Fall Chrysanthemum Show at Smith Offers Community-Based Learning

Budding Botanists Will Love This Show at Smith College Botanic Garden

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

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

Flower Shows Offer Lessons in Botany & Habitat

Orchids & Tulips: Learning About Botany & Habitat

Every winter, the Pioneer Valley’s greenhouses burst into bloom despite the cold weather outside. Bulbs, planted in the fall, come to life and bloom just as the dreariest time of year begins to relent. Not only do these first blossoms bring hope towards the end of winter with their color and fragrances, they present a seasonal opportunity for families to learn together about habitat, the life cycle of plants, and the structural nuances that differentiate one species from another.

Beginning in February and continuing through the first few weeks of March, three different annual flower shows will be open to visitors in the Pioneer Valley. The first of the three is the Orchid Society’s annual show, follow by Spring Bulb Shows at the Smith College Botanical Garden in Northampton and the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden in South Hadley.  Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Ahead: Spring Wildflowers

Spring Wildflowers: Native Species, Art & History

In New England, spring ephemerals and beautiful woodland wildflowers appear throughout the spring, lasting only a short while during this fleeting season.  During this time of year, our fields and forests are community-based resources that can support our interests in botany, ecology, and even entomology, while connecting us to the seasons and the spaces that surround us. Guided hikes led by naturalists, botanists, and enthusiasts happen throughout the season, helping identify the environments in which different wildflowers grow, their relationship with local pollinators, folklore, and medicinal or culinary use. Check out our list of Weekly Suggested Events every Thursday for a comprehensive list of activities happening around the region to support your interests and education, including guided wildflower walks and hikes. And be sure to subscribe to our free eNewsletter delivered to your inbox each Thursday morning!

Another option is to visit the trails on your own to discover wildflowers for yourself. Look back to our September/October Season issue of Learning Ahead for over 25 places to go on a self-guided hike with your family, friends or on your own here in Western Massachusetts.

[Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield]


Download our May/June edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

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Wildflowers & Honeybees in Art & Literature

Art and Reason

Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

While exploring spring ephemerals, think about how these fleeting flowers have influenced artists across the centuries. Take, for instance, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, a common spring wildflower that can be seen in the deciduous woods of Western Massachusetts. It is native to the Northeastern United States and flowers from April to June. In 1930, artist Georgia O’ Keeffe created a series of 6 paintings of this flowering plant while on Lake George in New York. The National Gallery of Art owns five of these six paintings. Looking at the painting, how does the artist choose to represent the flower? Remember, this flowering plant is quite small; how does the artist create a sense of drama and intensity that may often be overlooked when coming across the plant on a woodland walk?

Are there any other wildflowers you can think of that have influenced artists? Take a moment to consider why flowers are so appealing to humans. Is our attraction to flowers emotional or practical? For the honeybee, flowers are a source of food. What do they signal for humans? Could it be for the same reason? Other reasons? Read the rest of this entry »

The Sweet Art of Beekeeping

Honey: Farming & Food

Depending on the climate and local flora, the taste of honey changes based on which flowers in a region the honeybees have pollinated. Honey produced in the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts could have a slightly different taste than the honey produced in the Pioneer Valley. It’s fascinating how the flavor profile of the honey changes based on environmental differences; it truly reflects a sense of place, topography, and geography. Read the rest of this entry »

Sense of Place: Wildflowers & Honeybees

Think about this:

  • What were some early American uses for honey? What other sweeteners might have been present or absent from their diets?
  • How does Georgia O’Keefe choose to represent the Jack-in-the-Pulpit? How does she create a sense of drama and intensity that may often be overlooked when seeing the plant on a woodland walk?
  • Why is the health of bees important for our own food production?

Invasive Species an Unlikely Catalyst for Community-Based Learning

Invasive Species an Unlikely Catalyst for Community-Based Learning

We’re unfortunately quite familiar with invasive species here in western Massachusetts. From the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer gnawing its way through every tasty tree in sight to Japanese knotweed crowding nearly every riverbank for miles around, invasive species have made our place their home… but how is it that this happens?

