Recap Map: Western MA Weekend Summary & Family Guide for December 3-4, 2016

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 a comprehensive list of events happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, including Bulletin Board Announcements, Ongoing Story Hours & Playgroups and the Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Also check our weekly column,  Learn Local. Play Local. for 28 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Holiday Lights to Wreath Making. Theater to Singing, and our monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

December 3-9, 2016

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Literary Adaptation ♦  Singing ♦  Gingerbread Houses ♦  Breakfast with SantaPlacemaking ♦  ConsumerismRadio TheaterPastry Arts  ♦ Gift SwapHoliday StrollsLiving HistoryTransportationCarolingLocomotionWreathsCommunity MealCraftsTree Lighting

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28 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Holiday Lights to Wreath Making. Theater to Singing.

Have you ever thought about why we decorate our Christmas trees with strands of light? Ever think about the origin of this tradition? Find out about the history of Christmas lights, then take in a community tree lighting ceremony and a drive through Forest Park in Springfield or Look Park in Florence for contemporary displays of holiday lights.

Tree Lighting to Wreaths. Consumerism to Holiday Strolls. Pastry Arts to A Christmas Carol. These are just a few of the community-based 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 community highlights this week:

As the temperature drops and the skies become increasingly more grey, towns across Western Massachusetts are beginning to look more and more festive by the minute!  Leafless trees now don coats of twinkling lights, streetlights are wrapped cozily in strands of deep green garland, and bright red bows decorate wreaths – welcoming both visitors and the holiday season.  Celebrate the holiday season this year by bringing your family to one of the many holiday strolls that happen this month! your family’s holiday season this weekend by visiting one of the holiday strolls being offered!


Literary Adaptation ♦  Singing ♦  Gingerbread Houses ♦  Breakfast with SantaPlacemaking ♦  ConsumerismRadio TheaterPastry Arts  ♦ Gift SwapHoliday StrollsLiving HistoryTransportationCarolingLocomotionWreathsCommunity MealCraftsTree Lighting


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Suggested Events for December 3rd – 9th, 2016

Hilltown Families List of Weekly Suggested Events

Suggest Event

“Hilltown Families has been our family go-to place to know what’s going on in the community and find the fun… Most recently we had a chance to start listening to the radio show for children. We played the Hanukah show over and over and [they] BOTH loved it. As did I. Thank you so much!” – Liz Friedman (Northampton, MA)

“Hilltown Families has been our family go-to place to know what’s going on in the community and find the fun… Most recently we had a chance to start listening to the radio show for children. We played the Hanukah show over and over and [they] BOTH loved it. As did I. Thank you so much!” – Liz Friedman (Northampton, MA)

If you have a community event, educational program or service opportunity for youth/families happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, self-post your event at any time on our Suggest An Event bulletin board. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness, and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after-school/homeschool class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business/school, service, open house, volunteer opportunity or general announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Click HERE to find out more.

Bulletin Board

Dec 4 & 17

Save the Date! This holiday season, experience the beloved story of The Nutcracker told through Celtic Dance. A Celtic Nutcracker will beautifully blend the Tchaikovsky score with Celtic music and original choreography by the Celtic Heels Dance Company Director, Cara Leach. Bring your family to this one showing event on Sunday, December 4th at 3pm at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, and Saturday, December 17th at 7pm at the Academy of Music in Northampton. Featuring the Celtic Heels Irish Dance Company and live music this is sure to become a family tradition for anyone who loves the Nutcracker or Celtic Dance! Tickets are $8-$18. Information can be found at www.ACelticNutcracker.com

Open House: Dec 7

Montessori Middle School Information Session. What’s different about a Montessori middle school? Would it be a good fit for my adolescent? Come learn the answers to these and other questions on Wednesday, December 7 from 4-5pm at the Montessori School of Northampton, 51 Bates Street, Northampton. Corey Hadden, Middle School Teacher, and Laura Frogameni, Director of Admissions, will discuss adolescent development and how the Montessori middle school curriculum supports the student aged 12-14 at this critical point in their development through challenging academics, a focus on exploring identity and purpose, and opportunities to contribute to the larger community. For more information: northamptonmontessori.org or 413-586-4538.

 Local Organic Christmas Trees! Justamere Tree Farm in Worthington, MA, has cut your own and pre-cut Christmas trees available Friday, Saturday, & Sunday after Thanksgiving, and weekends in December. Come by the farm between the hours of 9am-4pm to select your very own locally grown Christmas Tree. Their gift shop, in the post and beam barn, will feature their very own artisanal maple products for sale. Also, handcrafted wreaths and swags made on the farm are available. Experience a wonderful destination and a beautiful drive into the Hilltowns, creating a new tradition with your family. Visit them at www.justameretreefarm.com/trees for more information & directions or email them at welch@justameretreefarm.com.

Dec 9-11

Welcome Yule celebrates the return of light with an annual family show of music, dance, song and story to drive the dark away. The show is set in the mythical village with villagers and animals singing of the coming of winter and rebirth of spring as Fox and Rooster chase through the countryside. Songs of animals join the wassails, carols, puppets, horn dance, mummers play, and the passing of the yule log. Friday & Saturday Dec. 9 and 10, 7:30pm & Sunday Dec. 11, 2pm. Shea Theater, Turners Falls. Tickets $12 adults, $10 seniors and children 5-16 years. Tickets at Jones Library in Amherst, Broadside Books in Northampton, World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield, online, or at the door. For more information and reservations, visit welcomeyule.org.

Dec 11

The Academy at Charlemont (1359 Route 2 in Charlemont, MA) will host an Admissions Open House for interested families on Sunday, December 11, with presentations beginning at 1pm. Meet students, teachers, and current parents, and get a feel for their creative and rigorous academic program and warm community. The Academy offers vibrant arts, athletics, and an emphasis on critical thinking and ethical leadership. Academy students love school. Shouldn’t everyone? Details at www.charlemont.org.

Dec 2

PJ Library and Shabbat Shabloom invite you to Shababa in Northampton, a musical celebration of Jewish life with puppets, play, and love! This joyful event will feature Karina Zilberman from the 92St Y in New York and is for children ages 0-5 and their grownups. Shababa in Northampton is free and open to everyone and will take place on Friday, December 2 from 9-10am in the auditorium at Lander Grinspoon Academy at 257 Prospect Street in Northampton, MA. Questions? Contact Amy Meltzer, Director of Family Engagement at 413-584-6622 or ameltzer@landergrinspoon.org.

