HFVS Martin Luther King, Jr. Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety ShowListen to Podcast:

Hilltown Family Variety Show
Martin Luther King, Jr. Episode

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
January 16th & 17th, 2016
Original broadcast: 2008

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA


 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter


Lessons Worth Sharing

TED-Ed: Resource for Educators & Learners

In addition to offering thousands of informational and inspirational talks, the organization TED now offers resources specifically for educators and learners. TED-Ed (ed.ted.com), a new platform developed by the organization (whose acronym name stands for technology, entertainment, and design), offers educational videos that differ slightly in structure and purpose from the internationally known TED and TEDx talks.

Written by educators and animated by professional animators, TED-Ed videos provide lessons on a wide variety of topics in every typical school subject. Families can use TED-Ed resources to supplement studies done in school, to help with homework, or to explore new and exciting topics together. Each video is designed to offer specific information that is presented in a way that makes for easy listening, and the narrative is accompanied by visuals that illustrate the main idea and details of each topic.

Read the rest of this entry »

Food Security in Summer Months in Western MA

Food Security in Summer Months in Western MA

For children across America, the end of school means the end of book reports and spelling tests, and the end of school breakfast and lunch-their most reliable source of nutrition. In Western Massachusetts, 38,870 kids don’t always know where they will get their next meal. That’s one out of every five kids in the region. Across the country, more than 16 million children live in food insecure homes.

In the summer, these households that struggle to make ends meet all year long are faced with additional challenges. The meals children receive in school are not available and more families with children turn to their local pantries and meal sites to help fill this gap. As a result, these assistance sites can face increased strain on resources during the summer as they try their best to meet demand…

Read the rest of this entry »

5 Resources to Supplement & Support Asian Studies in the Pioneer Valley this Winter

Asian Studies Supplemented in the Pioneer Valley
Exhibit, Educator Workshop, Guided Tours, Performance Art & Free Family Day

Image credit: Yue Minjun. Chinese, born 1962. The Grassland Series Woodcut 1 (Diving Figure), 2008 Woodcut on medium weight lightly textured cream wove paper. Gift of Pace Editions Incorporated and Ethan Cohen Fine Arts courtesy of Ann and Richard Solomon (Ann Weinbaum, class of 1959) and Ethan Cohen Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe.

Educational opportunities are numerous over the next few months for those interested in teaching and learning about Asian art!  The Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, MA will be opening a new exhibit on Asian art beginning February 1st through May 26th, 2013.  Titled, Collecting Art of Asia, the exhibit celebrates the 100th anniversary of the museum’s first acquisition of Asian art and includes work from the museum’s permanent collection, as well as promised gifts to the museum.  Work included in the two-floor exhibit comes from China, Japan, Korea, and much of south and southeastern Asia, and highlights significant movements and people in the history of Asian art, as well as significant and historic gifts to the museum’s collection.

Educators can attend a workshop hosted by the museum that will share suggestions for teaching about the interdisciplinary connections found between Asian and Western art objects.  Open to K-12 teachers, the workshop will also include an overview of “Collecting Art of Asia,” and resources for teaching shared by Five College Center for East Asian Studies director Anne Prescott.  The workshop takes place on February 6th from 10am-3pm ($).  Registration required – call 413-585-2781 or e-mail museduc@smith.edu to sign up.

The Smith College Museum of Art welcomes groups of students to visit, and offers guided tours of the museum.  Classes, homeschool groups, and other groups of learners from PreK-12th grade can visit the museum to supplement their studies of Asian art, culture, and history.  Tours can be designed to fit specific needs, or groups can participate in the general tour designed to accompany the exhibit.  Educators can use a visit to the museum to supplement explorations into the history of Asian art, as well as studies of Asian culture and history.

On Saturday, March 2nd from 10am-3pm, Smith College Museum of Art will host a free family day. Billed as “Art of Asia,” families can participate in hands-on projects that were inspired by fishermen, flowers and fireworks, all on view in the Collecting Art of Asia exhibition.  Projects are perfect for families with PreK-12th youth and their guardians.

