Community Renaissance Festival Makes History Come Alive!

Community Renaissance Festival Makes History Come Alive!

The 14th Annual Community Renaissance Festival hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies brings history to life! There will be sword demonstrations, juggling, Tarot reading, dancing and music!

Living history and open-air museums and events provide interesting insight into the ways in which we engage with historical information. Renaissance fairs first emerged in the United States in the 1950s, as part of a larger interest in medieval culture and music, resulting is placemaking events that support learning through engagement.

Living history challenges actors and attendees to think about history beyond events, learning about customs, dress, accents and behaviors. Vendors sometimes sell foods and items traditional for the time period. Living history, unlike historical texts or documentaries, is hands-on and interactive. Some renaissance and other living history events provide demonstrations of skills such as blacksmithing, and early printing methods. People of all ages who enjoy dressing up can feel like a more active participant by donning their renaissance wear along with the actors.

The 14th Annual Community Renaissance Festival hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies will be highly entertaining and educational. This event will take place on Saturday, May 1, 2016 from 11am-4pm. Attendees of all ages will have the chance to witness and learn about jewelry making, pottery, weaving, and woodworking. There will be sword demonstrations, juggling, Tarot reading, dancing and music. Plus, a book sale will allow for continued historical learning after the event.  Read the rest of this entry »

Financial Literacy for All Ages at the Library

Financial Literacy for All Ages
Jones Library Presents Money Smart Week

It is an ongoing question for educators and policymakers- what should be taught in schools, and what should be left to parents? One benefit to teaching a subject in the public school system is that, if it is part of a core curriculum standard, the information should reach all children equally. Parents, though, have a more vested interest in their child’s learning, have a better understanding of the ways their children absorb information, and can teach them skills over many years of their lives in varied ways and contexts.

Most states in the U.S. do not require financial literacy courses and these topics do not appear on standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT. For now, the task is left to parents and the community, but some parents do not feel comfortable talking to their kids about money. These conversations can be difficult as they may alert your child to harsh realities and difficult choices of adulthood. And many adults need support with financial literacy themselves! Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

GIVEAWAY: Mothering with Ease: A Mini Retreat for Busy Moms

Enter to Win a Mini Retreat for Busy Moms

Share ways you model self-care to your kids and be entered to win a pass to Mothering with Ease: A Mini Retreat for Busy Moms on Saturday, May 14 from 9am-1pm in Hadley! Deadline to enter to win is 4/2/16 by 11:59pm (EDT). Details on how to enter to win are below.

How do you model self-care to your children? What tools help you take a breather when needed? What do you do to sustain your energy so you can parent another day? How about a mini retreat!

Pain specialist, yoga instructor and Reiki practitioner Ginny Hamilton and her colleague, holistic psychotherapist Laura Pontani, are partnering with Hilltown Families by offering an incentive to our readers to share their stories. Share ways you model self-care to your kids and be entered to win a pass to Mothering with Ease: A Mini Retreat for Busy Moms ($120 value) on Saturday, May 14 from 9am-1pm in Hadley!  Deadline to enter to win is Tuesday, May 2, 2016 by 11:59pm (EDT). Details on how to enter to win are below.

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Yiddish Language & Culture Celebrated at the Yiddish Book Center

Family Passover Celebration Connects Community to Jewish Culture & Heritage through Yiddish!

Learning about Jewish culture and history often leads parents and children to conversations about their own family’s history, culture, and traditions. In celebration of Passover, families can connect to Jewish culture or personal Jewish heritage by speaking Yiddish!

How do you think? Do your thoughts take the form of words, images, a combination of the two, or something else? In all likelihood, much of your thought processing takes the form of words. Even when you are not thinking in sentences, the syntax of your native language may influence the way you perceive the world around you. The idea that native language structure affects thought is known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

In English, for example, our sentence structure and patterns of speaking often ascribes an agent for a given action or event. If an object accidentally breaks, we may say something like, “She broke the plate.” In Spanish or Japanese, however, a native speaker may say something more akin to, “The plate broke itself.” (This Wall Street Journal article provides many more examples of linguistic differences and their affects.)

