NERD Summit in Amherst

NERD Summit: Helping to Raise the Next Generation of Innovators, Creative Thinkers, & Technologists!

NERD Summit is back! All are welcome to a free weekend of workshops, training sessions, presentations, youth activities, and more, September 11th-13th at UMass Amherst’s Conference Center.

Want to learn CSS or HTML? Ready to turn your app idea into a real app? Perhaps you’ve been wanting to make 3D drawings using SketchUp or itching to learn about LEGO EV3 Robotics? Look no further than the NERD (New England Regional Developers) Summit, a 3-day learning camp focused on helping people build coding, web design, and related skills, and to welcome everyone into this interesting industry.

Many sessions at NERD Summit are intended for self-directed teens and life-long learners; and there are lots of great FREE facilitate workshops for kids at the NERD Summit 2015.

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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.
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Unwrapping Screen-time & Finding Childhood

Back to the Basics of Allowing Children to Enjoy Healthy Play

The job of young children is to play, move, talk, and interact with people and things so as to build basic skills

Development during early childhood shapes what becomes the foundation for development throughout a person’s life. Language, motor, interpersonal, and many other skill sets have their roots in the earliest parts of childhood and, as such, this time period is incredibly important. The job of young children is to play, move, talk, and interact with people and things so as to build basic skills – and it’s just as important for this to happen as it is for an adult to do their own job every day. Read the rest of this entry »

Google Lit Trips Puts Literary Characters Back on the Map

Computer program supports and deepens family-friendly literary experiences; encourages sense of place

When springtime showers nix outdoor exploration and playtime, what are adventure-hungry families to do? Check out Google Lit Trips, a computer-based resource that pairs Google Maps with the travels taken by characters in hundreds of great books for readers of all ages and abilities. Ranging in theme and age group appeal from Mem Fox’s classic picture books to a nonfiction chronicle of life in Sudan, Google Lit Trips offers virtual explorations to pair with curiosity about numerous themes and geographic locations.

Using Google Maps’ satellite and street view functions, each Google Lit Trip traces the path followed by characters in a story. Moving along the route traveled can help students to visualize the character’s journey, gain perspective on the distance traveled, and examine the landscape in which each portion of the story took place. The real-life images help to enhance readers’ understanding of the story’s setting and may help them to understand better the descriptive language that an author used to explain where the characters traveled. Additionally, exploring a Lit Trip can help students develop and practice map skills and a sense of direction. While a route guided by words may take shape in a reader’s mind, they may not apply what they know about spatial relationships and maps to what they imagine. However, by imagining a character’s journey while following a map, readers can work on solidifying concepts as basic as north and south, or even the more complex geography of faraway places and spaces.

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Computer Science Education Week’s Hour of Code

Computer Science Education Week’s Hour of Code

Just like any other language, computer coding functions based on sets of symbols and patterns. Not something that you can learn through conversation, classes, or a semester abroad, coding can be an elusive skill despite its usefulness and wide range of applications within our technology-filled culture. Learning to code can open up a brand new world of creative possibilities for older students, allowing them to develop computer-based programs of all kinds. In addition, studying programming as a language has some great educational benefits – the attention to pattern and detail necessary in order to succeed at programming can support students in learning to recognize patterns and develop skills in “de-bugging” their own work.

As part of this year’s Computer Science Education Week, the Computing in the Core Coalition has compiled coding-based activities for educators of students of all ages…  Read the rest of this entry »

New CCFC Guide to Help Early Educators Navigate Digital World

Facing the Screen Dilemma Separates Hype
From What Children Really Need

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood:

“Early childhood educators face increasing pressure to incorporate screens into their classrooms,” said CCFC’s director, Dr. Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe. “The sheer volume of screen technologies marketed as educational, and even essential, for young children is overwhelming. It’s crucial to separate the hype from what research tells us young children really need.”

