What Strengthens Your Sense of Place and Community Pride?

Why People Love Where They Live

It’s a happy part of our culture here in western Massachusetts to celebrate all of the things that make our communities so wonderful. We’re constantly celebrating everything from cultural heritage to local food to beautiful landscapes, and it’s easy to identify all of the things that make us love our homes (check out our archived Mash Notes to Paradise posts to see some serious community appreciation). Difficult though it may be to imagine living anywhere else, folks from around the country love their homes just as much as we love ours, and the reasons for their affinity for their communities are as interesting and geographically specific as ours are right here in Massachusetts!

Families can discover the magic within communities across the continent by listening to an archived post of the Hilltown Family Variety Show titled, On the Road. Featuring guest DJ Steve Weeks, the episode features geographically-themed songs alongside brief interviews taped during Weeks’ summer travels all over the United States and Canada. Each interview features information about what makes a particular community special, as told through the perspective of a community member. Interviews come from people in maritime Canada, Las Vegas, New Orleans, the Great Smoky Mountains, the Dakotas, southern California, and other unique locales. Covering nearly all of the corners of the country (and a bonus international location), the episode showcases the wonderful aspects of local culture that are unique to each of the featured locations. Read the rest of this entry »

License Plates Tell a Story & Inspire Learning in Kids

Social Studies on the Road

License plates… part of a greater story.

Watching for interesting license plates is a great way to keep kids entertained during road trips – with so many people traveling, the highways are filled with out-of-staters whose plates provide a great distraction from backseat boredom. Simply teaching kids to search for letters of the alphabet, colors, or specific digits can be enough to add some excitement to a somewhat monotonous drive, but expanding plate-searching games to become a family hobby can turn summer fun into full-time learning!

License plates reflect unique traits about their state’s culture, landscape, or history – each state’s design says something about the place, whether it’s subtly hinted at through color and design or highlighted with colorful images. Arizona’s standard plate has a backdrop of a beautiful desert scene, while Ohio’s new license plates feature rolling hills, farms, and a small city. Some plates remind us of our state’s claims to fame, like Georgia’s peach plate, Maine’s specialty lobster and moose plates, and the Wyoming cowboy plate. Even the somewhat plain Massachusetts red, white, and blue plate represents the state’s place in American history.

Read the rest of this entry »

Social Studies on the Road

The License Plate Game

By examining license plates, kids can learn a lot about the 50 states! Discussing with kids the reasons behind each state’s design can help them learn about geography, economics, and social studies, and can help them to develop their mental image of the differences in landscape around the country. They’ll learn to think critically about geographic locations by wondering why New England doesn’t produce citrus like the south does, and why the northwest coast of the country isn’t known for it’s lobster like the northeast coast is.

Watching for interesting license plates is a great way to keep kids entertained during road trips – with so many people traveling, the highways are filled with out-of-staters whose plates provide a great distraction from backseat boredom. Simply teaching kids to search for letters of the alphabet, colors, or specific digits can be enough to add some excitement to a somewhat monotonous drive, but expanding plate-searching games to become a family hobby can turn summer fun into full-time learning!

License plates reflect something unique about their state’s culture, landscape, or history – each state’s design says something about the place, whether it’s subtly hinted at through color and design or highlighted with colorful images. Arizona’s standard plate has a backdrop of a beautiful desert scene, while Ohio’s new license plates feature rolling hills, farms, and a small city. Some plates remind us of our state’s claims to fame, like Georgia’s peach plate, Maine’s specialty lobster and moose plates, and the Wyoming cowboy plate. Even the somewhat plain Massachusetts red, white, and blue plate represents the state’s place in American history.

Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: What to Do With Teens Reluctant to Participate in Family Outings

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

What do families with TEENS do when they do not want to participate in family outings or summer vacations? Do you force them along? Let them stay at home? Find outings that appeal to them? Bring along a friend?