Though quite unwanted and dangerous to our fragile ecosystems, the numerous invasive species that have become part of the local landscape can serve as a community-based resource for learning. Through studies of local habitat, opportunities for citizen science, and targeted community service efforts, local families can use invasive species as a catalyst for building knowledge and cohesiveness both at home and in the community at large.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fall Chrysanthemum Show at Smith Offers Community-Based Learning

Budding Botanists Will Love This Show at Smith College Botanic Garden

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

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

Plants Sales Support Multidisciplinary Learning in Your Backyard

Community Plant Sales & Swap Support Local Causes & Embedded Learning

Tending to a family garden not only provides food for your family and adds beauty to your surroundings, but the process of growing and caring for plants brings with it ample opportunity to learn about everything from edible plants to soil science! Here in western Massachusetts, gardening season is just kicking into full swing – meaning it’s time to start planning and planting your family garden!

Before choosing envelopes of seeds and six-packs of seedlings, it’s important to create a plan for your garden. Without proper planning, plants might end up being overcrowded, poorly positioned, or not properly cared for. It might be most efficient to let garden planning be a task for adults, but involving children in the process can empower them with responsibility while offering multidisciplinary learning. Get kids thinking about annuals and perennials, and the benefits of permaculture and xeriscapes. Using tools such as Math in the Garden curriculum or naturalist Sharon Lovejoy’s book Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children, families can discover ways for children to practice math, science, sustainability and literacy concepts all by participating in planning the family garden.

Another title that would be great to have in your family garden library is Slugs, Bugs, and Salamanders: Discovering Animals in Your Garden. Putting into context the concept of the food chain, this book will use the family garden as a launch into learning about pests and their natural predators.

Once you know where you’ll be growing your garden and what types of plants you’d like to put in them, commit to locally sourcing your plants. This time of year our region is rich in plant sales & swaps, giving families many options for obtaining locally-grown plants that have been dug up from the gardens and properties of other community members, local farms and community gardens.  Along side, six-pack containers filled with potting soil and starter plants, you might also find more interesting things like cuttings from trees and bushes, potted house plants, wildflowers & grasses, medicinal & culinary herbs, hand-preserved (dried and harvested) seeds, and plants that aren’t usually grown straight from seeds – like asparagus roots and rhubarb crowns.

Many of these plant sales are also fundraisers that support valuable community resources like libraries, schools and museums, and often times the community member whose garden the plant originates from is on hand to answer your questions and offer gardening tips. Even if you’re not gardening or your gardening space is very small, plant sales are a fun place to freely share gardening information with one another, supporting kids in their development of gardening skills. Check out these upcoming plant sales in Western MA!

Orchids & Tulips: Learning About Botany & Habitat

Every winter, the Pioneer Valley’s greenhouses burst into bloom despite the cold weather outside. Bulbs, planted in the fall, come to life and bloom just as the dreariest time of year begins to relent. Not only do these first blossoms bring hope towards the end of winter with their color and fragrances, they present a seasonal opportunity for families to learn together about habitat, the life cycle of plants, and the structural nuances that differentiate one species from another. Read more in our post, Flower Shows Offer Lessons in Botany & Habitat.


[Photo credit: (cc) sunoochi]

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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 »

A Day at the Botanic Garden of Smith College

Pet-Free Till Now: The Botanic Garden at Smith Works its Magic

Koi pond in the Stove House at the Smith College Lyman Conservatory. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

We’ve been a pet-free family for almost 15 years. The first three years of our marriage we worked so much that having a pet would have been animal cruelty. I was finishing my degree, writing some huge thesis and drinking too much Chai. Matt was working a few jobs and writing.

We added a child, then two more kids, one with some extra needs. Pets are beyond us.