There is a chicken-and-egg problem with the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Does language really affect the way we think, or does the way we think influence our language?  Read the rest of this entry »

Lend your Voice to Close the SNAP Gap

Closing the “SNAP Gap” for 570,000 hungry Massachusetts residents

At The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, we have a vision of a region where no one goes hungry, and everyone has access to healthy food. Unfortunately, there are still thousands of our neighbors who are going to bed hungry despite the fact that we provided the equivalent of 9.2 million meals last year. From young children to vulnerable seniors, the overwhelming reach of food insecurity in our community continues to widen.

A recent White House report revealed that the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the most effective methods of lifting people (especially children) out of poverty. SNAP has a dramatic impact in our region. Last year, SNAP provided vital food assistance to 150,000 people in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties, allowing them to purchase healthy food from local grocery stores, farmers’ markets and farm stands. Not only did SNAP feed so many people, but it also injected nearly $20 million of federal nutrition dollars into our local economy. Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Emily Dickinson Museum

Step into Emily Dickinson’s World

Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due –

The Frogs got Home last Week –
Are settled, and at work –
Birds mostly back –
The Clover warm and thick –

You’ll get my Letter by
The Seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me –
Your’s, Fly.
Fr. 983

This poem by Emily Dickinson was written in 1865 during the most productive period of her writing life. By the time she turned 35 that year, she had produced more than 1,100 of the 1,789 poems we know of today.  Read the rest of this entry »

Intergenerational Drawing Events Support Creative Free Play & Community Connections

Community Drawing Events Inspire Creative Free Play and Self Expression

Creative free play and artistic expression are the focus of two very unique upcoming community events. Using drawing as a central element, these events illuminate the versatility and expressive potential of the art form. Accessible to self-identified artists, reluctant creators, and everyone in between, spring’s artistic opportunities offer rich community-based learning opportunities relating to creativity and self-expression.  Read the rest of this entry »

Splash! Learning Opportunities for Teens at Local College Campuses

Splash Events Bring Wide Array of Learning Opportunities to Local College Campuses

From Yiddish to democratic socialism, social change to monster movies, belly dancing to Asian architecture, local Splash events have it all! Held at both Amherst College and Smith College on Saturday, April 9th, Splash events offer mini-courses on a variety of topics to local teens and tweens. Open to all middle and high school students, Splash utilizes the knowledge and expertise of local college students to offer diverse catalogs of intriguing courses. Helping to expose local youth to new ideas, Splash connects local campuses to the community and encourages teens and tweens to uncover their interests and engage in self-directed learning in order to pursue them.  Read the rest of this entry »

Miniature Tracks of Insects in our Local Habitat

Exhibit Features the Tracks and Sign of Insects

When we think of tracking in nature, our minds generally drift to following the footprints of somewhat sizable creatures – generally mammals, and sometimes birds. Some of nature’s most fascinating and beautiful tracks and sign are, however, left behind by the smallest creatures of all: insects! Insect tracks and sign can be found in abundance and in many forms – if you know where and how to look.

Families can explore the miniature world of insect tracks through a special photography exhibit at the Westhampton Library featuring the work of Charley Eiseman, one of the country’s best entomologists and inhabitant of the Connecticut River Valley. Co-author of Tracks and Signs of Insects, Eiseman has explored the insect world extensively, and his photographs show not only attention to detail and beauty, but deep knowledge of the habits of insects, whose sign can easily go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Read the rest of this entry »

Discovering Place with Hilltown Land Trust & Hilltown Families’ Trail Guides!

Explore Someplace New with Hilltown Land Trust & Hilltown Families’ Trail Guides!
By Andrea Caluori-Rivera

Hilltown Land Trust and Hilltown Families have joined together through a shared love of the land to offer free interpretive trail guides that connect families to local Hilltown hiking spots. The properties are all owned by Hilltown Land Trust and are available year round for public use. Each property offers a variety of paths to walk and explore forests, waterways, and wildlife habitat. The guides are accessible online and can be downloaded from the Hilltown Families’ website.

