Diverse Range of Animals & Resources in Western Mass Support Community Based Education

Animal Friendly Western Mass Stimulates Learning in Children (and Adults!)

Animals are a common interest among children. Whether they’re in love with cats of all shapes and sizes or fascinated by the destructive power of a shark’s jaws, children can learn a lot through having an interest in creatures. In utilizing the numerous animal-related community-based learning resources available locally, families can support children of all ages in learning about everything from biological classification to compassion.

Gecko at the Berkshire Museum

As far as learning goes, children’s animal-related interests often have much to do with their age and the developmental stage that they’re in. Young children’s interest in animals is generally limited to a curiosity about where they live, what they eat, and what they do all day – similar to the curiosities that children have about the people around them. Elementary-aged children slowly develop the ability to understand animals as a complex topic, and begin to consider ideas like adaptations, predator-prey relationships, natural habitats, and extinction. Meanwhile, older learners (teens and tweens) can explore an interest in animals by learning about the biological complexities of species classification, the role of conservation in species preservation, and the diversity of animal species and habitats around the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Land of Lanolin: 5 Ways to Learn About Sheep & Wool this Spring

Honor Your Woolies

It is quite possible that you have on a wool sweater, right now! You might even buy sweaters from consignment shops to make cute little wool pants for your toddler. Thank goodness for sheep, farmers, and wool. We would all be colder without them.

In the next few months, you might be able to put your woolies away until next winter. What better way to commemorate the event than to spend time with sheep? Farmers around Western MA will free their sheep from the hairy locks that bind them and allow their skin to feel the glorious sun shine.

Here’s a sheep shearing demo from a previous season at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA:

Sheep shearing is a great opportunity to learn about animals and textiles. It is also a great excuse to visit a local farm! To follow is a rundown of what is happening in the land of lanolin this spring (and late winter) in Western MA:

  • Shearing Day at Winterberry Farm, in Leverett will be on Saturday March 10, from 9:30-4:30: With only a couple of weeks left of winter, the sheep will be shorn! Actual shearing is from 10:30am-12noon. They will shear 30 sheep this year, as there were no losses to coyotes! There will be great food, lots of music and gorgeous wool in many forms. There will also be fiber and herding demos, sheep and angora rabbits, goats, poultry and a llama named Sam. There is no charge- but contributions to the farm scholarship fund cheerfully accepted. If you just want to buy fiber, come by on Sunday March 11 from 2-4pm. Winterberry farm is located at 21 Teawaddle Hill Road in Leverett, MA. For more information, visit www.winterberryfarm.org. (DONATION)
  • The 39th Annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair, at the Cummington Fair Grounds, will take place on Saturday, May 25th and Sunday, May 26th from 9am-4pm: This event has it all! There will be fiber and woolcraft vendors, sheep shearing demonstrations, sheep dog trials, fiber and woolcraft workshops for adults and children, sheep shows, a fleece show and sale, a fleece to shawl competition and food booths. It is sponsored by The Pioneer Valley Sheep Breeders Association, the Massachusetts Federation of Sheep Associations and the Massachusetts Dept. of Agricultural Resources.  For more information and map, go to www.masheepwool.org. ($)
  • Sheep Shearing Weekend at Hancock Shaker Village, in Pittsfield MA is on April 27th and 28th from 10am-4pm: In addition to the regular farm activities, the Village’s Merino sheep will be shorn and there will be special hands-on textile demonstration and activities conducted by volunteers from local spinning and weaving guilds. For more information on the event, call 1-800.817.1137 or visit www.hancockshakervillage.org. ($$)
  • Wool Days at Old Sturbridge Village will be on Memorial Day weekend, May 25th -27th: The Museum is open from 9:30am-5pm. In addition to all of the learning experiences that are usually at OSV, there will be a full schedule of events, including herding, carding, dying with natural sources, exploring wool from different kinds of animals, knitting, crocheting, and much more.  The schedule of events is at www.osv.org. ($$$)

  • The 10th Annual Sheep to Shawl Festival at Sheep Hill, in Williamstown will be on May 4th and 5th from 11am to 3pm, rain or shine: The Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation (WRLF) hosts this great event. It occurs on a beautiful hill, which allows participants a wonderful view of the sheep and the dogs as they move around. There will be food to purchase, activities for children and fiber arts and herding demos. WRLF is located at 671 Cold Spring Road, Williamstown, MA. www.wrlf.org ($)

Don’t settle with wearing a sweater. Learn how to make one!


