Celebrate Freedom on Juneteenth

Community-Based Events & Resources Invite Families to Learn, Celebrate & Reflect on Freedom

These days, when a monumental government decision is made, technology allows the news to travel quickly and we are able to find out almost immediately. However, before the internet and telephones and even motorized vehicles were invented, information took a lot longer to travel. News could take days, weeks, even months to spread, and the further information had to travel, the longer it took for it to get there. In the case of the Emancipation Proclamation, for example, word of Lincoln’s granting of freedom to slaves in Confederate states took nearly six months to reach some parts of the country! While the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1st, 1863, word of emancipation took until June 19th to travel from Washington, DC to Galveston, Texas!

The day upon which Texas slaves learned of the Emancipation Proclamation is celebrated today as Juneteenth. Originally celebrated only in Texas, the day has served as a commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States since 1865. Across the country – and even around the world – Juneteenth is celebrated in order to honor the struggles of those who endured slavery, and to remind us of the ways in which our country’s history has affected (and continues to affect) our current society. Find out about celebrations in Western MA!

Community-Based Education Makes Every Day Back-To-School Day

Hilltown Families: Your Back-to-School Resource, All Year Long!


During the summer months, most children have enjoyed following their interests through outdoor play, reading books they have selected, day-trips with their family, and adventures out in their community. Once late August and early September roll around however, these carefree months of following their own interests and daily rhythms turn towards more organized learning experiences; and for many, the excitement starts to build as families become involved in back-to-school preparations. Maybe this school year will be your child’s first time away from home, or your child is mentally preparing for middle school, or this is their final year in high school… whatever the case, back-to-school can be an exciting time of year for most.

Whether or not your kids are excited about going back to school, or maybe your family homeschools or unschools, that freedom of self-directed learning experienced in the summer months can continue all year round through community engagement outside of the classroom day via community-based education. Read the rest of this entry »

The River’s Song Blends Art & Science While Supporting Community-Based Learning

The River’s Song Celebrates Connecticut River with
Wonderful Range of Events

What does drumming, spoken word, hands-on art making, environmentally-themed storytime, and a parade have to do with the Connecticut River? It’s all a part of The River’s Song, a community celebration that combines art, local history, and community-based learning opportunities to create an event that honors and celebrates the Connecticut River, the Pioneer Valley’s natural artery.

Held on Saturday, May 16th at locations throughout downtown Turners Falls, The River’s Song is a unique community celebration in that its offerings are quite diverse, yet are all still directly related to the Connecticut River and its role both in the local landscape and in our lives. With events beginning at 9am and running past 9pm, The River’s Song offers over 12 hours of river-themed play and learning.  Read the rest of this entry »

Springfield Armory: A National Historic Site

Kids Can Learn About Local History and Become Junior Rangers at this Community-Based Resource

Tying local history with important national and international events, the Springfield Armory provides visitors with a glimpse into the history of military arms manufacturing and the history of the industrial revolution. In addition to opportunities to learn about history from exhibits, families can learn to be Junior Rangers.

Opened as an arsenal to support George’s Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War, the Springfield Armory served as a major arms manufacturing center for over two centuries. Closed since 1968 – but designated as a National Historic Site – the armory provides families with opportunities to explore the intersection of local and national history. Weaving together the stories of major industrial innovations and the workers themselves with national and international military history, the armory’s exhibits and educational programs provide context for some of American history’s major events.

As part of the National Parks system’s Junior Ranger program, the Springfield Armory offers young visitors the opportunity to become Junior Rangers – a rank that requires visitors to first learn about the site’s history and relevance! Aspiring rangers ages 6+ can explore the museum’s exhibits guided by a special Junior Ranger packet that will lead them to make specific discoveries. As part of their self-guided training, Junior Rangers will learn about Civil War rifles manufactured in Springfield, the local inventors and inventions that helped drive the Industrial Revolution, and a special kind of counter-intuitive gun that saves lives!

The Springfield Armory is located at 1 Armory Square in Springfield, and is open from 9am-5pm Wednesday-Sunday during the winter. Participation in special programs is included in admission, and more information is available at 413-734-8551.

