Observance of Earth Hour Supports Climate Studies and Sense of Place

Observance of Earth Hour Supports Climate Studies and Sense of Place

Since 2007, hundreds of millions of people worldwide have participated annually in a powerful and symbolic act of earth-centric solidarity. Earth Hour brings together citizens of all ages from around the world to shine a light on climate change and climate action – by turning off the lights!

Held annually in late March (so as to allow the sunset times in both of the earth’s hemispheres to overlap), Earth Hour asks participants to show their commitment to preserving the earth by switching off non-essential lighting for a full 60 minutes. While a single home with its lights switched off may not seem like much of a statement (in fact, it might just seem like nobody is home!), a neighborhood, town, or city filled with homes darkened for Earth Hour makes quite a statement and shows a collective desire for respectful, responsible, and sustainable use of the earth and its resources.  Read the rest of this entry »

Millennium Project in Pioneer Valley Integrates Art with Citizen Scientists

Exhibition to Document Next Millennium of Climate Change in History’s Slowest Photograph

Formed 200 million years ago in the Late Triassic and boasting hundreds of distinct microclimates, the Holyoke Range is a site selected to document the transformation of the environment over the next 1,000 years.
This spring, the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College will install a camera, designed by experimental philosopher and Amherst College graduate Jonathon Keats, that will take a millennium-long photograph of the evolving landscape. The museum will unveil the photograph in the summer of 3015. Prior to the camera’s installation at the Mead, it will be it will be on display in the exhibition Jonathon Keats: Photographing Deep Time, on view April 15 through May 31, 2015.

What will the landscape of the Pioneer Valley look like a millennium from now? The Mead Art Museum and artist Jonathon Keats are determined to find out. As part of an exhibition of Keats’ work, the museum will install a special camera that will take a 1,000-year-long photograph tracking the changes in the local landscape over the next millennium.

Created using the basic design for a pinhole camera, the Millennium Camera will use oil paint and the light that enters the camera through a tiny hole in order to create an exposure that will reflect changes in Amherst’s landscape over time. Mounted at the top of the Stearns Steeple, the camera will get something a bit like a bird’s eye view of its surroundings. In 3015, the image created by the camera will be unveiled and viewed by a community living in a very different world than today’s.

The exhibit that marks the camera’s start is titled Photographing Deep Time, and will showcase Keats’ other work in deep time photography, including a 100-year photographic survey of the changing cityscape of Berlin. Rather than being focused on the end result of any image, Keats’ deep photography process is focused on connecting photograph viewers with the changes that take place over time that, together, create the final product.

Older students and adults wishing to hear more about the monumental project and Keats’ artistic process can attend an artist conversation at the Mead Art Museum from 2-3pm on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Photographing Deep Time will be on display at the museum through May 31, 2015, providing families with the opportunity to explore the intersection of art, science, and the future’s history. This Wednesday afternoon event is free and open to the public and is part of the Arts at Amherst Spring Festival.

The Mead will also produce 100 pinhole cameras, each with a 100-year exposure time, for the public to hide somewhere in the Pioneer Valley, invisibly monitoring changes in the surrounding landscape between now and 2115. The cameras will be available at the Mead for $5 each and will come with a registration card for visitors to document their camera’s location. Participating families can join is a art-based citizen scientists! Read the rest of this entry »

UMass Lowell’s Cool Science Contest

Power of Public Art Drives Critical Thinking in Community Based Learning

Public art is designed to make us think. Whether it’s about local history, traffic safety, or our cultural heritage, public artwork sends a message. Children have the opportunity to create public artwork to send a message about climate change by participating in UMass Lowell’s Cool Science contest! Young artists can learn about climate science and art with a purpose by creating entries, and winners might get to see their art made public. Entries are due by Dec 1, 2014.

Public art plays an important role in communities throughout western Massachusetts. Murals, sculptures, chalk drawings, and installations in public spaces help to share history, culture, and new ideas with everyone who sees them. Public art is, perhaps, the most accessible of all art forms – viewing does not require intentionality, it simply requires eyes to be open to the world. One of the best parts of public art is the power that it has to spread meaningful messages – to remind us to love one another, to make us think about how we treat public spaces, and to even make us look twice before crossing the street.

