Learning Ahead: July & August Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for
Western Massachusetts
Seasons: July & August

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a 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.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, a July and August cultural itinerary for Western Massachusetts includes:

  • An American holiday as a CATALYST for learning: Independence Day
  • PLACEMAKING at parks and community spaces through music: Outdoor Concerts
  • Resources that are ubiquitous and NATUREBASED: Summer Storms
  • Sweet fruits that celebrate FOOD TRADITIONS: Berries
  • Western MA as a CULTURAL destination for relaxation: Vacation
  • Outdoor activities that are INTEREST-BASED: Fishing
  • Ephemeral seasonal HABITAT: Flower Gardens
  • INTERGENERATIONAL outdoor living: Camping
  • Learning LENS that connects us to the season: Boating

Click here to download free pdf (32 pages).


Mass Humanities This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Special thank you to sponsors of this issue, including:  New England Air Museum.

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Learning Ahead: May & June Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for
Western Massachusetts
Seasons: May & June

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a 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.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening a sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, a May and June cultural itinerary for Western Massachusetts includes:

  • Giving handmade and NATUREBASED gifts to honor the mother figures in our lives. Supporting NONCOMMERCIAL celebrations: Mother’s Day
  • Sharing of skills, stories, and fresh produce once a week through PLACEMAKING and COLLABORATIVE CONSUMPTIONFarmers’ Markets 
  • Acts of KINDNESS and INTERGENERATIONAL engagement mark history and honor community members: Memorial Day
  • FOOD celebrations and COMMUNITY MEALS connect us to the seasons and one another: Spring Harvest
  • Native species and their impact on our culture strengthen our SENSE OF PLACESpring Wildflowers
  • Family trees and scenic byways as a CATALYST for learning: Father’s Day
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURES and local geography inspire the muse: Summer Trails
  • ART and CULTURE come alive in the summer: Berkshire Mountains

Click here to download free pdf (36 pages).


Mass Humanities This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Special thank you to sponsors of this issue, including Thornes Marketplace.

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Learning Ahead: March & April Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for
Western Massachusetts
Seasons: March & April

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a 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.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, a March and April cultural itinerary for Western Massachusetts includes:

  • First harvest of the year reunites us to seasonal FOOD TRADITIONS: Maple Syrup
  • Local HABITAT awakens us to the changing seasons: Vernal Pools
  • Local Changemakers as a CATALYST for learning: Women’s History Month
  • INTERGENERATIONAL sharing of the joys of native species: Spring Birds
  • NATURE-BASED activities connect us to local poets: National Poetry Month
  • Learning through the LENS of spring holidays: Easter & Passover
  • VALUE-BASED engagement connects interests: Earth Day
  • Discover seasonal CULTURE: Sheep Shearing

Click here to download free pdf (40 pages).


Mass Humanities This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Special thank you to sponsors of this issue, including: The Trustees of ReservationsNew England Air Museum.

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Learning Ahead: Jan & Feb Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for
Western Massachusetts
Seasons: January & February

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a 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.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, a January and February cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts includes:

  • NATURE-BASED activities connect us to the land: Nordic skiing, alpine skiing, ice skating, & snowshoeing
  • VALUE based engagement on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Service-Based Learning Events & Civic Engagement
  • Learn about New England TRADITIONS: Ice Harvesting
  • African American History Month as a CATALYST for learning: Poetry, History & Art
  • Mark the SEASON by sharing & connecting: Winter Festivals & Placemaking
  • INTERGENERATIONAL engagement for Valentine’s Day: Handmade, Non-Commercial & Creative-Free Play
  • Looking through the LENS of Presidents’ Day: Freedom & Literacy
  • Discover seasonal FOOD: Winter Farmers’ Markets
  • Local HABITAT connects us to ourselves: Writing & Mindfulness

Click here to download PDF (44 pages).


Mass Humanities This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Special thank you to sponsors of this issue, including: The Trustees of ReservationsSpringfield Museums.

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Learning Ahead: Nov & Dec Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for
Western Massachusetts
Seasons: November & December

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a 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.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, our Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for November and December includes:

  • Learn about FOOD preservation: Harvest, Butchers & Museums
  • Veterans Day as a CATALYST for learning: Literature, History & Music
  • Looking through the LENS of Thanksgiving: Poetry & Painting
  • VALUE based engagement: Handmade &  Non-Commercial
  • Local HABITAT connects us to myth & nature: Christmas Trees
  • PLACEMAKING with annual events: Holiday Strolls & Caroling
  • Experience other CULTURES through the holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa & Three Kings Day
  • Mark the SEASON by sharing & connecting: Winter Solstice & Storytelling
  • Engage in New England TRADITIONS: First Night & First Hikes

Click here to download PDF (38 pages).


