Resources for Learning About the Experiences of People With Disabilities

Resources for Learning About the Experiences of People With Disabilities Encourage Families to Learn About the Human Experience

Throughout life, the experiences that we have amongst others allow us to learn about the human experience. At any age, we are able to make observations about others’ appearance and actions, and to gain insight (however basic or complex it may be) by processing these observations. Sometimes, our understanding of the life experiences of others is limited, though. By filtering everything we see and hear and contextualizing it within our own perspective on the world, we make meaning of our observations – but often, the things that we learn by watching and interacting with others lack input from the perspective of another. We do our best to understand those around us, but without considering their appearance and actions from another perspective, our understandings are limited.

In order to support children in developing a critical understanding of the experiences of others, families can engage in meaningful learning surrounding the experiences with physical and cognitive disabilities. By utilizing books, videos, podcasts, and both online and community-based educational resources, families with children of any age can begin to examine the experiences and perspectives of those with disabilities.

Spotlighting the abilities and life experiences of children, teens, and adults with diverse abilities, the resources highlighted below offer families support in digging deep into the experiences of people with physical and cognitive disabilities, as well as their family, friends, and fellow community members. While our suggestions for such studies certainly do not cover all of the physical and cognitive disabilities that members of our local community experience, they offer families a place from which to begin examining the experiences of others. Read the rest of this entry »

Community-Based Resources for Film Studies in Western MA

Studies on Screen: Community-Based Resources for Film Studies

Booked with a full schedule of films for the second half of winter, the big (and small) screens of a handful of western Massachusetts venues are set to feature a host of great films in the coming weeks – from Oscar-nominated recent releases to original works by local youth.

Families can explore the art that is film-making through intergenerational film appreciation groups, kid-centric screenings of beloved classics, and multiple film series events catering to a variety of ages and interests – all community events that both encourage appreciation of the creative process behind the making of films and the use of film to support learning.  Read the rest of this entry »

10 Resources for Literary Learning in Western MA

Readers Rejoice! Community-Based Educational Resources for Literary Learning Abound

Luckily for literature lovers, western Massachusetts is a treasure trove of opportunities to engage in community-based learning about literature, literary history, and the process of creating writing that is inspired by a local community or the local landscape. Made up of landmarks, historic homes, museums, trails, and real-life human beings, western Massachusetts’ connections to the world of literature are strong.

Berkshires

Berkshire Gardens- The Mount, Edith Wharton's Home, Lenox, MA; photo credit David Dashiell- FlowersHome to beautiful hills and winding rivers (with quaint towns nestled amongst them), Massachusetts’ Berkshire region has been a favorite locale for artists and authors alike for centuries. Among the most notable literary greats to call the Berkshires home is Edith Wharton, whose self-designed home The Mount now serves both as a monument to Wharton’s career and as a year-round cultural center. Located in Lenox, The Mount offers opportunities to learn about Wharton’s remarkable literary achievements (40+ books in 40 years and a Pulitzer Prize), experience art and cultural events, and to learn about life in the early 1900’s.

Arrowhead, PittsfieldIn nearby Pittsfield, Herman Melville’s Arrowhead offers opportunities to learn about the author’s American Renaissance career. Made up of Melville’s historic home, beautiful grounds, and a working farm, Arrowhead offers opportunities to learn not only about Melville’s life and significant works, but the lives of all those living in the Berkshires during the 19th century.

Read the rest of this entry »

3 Support Groups for Grandfamilies

Grandfamilies Offers Unique Support to Families

A support group for families in which a relative parents another relative’s children, Grandfamilies offers support for adults navigating both the joy and challenges of such a family structure.

Communities are made up of families of all kinds, and the United Arc is offering local families a new resource for support. Located in the Hilltowns and Franklin County, Grandfamilies is a support group for families in which a relative cares for another relative’s children. This type of family structure is not uncommon, and can happen for a multitude of reasons. Grandfamilies offers folks who have such a family structure with a space in which to share the joy and satisfaction of raising children, and also serves as a source of support for the grief, financial strain, loss of independence, and other challenges that can accompany this type of family situation.