[Image credit: Springfield Armory Museum, Springfield MA]

Western MA Resources Support Community-Based Learning While Strengthening a Sense of Place

A Diversity of Learning Right On Your Doorstep

Western Mass is home to an incredible array of community-based resources that offer a diversity of embedded learning opportunities. From historical societies to libraries, trails to art galleries, there are numerous opportunities to connect with your community and embrace your sense of place. Read on to see what treasures rest on your doorstep.

Community-based learning is not a product of simply one resource or another. Instead, it is the product of many different local resources, the offerings of which pool and connect in order to create a web of educational connections and opportunities. Families in western Massachusetts are lucky in that this web is especially strong, thanks to the many well-stocked libraries, beautiful trails and outdoor centers, active historical societies, gallery-filled museums, and supportive family centers. Together, these types of resources help to provide opportunities for unique and authentic community-based learning, wherein families are able to explore broad concepts within a local context.

LIBRARIES

With over 1,700 libraries in the Massachusetts Library System, families have access to thousands of book.  But our local libraries are not solely a book-based resource. In addition to volumes upon volumes of reading material, libraries offer opportunities to explore and discover new interests through more nontraditional resources like musical instruments, games, and exploration kits. Amherst’s Jones Library, for example, has instruments to lend, including child-size violins, ukeleles, guitars, and even a glockenspiel! The Meekins Library in Williamsburg offers discovery kits that promote hands-on exploration of interesting topics like salmon and local rivers, and important social reformers, civil rights, and human rights leaders in American history. Additionally, many local libraries allow patrons to borrow passes to local museums – helping to make these similarly valuable resources more accessible. And as for community sustainability, libraries are one of the oldest and most common forms of collaborative consumption that we’ve got here in western Mass! Read the rest of this entry »

Philosophy for Children Class at MHC Supports Community-Based Education

‘Big Ideas for Little Kids:’ PBS Doc Features Mount Holyoke College Class

Each fall, students in Professor Thomas E. Wartenberg’s Philosophy for Children class pack up kids’ picture books and bring big ideas to elementary school students in the Pioneer Valley.

Rather than slogging through philosophers’ names and theories, however, the Mount Holyoke College students are teaching second graders at the Martin Luther King Charter School in Springfield, MA, to question their own assumptions, listen to each other’s points of view, and sometimes even change their minds—all through the lens of children’s books.

The class, co-taught by Wartenberg and Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella last year, is the subject of a documentary film that will premiere on PBS affiliate WGBY Channel 57 on Monday, November 3, at 8 pm. Big Ideas for Little Kids will be rebroadcast (see schedule below) and available online starting November 4 at wgby.org/bigideas.

“The second graders learn some of the basic rules for having a philosophical discussion, from what it means to be a listener who respects differences in opinion, to how to build a good argument when making a point,” filmmaker Julie Akeret, a regional Emmy Award winner, says. “These young students are excited to be asked not only what they think, but why.”

When the class was filmed last fall, the Mount Holyoke students used six children’s picture books, each focusing on a different question of philosophy. Frederick, for example, prompts the question, “What is work?” through the story of a mouse who composes poetry while his family and friends gather food for winter. The Giving Tree inspires an impassioned examination of whether a tree surrendered “her whole self” when she gave up her lush branches and towering trunk so her son could build a home. And Emily’s Art incites a debate about whether a judge really knows best in an art contest. Read the rest of this entry »

Library Events Support Chemistry, Physics, Forensics & More this Summer!