  • Glenda Spurling writes, “We always (usually always) have her go, memories are being made, and always let her bring a friend. Usually the same friend will go, our family members know her friend (by this point) and have made their own personal relationships with our daughters friend. ‘The more the merrier'”
  • Megan Rubiner Zinn writes, “All of the above.”
  • Amanda Saklad writes, “We have a ‘tween’ (age 11 1/2) and he is CONSTANTLY complaining about going places with his younger siblings (ages 6 and 9). I force him to come along and he usually ends up enjoying himself. I TRY to find stuff that appeals to such a wide age range, but tend to go with the younger stuff. When he is a little older, I’d probably let him stay home for certain outings. I find that OUTDOOR places work best for the age spread.”
  • Kara Kitchen writes, “My parents let me bring a one friend-only consolation…”
  • Jo Duran writes, “Lesson Learned: If I could do over, I would have forced my oldest to go. Bring a friend too if there is one to bring. Feel like things would have been a lot different had we done so. As parents, we are compelled to want to give our kids everything we didn’t have as kids. Not always a good idea. Besides, look how good we turned out. :)”
  • Sue Lowery writes, “Bringing a friend makes so much sense – they have someone to relate to during the trip, and you have much less pouting! I have never regretted having my kids bring a friend. That said, I am talking about driving vacations, not plane tickets. But I think the same thing would hold true.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Ed Yourdon]

A Day at the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum

School’s Out

Engineer Polly Bartlett shows the boys how to operate the pump car at the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

School’s out! The last time it was this hot, my family and I had just moved to Northampton from a sleepy Connecticut suburb, there were two weeks until school started, and we knew nothing and no one. We spent every hot afternoon at Look Park, running through the much beloved sprinklers. Now that it is summer again, we are more or less unpacked and ready adventures. My boys are 11, 6 and 4. The age span can be a challenge for us. My summer goal is to find places we can frequent that satisfy us all, build bridges between the boys’ different ages and temperaments and wear them out so they will sleep heartily at night.

I decided to surprise Matt on Father’s Day with a short day trip to Shelburne Falls. The Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum is home to trolley car #10. This trolley belonged to the Shelburne Falls & Colrain Railway company which closed up shop in 1928. It was saved by a farmer, used as a chicken coop and then refurbished in 1999.  It is a charming little trolley, with a shiny dark wood interior, the original frosted glass windows at the top and fresh exterior boards painted a perfect farm yellow. Our tickets were punched, the lights came on, the kids sat at attention for the short ride.

While the conductor turned the line around for our return trip, we had a bit of a history lesson from the guide.  We learned that car #10 was a combination car. It carried both cargo and passengers. One side hauled cotton, apples and vinegar from the farms to town and the other side carried passengers, usually workers or students who used the trolley to commute to high school in Colrain.  High school feels like a world away to me now, but I pictured my boys as teenagers, commuting by trolley in 1920, hopping on, eyeing the barrel full of apples in the cargo section, borrowing the fare from a friend, swimming in the Deerfield River to cool down once they reached home again.

Bridge of Flowers, built in 1908 by the Shelburne Falls & Colrain Railway company. (Photo credit: Isaac Bayne)

When #10 headed back, we found ourselves in a race with the pump car on the nearby track. Engineer Polly, along with a teenager and her grandpa were flying down the track pumping the handles, hair whipping everywhere.  My six year old assures me that we won, as trolleys cannot be beat. The boys were intent on riding the pump car, because they are the fastest ever. I thought maybe Theo was too young so Matt took Isaac and Henry first. Polly, our engineer, assumed control of our family for a short time, as she explained the purposes and rules of the pump car. Henry was to stand on the side and hold on to the bar in the center.  Isaac and Matt face forward and pumped side by side at the back. Polly pumped at the front and controlled the foot break.

On the way back, Henry was allowed to pump, as she determined he was both tall enough and old enough to follow the instructions. When I took Theo on he held on tight with two hands and kept his feet on the platform. He will have to grow a few more inches until he can pump without it bumping his chin, but he has just turned 4. Polly instructed him not to wave at daddy, as she wanted both hands on the bar. When we coasted in, Theo did not wave but gave a big smile, with a “hello there!” He was quite pleased with himself. All the kids got a “I drove the pump car” sticker.  Before we left, the boys crawled all over the yet to be restored little caboose. They climbed up to the upper seats, admired the wood burning stove & the “closet potty” in the corner. We poked around the museum for a bit, enjoying this store house of trolley treasure, with telegraph machines and electric trains running.