Currently, students have the opportunity to submit artwork into a public art contest. UMass Lowell’s annual Cool Science artwork competition asks students in grades K-12 (or homeschool equivalent) to create works of art inspired by their learning about climate change. Winners of the contest will have their artwork displayed on clean fuel-burning city buses in Lowell, providing young artists with the opportunity to have their message-sending masterpieces turned into mobile public art.  Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: People’s Climate March

Reflections on the People’s Climate March
NYC Sept 21st, 2014

I felt it was important to go to the Climate March because it was going to be historic—the largest climate rally in history, and people from all over the globe had an opportunity to share a collective stance. Indigenous groups joined with hundreds of thousands of people to be speaking with the same voice with a lot more presence. Singer Angelique Kidjo spoke with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now as she represented the women in Africa who are paying the price for climate change as it is directly affecting their crops and their livelihood right now. In some way I felt just as unheard as them. Al Gore and Bill McKibben stood strong leading the march though all fame aside there was an overall voice throughout of truly this being about ‘us the people.’

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So what made my husband and I want to bring our children when the thought of taking 3 kids to the grocery store is daunting? Well, I guess it’s because we recognized that daily discomforts and mood shifts would be a part of our day with kids anyway, so we were ready for that. It was just something we were going to do. To have them not only experience a civil action for a cause they believe in, but also to let them know just how important our actions are. It’s a unique opportunity to broadcast the small ‘work’ we all do every day as individuals to minimize our impact.  Read the rest of this entry »

When Dinosaurs Walked…Western Mass

Paleontology Fascinates and Stimulates Learning in Kids

As one of They Might Be Giants’ best-loved (and paleontologist-narrated) children’s songs proclaims, “I love diggin’ in the dirt!” The potential for getting dirty is just what many kids need in order to become interested in dinosaurs, but it’s not the only hook. In addition to the fun that comes from digging and discovering, dinosaurs are fascinating to children for the magic and mystery that surrounds them – though we have lots of evidence that supports their long-ago existence, young ones whose understanding of time has not fully developed are astounded by the beasts of long ago. Drastically different from most of the creatures seen on Earth today (at first glance), dinosaurs’ shape, size, and even habitat are fascinating and almost unbelievable to youngsters.

Engaging children in dinosaur-related learning allows them not only to learn about the prehistoric beasts, but presents opportunities for lots of other types of learning as well. Learning to identify dinosaur species can help young children practice putting words to specific characteristics related to a species’ shape, size, and coloring, while for older learners, species identification serves as a means of understanding the role of each specific body part that distinguishes one type from the next – information that can help children to understand animal adaptations and evolution. Additionally, dinosaur studies supports children in learning about the climate- and landscape-related changes that the Earth undergoes over time. Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Climate Change Education & Action

People’s Climate March

There is something important happening in September. It’s the People’s Climate March in NYC. They claim it will be the biggest climate rally in history. They also say it will be pet and family friendly, so I’m using encouraging Pioneer Valley locals to get to the march on September 21st, 2014. A local team of people are working on organizing charter bus transportation and carpooling to the march in NYC in September. You can travel round trip for $25 or less getting back the same day, so don’t let cost or time stand in the way. The atmosphere and tenor of the event is meant to be dignified, fun, impacting and empowering. This is not the place for terror and fright as it will certainly be permitted by NYC, peaceful and safe for all who come. Keep an ear out for fun, local, and creative activities leading up to the support of the rally.

Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Facilitating the Climate Change Conversation

Kids and Climate

My kids are getting older and are more tuned into our conversations. Remember the days as a parent when you could talk ‘adult’ in the front seat about things that interested you and the kids paid no mind?  Now at age 6 and 10 our two oldest are more aware and have context for the information they are absorbing, coupled with the fact that they want to understand what the adults are talking about. There’s no changing it; we are in complex times and as parents we are facing the challenge of how to digest this information and create a productive environment for our kids to thrive in.

We knew as parents we’d be met in their adolescence with difficult conversations about sex, drugs, violence, mental illness, and death… Can we add climate change to that ‘complex’ list?   Read the rest of this entry »

Entomology: Lessons from the Garden

Multivotines vs. Univoltines: Adapting to Climate Change

I have just returned from a horticultural conference in Boston. One of the more interesting workshops was given by Michael Raupp, Ph.D, Professor at University of Maryland on climate change and plant pests. Thankfully, at least in this area, we are no longer talking about, “is the climate changing?” But what are the implications of climate change, and how does it affect families in western Massachusetts?