Finally, at the UMass Fine Arts Center in Amherst will host Chinese Theater Works performing Toy Theater Peony Pavilion as part of the Global Arts: Performances for Schools series.  The performance, open to grades 3-8, will take place at 10am on March 7th, 2013.  The show combines the 16th century Chinese Kun Opera with modern Western styles of puppetry to create a unique and beautiful story, following a young maiden through her dreams.

Studies of Asian art and performance can provide a window through which to examine Asian history and culture, and can help provide students with a critical understanding of the evolution of Asian cultures.  A look at Asian traditions can also help older students put relations between the United States and east Asian countries such as China and Japan into cultural context.  For more information on either the exhibit or the performance, contact the Smith College museum of Arts at 413-585-2781 or the UMass FAC at 413-545-2511.

Engaging Exhibits & Hands-On Programs at the Berkshire Museum this Winter

Engaging Experiences at the Berkshire Museum

When you think of the Berkshires, images of the green and blanketed Tanglewood lawn may come to mind, or the beautiful colors of fall in the Hilltowns, but the Berkshires don’t close up shop for the winter! The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA has a busy winter season planned, with engaging new exhibitions, hands-on public programming, and lots of opportunities for family fun and learning.

Because the bat population is so fragile, Bats: Creatures of the Night features bat models that visitors can learn from rather than live bats, but the Berkshire Museum will host live bats on March 10th at 1pm! In a one-day-only special event, Rob Mies of the Organization for Bat Conservation will present a big brown bat, fruit bats from Africa and Asia, and the largest bat in the world- the Malayan flying fox – which sports an incredible six-foot wingspan.

The Berkshire Museum’s newest exhibit, Bats: Creatures of the Night, will be on exhibit through May 12, 2013, and is filled with opportunities to have fun while learning about these mysterious creatures. Grab a gallery guide as you enter the exhibit, choose a bat persona, and begin the Bat Survival Challenge, a game that leads you around the exhibit as you see if you can survive a year in the life of a bat. You can also learn how bats navigate and hunt by approaching the museum’s sensor-filled echolocation wall and watching how and when the bat-mimicking sensors pick you up. There are giant bat ears that you can try listening through to see how well bats hear. There are also plenty of bat mounts and models that allow you to see just what these mammals look like up close. Some of them have some pretty funky features!

The Berkshire Museum education department is offering a brand new education program with this exhibition. Bats: Out of the Cave and into the Night can be adapted to students of all ages. In it students will learn about bats’ incredible adaptations, how they benefit us and our environment, and the risks they are facing. Students and teachers will also get to experiment with the Berkshire Museum’s own echolocation machine, BAT-BOT. Teachers- can you navigate blindly through a maze of your students using only the readouts from the museum’s echolocation sensors? Come find out, and then challenge your students to navigate like bats as well. Families can also try BAT-BOT during the museum’s Bats gallery program, which will be presented in the Bats exhibit halls on the second Saturday of each month, through May, at 11am.

Winter can be a time where kids can go a little ‘batty’ themselves. Fortunately the Berkshire Museum has several programs were kids can come in, explore, experiment, and play!

Get a taste of chemistry as a mad scientist at Kitchen Kaboom! at the Berkshire Museum on the last Saturday of every month! Along with the help of the museum’s very own crazy chemist, kids can learn how to do exciting and surprising (and safe!) experiments with regular household materials.

Kitchen Ka-Boom, the museum’s new family-friendly physical science program, offers kids the opportunity to learn while making a mess! Whether participants are shooting a rocket to the ceiling with Alka-Seltzer and water, or making gooey slime, participants are learning through some sort of surprise reaction. Taking place on the last Saturday of every month, all experiments involve simple and kid-friendly ingredients, most of which can be found around the house or at your local grocery store. Each participant leaves with a sheet of information detailing the science behind the experiment and how you can replicate it at home. This information is also posted on the museum’s website in case you want to see what we’re up to from home. The museum strives to introduce new experiments each session, keeping budding scientists coming back! Find program details here: Kitchen Ka-Boom.