Theresa Heary-Selah — Theresa is a teacher and a freelance writer, making her home in Greenfield, MA and Wright, NY with her family.  She teaches at S.H.I.N.E. (Students at Home in New England), a social and academic support program for middle school students in the Pioneer Valley, and writes about home-schooling and technology.  Theresa’s interests include home-schooling, gardening, cooking, hiking, and dancing.

Youth Group in Hatfield Raising Money for Endangered Animals

Hatfield Youth Take Action!
Raising Funds to Save Panda and Polar Bears

Get your own kids involved too! Do some spring cleaning and donate toys and clothes (still in usable condition!) to the Youth Action Committee's fundraising tag sale on May 12th. Deadline to donate to the sale is April 28th. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Did you know that there are more people in Hatfield than there are pandas in the world?

The Youth Action Committee at the Hatfield Library is doing a group project to help save polar and panda bears from extinction, and they will be holding a yard sale to raise money to donate to the cause.  The sale will take place on Saturday, May 12th from 10am-2pm at the Hatfield Library, and donations are being received before the event through April 28th.  Get your own kids involved by inviting them to clean out their closets and gather toys and clothes (still in usable condition!) to donate for supporting endangered animals.

The Youth Action Committee is a kid-run group designed to empower young community members and help them develop both a sense of connection to their community as well as the skills necessary to voice their opinions and work to create change.  Help out the group’s project!  Money raised will be donated to organizations that work to support polar and panda bears, including Pandas International.  For more information, call the library at 413-247-9097.

HFVS Farmyard Jungle Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to the Podcast:


Hilltown Family Variety Show
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM
Northampton, MA
July 27th, 2007 @ 7pm

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This weeks episode was inspired by the simplicity of Eric Herman’s song, “I Like Elephants.” Let the kids check out the video above. Herman travels through a list of animals familiar to any five year old and sings about their basic character traits and habits. Only he puts the character traits with the wrong animal and his kids correct him with the right one. So simple it’s sweet.


(c) Hilltown Families - The Princess and Farmer BenLast week my daughter went to camp at Red Gate Farm Education Center in Buckland, MA. On her last day of camp she wore her tiara all day. ALL DAY! It was the beginning of what has now become a “must have” for any activity she participates in, even bath-time. To the right is a photo of her holding court with “Farmer Ben” and to the left (your other left) she’s with one of her camp counselors. She always has a great time visiting the farm. In addition to youth camps, they have an exciting Seed Saving Program, along with workshops and opportunities to volunteer. Ben Murray, the director of Red Gate (“Farmer Ben” as she calls him), has expressed his interest in being a guest blogger on Hilltown Families. I’m sure he’ll have a lot of insight to share regarding his adventures with kids. We’re looking forward to his submission. In the meantime, visit them on-line at www.redgatefarm.org and go by for a visit.

Next week we are heading to Maine to stay with a dear friend of mine. We’re sending our kids to day camp for the week and having five days of Mommy Time! MOMMY TIME!!!!


Road Trip by Rebecca FrezzaThis week we offer up a contest to all our listeners. Name which song in this weeks playlist has the following quote: “We can not use little monkeys who don’t do as they are told.” The first correct answer posted below in our comment section will win a copy of Rebecca Frezza’s CD Road Trip. Road Trip is a winner of the Children’s Music Web Award and a recommended Parents’ Choice. This album includes one of our featured songs this week, “Space Dog.” If you did not get to hear the show on WXOJ 103.3FM Tuesday night, then listen to our podcast or download an archived show.

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