For insects, climate change is much more serious than just a bad hair day. There are many environmental factors that influence insects, but the primary one is temperature. As the environment gets warmer, some are winners and others are losers. Within the realm of insect pests – a major concern for farmers and gardeners of any scale – there are clear winners and losers due to the ways in which each species reproduces. The winner in the climate change war are multivotine insects, species who are able to reproduce multiple generations each year. On the losing side are univoltines , whose reproductive cycle makes it impossible to produce more than a single generation in a year.

Multivoltines have historically been hard to control as their ability to adapt to environmental conditions and pesticides is legendary – pesky aphids are a prime example of such a species. Because they have so many generations per year, adaptation of the species happens very quickly – hence an insect with the ability to persist, even as the conditions in its environment change. Univoltines such as the gypsy moth, on the other hand, reproduce slowly and, therefore, evolve slowly as well – making populations more susceptible to climate change-related damage.

Ladybug&Aphids_on_Milkweed_9587a

While it’s impossible to see aphid and gypsy moth populations for yourself during the winter, it’s still possible to learn about this phenomenon as a family while the ground is covered with snow. Instead of aphids and moths, think about dandelions and apple trees. During the summer, dandelions pop up everywhere and go to seed fairly quickly. The seeds, blown by the wind, grow more and more generations of dandelions before the warm weather ends. Apple trees, on the other hand, take years and years to begin producing apples. Instead of reproducing quickly, multiple generations of apple trees can take a century or more to exist. Which of these species do you think might be more easily affected by a climate in which the temperature continues to rise? The one that takes longer to reproduce, of course. And which one is generally considered to be more desirable and valuable? The slow, slow apple, of course.

Apple Blossoms in May

Challenge kids to think of other examples of species that fit this speed and adaptability vs. value to humans dichotomy – there are lots of possible choices to examine… Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Scientist Opportunity: IceWatch

IceWatch: Citizen Scientist Project Exams Ecosystems via Ice

In addition to the sophisticated data that climatologists collect, some of the most valuable information helping to inform studies of climate change can be collected by citizen scientists! By helping scientists to identify changes in the beginning and ending of the coldest part of the winter, citizen scientists can become a part of studies of the climate changes taking place in regions all over the country.

This winter, families can contribute to climate studies by participating in IceWatch, a citizen science initiative that works to collect information about the ice-in and ice-out times of various bodies of water across the continent. By regularly observing a lake, pond, river, or bay, families can help to inform scientists about the length of the cold season which, when compared to data from past years, can help to determine the amount by which climate change has progressed regionally.

In order to participate, families of citizen scientists must first identify a local body of water to observe. The best places to observe are areas that are largely unaffected by human interference, such as dams, industrial outlets, or agricultural operations (such as large-scale livestock watering or fish farming). Here in western Massachusetts, many rivers and streams are dammed, but not all are actively being used for hydropower – meaning that they may still be suitable for observation. A little bit of research into the role of a dam up or downstream from your desired observation point can help to determine whether or not the body of water is affected by human interference while gaining a better sense of your local surroundings… Read the rest of this entry »

Giveaway: 5 Gifts Locally Handmade by Hilltown Mompreneurs

Celebrating 5 Years with 5 Fabulous Gifts from Hilltown Mompreneurs

At the turn of the year, Hilltown Families will be turning five years old … and we will be celebrating all year long! To start the celebration, we have invited five Hilltown mompreneurs to partner with us. These five crafty businesses, located here in the Hilltowns of Western MA, create handmade products that kids will enjoy receiving — and we have one of each to giveaway to one lucky family!  It’s our birthday, but we’re giving you the presents … just in time for the holiday season!

Read more about these local businesses below, surf over to their web sites to discover what other neat products they’re making, and find out how you can enter to win all five to give as gifts this holiday season below.  Deadline to enter to win: December 13th, 2010 by 7pm (EST).