Open House: Dec 3

Saturday, Dec. 3rd: The Center School Admissions Open House, 10am-2pm. The Center School is a preschool through 8th grade progressive school, serving Hampshire & Franklin counties. Please come explore the school on Saturday, Dec. 3rd for an Admissions Open House. Classrooms will be open and staff will be on hand with innovative projects planned for kids of all ages. Current parents and students will be in attendance to answer questions and share about the school. Light refreshments will be available for purchase. The Center School has been offering rigorous education for deep thinkers and creative spirits for 35 years and is currently accepting applications for all ages, for fall of 2017. centerschool.net

Dec 3

Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity hosts the fifth annual Gingerbread Build on Saturday, December 3rd from 1-4pm at the Eastworks Building in Easthampton. Join them for a family-friendly afternoon filled with frosting and fun! Gingerbread and icing will be provided — bring any decorations you want to build your inspired creation to be entered into one of their whimsical prize categories! Fundraise online and register your team of up to four by making a minimum donation of $100. For more information or questions about registration, call 413-586-5430 or email mariah@pvhabitat.org. Thank you for helping to provide decent, affordable homes for qualified families in the Pioneer Valley.

Dec 3

Winter Fair at the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School. As an alternative to traditional holiday buying, the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School will host a fair on Saturday, December 3 from 10am-3pm at 1 Industrial Parkway in Easthampton. Visitors will have the opportunity to make a variety of crafts including fairy houses, wreaths, gingerbread people, tote bags and more. Concurrently with craft-making will be the annual Scholastic Book Fair, special performances by the Student Chorus, a bake sale and a raffle. All proceeds from the event support the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School library and educational programs. For more information, contact Deirdre Arthen at 413-529–7178 or visit www.hilltowncharter.org.

Dec 5

Looking for a warm and welcoming school? Consider Lander-Grinspoon Academy (LGA) in Northampton. Join the entire LGA community on Monday, December 5 at 8:20am to sing, celebrating the end of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, and see students perform. Can’t make the 8:20am start time? Feel free to show up at 8:45am for a school tour. LGA is committed to the intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual development of its students. Its emphasis on community, culture, social justice, encourages students of all ages to become independent thinkers, as well as caring and responsible citizens of the world. LGA is now accepting applications for grades K-6. For more information contact GLansky@LanderGrinspoon.org.

Dec 9-11

Pioneer Valley Ballet presents the beloved holiday classic, The Nutcracker! Join Clara as she battles the Rat King to save the Nutcracker Prince, and then travel to the enchanted Snow Forest and beautiful Kingdom of Sweets. Featuring guest artists from Carolina Ballet, Festival Ballet, Mari Meade Dance Collective. Live on stage December 9 – 11 at the Academy of Music in Northampton. Get tickets today at aomtheatre.ticketlfy.com. For more information about the Pioneer Valley Ballet company and school, visit pioneervalleyballet.org.

ADVERTISE HERE: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! See your summer camp, class, community event, school, open house, audition, homeschool program, workshop, volunteer opportunity, wellness program, local business, after-school class, or non-profit featured here in the Bulletin Board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and in our weekly eNewsletter, reaching thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Find out more about our advertising options and how you can partner with Hilltown Families in your online marketing by emailing us at info@hilltownfamilies.org.

Become a Contributing WriterJOIN OUR TEAM OF CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Interested in becoming a Contributing or Guest Writer for Hilltown Families? We welcome writings that reflect the community-building and educational efforts parents, teens, teachers, artists, activists and community leaders work towards and accomplish, and how that affects, supports and empowers our families. All writing styles welcomed, including local reviews, DIY posts, seasonal cooking/local food, and community-based educational & community service learning opportunities/resources. Send your query to info@hilltownfamilies.org.


LIST OF WEEKLY SUGGESTED EVENTS
December 3rd – December 9th, 2016

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Suggest an EventCultural Itineraries | Forecast | Museum Passes | Weekly eNewsletter | Farmers’ Markets | Storyhour & Playgroups| Berkshire Family Fun | Advertise/Sponsorship | en Español

Donate Now Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Non-Commercial Gift Giving

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Holiday Segment
Non-Commercial Gift Giving

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Monday, November 21, 2016. In this segment, Sienna and Lauren talked about non-commercial gift-giving ideas and the value of making your own gifts to give for the holidays.

Click on image to view video.


Mass Appeal is a live weekday program that airs at 11am on 22News (Springfield, MA).  Our next visit to the Mass Appeal studios will be December 26th, 2016!

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Holiday Strolls & Community Singing

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Holiday Segment
Learning with Holiday Strolls and Caroling

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Tuesday, November 22, 2016. In this segment, Sienna and Lauren talked about engaging and learning with holiday strolls and community singing during the holiday season.

Click on image to view video.


Mass Appeal is a live weekday program that airs at 11am on 22News (Springfield, MA).  Our next visit to the Mass Appeal studios will be December 26th, 2016!

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The Mighty Evergreen

The Mighty Evergreen

Henry David Thoreau wrote:

Walked through that beautiful soft white pine grove on the west of the road in John Flint’s pasture.  These trees are large, but there is ample space between them, so that the ground is left grassy.  Great pines two or more feet in diameter branch sometimes within two feet of the ground on each side, sending out large horizontal branches on which you can sit.  Like great harps on which the wind makes music.  There is no finer tree.

– “A Beautiful Pine Grove” in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau


In Western Massachusetts there are many places one can explore the beautiful evergreens and winter pines that create our enchanting forests.  Like Thoreau, bring along a nature journal to jot down a few inspiring notes along the way. Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas Trees: History & Folklore

History & Folklore of Christmas Trees

What is folklore? Folklore includes the traditions and stories of a culture or community that are passed down for generations.  Typically, folklore is passed on through word of mouth in the form of a narration.  Over time, stories can change, morph, and transform depending on the place, culture, context and the storyteller.  That’s the beauty of a folktale; it has many added layers as the story moves from narrator to narrator, place to place.  Storytelling is an art, both the narration and the listening.

Some of our holiday traditions today are a result of folklore and myth.  For example, the contemporary Christmas tree has an interesting past with a story and history that has been passed down from generation to generation.  From its original form with the ancient Norse pagans to its present day form in the houses of those who celebrate Christmas, the Christmas tree, like many folktales, has changed shape and meaning as it has been adapted to new cultures, people and places.