Mass Humanities This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Special thank you to sponsors of this issue, including: ♦ Montague BookmillNew England Air MuseumDowntown Northampton AssociationSpringfield Museums.

Learning Ahead: Sept & Oct Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Learning Ahead:
Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts
Seasons: Sept & Oct

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a new 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.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, our debut Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is for the months of September and October and includes:

  • Participation in local CULTURE: Agricultural Fairs and Fall Festivals
  • PLACEMAKING through annual events: Guided Tours and Plein Air Paint Outs
  • Gathering and preparing seasonal FOOD: Apples and Pumpkins
  • VALUE based engagement: Intergenerational, Skillsharing, and Community Meals
  • Marking the SEASON with annual events: Back-to-School and Halloween
  • Engage in local HABITAT: Nature Trails and Fall Foliage
  • INTEREST based learning: Domestic Arts, Pastry Arts, and Paranormal

Click here to download PDF (38 pages).


Mass Humanities This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Poetry & Place in the Hilltowns

Poetry & Place: Exploring the Hilltown Home of 19th Century Poet William Cullen Bryant

By Andrea Caluori-Rivera
MassLIFT AmeriCorps Member at Hilltown Land Trust & Kestrel Land Trust

Kindred Spirits was commissioned by the merchant-collector Jonathan Sturges as a gift for William Cullen Bryant in gratitude for the nature poet’s moving eulogy to Thomas Cole, who had died suddenly in early 1848. It shows Cole, who had been Jonathan Sturges mentor, standing in a gorge in Catskills in company of a mutual friend William Cullen Bryant. Painting is by artist Asher Brown Durand (1796–1886).

Western Massachusetts has been home to many poets and writers who were inspired by this region’s remarkable landscapes and natural settings. Since April is National Poetry Month, the spring season is a great time to explore some of the homes and writing places of local poets from the past, such as the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, MA.

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) was an editor, abolitionist, conservationist and poet. He grew up in Cummington, MA and later purchased his childhood home and converted it to a country house. Known for his poems inspired by nature, Bryant was also well acquainted with prominent Hudson River School painters Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand. The three of them used their artistic talents in painting and writing to champion the American landscape and helped to inspire the American conservation movement. You can read more about Bryant and his life here: www.poetryfoundation.org.

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead, now a property of The Trustees of Reservations, houses a wonderful collection of items from Bryant’s lifetime as well as interesting objects from later decades left by Bryant’s descendants and those that lived there. The property also boasts an old growth forest and a trail system that follows a rivulet – a water feature Bryant wrote about in 1823 in his poem The Rivulet. Read this poem and his most famous, Thanatopsis.

This spring and summer, The Trustees of Reservations have a variety of activities planned for folks at the homestead where visitors can volunteer, experience history and learn more about this interesting place and its antique objects. These events offer a variety of opportunities to engage your local community through different interests such as community service, local history, poetry, food traditions, and ecology, and hiking.  Read the rest of this entry »

6 Ways to Mix Service-Based Learning with Nature Studies

Service Learning & Nature Studies

By Andrea Caluori-Rivera
MassLIFT AmeriCorps Member at Hilltown Land Trust & Kestrel Land Trust

Learn about different bird species and habitat! Building a birdhouse is a great activity to do on a rainy afternoon that incorporates many skills and interests (woodworking, building, design, citizen science). There are many things to consider before building a birdhouse so take a look at Mass Audubon’s informational site on birdhouses to get started.

Service learning is a great way to encourage active citizenship and a strong environmental ethic.  Last weekend, I sat down with fellow MassLIFT AmeriCorps member, Nick Atherton, to talk about his role as the Service Learning Coordinator at Mount Grace Land Trust and to learn how to incorporate service learning into nature studies projects.

Nick’s primary role is to partner with local schools by creating service-learning opportunities for students that connect them to the outdoors and cultivate environmental awareness. His recent collaborations include interpretive sign making for local trails and research projects on the socio-economic benefits associated with having access to pristine and healthy eco-systems.  He also assists classes with property monitoring of local town trails, and is in the process of helping a middle school class create and care for a classroom garden.  Based on his experiences, Nick explains, “Service-learning empowers young people. It connects them to the community and to their work. It fosters a connection to the land, and makes people stakeholders in their environment.”