Grandfamilies groups provide families with the opportunity to learn about other useful community resources, share stories, and connect with other community members who are also raising a relative’s children. Grandfamilies group meetings are relaxed, and offer a friendly and supportive atmosphere within which participants can engage in essential and meaningful self-care.  Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond Affliction: Disability-Centered Take on History

Radio Series and Online Museum Provide Disability-Centered Take on History

While learning the history of a place or a people, the most well-rounded understandings of gradual change are developed when history has been considered from multiple perspectives and through multiple lenses. These days, it is no longer uncommon to consider American history from the perspective of women, immigrants, and other groups whose experiences have been defined by historical context, and we teach students to consider the experiences of diverse groups of people – rather than the experience of a single group – in order to think critically about our history.

Thanks to the Disability History Project, a new resource is available for considering history from another perspective: that of people with disabilities. Beyond Affliction, a four-part radio series, serves as an auditory resource for learning about the experiences of people with disabilities since the beginning of the 1800’s. Created for broadcast on National Public Radio, Beyond Affliction features six hours of documentary radio centered around the experiences of people with disabilities and their families during the last two centuries. The project not only teaches about the lives of people with disabilities in times past but allows listeners to learn about the gradual change that has taken place by highlighting the contrast between the experiences of long ago and the experiences of today.  Read the rest of this entry »

Using Community Resources to Support and Inspire an Interest is Art

Local Resources Support Community-Based Studies of Art

Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton is home of “Art in the Orchard,” an orchard-based gallery of outdoor sculptures and installation art to peruse with family. Bringing “Culture into Horticulutre,” the orchard features the work of 28 artists whose work is brought to life amongst the apple trees and changing landscape as we move from summer to fall.

Art is ever-present in life, and serves as an important means of communication and self-expression. Much of childhood is spent adding art to the world, and there is much to learn from exploring art and engaging in methods of creation!

Resources abound for learning about everything from art history to art materials, and here in western Massachusetts, the bulk of art-related learning resources are community-based.

From websites to studios to community organizations, there are endless ways for families to learn about and engage in the arts… and we have a great list for you!  Read the rest of this entry »

Community-Based Education Makes Every Day Back-To-School Day

Hilltown Families: Your Back-to-School Resource, All Year Long!


During the summer months, most children have enjoyed following their interests through outdoor play, reading books they have selected, day-trips with their family, and adventures out in their community. Once late August and early September roll around however, these carefree months of following their own interests and daily rhythms turn towards more organized learning experiences; and for many, the excitement starts to build as families become involved in back-to-school preparations. Maybe this school year will be your child’s first time away from home, or your child is mentally preparing for middle school, or this is their final year in high school… whatever the case, back-to-school can be an exciting time of year for most.

Whether or not your kids are excited about going back to school, or maybe your family homeschools or unschools, that freedom of self-directed learning experienced in the summer months can continue all year round through community engagement outside of the classroom day via community-based education. Read the rest of this entry »

Maker Camp Makes Camp Come to You

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

Held on weekdays from July 6th-August 14th, Maker Camp offers a new theme each week and, in addition to daily project tutorials, each week’s theme includes a virtual field trip or two.

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

Offering six weeks worth of programming, the 2015 Maker Camp is filled with activities and virtual field trips that match the interests and abilities of an incredibly wide range of learners. Held on weekdays from July 6th-August 14th, Maker Camp offers a new theme each week and, in addition to daily project tutorials, each week’s theme includes a virtual field trip or two. Check the Maker Camp schedule for these weekly themes.
Read the rest of this entry »

“What’s the Big Idea?” Challenges Kids to Think Critically & Philosophically

Film Project Poses Intellectual Challenges to Energize the Mind

In order to raise children who will grow up to be critical thinkers, it is essential that we not only present them with intellectual challenges while they’re young, but – as the goal of “What’s the Big Idea?” states – we must also teach them the skills that they will need to tackle complex ideas. By exposing children to philosophical ideas and questions early in life, we create opportunities for them to learn how to think critically about major topics. And if we provide the proper support, we allow them to do this big thinking in a context where they’re supported throughout their learning.

A project of Mt. Holyoke College professor Tom Wartenberg and local filmmaker Julie Akeret, “What’s the Big Idea?” introduces middle school students (12-14yr) to philosophy through film. Pairing commentary with pertinent clips relating to the themes addressed by the project, “What’s the Big Idea?” takes common tween-age dilemmas and presents them to students in a way that not only allows them to learn how to handle such situations, but encourages them to think deeply about the larger ideas that lay behind common life experiences and situations. Clips from iconic movies including The Karate Kid, Mean Girls, Liar Liar, and even High School Musical help to teach students to think critically about peer pressure, bullying, lying, and friendship. The project even offers resources for developing discussions and activities after tackling each theme – resources that can easily be used by educators of all kinds.