Excerpt from Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts (Seasons: Nov/Dec), a downloadable bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

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Origins of Christmas Traditions

Origins of Christmas Traditions

Where does the Christmas tree come from? Did you know that the origin of the Christmas tree has roots in ancient Norse paganism from Northern Germany?  Evergreens were seen as magical entities due to their ability to withstand the frigid, cold winter and stay green. During the winter solstice, Norse pagans, who celebrated the Norse god Jul (pronounced Yule) brought entire evergreens into their homes.  These trees were called Yule Trees and were believed to protect the home during the darkest times of the year.

Learn more about the origins of Christmas traditions and symbols…

Bet You Didn’t Know…

Donate to Hilltown Families on #GivingTuesday & #GiveCommunityBasedEducation!

Help Hilltown Families support education through community engagement with YOUR financial support! Make a tax-deductible donation to Hilltown Families today! – Hilltown Families is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

#GivingTuesday is the first Tuesday after Black Friday & Cyber Monday, a global day of generosity, when people around the world contribute to causes they believe in. Be a part of this international outburst of intentional giving by supporting a local organization that makes life richer for you, your family, and your community.

#GivingTuesday is the time to donate to the institutions that touch your life, including Hilltown Families! A gift to Hilltown Families, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, expands the work of hundreds of community organizations throughout the four counties of Western Massachusetts. Our award-winning website includes weekly listings and featured posts of community-based educational and service-based learning opportunities.

The work of Hilltown Families helps connect other non-profit organizations to their community while supporting the interests and education of our community.  Help Hilltown Families continue to support and connect community organizations with community members across the region!

To learn more about the vision & mission of Hilltown Families, check out this TEDx Talk by Hilltown Families founder, Sienna Wildfield:

How will your gift help Hilltown Families?  Let’s us count the ways…  Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Take Me To the River

Older and Stronger than Mountains and Sky: The Long Body

Let me take you to the river. I want to show you something miraculous—something that lives there that has been alive longer than the sky or the mountains. The reason I want to show you this is to make you feel good. Knowing that the life we live right now is connected to all the lives around us should make you feel good, I think. (We are not alone!) Knowing that the life we live right now is older than the sky and the mountains, well, I think that might make you feel even better. (What power we carry with us that we barely even recognize because, like the breath we just breathed, we take it for granted!) Let’s go, get out of here and down to the river!

William Cullen Bryant, the great North American nature poet, wrote:

The nature within us is constantly dependent on the nature which is without us, and needs every moment to be cherished, solicited, assisted, and impelled by it.”

He was sensitive to what the Iroquois called the “long body“:

“The sensory and muscular systems are properties of the familiar or “small” body. A person also has “long body” that can perceive and affect conatively significant objects that are out of reach of the small body. The long body is an Iroquois term that refers to the tribal body, and embraces living members of the tribe, as well as ancestors, tribal lands and objects. Families, tribes, corporations, churches and other groups, are long bodies that are composed of the long bodies of their members.”

What a different view of ourselves this is! We are not just individually-packaged, brandable, marketable, identity-products! We are part of the long body—our faces handed down from ancestors farther back than genealogies fathom, our features shared by our kin, our bodies filled with water that fell from the sky and drained through the soils. Our selves are less the unique existential objects we are conditioned to perceive them to be, than they are the matrix of myriad biophysical entities and forces. Without place, there’s no face. What Bryant was sensitive to, and understood, is: everything outside of us is us.

I realize that this fact (that we have a long body) seems ridiculous—but let me suggest the ridiculousness is proof of its miraculousness. We are much more than we have ever been taught.

It was Bryant’s sensitivity to his environment that informed him of his long body, not scientific research. What so wonderful is that we are able to be as sensitive he was to what is actually happening around and to us, what is actually giving us life and making us who we are. Life is the miracle making everything happen, whether it is our own, our children’s, even the neighbor’s dog that barks all the time. Keeping that sensitivity sensitive, and moving it to the forefront of consciousness and into the daily humdrumeries, takes practice; it needs to be encouraged and shared; and it needs to be employed to inform our actions, personal, social, political and economic.

So that is why we are now at the river! Time to sense the life larger than ours, and cultivate sensitivity to it.

Let us first look at the massive river-sculptured stones at the Chesterfield Gorge, Shelburne Falls or Rock Dam. These beautiful places might seem like they have been like this since the beginning of time, but they haven’t been. You are far older than they are! Wherever we live in the valley or the hills, everything we see around us that is not made by humans—mountains, rivers, valleys—are the result of the actions of the Laurentian Ice Sheet that melted only 12,000 years ago. Our ancestors migrated from northeastern Africa 50-60,000 years ago—and they are not dead; we are them; they are us. By virtue of our long body, we are more than 4 times older than these places! And we can eat ice cream!

The sculptured ledges and boulders were whittled by the rushing torrents spewed by melting glaciers, and there were people here then; hunting the same caribou that followed the melting ice and now live in the shrinking Arctic Circle. Think of them when you see Sugarloaf Mountain in South Deerfield, because it was one of their favorite places—like it is ours, today!

iron_bacteria_burnThe sculptured stones of our rivers are ancient, anywhere from 400 to 200 million years old—but they are younger than what I have brought down by the riverside to to see: Gallionella ferruginea, the bacteria that makes rust colored plumes near riverbanks by metabolizing iron dissolved in the water. As it metabolizes the iron it affixes oxygen molecules, which oxidizes the iron and turns it orange.

Gallionella is an aerobic (“air-breathing”) bacteria works with an anaerobic (“non-air-breathing”) relative that metabolizes dead leaves inside the riverbank, and “poops” out soluble iron. The iron is carried by flowing subterranean water into the river, where Gallionella metabolizes it, producing rust colored plumes. The anaerobic bacteria’s action of “biological iron apportionment has been described as one of the most ancient forms of microbial metabolism on Earth, and as a conceivable extraterrestrial metabolism on other iron-mineral-rich planets such as Mars.”

From now on, when you see the rust colored plumes in streams and rivers, pause and cultivate sensitivity—you’re in the presence of creatures whose family is older than any place on earth you’ve been, any mountain you’ve ever walked on or even seen pictures of. And then consider that you have as many bacteria on and in you than you have of your own cells! And that our immune systems are significantly constituted by symbiotic bacteria like Lactoacidophilus; which proves we share our long body with them. And photosynthesis—the metabolism of solar radiation by chlorophyll—was first accomplished by bacteria 2.3 billion years ago; and these bacteria created our atmosphere.

