect StudiesCultural Studies/Native AmericanSports HistorySTEMAnimal ScienceAstronomyLocal HistoryOutdoor AdventuresAbolitionism

RECAP

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

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. Geocaching & Letterboxing Support Learning and Outdoor Adventures as a Family
  2. Letterboxing: Adventure, Art and the Great Outdoors
  3. 10 Outdoor Summer Music Series in Western MA
  4. 18 Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Western MA
  5. Aerial Adventure Parks in Western MA

RECAP MAP SPONSORS

Lui Collins' Upside Up Music

Find out how you can be a sponsor too!

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29 Community Highlights: Bottle Rockets to Binoculars. Meadowlands to Beavers.

Interested in rockets? There are several events happening this week that allows kids to explore the physics of rockets through hands-on experience!

Bottle Rockets to Blacksmithing. Meadowlands to Beavers. Binoculars Tour to Walking Tour… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

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

Featured learning highlight this week:  The Museum of Science and the M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury present “Rockets: There and Back Again!” Youth participants can create an air rocket that launches across the room, exploring the science behind rockets and space exploration in this free hands-on workshop taking place at the Town Hall. Through experiential learning, kids can plan, build, and test their very own designs!


RocketsBlacksmithing/ToolsService Based Learning/Food SecurityInsect StudiesCultural Studies/Native AmericanSports HistorySTEMAnimal ScienceAstronomyLocal HistoryOutdoor AdventuresAbolitionism


Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

Read the rest of this entry »

Western Mass Historical Heritage for All to Explore

Summer is History-Exploring Season in Western MA!

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

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

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

Recap Map: Western MA Weekend Summary & Family Guide for July 26th & 27th, 2014

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

MAP

Peruse our list of Suggested Events for July 26th-August 1st, 2014 for a comprehensive list of events happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, including Bulletin Board Announcements & Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Also check our weekly column, 31 Community Highlights: Lava Lamps to Cannonballs. Tap Dancing to Rotochutes. and our monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun: July 2014, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

For your summer plans, our Summer Bucket List for Western MA has a growing list of reader recommended places to go and see this summer, our 2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA has a list of over 55 summer camps & programs.

July 26th-August 1st, 2014

SaturdaySundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Astronomy ♦ Music Studies ♦ Nature Adventures ♦ Community Meals ♦ Presidential History ♦ STEM ♦Animal Studies ♦ Local History ♦ Hikes ♦ Theater ♦ Insects ♦ Crafts

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

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. Where’s Your Favorite Place to PYO Blueberries in Western MA
  2. Are Your Kids Still in Diapers? What Do They Swim In?
  3. Beach Day Trips: 16 Recommendations from Western MA
  4. 5 Hikes for Families in Western MA State Forests and Parks
  5. What’s Your Favorite Family Card Game?

RECAP MAP SPONSORS

Lui Collins' Upside Up Music

Find out how you can be a sponsor too! Read the rest of this entry »

31 Community Highlights: Lava Lamps to Cannonballs. Tap Dancing to Rotochutes.

Cannonballs are an excellent way to support an interests in math and history! Kids can learn about physics and how sailors in the past sent cannonballs through the air at the Westfield Athenaeum on Tuesday morning, July 29 during their free program, Under Pressure! Presented by the USS Constitution Museum, this hands on event will be a “blast” for the entire family!

Lava Lamps to Cannonballs. Biomimicry to Experimentology. Tap Dancing to Rotochutes… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

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

Featured learning highlight this week: Do you ever wonder what life was like in New England during the Civil War? On Friday, August 1st, families can experience life in 1860s Stockbridge at the Stockbridge Library’s “Stroll Back in Time: Life Along Main Street 150 Years Ago,” a free event that transforms Stockbridge’s Main Street into a mid-1800s New England village with historically accurate activities like chores, games, and more. Learn about professions of the time by seeing a blacksmith forge horseshoes and meeting a local shopkeeper, hear music from the Civil War era, enjoy historic games, and discover how people lived 150 years ago. This is a unique opportunity to see Stockbridge as it once was and to think about the ways the town has changed since the 1860s.