Statewide Summer Learning Programs Offer Developmental Advancement

This summer, libraries across the state are offering an innovative summer reading program to young readers. Titled Fizz, Boom, Read!, the program supports the development of reading and literacy skills, while also allowing participants to explore the intersection of science and the humanities. By combining science with reading, libraries are encouraging children to explore the world of non-fiction writing- opening up endless possibilities for learning and satisfying science-based curiosity. Read the rest of this entry »

Photography Exhibits Capture Scenes of Everyday Life at Home and Abroad

Local Photography Exhibits Illuminate Regional Histories

This month, two photography exhibitions in Western Massachusetts will offer audiences a similar, yet very different, viewing experience.  Lisa Quiñones’ Balkan Odyssey, now on view at Easthampton City Arts+ Gallery, and Chester Michalik’s Northampton In Time, on view at Historic Northampton starting Friday, July 11, both contain photographs of everyday life and scenes in their respective regions: Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia, and Northampton, Mass. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Catalysts to Connect us with Community-Based Learning

Catalysts + Communities: connecting children to learning

National awareness days, weeks and months are excellent catalysts for learning, like National Moth Week which takes place each July!

When engaging children in enriching learning experiences, the key to successfully identifying educational opportunities for your family is by providing relatable context. Not only are good learning experiences grounded in a familiar physical and cultural situations, they are also timely and should align with the seasonal and calendar-dictated events and natural phenomena that take place throughout the year.

Summer is, of all four of the seasons, perhaps the most opportune season during which to engage children in community-based learning. Traditional students have lots of freedom once school is out for the summer, and along with the pleasant weather comes fascinating natural events and endless community events, both big and small. All of these things can serve as catalysts for learning, helping to either spark curiosity in a new subject or deepen children’s understanding of a topic of special interest to them.

Catalysts for community-based learning come in all shapes and sizes, and no two are alike. Common catalysts for learning include seasons, holidays, current affairs and events, phenology, anniversaries, and special awareness times (days, weeks, months). Each of these catalysts can provide engaging and exciting learning for families, and opportunities are available throughout the summer (and the rest of the year as well!) for learning about almost any topic. In fact, there are some fantastic examples of catalysts for community-based learning coming up during the next few weeks here in western Massachusetts – each of which represents one of the categories into which such experiences typically fit.

Read on to see five highlighted catalyst categories…

Family Camping Grows Respect for Nature

Great American Backyard Campout invites families to camp outdoors, even if it is in their own backyard

Get up close and personal with nature with you family via camping…even if it’s just in your own backyard!

One of the most classic summertime adventures is a weekend of camping. Those of us who went camping as children likely have fond memories (or cautionary tales!) of sleeping in a tent, cooking over a fire or camp stove, and spending full days exploring outside, collecting treasures, and building forts and nature sculptures. It’s likely, too, that many of our readers have made a commitment to sharing these experiences with our children – taking them to sleep outside, teaching them basic survival skills, and giving them small-scale adventures similar to those we enjoyed as kids. And it’s a good thing that so many of us do so – studies have shown that people who are given the opportunity to explore nature as children are far more likely to grow up to have a respect for nature and to support environmentally conscious behaviors.

This month, the National Wildlife Federation offers families a chance to experience the magic of camping together, while also helping to raise money for the organization’s wild-life saving conservation efforts. This year’s Great American Backyard Campout takes place in late June, and calls for families to spend a night camping out together – even if it’s just in their own backyard. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrate Freedom on Juneteenth

Celebration events invite families to celebrate the abolition of slavery, and to reflect on the daily aspects of freedom in their own lives

Andre Keitt will perform stories and folklore from the African oral tradition during Black History Weekend at Old Sturbridge Village on June 21 & 22, 2014.

These days, when a monumental government decision is made, technology allows the news to travel quickly and we are able to find out almost immediately. However, before the internet and telephones and even motorized vehicles were invented, information took a lot longer to travel. News could take days, weeks, even months to spread, and the further information had to travel, the longer it took for it to get there. In the case of the Emancipation Proclamation, for example, word of Lincoln’s granting of freedom to slaves in Confederate states took nearly six months to reach some parts of the country! While the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1st, 1863, word of emancipation took until June 19th to travel from Washington, DC to Galveston, Texas!

The day upon which Texas slaves learned of the Emancipation Proclamation is celebrated today as Juneteenth. Originally celebrated only in Texas, the day has served as a commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States since 1865. Across the country – and even around the world – Juneteenth is celebrated in order to honor the struggles of those who endured slavery, and to remind us of the ways in which our country’s history has affected (and continues to affect) our current society. Find out about celebrations in Western MA!

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