The blue sky is a child of the most ancient and primitive lifeforms on earth that generously exhaled it, giving us a place where we can have a face. And that is why I brought you here to the river. I wanted you to meet iron bacteria and cultivate a sensitivity for the life of the long body, older and stronger than the rocks and the sky—and as immediate as we are.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kurt Heidinger, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Biocitizen, non-profit school of field environmental philosophy, based in the Western MA Hilltown of Westhampton, MA where he lives with his family. Biocitizen gives participants an opportunity to “think outside” and cultivate a joyous and empowering biocultural awareness of where we live and who we are. Check out Kurt’s monthly column, The Ripple, here on Hilltown Families on the 4th Monday of every month to hear his stories about rivers in our region. Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you!

Learning Landscapes: Integrating Permaculture with Community-Based Education

Thanksgiving is Over, Now What?

How can you leverage everyday experiences, curiosity, and natural relationships in your child’s learning landscape?

Thanksgiving is over.

Did you and your children get enough? Give enough? Did you open your home to and give thanks for family, friends, people three degrees removed, or the bounties of Earth because the traditional customs of this holiday often calls us to do so?

Did you and your children fully live with an attitude of gratitude and feel the power, glory and story that Thanksgiving can evoke? What story was that exactly and were you touched by other’s stories? What’s the story that will endure?

Permaculture, infused into not only the learning landscape but our holistic life landscape, calls us to self-regulate to make ethical choices, take action, and live knowing “all is in relation.” To paraphrase Dr. David Blumenkrantz, we are a collection of works of human experience. In this way, we are a library of life connected to the wisdom of our ancestors and a thread into the future.

Our story emerges in relation to our shared covenant that brings our community together. We chose to co-create a shared story through a bond of ethics and thinking tools that help us go beyond scientific observations of the patterns of nature and connect us with the ancient wisdom and sacredness of all.

We are drowning in information that tells us how to do “enough”

to prove to others that we have enough,

but we are starving for the wisdom to find peace in the fact that

we are already enough.

“We are starving for wisdom.” Why is that? Perhaps what we choose to feed might be worth exploring. There is a Middle Eastern Islamic folk tale that illustrates this point more clearly. It goes like this:

Mullah Nasruddin had been working in the fields all day long. He was tired and sweaty and his clothes and shoes were covered with mud and stains. Because he had been fasting all day long, for Ramadan, he was also quite hungry.

The wealthiest man in town had invited everyone to come break their fasts in his home that evening with a huge feast. Nasruddin knew that he would be late if he went home to change his clothes before heading into town. He decided it was better to arrive in dirty clothes than to be late.

When Nasruddin arrived, the wealthy man opened the door and looked Nasruddin up and down scornfully. Without a word of welcome, he gestured for Nasruddin to come in and walked abruptly away. Nasruddin joined the throngs of people, who were all dressed in their finest clothing and the tables were laden with all sorts of delicious foods.

Despite his efforts to hurry, the seats were all taken and nobody tried to move over or make a space for Nasruddin. Nobody offered him food. Nobody spoke to him. It was as if he wasn’t even there. The other guests ignored him so completely that Nasruddin could not enjoy the food on his plate, no matter how finely prepared and how tasty it was. In fact, after only a few bites, Nasruddin was so uncomfortable that he decided to leave.

He hurried home and changed into his finest clothing, including a beautiful coat. Nasruddin returned and this time the host welcomed him with a huge smile. As Nasruddin entered, people waved and called to him from all corners of the room as they invited him to sit near them and offered him food.

Nasruddin sat down quietly. Picking up a plump fig, he carefully placed it into a coat pocket, saying, “Eat, coat, eat.” Next he took a handful of nuts and put them into the pocket, saying, “Eat, coat, eat.” Now he began to feed his coat in earnest, grabbing all sorts of foods.

One by one the guests became silent as they watched this strange behavior. Soon everyone in the room was quietly staring at Nasruddin, wondering what he was doing. The host hurried over. “Nasruddin, whatever are you doing? Why are you feeding your coat in this manner?”

“Well,” replied Nasruddin, “when I first came to this feast in my old farming clothes, I was not welcome. No one would speak with me. But when I changed into this coat, suddenly I was greeted warmly. So I realized it was not me that was welcome at this party, but my clothing. And so I am feeding my coat.”

What exactly are we “feeding” in our lives, our communities, especially at this time of year when the power, glory and story of what it means to be enough, have enough, do enough, and live enough is waiting to confront us at every turn? It can feel unescapable and in our society where connecting with and honoring the “me” may not be balanced with our responsibilities and the awesome possibilities of the “we.”

What might be possible if the story we were telling ourselves and our children is:

I am enough and you are enough and together we are more than enough.

Together we can change the story and transform the future.

What might embracing an enduring attitude of gratitude as part of a greater “we” look like? Here are three ideas that can positively impact our local communities directly:

Setting a Place at the Table

Giving to homeless shelters, food banks or soup kitchens is a wonderful way to support those in need, but for many (and especially kids) this becomes a faceless activity that doesn’t hold personal, emotional meaning. Instead, consider how you can hold a place open at your table for someone in need each and every meal.

How can you do this? Literally, set a place at your table for that “someone.” Physically creating space brings it to the forefront of our thinking each and every time we sit down to eat. Instead of plating up food, place a jar with a coin slit on the place. Each time you sit down to eat add money into the box in support of feeding just one more person.

At the end of December (or better yet January when the goodwill and giving has often tapered off) add up all that you have put into the box and find a person (or more than one) in your community to hand it to directly. Maybe you find people through your local shelter or soup kitchen or perhaps you find and thank someone like a waitress who you see working especially hard, a musician sharing her gift to make that corner of the street just a bit more beautiful or you invite a person who is asking for food to join you at the café nearby for a meal.

After personally placing some money to help in the hands of others, kids may enjoy making drawings of the people and pasting them on the jar. Continue and do this again next month.

Giving Bag

How many of us have seen someone asking for money, food, bus fare or whatever? How many of us even look at the person in the eye and greet them kindly, regardless of whether we have money to give? How can you not just give in kindness or share a dollar if you happen to have one on you, but instead be prepared to give and be awaiting the call? Keep a couple bags in the car with food, water, and warm socks and money for bus fare to give when you find someone who needs help. This is a true story that a friend shared:

Today I met a woman in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s. I was sitting in my car answering a text and she was walking between the cars. She walked up to mine and I rolled down my window. She needed money for food and a ride to a nearby town. I couldn’t give her a ride because I needed to get home to my two kids who were home sick, but I could listen to her, empathize and give her one of the bags we keep in the car with food, water, and warm socks and money for bus fare. When I got out if my car to talk to her she smiled and thanked me. “Most people just ignore me and walk away,” she said. “Another lady ordered me an Uber and when the driver arrived and saw me, he drove away.” When I got the bag out of my trunk and gave her money, she burst into tears and I gave her a hug. All it takes is kindness and knowing that we are all struggling and we can do this if we all help a little.  