Smart boards. Smartphones. Tablets. E-books, apps and more. The rapid influx of new screen devices and software poses a special challenge for the early childhood community. A unique offering from Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the Alliance for Childhood, and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE) provides help and support for childhood educators grappling with how best to support young children’s growth, development and learning in a world radically changed by technology. Packed with relevant research and practical tips, Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young children, technology and early education is the first guide designed to help early educators make informed decisions about whether, why, how, and when to use screen technologies with young children.

Facing the Screen Dilemma arrives at a time of heightened concerns about the amount of time children spend with screen media. New technologies haven’t replaced older ones; kids use digital games and apps in addition to television and video, not instead of them. Time spent with screen media is at record highs for children of all ages. And excessive screen time is linked to childhood obesity, sleep disturbance, and poor school performance. Two brand new surveys from the Pew Internet and American Life Project and Common Sense Media highlight widespread concern among teachers that children’s constant use of digital technology hampers attention span and the ability to complete difficult tasks.

In addition to a much-needed overview of the research on young children and screen time, Facing the Screen Dilemma offers practical considerations and concrete advice for centers using screen technologies, as well as support for centers resisting pressure to abandon screen-free policies.

“Keeping an early childhood environment screen-free is a valid and pedagogically sound choice,” said the Alliance for Childhood’s Joan Almon. “Developing children thrive when they are talked to, read to, played with and given time for creative play, physically active play, and interactions with other children and adults. It’s really OK to say the iPad can wait.”

For all early childhood programs, Facing the Screen Dilemma recommends screen-free settings for children under 2. The guide encourages educators to work closely with parents around technology issues and to understand how children’s exposure to screens at home affects classroom performance and behaviors.

“Educators using screens with young children should be intentional about their choices and determine beforehand exactly how a given technology will expand or enhance classroom goals for children,” said Professor Diane Levin of TRUCE and Wheelock College. “It’s important to choose screen activities carefully, establish rules and routines for their use, and provide clear boundaries so that screen time doesn’t crowd out vital classroom activities.”

Facing the Screen Dilemma can be found at

New Computer Laptops Offered Hilltown Students & Community

The Future of the Highlands is in Good Hands … Yours!

Highland Communities Initiative’s 5th Conference
Celebrates People’s Place in Protecting
Our Region’s Rural Nature

On September 12th in Ashfield, MA, friends and neighbors from across the region are invited to the Highland Communities Initiative’s (HCI) fifth biennial conference to celebrate the Highland’s rural nature and to share ideas from area residents that may hold the keys to its future.

A program of The Trustees of Reservations, HCI supports and connects the people that are working to maintain the rural character and quality of life in the 38 small towns of the Highlands.  The Highlands region lies west of the Connecticut River Valley, stretching from the Vermont to the Connecticut borders and is home to only 43,000 people and 3 stoplights. The region contains a remarkable abundance of intact natural areas, pristine river systems, historic towns, and working farms. Together with the region’s rich tradition of agriculture and forest stewardship, this landscape imparts a sense of place in seldom found in Massachusetts.

The impact that one individual can have in rural region like the Highlands is personified by Laurie Sanders, keynote speaker at this year’s conference. Host of the WFCR radio program Field Notes, Laurie helped spearhead a community effort to build a new library, convert an historic property to town offices, and preserve two acres of common space in her hometown of Westhampton, MA.

Conference participants will also be able to find inspiration, information and lively discussion in ten different workshops held throughout Ashfield center, including:  Read the rest of this entry »

Wind Power Site in the Hilltowns

Downing & Kulik Announce Funding for a Renewable Energy Site Survey at New Hingham Regional Elementary School in Chesterfield, MA

State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) and State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) are pleased to announce that the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s Renewable Energy Trust (RET) has awarded up to $5,600 in funding for a Municipal Site Survey of a proposed wind site at the New Hingham Regional Elementary School in Chesterfield, MA.

“By exploring and identifying appropriate sites in western Massachusetts for renewable energy generation we ensure clean energy availability and future costs savings for our region,” said Downing. “We also have a responsibility to make sure our site selection is deliberate and that we strategically site wind projects in locations with minimal environmental impacts. This RET grant will help the New Hingham School community take the necessary preliminary steps to do just that.”