Animals Up Close: The Wolf will be presented on Tuesday, February 19, at 1pm, featuring special guest Atka, an Arctic Gray Wolf from the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. As an animal ambassador, Atka travels to help educate people about wolves and their relationship to our environment, and how humans have an important role in protecting their future.

WeeMuse: Ten Days of Play begins at the museum on Thursday, February 14, continuing through Saturday, February 23. Have you ever spent hours choosing the best new toy for your child, only to find that they are much more excited to play with box it came in? This ubiquitous experience is the basis for this exciting new program. Ten Days of Play highlights the importance of child-directed play. The Crane Room will be filled with play materials like paper and cardboard boxes that you and your child can use in whatever way you imagine daily from 11-3pm. This program is free with museum admission and presented in partnership with the Transition Team of Pittsfield and Pop-Up Adventure Play.

Do you have a budding filmmaker who will be home during February break? Send them to the museum for February Vacation Movie Camp! From Monday, February 18, through Friday, February 22, students in grades 3-6 will get the opportunity to work a group film with film producer Erica Spizz. Students will be involved with all aspects of the film, from creating the storyline to the acting and filming. On Friday, Feb. 22,  friends and families will get to watch the final product in a special screening in the Berkshire Museum Theater.  And this summer, the Berkshire Museum will offer some new and exciting  summer camps, as well as some returning favorites!


The Berkshire Museum is located at 39 South Street on Route 7 in downtown Pittsfield, MA. The Museum was established by Zenas Crane in 1903 as a museum of art and natural history. Little Cinema is open year-round; Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, Aquarium, and other exhibits are ongoing.  The Museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10am-5pm and Sunday 12noon-5pm. For more information, visit www.berkshiremuseum.org or call 413-443-7171. Museum admission is $13 for adults and $6 for children. Members and children aged three and under enjoy free admission.

-Emma Kerr

Emma Kerr is the Natural Science Education Specialist at the Berkshire Museum, where she teaches school and public programs on all subjects, from animation to aquarium animals. A native of central Massachusetts, Emma now lives in Pittsfield.

Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield Hosts Interactive Web Site for New England History

American Centuries: Views from New England
Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield
Offers Online Educational Resources
on American Village History

Western Massachusetts today is home to scores of artists and artisans – a fact that brings visitors from near and far to see the unique and interesting products and pieces being created in the region.  Art has been a common thread amongst local residents for decades, and it could perhaps be said that the roots of the local art community lie in the American Arts and Crafts Movement.  Taking place around the turn of the 20th century, the movement was particularly prevalent amongst artists in Deerfield, MA.  The movement stood largely as an effort to counter the lack of artistry and creativity in decorative arts that resulted from the cultural changes that took place during the Industrial Revolution.  Artists in Deerfield created Colonial-inspired needlework, baskets, furniture, weavings, and more in the style of their New England settler predecessors.

Families can learn all about the movement’s local influence at the Memorial Hall Museum!  Located on Memorial Street in Old Deerfield, the museum is full of beautiful pieces illustrating the particular artistic style embodying the historic spirit of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, as well as artifacts from Deerfield’s earliest days and exhibits on the history and development of early new England.

The museum, which is one of the country’s oldest, also offers virtual educational resources.  In addition to offering information on much of the museum’s collection, their website includes resources for educators, a kids page, and links to educational interactive activities.  Interactive activities include:

  • Dress Up: See, hear and learn about the unfamiliar clothes people wore throughout American history.
  • First Person: Twentieth-century history as told by people who lived it and made it.
  • African American Historic Sites: An interactive map of Deerfield reveals historic sites with information on enslaved African Americans in the eighteenth century.
  • Now Read This: Try your hand at reading and transcribing some old and unusual writing.
  • Magic Lens: Move the Magic Lens over old manuscripts to reveal what the writing says.
  • Objects in the Round: Rotate objects from the collection to see them from every side.
  • Demonstrations of Early American Tools: Watch brief videos to learn how tools from the past worked.
  • New England Architecture: Explore New England house styles though history.
  • Chronologies:  Make a collection of items from the Digital Collection and place on a time line.