Theo, my youngest, has some fear of animals. Ever since he was a baby he has seemed unenthusiastic. I remember taking Henry to a little petting zoo farm when we lived in Connecticut. He was a happy three year old running around pointing at goats, sheep, chickens and making all the appropriate sounds. Theo, at age one, just wanted to crawl back inside mama. I had to wear him on my back — he hid under the cape of the Ergo. By the time he was two, it was pretty clear he didn’t like it. “No, no, farm! No, no horses, neigh!”

As he grew older, I realized he was fearful of dogs, but no more so than my oldest who outgrew it and now loves dogs. I kept thinking Theo would just outgrow it, but this summer I discovered he was afraid of cats, squirrels and chipmunks too. At my in-laws he was refusing to go downstairs alone for fear of a very ancient, sage cat who does not care about his existence. Outside at friend’s house, a chipmunk raced by his feet and he sobbed for 10 minutes.

In the Succulent House, prickly cacti made the boys stay close! (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

We have a problem, which is why nothing surprised me more than when we had our first ever animal breakthrough at the The Botanic Gardens at Smith College, in Northampton, MA.  Theo fell hard for the koi in the pond in the Stove House.  He sat there patiently, kneeling on the narrow pathway, begging, “Fishies, come jump out of the water and say hello to me, Theo. I like you! I will take care of you!”

We tried to move on, but he kept running back to the pond. Eventually, the big fish, whom Theo called Momma Fish, swam towards the surface near Theo and made a fishy-kissy face. Delightful! Thank you, Momma Fish.

We were then able to fully enjoy the rest of the Botanic Gardens. Henry and Theo enjoyed pretending to be monkeys as they were able to recognize the jungle plant found in the Palm House. Following the paths, looking the the oversize leaves and blooms was warm adventure on a chilly weekend.  Another favorite spot was the Succulent House, where the prickly cacti made them stay close to mom and dad. We got to show them lemons, oranges, and other fruit hanging off the branches

We got to show them lemons, oranges, and other fruit hanging off the branches. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Although it is getting chilly outside, we toured the Rock Garden. These hearty plants like the weather.  It was lovely to explore this outdoor garden before it was snow-covered. — We plan on returning for the Fall Chrysanthemum show in a few weeks (Nov. 6th-21st). In the meantime, Theo and I walk up frequently to the Botanic Gardens sell hello to Momma Fish. We are talking about perhaps a fish of our own. “I will wake up early on Christmas morning, at 6:30 o’clock,” says Theo, “and I will tell Santa I am wanting a fish pet for Christmas today.”

I hope you decide to visit the arboretum and gardens at the Smith College  with your kids.  The conservatory is open daily from 8:30—4 o’clock. There is no admission fee, but donations are graciously accepted.  If you’re driving in, find out directions and where to park here. A nice idea before you go would be to visit their Kid’s Corner on-line and to take a look at their Conservatory Map and Virtual Tour so you can get your bearings before your visit.


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.

Spring Time Outdoor Adventures for Kids: Monday Afternoon’s in the Hilltowns

Registration Form

HILLTOWN FAMILIES
presents
Outdoor Adventures for Kids in the Hilltowns
Spring 08 Afternoon Program

A nine week Monday afternoon (4pm-5pm) adventure program for kids ages 5-7 at the TMO Base Camp in Chesterfield, MA, starting April 7th and ending June 16th, 2008. Led by Program Coordinator, Timothy Vogel of Tekoa Mountain Outdoors.

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

Through age appropriate activities, young kids will explore their surrounding environment on foot and in a canoe while learning about ecology through outdoor adventures and activities. This nine week program will lead young Adventurers into the discoveries of spring while experiencing hikes, fishing and canoeing around the scenic 500 acre Base Camp in Chesterfield, MA. As spring arrives, bringing us April Showers, our young Adventures will explore vernal pools as the peepers emerge, make rain sticks to celebrate the season and hunt for insects. In May our young Adventures will go fishing while learning about fish habitat and local wildflowers and plants. And as we approach the summer months we’ll bring out the canoes and learn the basics of paddling and canoe safety. Our last day will conclude with a make-your-own ice cream social by using a tin can! Participants are asked to dress for the weather.