Exploring the natural world in our communities helps us construct a sense of place. By interacting with the land, we learn more about local history, land use practices and the importance of cultivating a meaningful relationship with nature.  Spending time outside offers space for activity and thoughtfulness; it’s an opportunity to recharge and feel more connected to your community.  These trail guides go beyond the typical map and route. They highlight interesting features and information from cultural, scientific, artistic and historical perspectives. They encourage users to think about how their experience outdoors relates to other interests such as citizen science, history, literature and social activism.  Additionally, the A Sense of Place guide complements the trail guides by providing additional resources and activities that extend your learning off the trail.  Read the rest of this entry »

GIVEAWAY: 2016 CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm

Enter to Win a 2016 Summer Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm!

Enter for a chance to win a Small Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm in Florence, MA for the 2016 season by sharing ways your family engages in our local food culture and the learning you glean from your experiences in the comment field. Deadline: March 29th, 2016.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a fabulous way families can support local farmers.  By purchasing a CSA share for your family, shareholders pledge their support of a local farm and receive weekly shares of fruits, vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, dairy and meat products.  CSA’s are also great opportunities for community-based learning! Here on Hilltown Families we highlight educational opportunities in the region that integrate our local food culture, encouraging families  to engage with our community while learning through the lens of local food. For a list of CSA’s in the Pioneer Valley, check out CISA’s list of local farms.

FOOD-BASED EDUCATION

How does your family participate in our local food culture?  Maybe you have a garden in your yard, a plot at the community garden or container pots on the front stoop or windowsill? Do you buy your food at farmers’ markets or roadside stands? Is volunteering to support food security and sustainable agriculture in our region a priority to your family? How does Hilltown Families support your family in your food, farm and garden-based interests?

We invite our readers to share ways your family engages in our local food culture and how you use this lens of community engagement as a way of supporting the interests and education of your children. Hilltown Families sponsor, Crimson & Clover Farm, a community based farm on the Northampton Community Farm land, is partnering with us by offering an incentive to our readers to share their stories. Share ways your family engages in our local food culture and the learning you glean from your experiences, and be entered to win a Small CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm, a $420 value!  Deadline to enter to win: March 29th, 2016, by 11:59pm (EST). Details on how to enter to win are below.

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Local History Through the Lens of Food: Nutritional Anthropology in the Pioneer Valley

Exhibit Chronicles Northampton History Through Food

Interested in the history of food? Take a peak at the new exhibit in Northampton. Come see how people produced and sold food and how people cooked and ate it, through the years. The exhibition is curated by Barbara B. Blumenthal, a member of Historic Northampton’s Board of Trustees. Barbara was a museum guide and hearth cook at Historic Northampton in the 1980s and early 1990s. Her passion for local history and food history led her to poke around in our collections looking for tasty tidbits to share with the public.

Historic Northampton offers a food-centric take on the city’s history through Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now, an exhibit chronicling the production, purchase, and preparation of the foods enjoyed throughout two and a half centuries of Northampton’s history. With its focus lying on the city’s food-filled downtown, the exhibit offers a new take on the history of local food : rather than sharing the history of farming in Northampton, the exhibit emphasizes the role that local businesses – especially restaurants – have played in the local food chain.

On view from now until May 1, 2016, Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now has much to offer. Made up of a collection of photographs, food-related objects and tools, and historical information and anecdotes, the exhibit speaks to more than just food history.

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Museum Adventures: Hampshire College Art Gallery

Students Work is Center Stage at Hampshire College Art Gallery

Hampshire College opened in 1970, along with an art gallery in its library building designed to give students an opportunity to present their work and enjoy exhibitions of local, national, and international artists. Though it is primarily a teaching space, the gallery has become a great place to experience edgy, engaging works by both well known and lesser-known artists.

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Goshen Rocks! Teen Initiated Arts Expo Comes to the Hilltowns.

Goshen Rocks: Youth Arts Expo Empowers Teen Artists through a Collaborative Network

Teens in western Massachusetts have outstanding skills, knowledge, and creativity to offer to the world! Celebrate their interests and accomplishments at Goshen Rocks: Youth Arts Expo, a collaborative showcase of music, poetry and visual art – all created and performed by local teens!

The Arts Expo is organized through a collaboration between Graffiti Cat Zine and People to Watch: The Next Generation – both are teen initiated arts-based resources that build creative community by connecting local teens with community venues and outlets for sharing their work. In keeping with this mission, Goshen Rocks offers the first event of its kind to western Massachusetts: not only does the expo combine visual, written, and musical creative work, it is the first community-based teen-specific creative event of its kind.