Cultivate Community Supported Education (CSE)

The idea of joining a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to support our local farmers is well accepted. Why not do the same for education by cultivating Community Supported Education (CSE)? Together we can!

PERMIE KIDs is an educational resource network that inspires, supports and shares the collective wisdom of nature and community-oriented families, educators, artists and designers. Our story is one that is about community-oriented experiential education by design. The underlying ethics and values of our story are designed to help not only our family and local community, but our worldwide community remember and use what is already present in our lives and connect with the wisdom and work of others to create resilient and regenerative “learning landscapes” that help children design beautiful relationships with themselves, others and Nature.

Although PERMIE KIDs is an online space where educators, artists, musicians and more can come together and share their wisdom, this idea can also be done at a micro-level in your own local communities. Sharing and exchanging educational ideas and resources with others is not a new idea, but in a world where “me” often outweighs the “we” it takes a community organizer who can re-ignite interest and opportunities to do so. What might be possible if you were to embrace the role of community organizer and design a Community Supported Education (CSE) in your place?

What might you and your children have to share with this world that can nourish life? An attitude of gratitude nourishes life. Opportunities to embrace this are all around if we open our minds, hands and hearts.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jen MendezJen Mendez

Jen is a wife, mother of two joyous children, experiential education mentor, and founder of PERMIE KIDs. She has a M. Ed. in International Education and has worked with children in the U.S. and overseas from early childhood through the primary years, as well as parent-educators. She integrates an ethical, design science methodology with her love for education to help others learn to design a customized education with their children that honors themselves, others, and the earth.

Weekdays in Western MA: November 28, 2016 – December 2, 2016

Weekdays in Western MA:
November 28, 2016 – December 2, 2016

Weekday community-based educational opportunities can be found throughout the four counties of Western MA all week long! Each weekday we feature community-based educational opportunities that can be selected to support the interests and education of self-directed teens, homeschoolers and life-long learners.

Select the day of the week and find events that support your interests through community engagement!

Check our list of Weekly Suggested Events for our comprehensive list, including ongoing learning and play opportunities for younger children and intergenerational community events.

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HFVS Songs of Gratitude Episode with Guest DJ, Eric Herman

LISTEN TO PODCAST:

Songs of Gratitude Episode
with Guest DJ, Eric Herman

Eric Herman gets downright happy in this show featuring songs that celebrate feeling good about yourself and about life, and being positive and grateful. Find out more about Eric and his music by visiting www.erichermanmusic.com.

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
Nov 26th & 27th, 2016
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured video: “What a Ride” – Cool Tunes for Kids by Eric Herman


 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

LISTEN TO PODCAST:

PLAYLIST

James Brown – “I Got You (I Feel Good)” [James Brown – 16 Original Hits]
Eric Herman – “What a Ride” [What a Ride]
Schneiderman Sisters – “Three Little Birds” [That Baby CD]
Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella – “Hakuna Matata” [The Lion King Soundtrack]
Bobby McFerrin – “Don’t Worry Be Happy” [Simple Pleasures]
David Tobocman – “Hello Goodbye” [Lemonade School]
Randy Kaplan – “My Little Laugh” [The Kids Are All Id]
Eric Ode – “Let a Little Light Shine” [When You Smile]
Eric Herman – “The Best Parts” [Party Animal]
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – “Gotta Be You” [Make Believers]
-Story by Eric Herman-
The SqueeGees – “I Can I Can” [Veggie Soup]
Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could – “The Little Band That Could” [Here Comes Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could]
Jack Johnson with Ben Harper – “My Own Two Hands” [Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George]
Eric Herman and the Thunder Puppies – “I Wanna Be That Guy” [Bubble Wrap]
Pharrell Williams – “Happy” [Happy]
REM with Kate Pierson – “Shiny Happy People” [Out of Time]

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Berkshire Family Fun: December 2016

Berkshire County Highlights for Families:
December 2016

Courtesy of Geoffrey Coelho

Courtesy of Geoffrey Coelho

Find out about community events and learning opportunities happening throughout Berkshire County for the month of November. We’ll be adding to this list as the month progresses, so be sure to check back each week. Do you have an event you’d like to include in this list? Email us at info@hilltownfamilies.org.

To find out what’s happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, check our comprehensive list of Weekly Suggested Events, published every Thursday!


Berkshire Family Fun, a project of Hilltown Families, is sponsored in part by MASS MoCA:

Berkshire Family Fun is also supported in part by a grant from the Hinsdale/Peru, Mount Washington, Monterey, North Berkshire, Pittsfield, Washington, and Windsor Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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Recap Map: Western MA Weekend Summary & Family Guide for November 26th & 27th, 2016

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 November 26th – December 2nd, 2016 for a comprehensive list of events happening throughout the four counties of Western MA, including Bulletin Board Announcements, Ongoing Story Hours & Playgroups and the Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Also check our seasonal post, Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2016 and our monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun, for a list of premier educational and cultural highlights in Berkshire County for families.

November 26th – December 2nd, 2016

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Tree LightingSantaHoliday StrollsMYO GiftsCaroling/Choral MusicHanukkahChristmasKwanzaaWinter Solstice

Family Volunteer Days

RECAP

FIVE FROM THE ARCHIVES

  1. What Strengthens Your Sense of Place and Community Pride?
  2. HFVS Pioneers of Sound Episode with Guest DJ, Elska (Radio Show/Podcast)
  3. Engage in Community-Based Learning & Service: Become a Pet Foster Family
  4. Let Them Grow: Giving Back This Holiday Season
  5. Open Sesame: 10 New Picture Books to Ring in Holiday Cheer

RECAP MAP SPONSOR

See your banner here! Sponsor Recap Map!

Find out how you can be a sponsor too!

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Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2016

Suggested Events for November 26th – December 2nd, 2016

Hilltown Families List of Weekly Suggested Events

“As a creative mama, Hilltown Families has opened up a whole world of wondrous adventures for our family. Keep up the great work…it is so very appreciated.” – Abbe Laine Schiowitz (Shutesbury, MA)

Suggest EventIf you have a community event, educational program or service opportunity for youth/families happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, self-post your event at any time on our Suggest An Event bulletin board. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness, and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after-school/homeschool class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business/school, service, open house, volunteer opportunity or general announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Click HERE to find out more.