Glacial Potholes in Shelburne Falls, MA. (Photo credit: Isaac Bayne)

Since we were in Shelburne Falls, we crossed the famous Bridge of Flowers, which was built in 1908 by the trolley company itself. Just a few years after the trolleys stopped running, the town itself saved this bridge transforming it into a glorious garden. I expected to have a difficult time in engaging the boys in the viewing of a garden, but walking on a foot bridge over a river was entertaining for Theo. Henry was happy to direct my attention to the smell and colors of different roses and Isaac was pleased when I set the camera to macro and showed him how to photographs the flowers close up.  On the far side of the bridge, we visited the Glacial Potholes. My kids are easily impressed by geological formations (also known as rocks), and these were very impressive rocks which can be very safely view from the observation deck. The boys itched to get down and scramble in the river bed, but the glacial potholes are actual holes in the river bed left by stones swirling in the river when it swelled with the melting of the glaciers. We left with promises to find another spot for river scrambling and swimming. There are many hot days of summer ahead.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

Turn Holiday Travel Time Into Learning Time!

Seven Car-Time Activities to Do with the Kids While Traveling

Diane Flynn Keith, author of Carschooling, recently wrote an article, Turn Holiday Travel Time Into Learning Time! In her article she shares fun activities that will not only entertain your young passengers, but will “boost your kids’ brain power” too. In her article she include the classic car game, Alphabet Hunt, along with some simple games that incorporate concepts of speech, geometry, art, zoology and community studies.  Click here to read her article over at RoadTripJournal.com. It’s worth printing out and tucking it in your glove compartment!

Road Trip: Destination … Sandwich, MA

Heritage Museums and Gardens Celebrating the American Spirit

Heading to the Cape this summer?  The Heritage Museums & Gardens located in Sandwich, Massachusetts is worth checking out.

Heritage Museums & Gardens celebrates the American Spirit. The Museum fosters lifelong learning by preserving and sharing the history, industry, art and horticulture of America. They offer  a unique experience ranging from quiet contemplation to active exploration. Click here to check out what they have happening for kids and families.

Museums are open daily from 10am to 5pm through October 31.  For more information check out Heritage Museums and Gardens.

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.

Discovering Our World Through Scavenger Hunts

Zoe Travels the World: Scavenger Hunts
By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

(c) 2008 Tony(a) Lemos

While putting together a travel journal and activity book for Zoe, I remembered all those years teaching at Summer Camp at the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA in Becket, MA, and how much fun we had planning scavenger hunts.

What’s a scavenger hunt? A scavenger hunt is a game in which individuals or teams seek to find a number of specific items, or perform tasks, as given in a list. The goal is either to complete the list first, or to achieve the highest score within a given time limit. They can be indoor our outdoor and they can be fun as well as educational. They can also be part of a larger treasure hunt. For example, riddles leading to the location of a custom made puzzle piece and then when all the pieces are found and assembled the puzzle can be a map to the “treasure.” The ideas are endless.

NATURE SCAVENGER HUNT

The scavenger hunt that I have the most experience with is the Nature Scavenger Hunt. A sample list might include:

  • Find three different tree leaves, seeds or pods
  • Find an insect
  • Find a feather
  • Find a twig shaped like a letter
  • Find a leaf that a bug has nibbled
  • Find something that has decomposed
  • Find something that is no longer living
  • Find something that was never alive
  • Find two different kinds of tree bark

THEMED SCAVENGER HUNT

There are simpler methods for younger children, such as:

  • Color Scavenger Hunt: find something red, blue, brown, etc.
  • Pattern Scavenger Hunt: find something with strips, a spiral, dots, etc.
  • ABC Scavenger Hunt: find something beginning with a letter or shaped like a letter
  • Number Scavenger Hunt: find one of something, two of something else, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

Zoe’s Big Adventure Across Eastern Europe

Zoe Travels the World: Join Us in Our Adventures
By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

(Photo credit: Tony(a) Lemos)

Hi, my name is Zoe. Some of you may know me as I live here in the hilltowns. And while I love the hilltowns, one of my favorite things to do with MamaT is to travel. I LOVE to travel! I’ve taken an airplane to Europe when I was four months old, and I’ve journeyed by car from the hilltowns to Florida. I’ve traveled by bus and by train, and I even spent seven months in India (in utero!). I don’t remember much about that trip, but MamaT has stories to share!