Read the rest of this entry »

Calling All Budding Botanists: Audio Tour at Lyman Conservatory

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

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

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

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

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

Online Resources to Support East Asian Studies

Online Resources to Support East Asian Studies

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

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

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

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

[Photo credit: (ccl) epSos.de]

5 Resources to Supplement & Support Asian Studies in the Pioneer Valley this Winter

Asian Studies Supplemented in the Pioneer Valley
Exhibit, Educator Workshop, Guided Tours, Performance Art & Free Family Day

Image credit: Yue Minjun. Chinese, born 1962. The Grassland Series Woodcut 1 (Diving Figure), 2008 Woodcut on medium weight lightly textured cream wove paper. Gift of Pace Editions Incorporated and Ethan Cohen Fine Arts courtesy of Ann and Richard Solomon (Ann Weinbaum, class of 1959) and Ethan Cohen Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe.

Educational opportunities are numerous over the next few months for those interested in teaching and learning about Asian art!  The Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, MA will be opening a new exhibit on Asian art beginning February 1st through May 26th, 2013.  Titled, Collecting Art of Asia, the exhibit celebrates the 100th anniversary of the museum’s first acquisition of Asian art and includes work from the museum’s permanent collection, as well as promised gifts to the museum.  Work included in the two-floor exhibit comes from China, Japan, Korea, and much of south and southeastern Asia, and highlights significant movements and people in the history of Asian art, as well as significant and historic gifts to the museum’s collection.

Educators can attend a workshop hosted by the museum that will share suggestions for teaching about the interdisciplinary connections found between Asian and Western art objects.  Open to K-12 teachers, the workshop will also include an overview of “Collecting Art of Asia,” and resources for teaching shared by Five College Center for East Asian Studies director Anne Prescott.  The workshop takes place on February 6th from 10am-3pm ($).  Registration required – call 413-585-2781 or e-mail museduc@smith.edu to sign up.

The Smith College Museum of Art welcomes groups of students to visit, and offers guided tours of the museum.  Classes, homeschool groups, and other groups of learners from PreK-12th grade can visit the museum to supplement their studies of Asian art, culture, and history.  Tours can be designed to fit specific needs, or groups can participate in the general tour designed to accompany the exhibit.  Educators can use a visit to the museum to supplement explorations into the history of Asian art, as well as studies of Asian culture and history.

On Saturday, March 2nd from 10am-3pm, Smith College Museum of Art will host a free family day. Billed as “Art of Asia,” families can participate in hands-on projects that were inspired by fishermen, flowers and fireworks, all on view in the Collecting Art of Asia exhibition.  Projects are perfect for families with PreK-12th youth and their guardians.

Finally, at the UMass Fine Arts Center in Amherst will host Chinese Theater Works performing Toy Theater Peony Pavilion as part of the Global Arts: Performances for Schools series.  The performance, open to grades 3-8, will take place at 10am on March 7th, 2013.  The show combines the 16th century Chinese Kun Opera with modern Western styles of puppetry to create a unique and beautiful story, following a young maiden through her dreams.

Studies of Asian art and performance can provide a window through which to examine Asian history and culture, and can help provide students with a critical understanding of the evolution of Asian cultures.  A look at Asian traditions can also help older students put relations between the United States and east Asian countries such as China and Japan into cultural context.  For more information on either the exhibit or the performance, contact the Smith College museum of Arts at 413-585-2781 or the UMass FAC at 413-545-2511.

Social Learning Made Easy with Sophia

Sophia Flips the Classroom with New Social Education Platform

Are there topics that you want your kids to learn that haven’t yet been (or aren’t) covered in their school’s curriculum?  Are you a teacher looking for online information to supplement your student’s textbook or classroom notes, or a place to share your own curriculum?  Are you a homeschool or unschool learning facilitator wishing you had a map of topics in multiple disciplines? Sophia, an online learning resource, offers validated crowdsourced educational material that supports all these needs, and much more!

The site (www.sophia.org) offers a wealth of information – presented in a way that is social and conducive to learning – and is divided up into categories based on discipline, then broken down by specific topics and grade level appropriateness.   You can find anything from a unit on molecular structure for 10th-12th graders to a tutorial on the preterite and imperfect tenses of the Portuguese language!