Bulletin Board

Nov 25

CT Trolley Museum presents Winterfest 2016 and “The Tunnel of Lights” beginning Friday, November 25. Whether you ride a closed car or brave the cold to ride the open “electric sleigh,” they promise you a good time and one that you’ll remember for years. Join your motormen in singing traditional Christmas carols as the trolley makes its way through the “Tunnel of Lights.” When you return, head inside the Visitors Center which has been transformed into a Winter Wonderland complete with model trains, decorations galore and you can even buy a delicious cup of hot cocoa to sip as you enjoy the entertainment. Additionally, meet and pose for a picture with Santa and he will also have a gift for each child.

Nov 25

The New England Air Museum will hold its annual Santa Claus Visit & Behind the Scenes Tours special event on Friday, November 25, the day after Thanksgiving. Santa Claus will meet with kids in a Sikorsky helicopter between 11am-3pm. Photos are encouraged and Santa will distribute a special gift to each child. Families will also have the opportunity to create holiday cards for members of the U.S. military. Additional family fun activities include hands-on Build & Fly Challenges, Aircraft Quest Scavenger Hunts, and computerized Flight Simulators. The museum will also offer special “Behind the Scenes” tours of the Restoration Facility that day, giving visitors a rare opportunity to take a close-up look at current aircraft restoration projects.

Open House: Dec 7

Montessori Middle School Information Session. What’s different about a Montessori middle school? Would it be a good fit for my adolescent? Come learn the answers to these and other questions on Wednesday, December 7 from 4-5pm at the Montessori School of Northampton, 51 Bates Street, Northampton. Corey Hadden, Middle School Teacher, and Laura Frogameni, Director of Admissions, will discuss adolescent development and how the Montessori middle school curriculum supports the student aged 12-14 at this critical point in their development through challenging academics, a focus on exploring identity and purpose, and opportunities to contribute to the larger community. For more information: northamptonmontessori.org or 413-586-4538.

Dec 2

PJ Library and Shabbat Shabloom invite you to Shababa in Northampton, a musical celebration of Jewish life with puppets, play, and love! This joyful event will feature Karina Zilberman from the 92St Y in New York and is for children ages 0-5 and their grownups. Shababa in Northampton is free and open to everyone and will take place on Friday, December 2 from 9-10am in the auditorium at Lander Grinspoon Academy at 257 Prospect Street in Northampton, MA. Questions? Contact Amy Meltzer, Director of Family Engagement at 413-584-6622 or ameltzer@landergrinspoon.org.

Open House: Dec 3

Saturday, Dec. 3rd: The Center School Admissions Open House, 10am-2pm. The Center School is a preschool through 8th grade progressive school, serving Hampshire & Franklin counties. Please come explore the school on Saturday, Dec. 3rd for an Admissions Open House. Classrooms will be open and staff will be on hand with innovative projects planned for kids of all ages. Current parents and students will be in attendance to answer questions and share about the school. Light refreshments will be available for purchase. The Center School has been offering rigorous education for deep thinkers and creative spirits for 35 years and is currently accepting applications for all ages, for fall of 2017. centerschool.net

Dec 3

Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity hosts the fifth annual Gingerbread Build on Saturday, December 3rd from 1-4pm at the Eastworks Building in Easthampton. Join them for a family-friendly afternoon filled with frosting and fun! Gingerbread and icing will be provided — bring any decorations you want to build your inspired creation to be entered into one of their whimsical prize categories! Fundraise online and register your team of up to four by making a minimum donation of $100. For more information or questions about registration, call 413-586-5430 or email mariah@pvhabitat.org. Thank you for helping to provide decent, affordable homes for qualified families in the Pioneer Valley.

Dec 3

Winter Fair at the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School. As an alternative to traditional holiday buying, the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School will host a fair on Saturday, December 3 from 10am-3pm at 1 Industrial Parkway in Easthampton. Visitors will have the opportunity to make a variety of crafts including fairy houses, wreaths, gingerbread people, tote bags and more. Concurrently with craft-making will be the annual Scholastic Book Fair, special performances by the Student Chorus, a bake sale and a raffle. All proceeds from the event support the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School library and educational programs. For more information, contact Deirdre Arthen at 413-529–7178 or visit www.hilltowncharter.org.

Dec 5

Looking for a warm and welcoming school? Consider Lander-Grinspoon Academy (LGA) in Northampton. Join the entire LGA community on Monday, December 5 at 8:20am to sing, celebrating the end of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, and see students perform. Can’t make the 8:20am start time? Feel free to show up at 8:45am for a school tour. LGA is committed to the intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual development of its students. Its emphasis on community, culture, social justice, encourages students of all ages to become independent thinkers, as well as caring and responsible citizens of the world. LGA is now accepting applications for grades K-6. For more information contact GLansky@LanderGrinspoon.org.

ADVERTISE HERE: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! See your summer camp, class, community event, school, open house, audition, homeschool program, workshop, volunteer opportunity, wellness program, local business, after-school class, or non-profit featured here in the Bulletin Board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and in our weekly eNewsletter, reaching thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Find out more about our advertising options and how you can partner with Hilltown Families in your online marketing by emailing us at info@hilltownfamilies.org.

Become a Contributing WriterJOIN OUR TEAM OF CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Interested in becoming a Contributing or Guest Writer for Hilltown Families? We welcome writings that reflect the community-building and educational efforts parents, teens, teachers, artists, activists and community leaders work towards and accomplish, and how that affects, supports and empowers our families. All writing styles welcomed, including local reviews, DIY posts, seasonal cooking/local food, and community-based educational & community service learning opportunities/resources. Send your query to info@hilltownfamilies.org.


LIST OF WEEKLY SUGGESTED EVENTS
November 26th – December 2nd, 2016

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Suggest an Event | Cultural Itineraries | Forecast | Museum Passes | Weekly eNewsletter | Farmers’ Markets | Storyhour & Playgroups| Berkshire Family Fun | Advertise/Sponsorship | en Español

Donate Now Read the rest of this entry »

10 Black Friday Alternatives to the Mall in Western MA, 2016

See our Black Friday special segment on Mass Appeal: Click Here.


10 Smart Black Friday Alternatives to the Mall
Friday, November 25th, 2016

In addition to community events for Black Friday, a self-initiated family activity might include visiting a local tree farm and cutting your own evergreen for the holidays. Linking the holidays and environmental science, an examination of evergreen tree farming can help children learn about a non-food related form of sustainable farming. Tree farming contributes to oxygen production, provides food and habitat for variety of animal species, and doesn’t have a huge impact on the location in which it takes place. Read more in our post, Local Christmas Tree Farms: A Lens Into Environmental Science.