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Sprout Film Festival Bring Neurodiversity to the Big Screen

Sprout Film Festival Bring Neurodiversity to the Big Screen

On Sunday, February 28, 2016, Whole Children brings a new film festival to the Pioneer Valley. The Sprout Film Festival aims to make the invisible visible by bringing a collection of films featuring people with developmental and intellectual disabilities to the big screen. Featuring films both entertaining and memorable, Sprout explores neurodiversity and spotlights an ever-present but infrequently artistically explored experience.

Held from 4-6pm at Amherst’s Converse Hall, the festival is appropriate for most ages (audience skills necessary!), and stands out amongst local film festivals in its unique focus: rather than spotlighting artistry and creativity in film, the festival intentionally sheds light on the experiences of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and invites conversation about community inclusion. After the film, families can stay for a discussion with festival curator and local filmmaker, Ted White – older festival-goers in particular can benefit from this opportunity to hear more about the reasons for the films’ inclusion in the Sprout Film Festival.

The festival connects to a theme of late-winter explorations of film through community-based educational opportunities. Additionally, the Sprout festival encourages families to explore the ways in which people with disabilities of all kinds are included in our society. Using resources recommended in our recent Resources for Learning About the Experiences of People With Disabilities, families can explore neuro- and physical diversity so as to build empathy and understanding for the differences between their own life experiences and those of others.

7 Day Film Sprint Inspires Filmmaking With Quick Turnaround

7 Day Film Sprint Inspires Filmmaking With Quick Turnaround

True to its name, the 7 Day Film Sprint is a week-long filmmaking event calling for the creation of original films in just seven days. Ideal for aspiring filmmakers, the upcoming creative event offers the opportunity to become part of the local filmmaking community and to explore filmmaking technology.

The second half of winter in western Massachusetts is filled with film-based learning opportunities. From upcoming events exploring film-and-music pairings to community-based resources for film education (including film clubs, festivals, and independent theaters), local film-based learning abounds this month as yet another film event joins the scene.

Northampton Community Television’s 7-Day Film Sprint is a mini-marathon of film-making, calling for the creation of short films over the course of a single week and culminating in a mini-festival screening event celebrating the hard work and creativity of those involved!

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Silent Film-and-Music Pairings Highlight Art of Filmmaking

Silent Film-and-Music Pairings Highlight Art of Filmmaking

Pairing original music with decades-old films, two upcoming events spotlight the true art of filmmaking. Screenings of two vastly different silent films will be accompanied by original scores created by Alloy Orchestra – offering two unique opportunities for older learners to explore the art of filmmaking.

A winter of community-based opportunities for film studies continues here in western Massachusetts, with opportunities to enjoy and learn about the art of silent film coming to the Pioneer Valley and Berkshires. Adding to an already healthy dose of local opportunities for film studies, two more upcoming events spotlight the true artistry of film and highlight the intersection of music and film, allowing original scores to accompany silent films.

The first of these two such events is a special screening of classic film, The Son of the Sheik. Shown with live accompaniment from the Alloy Orchestra, the screening will feature the recently digitally remastered version of the 1926 original classic. Starring Rudolph Valentino, known as the first great lover of the silver screen, the movie is touted as one of the best love stories in film (and is, appropriately, going to be shown on Valentine’s Day!). Alloy Orchestra’s original score will add to the grandeur of the film, blending the sounds of a collection of surprising instruments to create a score created just for the film. After the screening, audience members can choose to stay for a Five College film and music master class, in which Alloy Orchestra will outline their compositional process. The screening is part of the Northampton Center for the Arts’ Four Sundays in February series, and will take place at 2pm on Sunday, February 14th at the Academy of Music.

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Museum Adventures: Beneski Museum

Discovery and “Wow” Moments at the Beneski Museum

From February 16-19, 2016, families can enjoy student docent–guided tours at 11am and 1pm daily. Scavenger hunts for the whole family will be available throughout the entire month. Admission is always free.

The Beneski Museum of Natural History in Amherst is one of New England’s largest natural history museums, boasting three floors of exhibits with more than 1,700 specimens on display, and tens of thousands of specimens available for use by scholars and researchers from across campus and around the world!