For those interested in learning more about the American Arts and Crafts Movement’s local influence, the Memorial Hall Museum’s curator, Suzanne Flynt, has created an informational and interactive website (www.artscrafts-deerfield.org) to accompany her new book, Poetry to the Earth: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Deerfield.  The site breaks down the plethora of information available into sections detailing important artifacts, artists and artisans, and places of interest.  Also included is an incredibly detailed timeline, matching significant local events up with historic happenings on a national level.

The information available from these resources can be adapted for use with students of any age, and can be used to help create a place-based component to studies of the Industrial Revolution, art history, American cultural history, and more.

Social Learning Made Easy with Sophia

Sophia Flips the Classroom with New Social Education Platform

Are there topics that you want your kids to learn that haven’t yet been (or aren’t) covered in their school’s curriculum?  Are you a teacher looking for online information to supplement your student’s textbook or classroom notes, or a place to share your own curriculum?  Are you a homeschool or unschool learning facilitator wishing you had a map of topics in multiple disciplines? Sophia, an online learning resource, offers validated crowdsourced educational material that supports all these needs, and much more!

The site (www.sophia.org) offers a wealth of information – presented in a way that is social and conducive to learning – and is divided up into categories based on discipline, then broken down by specific topics and grade level appropriateness.   You can find anything from a unit on molecular structure for 10th-12th graders to a tutorial on the preterite and imperfect tenses of the Portuguese language!

Each topic section is also divided into units (arranged in a logical order) that, if followed closely, can lead a learner to a much deeper understanding of a topic.  The site isn’t, however, just another online textbook-style resource.  Within each topic are a variety of ways to learn, and users are able to choose which structure best fits their goals and/or learning style.  Within the website’s solid structure is a surprising amount of freedom!  Users can simply read up on a topic, or dig deeper by taking quizzes, playing games, create their own flashcards, etc.  The site is a great resource for parents, teachers, and students – especially as a supplement to other learning materials!  Check out this video to learn more:

A Look at the Girl Scouts: Science Curriculum & Healthy Relationships

The Girl Scouts: So Much More Than Cookies

Have you checked out the Girl Scouts recently? What an impressive institution! They are celebrating their 100th anniversary and they are better than ever. You probably know that the Girl Scouts support growing girls by encouraging responsible citizenship, generosity, and camaraderie. You might not realize, though, that there is a strong academic component to the organization.

The Girl Scouts have an actual curriculum with engaging and interactive materials. It is known as the Journeys (National Leadership Journeys) curriculum and it covers a lot of the same ideas considered in science class, but it is much more fun. Each scout gets a cheerful, but appropriately challenging, book full of activities and projects. One Journey, for example, is called “Power it Up.” In this Journey, according to the Girl Scouts website, “Girls learn about electronics and circuitry through a series of hands-on investigations. They explore Snap Circuits, learn about basic electronic components, and build different kinds of circuits. Rounding out this unit, girls develop soldering skills and make circuits that they can take home.“ Yes, Girl Scouts are wiring the world!

Another journey is called “ThrillBuilders,” in which girls explore the fundamental concepts of mechanical engineering to produce their own model circus. The ThrillBuilders curriculum comes with a box full of materials ready for a group of girls to explore.  In this video four hands-on activities girls complete with this program-in-a-box are illustrated:

Girl scouts have always worked to earn badges. The requirements for all of the badges have even been correlated by grade level, to state and national educational standards. What an asset to teachers and meticulous home-schoolers! More information about the state standards is available here: Program Connections to State (and National) Curriculum Standards.

The Girl Scouts, as an organization, are aware of the big picture. While the girls are learning about electricity, the Girl Scout Leadership Institute is thinking about things like: Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV (2011), The Resilience Factor: A Key to Leadership in African American and Hispanic Girls (2011), Beauty Redefined: Girls and Body Image Survey (2010), Who’s That Girl: Image and Social Media Survey (2010). They are actively working to understand the challenges that girls are facing! Furthermore, the Girl Scouts encourages all of this learning while also emphasizing the development of healthy relationships, the prevention of bullying, and the creation of peacemakers.