AstronomyMusic StudiesNature AdventuresCommunity MealsPresidential HistorySTEMAnimal StudiesLocal HistoryHikesTheaterInsectsCrafts


Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

Read the rest of this entry »

Library Events Support Chemistry, Physics, Forensics & More this Summer!

Statewide Summer Learning Programs Offer Developmental Advancement

This summer, libraries across the state are offering an innovative summer reading program to young readers. Titled Fizz, Boom, Read!, the program supports the development of reading and literacy skills, while also allowing participants to explore the intersection of science and the humanities. By combining science with reading, libraries are encouraging children to explore the world of non-fiction writing- opening up endless possibilities for learning and satisfying science-based curiosity. Read the rest of this entry »

The Berkshires are Alive with Live Theater Opportunities this Summer!

Diverse Theater Selection Brings Entertainment & Education Opportunities for Entire Family

The Berkshires are alive! Get your tickets for a theater production and bring the family. There are options that fit all budgets!

The Berkshires region of western Massachusetts is filled with endless opportunities for learning and playing – especially in the summer. A popular vacation destination for locals and out-of-towners alike, the region offers up a wide variety of things to do, places to visit, and stuff to see. And this summer, some of the best stuff to see is on stage at the Berkshires’ many theaters and performance spaces! From children’s theater to clowning, Shakespeare to musicals, the Berkshires’ numerous theater companies are dishing out shows that not only entertain, but also present valuable learning opportunities. Read the rest of this entry »

Fibonacci Sequence & Golden Ratio Drive Nature Based Education

Nature’s Patterns Reveals Mathematical Reasoning

The Fibonacci sequence describes the pattern in which flowers fit the most seeds possible into their centers.

Nature is filled with patterns – spirals, in particular, are especially noticeable in species of plants and animals. Sunflowers, for example, seem to spiral their seeds from their centers in some sort of mathematical pattern. Snail shells, too, show growth rings that become gradually larger as they spiral away from the shell’s center. Evergreen cones, heads of broccoli and cauliflower, and tree branches all display noticeable iterations of this spiraling pattern, too.

The spirals that appear all around us are no accident of nature – while they’re beautiful to look at, their purpose is much more important than vanity alone. Beneath the aesthetically pleasing shapes of petals, seeds, and branches are two fascinating mathematical concepts that explain nature’s tendency to expand in spirals. Read the rest of this entry »

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

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

MAP

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

Also check our weekly column, 33 Community Highlights: Whalemobile to TrolleyFest. Scottish Festival to Bang on a Can and our monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun: July 2014, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

For your summer plans, our Summer Bucket List for Western MA has a growing list of reader recommended places to go and see this summer, our 2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA has a list of over 55 summer camps & programs.

July 19th-25th, 2014

Saturday • Sunday • Monday • Tuesday • Wednesday • Thursday • Friday

Animal Studies ♦ Shakespeare ♦ Transportation ♦ Culture ♦ Playgrounds ♦ Nature Studies ♦ Agriculture/Farm Tours ♦ Local History ♦ STEM ♦ Insects ♦ Community Meals ♦ Geology ♦ Festivals

RECAP

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

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. Let’s Play: Water Paints
  2. 16 Swimming Holes in Western MA
  3. Hilltown Family Variety Show Archived Podcasts
  4. Three Programs Kids Can Use to Learn How to Create Video Games
  5. Q&A: Where to Get New/Used Bikes for the Family in Western MA

RECAP MAP SPONSORS

 Lui Collins' Upside Up Music

Find out how you can be a sponsor too! Read the rest of this entry »

33 Community Highlights: Whalemobile to TrolleyFest. Scottish Festival to Bang on a Can.

Guess how many owl species have been recorded in New England… twelve! On Saturday afternoon, July 19, Eyes on Owls will be at the Sunderland Library with their free owl program. This program features six live owls and will teach about the owls of the northeast. Owl pellets will be dissected and are a fascinating way to learn about owl anatomy and physiology, along with what their diets consist of and the habitats necessary to support not only owls but the prey these raptors survive on.