At the Beneski, visitors can step inside the museum and see:

  • Dramatic displays of fossil skeletons, from fish to dinosaurs to Ice Age megafauna
  • An extraordinary collection of dinosaur footprints
  • Geological specimens and immersive exhibits that tell the history of the local landscape through geologic time, including when dinosaurs inhabited the area
  • Dazzling mineral specimens from around the world and meteorites from beyond Earth

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Saturday Morning Music Party with Hilltown Families & Flywheel During Easthampton WinterFest

Hilltown Families and the Flywheel Arts Collective are continuing the beloved ‘Saturday Morning Music Party’ series with a breakfast bash featuring food, dancing and diversions for kids!  Beginning the series with a New Year’s Day Music Party that was our best party to date, we will be continuing on Saturday, February 13 during Easthampton WinterFest, from 10am-12noon at Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton.

During a free breakfast of fresh pancakes, juice, and fruit, families can craft handmade valentine’s with the Easthampton Family Center while enjoying a new performance with our special guests, Scotty Swan Puppet Co. After the breakfast, kids can join DJ Youthelectronix for the “best ever dance party before noon.” Save on the babysitter and shake off the winter blues with a Morning Music Dance Party!

These Morning Music Parties are a fundraiser for both Flywheel & Hilltown Families, with a “pay what you can” admission to attend with your family. So much cheaper than a night out on the town and just as much fun! Read the rest of this entry »

New Year’s Resolution: Volunteering with Your Family

New Year’s Resolution: Volunteering

Volunteers help pack bags of food at a Brown Bag: Food for Elders distribution location.

Each day, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts relies on the hard work and dedication of our volunteers that share our vision of a Western Massachusetts where no one goes hungry and everyone has access to healthy food. Their tireless work and generous support are just one of the many “ingredients” in the recipe to end hunger.
With the need for emergency food in our region continuing to grow, it takes many hands — all working together — to help feed our neighbors in need. Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

Look, Learn, Explore: Family Fun at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum!

Photograph by Laura Shea.

Going to an art museum can feel like an adventure, a chance to travel back in time through encounters with objects from faraway cultures. Many museums also give you the chance to unlock the magic of learning about your own local history and stories from closer to home.

In both cases, looking at art and material culture gives parents and children an opportunity to make discoveries together and create shared experiences. Here are some tips used by museum educators that can easily be used by family visitors as well. Read the rest of this entry »

New Year’s Day Morning Music Party with Hilltown Families & Flywheel Arts Collective

On the first day of 2016, Hilltown Families and the Flywheel Arts Collective are continuing the beloved ‘Morning Music Party’ series for another year with a breakfast bash featuring food, dancing and diversions for kids!  This year we are starting off this family series on New Year’s Day with a morning music party from 10am-12noon in Easthampton, MA.

During a free breakfast of fresh pancakes, juice, and fruit, families can enjoy a performance with our special guests, Scotty Swan Puppet Co. & The Magic of Jeff P. After the breakfast, kids can join DJ Youthelectronix for the “best ever dance party before noon.” Start off the new year with a New Year’s Day Music Dance Party! Save on the babysitter and dance away on the first morning of the new year!

These Morning Music Parties are a fundraiser for both Flywheel & Hilltown Families, with a “pay what you can” admission to attend with your family. So much cheaper than a night out on the town and just as much fun! Read the rest of this entry »

Family Volunteer Day with Hilltown Families & The Food Bank in the New Year

Winter months put further strain on struggling households

On a chilly December morning, Volunteers at a Mobile Food Bank distribution in the north end of Springfield finish setting up, as they await the arrival of hundreds of individuals in need of assistance. — In partnership with Hilltown Families, The Food Bank will be hosting our January Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, January 16 from 9 – 11 a.m. All ages are welcome, as families are invited to help prepare food to be distributed to our neighbors in need across Western Massachusetts.

As the days and nights grow colder in Western Massachusetts, we are reminded of the thousands of low-income families that will be forced to choose between heat and hunger this winter season. High costs of heat will further strain the budgets of households already struggle to make ends meet, forcing them to turn to food pantries, soup kitchens and other community agencies to access emergency food. It most instances, these community agencies — many of which are experiencing a slump in donations following the holidays — find it increasing difficult to keep up with the high demand in the winter months.