If you are interested in learning more about the Girl Scouts, meetings and troops are forming right now in Western MA. The Girls Scouts even have a program for girls who want to be “virtual” members and are seeking a safe place to be online. The Scouts are always seeking new troop leaders and there are many other ways to volunteer with the organization.  Here are some useful links to learn more about the Girls Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts and the programs they offer that are unique to this council:

UPCOMING EVENT: November 16, 2012

100th Anniversary Reception of the Girl Scouts of America

Girls enjoy Camp Bonnie Brae in Otis in the 1940s. Camp Bonnie Brae is one of the two Girl Scouts camps in the Berkshires; pictures and items from it and the other Girl Scout camp, Camp Marion White in Richmond, are part of an exhibit currently on display at the Stockbridge Library’s Museum & Archives. The exhibit also includes local historical uniforms and other memorabilia in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting. (courtesy photo)

The Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives has partnered with the Girl Scouts of central and western Massachusetts to present an exhibit on the more recent history of scouting. This exhibit, A Century of Girl Scouting, includes photographs, manuals, and other memorabilia associated with Girl Scouting.  Camping, which has long been a part of scouting, will be highlighted.  Numerous uniforms worn by the different levels of scouts also will be on display.  In connection with this exhibit, the hope is gather more information about the history of local troops.  Former scouts and friends are invited to a reception on Friday, November 16, 2012, from 6-8 pm.  They are also are interested in capturing local memories on tape as part of the Museum & Archives’ Oral History Collection; please contact Curator Barbara Allen at 413-298-5501 or ballen@cwmars.org to set up an appointment.  The Stockbridge Library is located at 46 Main Street,  Stockbridge, MA.


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.

Q&A: 19 Children’s Books on Food Security/Scarcity


Do you have a favorite children’s book that touches on the topic of food security/scarcity you care to share? Hilltown Families is collaborating with The Food Bank of Western MA on compiling a list of kids books that have to do with fighting hunger, soup kitchens, food banks, etc. for their Youth Action Hunger program.


Publicly post any titles you’d like to recommend below, or submit it privately here:

Read the rest of this entry »

MIT Launches Student-Produced STEM Educational Video Initiative

Original Short Videos Aim to Fuel K-12 Students’ Interest in STEM

Well-known education resource Khan Academy, a web site offering video-based learning to students, sparked a small revolution in the utilization of video in the classroom.  Videos, once reserved for rainy days or special activities, can now be an incredibly valuable educational resource.  Students are able to pace their own learning when using videos, as they can stop, repeat, and rewind as many times as they need to in order to understand, without feeling pressured to keep up with other students.

Well… MIT and the Khan Academy have teamed up to offer special videos on topics within STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) created by their students!

MIT, home to 10,000 STEM students, holds a wealth of knowledge, and students have created videos on many unique topics – everything from flying robots to the earth’s rotation.  The project, titled MIT+K12, includes videos for students in any grade.  The videos are available on the project’s website and on YouTube – teachers, parents, and even kids can search the site for videos to help with tricky subjects or to learn about something they’re curious about!

Youth Against Hunger Education

YAH! Curriculum
Youth Against Hunger Education

YAH CurriculumTake time this summer to learn about issues affecting your community as a family!  For starters, resources from the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts’ Youth Against Hunger (YAH!) curriculum can be used to help kids learn about how issues of hunger, homelessness, and/or poverty are present within and affect members of their own communities.

The curriculum, available on the food bank’s website, includes a wide variety of resources for parents and educators.  Their curriculum is divided into units, and includes activities, reading lists, recommended films, and discussion starters for kids of all ages (each resource is labeled with a suggested age).  Units include: “Why Eat? The Meaning of Food,” “Who’s Hungry? Food insecurity in the U.S.,” and “What Now?  Ways to Take Action.”

Try pairing some of their curriculum resources with an educational visit to the food bank, or a family commitment to volunteering at a local food bank (or other community resource, like Just Roots) throughout the summer.

The YAH! curriculum also includes a list of suggested service learning projects for families- by undertaking a project, families can learn about taking action and raising awareness of community issues, all while helping to make a difference to the lives of many right here in Western MA!