This spring (March 2008) we’re taking off again. I can hardly wait! We are flying to Amsterdam (Holland) and then caravaning through Eastern Europe to Greece to visit my Giagia (greek for grandmother). MamaT says that our trip this spring is just a warm up for the BIG ONE … a journey over land from England to Tibet! And all along the way we are planning our adventures with visits to many cities in seven different countries, including:

  • Berlin (Germany)
  • Prague (Czech Republic)
  • Vienna (Austria)
  • Budapest (Hungary)
  • Bucharest (Romania)
  • Sofia (Bulgaria)
  • and then into Northern Greece

You can follow our adventures right here on Hilltown Families. You can read our posts, which will include photos, activities, maps and links to suggested readings. And when we return we’ll be sharing more stories and craft projects at the Children’s Art Museum in Shelburne Falls, MA.

(c) 2006 Tony(a) LemosPOSTCARDS FROM THE ROAD

If you would like to receive a postcard from us during our travels, send us your name and mailing address, along with a donation of $1.50 to cover costs and we’ll send you a card during our trip. Drop it in the mail to arrive before March 7th, 2008. Our road trip will begin the next day!


About the Author: Tony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA and maintains an herbal practice in Northampton, MA. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She is the vice president of the North East Herbal Association, and has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering and the Women’s Herbal Conference

Have Lovie, Will Travel

On Traveling with a Small Child: How One Hilltown Mom Manages Traveling
By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

CCL (c) thaths
At 3 ½ my daughter Zoe is an experienced traveler. During our most recent trip to Greece we had a six hour lay-over in Amsterdam. “Mama there’s gate E6. E7 must be next,” she says to me during our layover, as she walked ahead wheeling her little suitcase. I didn’t even know she could read!

I’ve traveled abroad extensively since my mid-twenties. I’ve included my daughter in my travels since she was 4 months old. She’s traveled by boat, train, bus and has spent many long hours in the car. And she has always traveled well (with the exception of one 10-hour flight at 18 months when she had just started to walk…). And I, as a single mother, am able to reach our destination calm and collected.

If you have plans to travel this holiday season, ask yourself if are you relaxed when traveling? Kids pick up on any anxiety and unease. If you feel a little stressed or unsure about an upcoming trip, pack some Rescue Remedy, anti stress aromatherapy patches, tea bags…. Why not pack yourself a little goodie bag too? With a little foresight and planning, traveling can be a fun experience for the whole family. (Click here to recommend a favorite family vacation destination).

To follow are a few travel ideas that have worked for us. Give some a try and see if they will help your travel experiences flow:

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Your Favorite Family Vacation Destination?

Where do we go now?
By Steve Weeks, HF Guest Writer

VACATION  MEMORIES

My wife's family in Little Compton in the early 70's.For decades, my wife’s family has been vacationing in Rhode Island during the summer. Her parents would rent a house in Little Compton just across the Sakonnet river from Newport on Warren’s Point, a beautiful section of rugged coastline that has been preserved much the way it was in the 18th and 19th centuries.

When my wife and her three sisters were kids, these vacations lasted several weeks so that Little Compton became more of a summer home than a vacation destination for them. Although all the girls are grown now and have children of their own, they have returned every year without fail to Warren’s Point with husbands and kids in tow, but now carefully lining up their week-long stays to overlap so everyone can see one another.

(c) CCL - elisfanclubOur family summer tradition has included this Little Compton stop for several years now. It’s the chance for our two children to spend time with their cousins and for everyone to catch up with one another for the year. The kids spend their days hunting for crabs on the rocky shoreline, building drip castles in the sand, diving into the cold New England water from the high pink granite bluffs, or playing spontaneous games in the wide grassy lawns. The adults use the time socializing reading, enjoying seafood, and just soaking in the quiet beauty of the point.

In recent years we’ve used Little Compton as a base camp, venturing out to take in a Pawtucket Red Sox game, visit nearby fishing villages, dine in Newport or spend a few days in Martha’s Vineyard or Boston. — The reason I mention the details of our Rhode Island summers, is because I’m about to ask for your advice and you’ll need to have a good idea of how we like to spend our time.

Read the rest of this entry »

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