Whalemobile to TrolleyFest. Scottish Festival to Bang on a Can. William Cullen Bryant to Sojourner Truth… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

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

Featured learning highlight this week: The Whalemobile is a 43-foot, life-sized inflatable whale named Nile, modeled after a female humpback whale born in 1987 who summers off the coast of Massachusetts. This traveling educational program teaches kids all about whales – where they live, how they communicate, what they eat, what their behavior is like – and then gives them a chance to climb inside the inflatable replica to learn about whale anatomy and physiology. The Whalemobile will be visiting several libraries in western Massachusetts this summer. Don’t miss this free interactive program for all ages. Find out where it will be appearing here.


Animal StudiesShakespeareTransportationCulturePlaygroundsNature StudiesAgriculture/Farm ToursLocal HistorySTEMInsectsCommunity MealsGeologyFestivals


Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

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Hand Clapping Games: Summer & Schoolyard Creative Free Play that Supports Learning

Hand Clapping Games Spur Learning

In schoolyards all around the world, hand-clapping games have been a staple activity of childhood for generations. Pairing silly songs and rhymes with quick claps, slaps, snaps, and other movements, hand-clapping games can provide endless hours of entertainment and friendship building.

In addition to the recreational benefits of hand-clapping games, studies have shown that hand-clapping games support children in developing many essential skills. Researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev studied children in grades 1-3 and found that children who participated in spontaneous clapping games during their free time had stronger spelling skills than peers who didn’t. Additionally, the same students had neater handwriting and better writing and drawing skills than students who didn’t participate in clapping games. Read the rest of this entry »

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

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

MAP

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

Also check our weekly column, 34 Community Highlights: A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Casablanca. Service Dogs to Bald Eagles and our monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun: July 2014, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

For your summer plans, our Summer Bucket List for Western MA has a growing list of reader recommended places to go and see this summer, our 2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA has a list of over 55 summer camps & programs.

July 12th-18th, 2014

Saturday • Sunday • Monday • Tuesday • Wednesday • Thursday • Friday

Film Studies ♦ Local History ♦ Entomology ♦ Theater♦ Art ♦ Bird Studies ♦ STEM ♦ Sustainability ♦Writing ♦ Animal Studies

RECAP

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

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. Social Studies on the Road
  2. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Pen Pal Program for T(w)eens
  3. WebCams Around the World and Across the Nation
  4. Crash Course: 100+ Episodes in 6 Online Courses
  5. STEMBite: Bite Sized Videos Supporting STEM Education

RECAP MAP SPONSORS

 Lui Collins' Upside Up Music

 

Find out how you can be a sponsor too!

Click here to read the rest of our RECAP MAP

34 Community Highlights: A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Casablanca. Service Dogs to Bald Eagles.

Lemons… they can be a catalyst for community service and STEM based learning!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Casablanca. Robots to Rockets. Service Dogs to Bald Eagles… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

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

Featured learning highlight this week: Step back in time at Cummington’s Kingman Tavern, which opens for the season on Saturday afternoon, July 12, and will be open on Saturdays through August 30 with no admission charge. The Tavern is a historic building from the early 1800s that contains 17 rooms, with a replica country store, a barn, a cider mill, and a carriage shed. Families can discover the local history of Cummington and the Hilltowns by exploring the museum and seeing many of its historic artifacts. The general store, in particular, is a great resource for understanding life in the past – it contains many things that would have been sold in a New England general store from 1900-1910!


Film StudiesLocal HistoryEntomologyTheaterArtBird StudiesSTEMSustainabilityWritingAnimal Studies


Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

Read the rest of this entry »

Pressing Plants and Flowers Supports Summer Learning & Memories

Creative documenting of summer blooms capture memories and learning

Herbariums are collections of preserved plants and are fun ways for families to preserve summer memories while supporting an interest in botany and local habitats.

