Learning Ahead: Boating Season

Season of Boating

The water is warmer and the ponds, lakes, and rivers are often swelling with water from summer thunderstorms. Whether it’s in a kayak or a canoe, paddling on the open water offers a unique perspective to witness wildlife, get exercise, and recreate outdoors.

Building watercrafts to traverse water is an ancient practice. In the America’s, there are many examples of indigenous canoes that allows for water travel across rivers and lakes. Often, these watercraft were built by hand from bark, animal skins, and logs and utilized for travel and trade. Compare the craft of these crafts with modern canoes today which are often built out of fiberglass by machines.

While kayaks seem to have originated in Greenland and utilized by people indigenous to Northern, cold climates, the canoe was built and used throughout the world by different cultures and peoples. Canoes were built as open tops and still keep this feature today whereas kayaks originated in the Arctic as closed top boats to prevent the icy water from getting into the boat, usually by stretching animal skins over the top.  Canoes: A Natural History in North America by Mark Neuzil and Norman Sims is an excellent literary choice for learning more about the history of canoeing.

With a historic appreciation of canoes and kayaks, there are many unique waterways in Western Massachusetts to take these crafts out to explore and connect with our local landscape. If you don’t have a boat for paddling, check out your local outdoor outfitter for boat rentals. Additionally, many campgrounds open for day use offer boat rentals for paddling adventures.  Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Take Nature’s Lead

Go with the Flow

Have you ever had that moment, where something you’ve heard over and over again finally takes on a whole new meaning? I found that happening to me once before when observing my neighbors chickens for quite some time feeding in the yard, and truly understood what was meant to be called ‘a chicken.’ Well this moment was a similar embodiment of a saying found routed in nature that was really brought to life by engagement and observation.

On a recent vacation, my family was taking out some canoes and kayaks in a saltwater river that connected the bay side to the ocean side of Cape Cod. The direction of the current was dependent on high and low tide. If you timed it right you could ideally ride the current in one direction and wait for the tides to turn and then have the same ease in riding it back. The trip that we were journeying on this particular time was going to be a short exploration, so we figured it would be easier to ride the current at the end of the trip, so we headed upstream first. Read the rest of this entry »

Suggested Events 06/14/08-06/20/08

Canoeing, Fishing & Father’s Day


This past week the Hilltown Families Outdoor Adventure Spring Program concluded two weeks of canoeing. Under warm sunny skies, families learned about safety on the water and different paddling strokes. We then took to the water and practiced J-strokes and sweep-strokes as we paddled around exploring the edges of the lake and learning a little history of the area. Here are a few links to canoeing resources, instruction videos and articles:


A couple of weeks before our canoeing series we learned how to fish, just in time for fishing derby season. I grew up fishing on the Bayou – catching catfish, baby alligators and snapping turtles, so I had a little experience. I did have to hide the fact that I was baiting the hook with a live worm from my daughter or she would have freaked out! Truth be told, baiting the hook with a live worm freaked ME out … so I had one of the kind instructors bait it for me. We didn’t catch anything, but it was a great opportunity to either learn how to fish with your kids or to freshen up on what was long ago forgotten.


Father’s Day is on Sunday, and many fathers would enjoy a weekend of canoeing and fishing with their buddies families. Others just might prefer to lounge around their parlor reading the New York Times and being served bagels and coffee for breakfast. Whatever the case, if you’re looking for some ideas, how about a free trolley ride at the Trolley Museum in Shelburne Falls, a farm experience in Leverett, breakfast at Elmer’s in Ashfield, or a family hike in Shelburne. More information on these ideas are posted below. Happy Father’s Day to all our dad!


If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page.

Suggest an Event | Local forecast | Get directions | Museum Passes
Farmer’s Market | Family Centers (Ages 0-4)

Events Happening in the Hilltowns
The following key represents the sum cost of one adult and one child:
(>$) Under $10; ($) Between $10-$19; ($$) Between $20-$44; ($$$) Over $45

Saturday – 06/14

7am – 9am – FAMILY RADIO – (Air Waves) Are you prepared to rock?! Join Bill & Ella on Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child every Saturday on The River 93.9FM (101.5FM in Brattleboro), or 103.3 FM WXOJ-LP to hear two hours of quality family-friendly music. [All ages] (Free) LINK

9am-10am – FAMILY RADIO & STORYTELLING – (Air Waves) Join our Hilltown Family! Spend a little time with The Hilltown Family Variety Show every Saturday on WXOJ-LP 103.3FM to hear a full hour of commercial-free, quality family-friendly music and storytelling. [Families] (Free) LINK

MUSIC – (Northampton) Django in June, June 10th-15th. 268-0068 ($$) MORE INFO

RIVER FEST – (Shelburne Falls) Riverfest 2008 happens in downtown Shelburne Falls. Children and adults will be able to visit with spectacular birds of prey, learn about local and invasive plant species, discover sustainable energy sources in our local region, listen to musicians and participate in children’s games, storytelling, creative workshops and singing – all leading up to the colorful “Frogs and Flower Parade”. [All Ages] (Free)

10am-5pm – MUSEUM EXPLORATIONS – (Amherst) The Eric Carle Museum kids-off summer with a day full of family fun. [Families] (Free) MORE INFO

10:30am-11:30pm – SIGN LANGUAGE – (Greenfield) REACH Program will be offering sign language classes at the Greenfield YMCA. [Adults] (Free) MORE INFO

11am – CULTURAL EXPLORATIONS – (Pittsfield) Families can discover Native American crafts through a hands-on art program at the Berkshire Museum. This Saturday make musical instruments. http://www.berkshiremuseum.org [All Ages] ($) MORE INFO

5pm – SIDEWALK ART – (Easthampton) A city-wide chalk celebration will be happening at Old Town Hall steps and sidewalk (43 Main Street).  Get the kids and come color the sidewalks.  Chalk will be provided.  [All Ages] (Free)

6pm-10pm – PERFORMANCE POTLUCK – (Shelburne) All-ages performance potluck at Art Bridge. [All Ages] (Donation) LINK

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

Registration Form

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.


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.


April 7th, 14th & 28th

Week 1 – Monday (04/07/08 )

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 )

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 )

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 )

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 )

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 )

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 )

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 )

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 )

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.


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