In Amherst at 1pm and 2:30pm
Families who love Eric Carle’s artwork have the chance to see some of them brought to life by Picture Book Theater! The group will be performing The Very Quiet Cricket and The Lamb and The Butterfly, at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Each family will receive a copy of Carle’s The Very Quiet Cricket during the show. Older kids and parents will be able to think about how the theater troupe interpreted and performed their adaptation of a heavily visual story. 413-658-1100. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. (<$)

In Cummington from 10am-12noon
Artists often draw upon time spent in nature, and natural scenes, as inspiration from their works. You are invited to do the same at William Cullen Bryant Homestead. For “Green Friday,” enjoy a guided hike to explore the Old Growth Forest. Walk leaders will read poetry inspired by the grounds, look at examples of nature drawings, and sketch some trees. Bring a sketchbook and pencil. For information call The Trustees at 413-628-4485 x3. 413-532-1631. 207 Bryant Road. Cummington, MA. (FREE)

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Non-Commercial Gift Giving: The Art of Sharing

Non-Commercial Gift Giving: The Art of Sharing

Craft fairs and open studios happen across the region during the holiday season. [Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

During the holiday season, gift-giving is considered a traditional aspect of our seasonal celebrations.  Instead of purchasing a gift, gift givers can also look to the domestic arts, crafts, and visual arts for inspiration in making handmade gifts that encourage originality and thought. This week in Learning Ahead we are featuring ways to give gifts that are value-base (non-commerical & creative-free play), support learning and accessible through community-based events, resources and opportunities!


Excerpt from Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts (Seasons: Nov/Dec), a downloadable bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

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Traditional Crafts & Artisan Skills: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Shop Local: Craft Fairs & Open Studios

Take the challenge this year by shopping local and non-commercial during the holiday season. The abundance of craft fairs and open studios happening in the area featuring handmade products by local artists and artisans make it easy to find that special something when looking for a gift of any kind. Handmade wood or glass ornaments, hand-knitted scarves, upcycled accessories, one-of-a kind prints and stationary… our region is filled with a strong creative economy filled with amazing artisans!

While browsing an artisans studio or booth, take the time to stop and talk with them. Be curious and ask them questions. Discover how they learned their craft skill, what the history is behind their craft, how long they have been making their art, and where they find their inspiration. A purchase not only supports the artist and artisan, but your gift now comes with a story to share with the person with you you will give your gift.  Read the rest of this entry »

Language Arts & Creativity: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Handmade: Write a Zine or Make a Journal

Zines (short for magazine or fanzine) are self-published books that include different media forms: collage, illustrations, comic strips, and words.  A zine can be a book of poetry or a story, it can be a guide book or a collection of fairy tales – the sky’s the limit!  Zines can also be photocopied and bound so that you can produce multiple copies.  Here’s a short documentary on Zines…

Making a zine is a rewarding, creative process and can certainly be a part of your gift giving plans for the holidays. Need some inspiration for your zine-making adventures? Check out the Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton, MA.  The Flywheel Arts Collective has a community Zine library and cafe with over 3,000 zines, featuring many from Western Massachusetts!  Flywheel is a collective of art and poetry that allows people to share their work with others in their local community.  It’s a great community resource for those looking to feel inspired through grassroots art and literature that aims to inspire, provoke thought and engage the community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Science & Art: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Go to a Makerspace!

Makerspaces inspire creativity!  These community places provide the space to combine science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM!) in order to make and create.  They are like an artist’s studio but also include digital making as well as physical making.  Activities include woodworking, electronics, computers, 3D printing, knitting, screen printing, sewing, and more!  Western Massachusetts has a number of community maker spaces to start brainstorming your do-it-yourself gift giving ideas.  Read the rest of this entry »

Fiber Arts, Math & Mindfulness: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Knit Something!

Remember the knitted items you saw during the Agricultural Fairs towards the end of the summer? Get ready for next September’s aggie fairs while working on gifts for others this season! At www.ravelry.com, you to search for free knitting patterns that can help you come up with your next project gift idea.  Perhaps a one-skein hat? A pair of mittens?  Or a hand-knitted cowl?  Knitting is not only a fun activity and great way to hand-make a gift, but it’s also a wonderful way to get together with fellow knitters of all ages and knit together!  Who knows what new stitches you’ll learn and the new friends you’ll meet!  Read the rest of this entry »

Culinary and Pastry Arts: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

The Gift of Food!

Bûche de Noël from Bread Euphoria in Haydenville, MA. [Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

Tis becoming to season to pay special attention to spreading kindness to those around us! Families can spread kindness by sharing homemade foods with neighbors, and can expand this activity to include studies of world cultures by baking foods enjoyed internationally!

We explored food preservation earlier this month – now it’s time to put those skills to use!  Pumpkin or apple butter make great holiday gifts and are something the recipient can enjoy for the entire season! Jams and jellies are also a nice gift idea! Want to help the gift recipient get ready for sugaring season in the late winter?  How about preparing a ready to go pancake mix in a jar? Finally, freshly baked cookies and pies are always a great gift idea. Read the rest of this entry »

4 Books that Explore the History of Thanksgiving

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

A Slice of History
Four Non-fiction Titles for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving ties us to those colonists who nearly four hundred years ago celebrated their first harvest in a small coastal community now known as Plymouth. The holiday also ties us to the Wampanoag Indians who were vital in helping the Pilgrims survive their new world.

Every year Americans prepare their feasts of thanksgiving, each celebration an echo of that very first feast in 1621. Here are four non-fiction books that give interesting perspectives about our national holiday, dispelling some of the more romantic myths and introducing some fascinating facts. This year along with your harvest feast, go ahead and have a slice of history too.

1621: A New Look At Thanksgiving written by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac, with photographs by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson. In this photo essay, the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving feast is re-enacted at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, MA.  Recorded by National Geographic photographers over three days, the book dispels the more romantic myths of pilgrims dressed in buckles and hats, and Indians wrapped in blankets. And instead gives “a new look,” a fresh perspective, to the beginning of our national holiday. Historically accurate, with full-color photos, the book brings this important piece of history to life, and in particular, gives voice to the Wampanoag Indians’ role in helping the pilgrims to survive. (Published by National Geographic Children’s Books, Washington, D.C., 2001. ISBN: 0-79-22702-74. 48 pages.)

Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners (The pilgrims thought about food all the time. They had to!) written by Lucille Recht Penner with illustrations selected by author. This book explores the customs, manners, and eating habits of the Pilgrims, from their first years surviving in the wilderness to their later years as successful farmers and hunters. Filled with details about the Pilgrims’ struggle for survival and how smelly, messy, and perilous it was, the book portrays their daily life, while specifically focusing on food. The book also highlights how Pilgrim survival depended on the help of native peoples. Line drawings and photographs accent the information, and with chapter titles like “Bugs for Dinner” and “We All Scream for Pudding,” readers’ curiosities will be piqued.  Pilgrim menus and recipes included. (Published by Perfection Learning, Iowa 1997. ISBN: 0-75-69410-91. 117 pages.)

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message adapted by Chief Jake Swamp and illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr. In this children’s version of the Iroquois Thanksgiving Address, readers can hear a message of gratitude that originated with the native peoples of New York and Canada. Traditionally spoken at the beginning of each day and at special ceremonies, the Thanksgiving Address expresses a reverence for nature and recognizes the unity among all living creatures. The message stretches the idea that there isn’t just one day of the year for giving thanks, but sees every day as an opportunity for thanksgiving. The message is also written out in the Mohawk language. Bold, color-block paintings provide a vibrant landscape for reading. (Published by Lee & Low Books, New York, 1995. ISBN: 1-88-00001-56. 24 pages.)

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, written by Laurie Halse Anderson and illustrated by Matt Faulkner, is told in an easy conversational style and illustrated with lush drawings full of detail and historic relevance.  The book introduces a little known heroine, Sarah Hale, (who is also responsible for penning “Mary Had A Little Lamb”), and her crusade to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Noticing how Thanksgiving was losing its importance in American traditions, Hale spent 38 years writing magazine articles and petitioning four different presidents until her perseverance and pen power finally won out. President Lincoln was persuaded by her argument that a national holiday would re-unite the union, and in 1863 he made it official. ”A Feast of Facts” outlines more information about Thanksgiving, Sarah Hale, and 1863 in history. (Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2002. ISBN: 0-68-98478-74. 40 pages.)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

Nature Table for November: Deer Hunting

Nature Table for November

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new nature table whose contents inspire learning along a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. A tradition carried out by teachers, environmental educators, and nature-curious families, nature tables bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. The idea behind a nature table is to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season, and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves. A nature table can include a variety of items, and is often accompanied by a set of books and/or field guides so that children can take part in further learning at their own will.

With fall’s chilly air and crisp, frosty mornings, have come changes in the ways in which local creatures interact with the landscape. Frogs and salamanders have buried themselves in blankets of thick mud, birds have started to migrate south (leaving space for their Canadian neighbors to stop by), and mammals have embarked on the final push to collect goodies to tide them over through the winter. Fall brings about a change in the ways in which humans interact with the landscape, too. Just as creatures sense the coming winter, humans also brace themselves for the changes that lie ahead. These days, we humans have most of our overwintering needs met by the marvels of modern technology which bring us ripe tomatoes in December and other unseasonable joys. Despite the ease with which we can find fresh sustenance during these modern winters, many folks still stock up for the off-season by preserving and preparing foods they’ve grown or gathered themselves. The agrarian elements of our ingrained need to stock up for winter have held out. This month, our nature table focuses on an element of the fall season that, despite its usefulness in preparing families for winter, has waned significantly in popularity over the course of the past two generations.

Deer hunting was once commonplace amongst the hills and valleys of western Massachusetts. Deer (and their elk cousins), were hunted long, long before European settlers even dreamed of coming to North America, and the seasonal hunt of deer was important in the diets of New Englanders for centuries. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Baking with Toddlers Offers Sensory Learning & Creative-Free Play

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Baking With Toddlers

Some of my favorite time with children is spent baking. Children love it, and if I am not too performance driven, I love every minute, too! Baking with toddlers can also be a disaster, if you are not prepared or try to make extravagant things with too many steps. Baking should be fun. Baking can also be a math lesson, an art lesson, and a culinary experience. It is a time to bond and a time to create. I have two favorite things to make with toddlers, especially around the holidays: bread and apple crisp, two easy baking projects. Here are the recipes!  Read the rest of this entry »

Gorge Aprés Gorge: Thanksgiving Weekend Tradition Supports Nature-Based & Intergenerational Engagement

Gorge Aprés Gorge: Best Little Walk/Run in the Hilltowns

The Sunday morning following your Thanksgiving dinner gorge, rise and shine to join friends and neighbors for the 13th annual Gorge Aprés Gorge run/walk at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield, MA. Community members are invited to embrace winter by being outside with friends and neighbors in a three mile out and back run/walk/bike/snowshoe/ski along the beautiful Westfield River. It’s a free event and all are welcomed! It’s a family affair. 5K at 9:30am. Family walk at 11am.

For the past 13 years, families have gathered together at the Chesterfield Gorge on the Sunday after Thanksgiving to walk, run, and socialize at a community potluck. The Gorge après Gorge Family Fun Walk and 5k run was started by organizers Leslie Charles and Tanya Rapinchuk, as a way to escape from the stress that can accompany the holidays and to get outside and appreciate nature with your friends, family, and neighbors. Charles explains, “I believe community and getting to know each other is the best way forward for humanity. It’s a homegrown event to really benefit everybody. It invites anyone and everyone to join in for a walk or run. It’s a total labor of love inspired by the desire to share the outdoors with our community, make new friends, and gather together.”

It began with just a few dozen people, and has grown over the years as word has spread about this wonderful family-oriented event.

“I have attended every Gorge Aprés Gorge these past 13 years,” says Hilltown Families Founder and West Chesterfield resident, Sienna Wildfield. “The Chesterfield Gorge, the Westfield River, and families from around the region make this event as special part of our community tradition. It offer a way we can support a sense of place through engagement with these amazing community treasures!”

Read the rest of this entry »

Weekdays in Western MA: November 21 – November 25, 2016

Weekdays in Western MA:
November 21 – November 25, 2016

Weekday community-based educational opportunities can be found throughout the four counties of Western MA all week long! Each weekday we feature community-based educational opportunities that can be selected to support the interests and education of self-directed teens, homeschoolers and life-long learners.

Select the day of the week and find events that support your interests through community engagement!

Check our list of Weekly Suggested Events for our comprehensive list, including ongoing learning and play opportunities for younger children and intergenerational community events.

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