JAR OF WONDER: jarofwonder.etsy.com

Kerri Simonelli and Niki Lankowski of Haydenville, MA started Jar of Wonder in 2009.  Their line of felt play food has been a fast success, selling at local venues like Twist and A Childs Garden in Northampton, MA, and as far away as Aspen, CO.  Their etsy shop features several felt play food sets, including breakfast, sushi, pasta dinner and lunch.  Their latest sets soon to be featured include Sushi and a new and improved Tea Party, along with play kitchens and aprons for the holiday season. All of their felt food sets are all hand sewn right here in Western MA, using ecofi felt which is made from recycled plastics. Each set comes packaged in a corn plastic compostable package.

Kerri & Niki are offering a Felt Food Tea Party Set ($22 value). The Tea Party Set includes 2 cookies, 2 tea bags and 1 tea sandwich. Deliciously fun play food for your little chef made even more tasty with recycled eco felt. This tea party set is sure to inspire your child’s imagination and plant the seed for hours of open-ended play. You will be surprised with what your little ones will come up with, when given this type of inspirational tool.

SMITHPHOTO WORKS: www.smithphotoworks.etsy.com

Jen Smith of Ashfield, MA is photographer and artist who first created a collection of photo jewelry in 1995, and more recently photo pillows, that both incorporate her original photography into handmade items for the home and body. Jen’s pillows are created with her original photography printed directly onto 100% cotton fabric using the cyanotype photo process. Cyanotype is a photographic printing process invented in the 1800’s. A permanent photographic image is achieved when a negative or object is placed on fabric or paper coated with light sensitive salts, then exposed to sunlight. Unexposed areas dissolve away when fabric is washed in water leaving what is often referred to as a “blueprint.” Jen Smith’s work can be found at Pinch in Northampton and her online etsy shop.

Jen is offering a Mini Lavender Photo Handmade Pillow ($22 value).  This 8″x8″ pillow is printed with a cyanotype image of a gorgeous moth with a solid blue backing.  The pillow is made of 100% cotton and filled with hypo-allergenic polyfil and lavender buds. Spot clean only.

SMARTYPANTS: www.smartypantsproject.org

SmartyPants are eco-funky children’s pants made from a combination of recycled, vintage, and new fabrics.  Lisa Ganci of Shelburne Falls, MA started SmartyPants when her daughter was 21 months old and she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Cancer turned her world upside-down as well as inspired her to launch this dual-purpose mission which includes a portion of the proceeds to be donated to Rays of Hope, a Western MA organization that supports families coping with breast cancer.  By using mostly repurposed fabrics, and employing local folks, this project is turning a little piece of the garment industry up-side-down by creating one-of-a-kind, beautiful children’s clothing that are practical, affordable, sustainable and locally produced.

Lisa is offering a gift certificate for SmartyPants to be redeemed for a pair of one-of-a-kind pair of pants ($22-$30 value).  With all of the amazing fabric designs to choose from, it will be hard to select! Her baby/toddler pants, 6m to 2T, have a “butt-panel” that provides extra room for a diaper.  Sizes 2/3 to 5/6 lose the butt-panel, but gain a contrasting rear pocket.  Waist bands are simple elastic and all seams are serged for durability.

SNACKTAXI: www.snacktaxi.com

Erin Kelly-Dill of Plainfield, MA invented snackTAXI back in 2003 as an alternative to the tide of plastic ziplock bags that flowed from her house to the landfill when their 3 kids started school. Her family pack over 500 lunches every year, and had definitely fallen prey to the easy appeal of the ziplock bag. SnackTAXIs was her answer.  Made in our home-based workshop by local sewers, she is committed to keeping her business local, and will never outsource labor.  The exterior of a snackTAXI is comprised of 100% cotton and the interior is lined with polyurethane coated nylon, confirmed to be lead, phthalate and BPA free.  SnackTAXIs are lined with coated nylon, and can be machine washed and dried, or simply wiped clean with a damp sponge.

Erin is offering both a Snack Sack and Sandwich Snack from her line of snackTaxis ($16 value).  With nearly 50 different fabric designs to choose from, picking one can be difficult.  Her Night Owls Espresso design are being offered for our giveaway.  The snack-sack neatly fits rice cakes, pretzels or corn chips, and is equally good for carrot or celery sticks, and the sandwich-sack is the perfect fit for a generous sandwich, bagel or wrap, or a hearty snack.