Related Post:

Pittsfield History: A Curriculum

Pittsfield History: A Curriculum

The city of Pittsfield is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year!  As part of the year-long 250th celebration, a curriculum has been developed for teaching kids about the city’s history- and it has been posted online so that parents and families can utilize the resources and information offered.  There are units on how the Great Depression affected the city, the changes in mills and mill buildings over time, immigrants, notable locals, and more!  There’s even an activity that takes kids on a walking tour of war memorials, and one that sends them on a scavenger hunt at the state forest- get your kids to learn about local history and their community while spending time outdoors!  Check out the curriculum on the city’s website: pittsfield250.com/curriculum

Winter Solstice: How an Ancient Tradition is Celebrated Today

The Winter Solstice

Ellen Jackson’s book, The Winter Solstice, (published by Millbrook Press) takes a look at the many different cultures throughout history who have celebrated the Winter Solstice and developed customs for this shortest day of the year.

With a simple storyline and attractive watercolor illustrations by Jan Davey Ellis, Jackson’s book is a nice addition to a social studies curriculum for children ages 4-8 this time of the year. The Scottish, Romans, Scandinavians, Celts, Northern Europeans, Peruvians, Pueblo Indians, and the Kwakiutl Indians are presented with their customs and beliefs; in addition to a scientific look and simple experiment to illustrate the planetary alignment that creates this seasonal change.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Day at the Trash Museum

I Love Trash!

The Trash Musuem has educational kits for loan, including a worm composting bin. This kit includes material to discover how compost is made by vermicomposting worms. The kit is available for a month loan. Click on the photo to discover the other educational loan kits the Trash Museum has to offer. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Late autumn here in New England and the light is leaving us. The sun is down almost as soon as we have eaten our after school snack. Everyone in my house becomes slightly grumpy as the light fades and we spend less time outdoors. The boys know their screen time allowance goes up and I fight my own lack of energy to keep us out, about and moving.

We turn inside ourselves a bit: we craft, we bake, we bang on our instruments to make a joyful noise in the midst of the settled routine feeling we have this far into the school term. At times, the boys are grouchy, like Oscar the Grouch grouchy.  So, we went to the Trash Museum In Hartford, CT.

The Trash Museum is free to visitors and open Wednesday – Friday from noon-4pm. It is the perfect day trip for families with young kids at home, or for a mama like me who was struck with multiple half days and professionals days this Fall. The Trash Museum is a sweet low-key outing. Younger and older kids will have an opportunity to engage the available curriculum about recycling, composting and waste reducing. We arrived with some friends in a bit of a gaggle and the museum seemed well prepared to greet us -and mentioned they receive visits from preschools, elementary schools and homeschooling families.

My kids played a nice long round of I Spy in the dump sculpture. We then had a chance to talk about other ways of dealing with trash. They played in the recycling center, where they got to make the conveyor belt go themselves and had our first introduction to composting worms. One of the staff took time to sit down on the floor with the five children we brought. Anyone who was brave enough could hold the worms. She gave a positive, age-appropriate lesson on the values of composting. I think all five kids really appreciated the attention. There were many areas to explore. My littlest boy would have happily stood in the observation deck all day, where you can watch actual trucks and dudes with trucks compacting, trash, sending recycling down the conveyor belts. It was more like living in a Richard Scarry book than anything else we have ever experienced.

I know it may seem far afield from Western MA, but the Trash Museum is 6500 feet of education and fun. It was a great afternoon. The kids were warm, busy and very engaged. For all the caregivers, it is a straight shot down I-91 and there are multiple coffee shops between here and there.

I’d love to hear from all of you. Where do you take your kids in the winter months that is fun, free – nearly free – and they don’t moan and demand more television?


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.

Online Resources to Discover & Celebrate the Festival of Lights

Hands-on Sustainability Curriculum

If You Give a Kid a Shovel
by Joe Gillespie

Have you ever watched kids dig potatoes for the first time? It is like a treasure hunt. Or experienced the joy of pulling a beautiful, long orange carrot, washing it, and eating it right then and there? There is no substitute for these experiences.