The site survey will provide valuable information used for identifying advantages and disadvantages of wind generation on the school’s property and whether the proposed site is of sufficient size and wind resource to warrant a detailed site survey. This preliminary survey will help the New Hingham Regional Elementary School Committee determine whether it is reasonable to conduct a more comprehensive feasibility study for a wind project on the site.

Representative Kulik said, “The high elevation and remote location of the New Hingham School presents a great opportunity to study the feasibility of wind power to provide greater energy independence and cost savings for the people of Chesterfield and Goshen. A successful wind project at the school will also be a great and inspiring educational tool for the children.”

The Renewable Energy Trust is an arm of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative which provides financial assistance to individuals and businesses to support renewable energy projects that maximize environmental and economic benefits to the Commonwealth. To learn more about the organization click HERE.

Junior Solar Sprint Training

Junior Solar Sprint

Teachers and home-schoolers, this is your chance to get your middle-school students engaged in science, technology, creativity and teamwork in order to meet real world energy challenges:

  • What: Junior Solar Sprint Team Leader Training
  • Where: Reid Middle School in Pittsfield, MA
  • When: February 4th from 4 to 7 pm.
  • Cost: FREE

Learn how to become involved with a unique opportunity to engage middle school-aged students in applying science, technology, creativity and teamwork to real world energy challenges in the 2009 Junior Solar Sprint (JSS). Get started with this free workshop for team leaders organized by CET. Presented by Susan Reyes of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA), the workshop will give you all the information you will need to join in the fun! More information about the JSS can be found on NESEA’s website.

All attendees will receive free curriculum materials, including JSS lesson plans and a free kit to build during the workshop. Both veterans and ‘newbees’ to the JSS will be there to share ideas and helpful advice for getting teams together. As an added incentive, food and beverages will be provided and you will have a chance to win a raffle for a photovoltaic panel for one of your model cars! A letter of attendance for professional development will also be provided.

For more information or to register for the workshop contact Cynthia Grippaldi at 413-445-4556 ext. 25.

  • Read about the 2008 JSS results HERE.

Kids Can Discover: Recycled Vegetable Oil Powers Automobiles

Recycled Vegetable Oil Powers Vans and Cars

“When Jared Fisher needs fuel for his vans, he doesn’t head for the gas station. Instead, he goes to restaurants to collect used vegetable oil. He pours that vegetable oil into his vans’ fuel tanks.”

Education World offers a weekly news story to share and discuss with your kids, students or homeschoolers. A recent news story is quoted above from Recycled Vegetable Oil Powers Vans and Cars.

Click here to discover what subjects this topic can fall under, an anticipation guide, a list of news words, a printable version of the featured news story (shown here), facts to share, age appropriate follow-up activities, and national educational standards.

Eco-Friendly Fundraisers

Recycling Program to Raise Funds

For-profit company EcoPhones is one of several companies that offer community groups and non-profits the opportunity to raise funds for their organization or group by collecting small electronics items to be recycled, including:

  • cell phones
  • DVD movies
  • video games
  • portable DVD players
  • laptop/notebook computers
  • MP3 players
  • video game consoles
  • digital cameras
  • digital picture frames
  • portable navigation and GPS devices

Click here to read the article Cell phone recycling for cash a win-win, or is it? on about these types of eco-friendly fundraisers being offered to such groups.

Local Fundraising Efforts

The Gateway Regional High School (Huntington, MA) Cheerleaders are raising money to help send the team to summer cheerleading camp and will be participating in the EcoPhones fundraising program by collecting the above mentioned items. There is a collection bin in the main entrance foyer of the Gateway Middle/High School complex to deposit donations. Collection will run through the end of the school year.

For more information email Karen Smith at, read the flyer, or go to the EcoPhones Website.

Other Eco-Friendly Fundraising Ideas

Recycling old cell phones and such isn’t the only way to have an “eco-friendly fundraiser.” Click here to read the article Finding Green Fundraisers on to discover other ideas and programs.

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