Each topic section is also divided into units (arranged in a logical order) that, if followed closely, can lead a learner to a much deeper understanding of a topic.  The site isn’t, however, just another online textbook-style resource.  Within each topic are a variety of ways to learn, and users are able to choose which structure best fits their goals and/or learning style.  Within the website’s solid structure is a surprising amount of freedom!  Users can simply read up on a topic, or dig deeper by taking quizzes, playing games, create their own flashcards, etc.  The site is a great resource for parents, teachers, and students – especially as a supplement to other learning materials!  Check out this video to learn more:

Bring a StoryWalk to Your Neighborhood

Berkshire Athenaeum Has Pre-Made StoryWalks for Borrowing!

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

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

What is a StoryWalk?

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

Local Resource to Aid in Hosting a StoryWalk

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

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

Food Security Resources for Families During Summer Months

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Seven Western MA Community Coalitions To Know About

Seven Community Coalitions
Supporting and Serving Families in Western MA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kids Can Curate an Exhibit for The Clark

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

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

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

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

12 Great Educational Web Sites for Kids

Educational Web Sites for Kids

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

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

TRUCE Action Guides: Toys, Media & Children

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

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

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

Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide

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

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

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

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

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

Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide

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

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

Download this guide here:

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

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


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Food Bank Offers Resources for Teaching About Hunger

Youth Against Hunger (YAH!)
Curriculum for Teaching About Hunger

The YAH! curriculum is designed for students grades K-12. Activities help pave the way for service projects and discussion addressing hunger and inequity in the United States.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts provides food and resources for people all over the region, and involvement with the organization is a great service learning opportunity for kids.  The Food Bank’s website includes a section for educators on ways to use involvement with the food bank to help kids learn about food insecurity and issues of inequality and socioeconomic status.

On their website is a curriculum, called Youth Against Hunger (YAH!), which can be used in classrooms or families supplementing their children’s education at home to raise awareness and knowledge of how hunger affects their community- it would be particularly effective in conjunction with a visit to the food bank and/or a classroom, family, or neighborhood food drive or fundraiser.

They have also put together a suggested reading list for children to further supplement hunger education.

For more information, visit www.foodbankwma.org.

Holiday Help Available For Families in Need in the Hilltowns

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

Hilltown Social Services writes:

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

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

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

[Photo credit (ccl) Frank Tellez]

Student Tours at Hancock Shaker Village

Student Tours at Hancock Shaker Village

Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield is a fantastic resource for learning about local history and Shaker culture, and the village even offers educational group tours!  Designed specifically to fit within the state’s learning standards, the tours teach kids all about life during the 19th century.  Though the tours are designed for classes, homeschool groups, scout troops, and other groups of kids can do the tours, too!  During November, 90 minute guided tours of the village are available by appointment.  This is a great way to supplement learning about local pioneers!  To learn more, visit www.hancockshakervillage.org.

Remarkable Women of the Pioneer Valley: Local History Resource

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

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

Cyberbullying Toolkit for Teachers

Common Sense Media
Cyberbullying Toolkit for Educators

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

Are your children’s back to school supplies safe?

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

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

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

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

Click here to download their free guide.

100 Links (Spring/Summer 2011)

100 Links (Spring/Summer 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing of online resource that are educational and entertaining!

Follow Me on DeliciousWhere are these links? Hilltown Families Del.ici.ous Page!  This icon can be found at the top of our site, in the left-hand column.  Click any time to see what links we’ve added!

Below is the latest 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page). All links are provided as a courtesy and not as an endorsement:

Read the rest of this entry »

100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011)

100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box below.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader, nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime we share these links on the Hilltown Families Facebook page, with members of our listserv, or even Tweet about a few – but if you visit Hilltown Families on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend.” There you’ll find our list of the most recent recommended links.

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our list of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll down.

100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the most recent 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):

Read the rest of this entry »

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011)

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box below.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime we share these links on the Hilltown Families Facebook page, with members of our listserv, or even Tweet about a few – but if you visit Hilltown Families on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend.” There you’ll find our list of the most recent recommended links.

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our list of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll down.

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the most recent 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):

Read the rest of this entry »

100 Links (Summer/Fall 2010)

100 Links (Summer/Fall 2010)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box below.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime we share these links on the Hilltown Families Facebook page, with members of our listserv, or even Tweet about a few – but if you visit Hilltown Families on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend.” There you’ll find our bank of the most recent 25 recommended links.

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our list of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll down.

100 Links (Summer/Fall 2010): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the most recent 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):


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