As the many flowering plants of the summer grow buds, burst into bloom, and fall to the ground to make way for the next wave of plants to come into season, children often collect specimens of their favorite colorful plants in an attempt to preserve them for endless enjoyment and examination. Inevitably, flowers in a vase will wilt, but carefully pressed and preserved plants can maintain a version of favorite plants that can be enjoyed and examined no matter the season. Pressed plants and flowers can be used for a variety of purposes, and lend themselves in particular to art projects and scientific observations. When compiled as a collection, pressed flowers can serve as a family herbarium – serving as documentation of springs and summers past.
Read the rest of this entry »

Recap Map: Western MA Weekend Summary & Family Guide for July 5th & 6th, 2014

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

MAP

Peruse our list of Suggested Events for July 5th-11th, 2014 for a comprehensive list of events happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, including Bulletin Board Announcements & Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Also check our weekly column, 35 Community Highlights: Fiddle Fest to Living Culture. Junior Ranger to Magic. and our monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun: July 2014, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

For your summer plans, our Summer Bucket List for Western MA has a growing list of reader recommended places to go and see this summer, our 2014 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA has a list of over 55 summer camps & programs.

Also, celebrate 4th of July this Saturday evening! Firework displays scheduled across Western MA, including Westfield, Greenfield, North Adams, West Springfield, Springfield, and Amherst — many of them rescheduled from Friday. Details here: Fourth of July Firework Displays in Western MA.

July 5th-11th, 2014

SaturdaySundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday


Local HistoryAnimal StudiesArchitectureMusic StudiesCulturePerformance ArtFarmingNature StudiesSTEMMagicEntomologyFamily Performances

RECAP

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

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. 11 Recommended Art Studios/Classes in Western MA
  2. Little Homes for Little Folks: Make Your Own Gnome Home
  3. 13 Ways to Spend a Rainy Day in Western MA
  4. HFVS Summer Essentials Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)
  5. Q&A: Where Can Kids Take Swim Lessons in the Summer?

RECAP MAP SPONSORS

Lui Collins' Upside Up Music

Find out how you can be a sponsor too!

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

35 Community Highlights: Fiddle Fest to Living Culture. Junior Ranger to Magic.

Join the Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield for a free program on dragonflies and damselflies with naturalist Julia Blyth on Friday afternoon, July 11. Kids 5 and up and their families can learn all about these interesting insects, their lifecycle from water to sky, and search for them using field guides and nets. 

Construction to Cottages. Fiddle Fest to Living Culture. Junior Ranger to Magic… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

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

Featured learning highlight this week:  Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Double Edge Theatre at their “Celebrate Living Culture” event on Sunday afternoon, July 6. Located in Ashfield, Double Edge Theatre is a rich environment for both experiential learning and performance on 105 acres of historic buildings, forests, pastures and organic gardens. The afternoon includes an open house, tours, fun family activities, raffles, and an exhibition following the Theatre’s 20-year history. This is a great free opportunity to learn more about Double Edge Theatre, their theater philosophy, and explorations of their farm.


Local HistoryAnimal StudiesArchitectureMusic StudiesCulturePerformance ArtFarmingNature StudiesSTEMMagicEntomologyFamily Performances


Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

Read the rest of this entry »

4th of July: Connecting us to History

Day of celebration offers opportunity for families to reflect on history

4th of July means fireworks but also is a time for families to reflect upon the historical significance and meaning of this patriotic holiday

The most patriotic of all American holidays, the 4th of July, is a day filled with history and tradition. With its roots reaching over 200 years back, the holiday’s origin is well known by all – it’s the day when the Declaration of Independence was signed, sparking a revolution and the creation of the United States. Today, we remember the historical significance of the day with parades, readings, and – of course – lots of fireworks.

Community celebrations of the 4th of July will take place all across western Massachusetts, and bring with them not only celebration but also opportunities to learn about our country’s history, and to reflect on the meaning of freedom. Beginning with a morning filled with parades and running right straight through to the end of the very last fireworks show, the region is jam-packed with 4th of July events.

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