With all of these projects, Nick also relies on older generations to pass down their wisdom and skills. For example, in order to start the classroom garden, Nick consulted a community volunteer and master gardener to teach him basic gardening. “These experiences of growing your own food or monitoring properties, they are all best taught from a place of passion, which falls a lot on volunteers to pass down to younger generations.”  Passion is at the core of volunteerism. By donating time to share our skills and give back, we become more connected to our neighbors, family and community.  As Nick mentioned in our meeting, service learning is a great way to cultivate intergenerational skill sharing.  It highlights how we all are integral parts of our community and that everyone has something to teach, learn and share.

So, what are some ways you can combine service learning into your nature studies? Nick and I compiled a few service learning resources to get you started at home and in your community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Transcending Observation: A Conversation with Art & Nature

Transcending Observation: A Conversation with Art & Nature

By Andrea Caluori-Rivera
MassLIFT AmeriCorps Member at Hilltown Land Trust & Kestrel Land Trust

The humanities offer a unique perspective on the natural world, providing a way to define the ineffable experiences we have outdoors.

Often when I tell folks I grew up in The Bronx, it’s assumed my access to the outdoors was very limited.  There weren’t any mountains to climb, impressive summit views or sweeping landscapes to behold, but access to nature was there in different ways: the leaves on the parks’ trees, our neighbor’s tomato plant and along the banks of The Bronx River. During my 7th and 8th grade years in school, The New York Botanical Garden hosted an ecology group for inner city youth in my northwest neighborhood of The Bronx known as Norwood.  For a few years I participated in this group collecting specimens from The Bronx River, learning basic plant science and going for walks in NYBG’s forest.  As an artistically inclined kid, the science of nature was not what grabbed my attention initially.

Instead, I was more fascinated by the art of it: the patterns of bark on the trees, ripples in the water, the land’s aesthetic. The small details in nature captured my attention, precisely because they presented themselves as a sharp contrast to the concrete buildings and sprawling boulevards to which I was accustomed. I knew then, that I loved being outside and in nature because it was beautiful and spoke to me in a creative way. Read the rest of this entry »

The Universal Language of Food

Cooking for Intercultural Competence and Compassion

By Andrea Caluori-Rivera
MassLIFT AmeriCorps Member at Hilltown Land Trust & Kestrel Land Trust

Submitted by Andrea Caluori-Rivera

Food connects us. From the hands and land that grow and nurture our ingredients to the moment we gather together and share a meal, food has the power to reveal the cultural layers that help us learn more about identity and place.

While living in Italy in 2008, I stayed with an older couple in Cernusco sul Naviglio, a town along the outskirts of Milan in Northern Italy. The husband was from Morocco and the wife a native Italian.  As a foreigner in another country, it wasn’t easy making new friends.  Even though I spoke the language and understood the culture, I often found myself alone, reading a book in my room or taking long walks to the center of town. The husband, Ahmed*, noticed my loneliness. One afternoon, he brought me to a nearby small city where his extended family lived. It was one of the few times I ventured outside of Cernusco.

When I arrived, everyone was helping to prepare an early afternoon meal.  Ahmed’s nephew, (later to become one of my few friends in Italy) asked me: Vorresti una forchetta? (‘Would you like a fork?’)  I thought, “A fork? Of course I’d want a fork if I were to eat, wouldn’t I?”  Before I could answer, Ahmed responded. To be sure I understood, he spoke in Italian rather than his native Moroccan dialect: No, lei mangerà come noi. (‘No, she will eat like we do’).

We all sat down at a small round table, a large plate in the center with couscous and lamb stew.  Each person was given a large piece of bread, a small plate, and a napkin; I saw no silverware. Ahmed looked at me as I watched everyone else use the bread to scoop up delicious mouthfuls of the tender lamb and I understood. So I picked up my bread and joined in the feast.  It was the most memorable meal I had in Italy.

I share this story because it was one of the first few moments in my life where I understood what it meant to be culturally aware.  Food became the door to not just being an outsider but rather a companion.  When I came back to the United States, I took a basic course on intercultural competence, the ability to communicate with other cultures appropriately and – I would also say – compassionately. I realized that the preparation of a meal and gathering together in the spirit of community is a profound way to reach beyond the point of observation and build the foundation for empathy, awareness, and most importantly – friendship.  Read the rest of this entry »

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