In a recent report produced by Feeding America, it was determined that many families in Western Massachusetts that are struggling with food insecurity are already faced with crucial choices to keep food on the table. 61 percent reported choosing between paying for food and paying for utilities (such as heat and water). 59 percent reported having to make a choice between food and medicine/medical care. In addition, 53 percent reported choosing between paying for food and paying for housing. Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: 10 Learning Adventures with Museums10 this Holiday Season

10 Learning Adventures with Museums10 this Holiday Season

Don’t stay cooped up this winter! Museum adventures await you—make art with your children, enjoy contemporary art yourself, take in a gallery talk, or join in a game of table top nine pins. There is something to explore at each of the Museums10 member institutions during December, and beyond!  Read the rest of this entry »

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2015

“Giving at Thanksgiving” Family Volunteer Day with Hilltown Families at The Food Bank

Coming together to end hunger

At a Family Volunteer Day earlier this year, families work together to sort and pack fresh produce to be distributed to our neighbors in need throughout the four counties of Western Massachusetts.

While getting food to people facing hunger is essential throughout the entire year, it takes on special significance during these holiday months. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, food is on the minds of many people. But, probably none more so than those that are forced to go without during times that are supposed to be plentiful.

Currently in Western Massachusetts, there are more than 235,000 people that rely on food pantries, meal sites, shelters, and other emergency programs to get food. An estimated 33,580 of them are children under the age of 18 (according to Feeding America, the national network of food banks). Of these, 22% (or about 7,000 children) are from households that don’t qualify to receive SNAP benefits, but yet their income is still too low to pay for basic household expenses and put adequate food on the table.   Read the rest of this entry »

Fall Chrysanthemum Show at Smith Offers Community-Based Learning

Budding Botanists Will Love This Show at Smith College Botanic Garden

It might be chilly outside, but Smith College’s greenhouses in Northampton are bursting with color this time of year! Annually, with the month of November, comes The Botanic Garden of Smith College’s Fall Chrysanthemum Show, an exhibition filled with colorful mums of all shapes and sizes (some as large as eight inches across!). Budding botanists will love exploring the greenhouse and inspecting blossoms to learn about chrysanthemums.

Of particular interest at the show is the showcase of hybrid mums created by students in Smith College’s horticulture class. Every year, the mum show includes blooms engineered by students specifically for characteristics like petal shape, color, and/or size. Hybrid blooms are created by hand-pollinating blossoms, a process that requires careful attention to be paid to the plants’ reproductive process. Visitors to the show can view the students’ hybrid flowers and vote for their favorite of the original blooms. The competition has been going on for nearly a century, and past winners’ blooms can be viewed in an online gallery. Take a look at the archived blossoms and try to guess what the flowers whose genetic material was hybridized might have looked like! Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

The Carle Celebrates Picture Book Month in November

November is here with its flurry of leaves falling from the trees—or, who knows, maybe even snow flurries—and at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, there will be a flurry of programs. Why? Because it’s Picture Book Month!

This international initiative celebrates picture books during the month of November, and The Carle has a wide array of programs and events, from storytimes and theatre performances to book events and special exhibitions, for families to enjoy. In addition to all of this, they are featuring their regular storytime programs in the Reading Library, hands-on art projects in the Art Studio, and family activity kits that can be checked out at the admissions desk.

Here are just of few of the many programs presented this month:  Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrate Diá de los Muertos in Easthampton

Dia de Los Muertos

In honor of the Mexican Day of the Dead, or Diá de los Muertos, community members can meet at Brookside Cemetery (Williston Avenue) on Sunday, November 1, 6pm in Easthampton. Dancers and musicians will lead a vigil through Easthampton and perform a reimagined folk dance. Learn about this Mexican holiday and folk tradition at this community-based event.

Interested in learning more about Day of the Dead  (Diá de los Muertos)? Check out our post, “El Diá de los Muertos (Video & Resources“) to learn about this Mexican celebration. This post is from our archives and includes a short education video, traditional foods, curriculum & activities, history & photos, suggested titles and web reviews.

We also have a terrific DIY tutorial on how to make your own Mexican sugar skulls in our archives.  Learn how to make this traditional Mexican Day of the Dead culinary art in our post, “DIY: Mexican Sugar Skulls.

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