PEACE TRAVELERS GLOBAL GARLAND: www.etsy.com/people/tlemos

Tony(a) Lemos of Ashfield, MA has been making Peace Travelers Global Garlands since 2009. The tradition of hanging flags began more than 2,000 years ago. Inspired by the Prayer Flags of Tibet, Tony(a)’s garlands offer a special way to express some of the most important wishes of your heart.  The pockets on the flags are intended to carry burdens, hopes, worries, releasing them into the world as the flags blow in the breeze. Families participate together in the visual creation of wishes of peace and unity by tucking poetry, verse, quotes, pictures, paintings, etc. into the pockets on the flags. The garland help to spin a common thread of unity between this and other communities.  The garlands are available at Elmer’s in Ashfield and her online etsy store.

Tony(a) is offering a Peace Travelers Global Garland ($25 value).  Each garland has seven flags, many with designs from different world cultures.  This garland set is a gentle reminder to pause, notice, and honor your world …  a prayer for the environment.  The garland comes with a handout and book list, Ways You Can use the Peace Travelers Global Garland to Learn about World Cultures.

HOW TO WIN:

Your chance to win a Felt Food Tea Party Set from Jar of Wonder, Mini Lavender Photo Handmade Pillow from SmithPhoto Works, gift certificate from SmartyPants, Sandwich and Snack Sacks (Night Owls Espresso design) from snackTaxi, and a Peace Travelers Global Garland, is as easy as 1-2-3 (4-5)! To win simply

  1. TELL US HOW HILLTOWN FAMILIES HAS BENEFITTED YOUR FAMILY THESE PAST FIVE YEARS,
  2. SHARE THIS PAGE ON FACEBOOK BY SELECTING “LIKE” BELOW and be sure to tell us your
  3. FULL NAME and where you
  4. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) Must include your town and state to be eligible. We’ll randomly draw a winner from those who participate and contact the winner via email.  So be sure to leave an
  5. ACCURATE EMAIL in the email field of the comment box (we never share your email address).

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline to enter to win is Tuesday, December 13th, 2010 by 7pm (EST).  All five gifts will be shipped together to one address.  If you have any questions, please contact us before entering to win at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

Western Mass Families & Neighbors Gather for World Wide Grassroots Demonstration

350.org International Climate Action Day in Western Mass

This past Saturday, families and neighbors from all over Western Massachusetts gathered to take action in a world wide grassroots demonstration on climate change. Several of these events in Western Mass were posted here.

On this day, people in 181 countries came together for the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet’s history. At over 5200 events around the world, people gathered to call for strong action and bold leadership on the climate crisis. Over 15,000 photos have been submitted so far!  See them all on Flickr.  Discover more about 350.org here.

Many images of actions taking place right here in our home state of Massachusetts where submitted. As I looked through the photos I was so happy to see many familiar faces in several of the images.  The commitment of our local families, especially on such a terribly rainy day we had this past Saturday, is fantastic! I put together this collage of wonderful images of local Western Massachusetts families and neighbors taking action and being part of a global message to address climate change:

350.org International Climate Action Day in Western Massachusetts

Images pictured from left to right, top to bottom are labeled below.  Click on the label and it will take you to the image on the 350.org Flickr site and will include any descriptions of their events submitted with the photo.

  1. Montague, MA – Montague Neighbors
  2. Lenox, MA – Evergreen Environmental Club
  3. Monterey, MA
  4. Greenfield, MA – Climate Carnival at Greenfield HS. (photo credit: Daniel A. Brown)
  5. Old Deerfield, MA – Sarah Pirtle Concert
  6. Deerfield, MA – Eaglebrook School
  7. Northfield, MA – (photo credit: Maribeth Dawkins)
  8. Ashfield, MA
  9. South Hadley, MA – Mosier Science Buddies Program
  10. Northampton, MA – Laural Park
  11. Amherst, MA – Amherst College (photo credit: Jessica Mestre)
  12. Northampton, MA – N’hampton Climate Action (photo credit: David Solfiell)
  13. Sunderland, MA – Sunderland Kindergarten (photo credit: Susan Breines)
  14. Amherst, MA – Amherst 350 Committee
  15. Williamstown, MA – Williamstown Elementary School (photo credit: Cheryl Sacks)
  16. Cummington, MA – 350 Neighbors (photo credit: Richard Shephard)
  17. Great Barrington, MA – (photo credit: Jamie Goldenberg)
  18. Cummington, MA – 350 Neighbors (photo credit: Richard Shephard)

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