SPRING 08 SESSION

April 7th, 14th & 28th

Week 1 – Monday (04/07/08 )
RAIN STICKS

We will be starting off our spring session by making Rain Sticks and sharing their origins. Our young Adventurers will make a traditional Rain Stick out of materials found in their environment, and like people of other cultures, imitate the sound of rain. Having originated in South America and attributed to many cultures, the Rain Stick is a tubular rattle that has been used by many diverse cultures in various ways and played by children throughout the world.

Week 2 – Monday (04/14/08 )
STREAM EXPLORATIONS

As spring slowly arrives, our young Adventurers will trek down to the stream to explore our streams and surrounding areas. And there’s more than meets the eye! Upon closer look, we’ll identify different aquatic insects, animals and plants while discussing their importance to our ecosystem. Please bring shoes that can get wet and a change of clothes. Magnifying glass and reptile/insect ID books would be handy too.

Week 3 – Monday (04/28/08 )
THE BIG BUG HUNT

As their environment warms up, insects begin to emerge. We’ll identify bugs that fly, swim, crawl and even slither near our watershed while learning their value to our environment. Our young Adventurers will explore under logs and rocks while discovering which insects are useful and which ones we should avoid. We’ll also discuss how to keep ourselves safe from tick and mosquito bites while being adventurous outdoors. Please bring shoes that can get wet and a change of clothes. Magnifying glass and insect ID books would be handy too.

May 5th, 12th, & 19th

Week 4 – Monday (05/05/08 )
LET’S GO FISHING! (PART 1)

We are fortunate to have a rich resource of fish habitat in Western Massachusetts. For the next two weeks our young Adventurers will discover respectful fishing practices. We will learn about tying knots and casting a line while taking a look at different types of bait. We’ll also be discussing hook safety and fish habitat. Fishing poles and gear will be provided. Participants are welcome to bring their own poles too.

Week 5 – Monday (05/12/08 )
LET’S GO FISHING! (PART 2)

We’ll continue our fish explorations as our young Adventurers are introduced to the TMO/MA Angler Education Program. We will continue with learning the basics of fishing, simple biology, fish habitat, fishing gear safety, and courteous fishing habits while instilling respect for fish and their environment. Fishing poles and gear will be provided. Participants are welcome to bring their own poles too.

Week 6 – Monday (05/19/08 )
HIKING ADVENTURES

April shower’s bring May flowers, including Dutchman’s Britches, Trillium, Yellow Violets, and Trout Lilly’s. May is an excellent time to identify wildflowers, plants and trees while discussing how we can avoid poisonous plants while being adventurous outdoors. We will hike around the 500 acre Base camp, and see what April showers have helped to bring to life while discussing their importance to our ecosystem. Participants are welcome to bring along a plant press and ID books.

June 2nd, 9th, & 16th

Week 7 – Monday (06/02/08 )
CANOEING (PART 1)

Our young Adventurers will take to the water for the next two weeks. We will access the waters here at the Base Camp and learn safety skills around the water and canoes. Wearing provided personal flotation devices (PFD), we’ll learn all the different paddle strokes and proper techniques while paddling around our beautiful 60 acre wild and scenic Scout Pond. Please bring shoes that can get wet and a change of clothes.

Week 8 – Monday (06/09/08 )
CANOEING (PART 2)

Our young Adventurers will conclude their canoeing experience, beginning where we left off last week. Wearing provided personal flotation devices (PFD), we’ll continue to practice our canoeing techniques and safety skills as we explore our watershed on canoe. Please bring shoes that can get wet and a change of clothes.

Week 9 – (06/16/08 )
TIN CAN ICE CREAM SOCIAL

Our last day will conclude our Hilltown Families Spring 08 Program with our young Adventurers playing outdoor games and making their own ice cream by using a tin can! They will learn how to construct their homemade ice cream maker from materials brought from home and follow through by making their very own to enjoy. And ice cream social will follow.

REGISTRATION FORM

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