I have been gardening with students for a long time. More recently, I have written a couple of successful grants to purchase wind turbines and solar panels, along with community educational materials on alternative energy. For years, I did all of this with sixth graders. When I got bumped to eighth grade, I began teaching a course called Sustainable Living. I believe that I am teaching important life skills, and preparing students for a new future that may be much different than our current way of living.

Sustainable Living is a semester-long, elective class designed to teach students about sustainability through the use of our extensive garden, our rooftop solar panels, and small wind turbines. We immerse students into the world of gardening and eating the good food that we grow. With our thirty raised beds, a greenhouse, extensive worm bins, and composting area as an outdoor classroom, we learn about everything from building good soil to seed germination to preserving our crops. We monitor our own solar and wind energy production, and cook and prepare food twice a week.

Every day is a little different and always very hands-on. I have found something very interesting about teaching gardening over the years. There is usually no immediate gratification, which is what students are used to and what they desire. Other than seeing a radish seed pop out of the soil fairly quickly, most plants take two to three months to grow to a harvestable size. And there is all of the weeding and watering to do. Yet the reward is often so great, that if you can just get them that far, the concepts they learn are deeply ingrained in their being.

Read the rest of this entry »

Maple Syrup: Lessons in Math, Biology & History

Ratios as a Sweet Treat!

Maple syrup sign in Worthington, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

As one of his first orders of business, CISA’s new Executive Director, Phil Korman, has offered to share a maple syrup-based math lesson that he developed for use in his son’s 4th grade classroom. He’s been doing a variation on this lesson with his son’s class for several years, so it can be adjusted to fit most young age groups.

First he introduces the students to the lesson by talking a little bit about the history of maple syrup and how sap is harvested and turned into syrup. This is a great opportunity to teach your students about early American history, and also to explore the biology of maple trees. Visit the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association website for exhaustive resources on all things maple. Once the students are introduced to the wide world of maple trees, sap, and syrup, Phil leads them through the following math lesson, which includes a syrup tasting as a special treat.

Phil’s lesson on Maple Syrup Math and the ratio of 40 to 1 Facts: It takes 40 pints of tree sap from a sugar maple tree to make one pint of maple syrup. It takes 40 gallons of tree sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. Using that information, answer the following questions:  Read the rest of this entry »

Web Review: Hispanic Heritage Month

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage

Web site: teacher.scholastic.com.

Scholastic presents a collection of material for homeschooling families, school teachers and students in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15.


Celebrate Hispanic Heritage
  • An interactive map showing Hispanic history in the America
  • An annotated listing of Latinos in history
  • Interview transcripts with recent famous Latinos (such as astronaut Ellen Ochoa)
  • Research guide on the Spanish missions in California
  • Teacher guide, games and more!

HFVS Martin Luther King, Jr. Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:

Martin Luther King, Jr. Episode

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA
Tuesday evening @ 7pm

01/22/08 PLAYLIST

 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

The Indigos K-1 Class from the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School came down to the radio station for a field trip. They got to see one of VFR’s reggae programs airing live and took a tour of the production room. Each student took a turn on the mic and shown how sound is recorded and then aired. Together with Jason Threlfall on guitar, the entire class gathered in the production room and sang “The River is Flowing,” aired in this episode. Here’s a slide show from their visit. Thanks to Jason for taking pictures!



[rockyou id=98285683&w=426&h=319]


Putting together this MLK episode was a great pleasure. It was very interesting to hear my co-host/daughter tell us what she’s learned about MLK in her kindergarten class and to share what her current understanding is of that time in American history. And it was interesting to hear her personalize the history by noting her father’s darker Mediterranean skin color. I could see fire in her eyes at the thought of someone discriminating against her daddy.

We featured several classic Civil Rights movement songs on this week’s show, including

  • This Little Light of Mine,” an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement and a song all children should learn as a source of inspiration as they face adversaries and hard times in this life.
  • We Shall Not Be Moved,” an African-American spiritual that was sung during the slave liberation movement and the Civil Rights Movement. A great song to teach your children as they learn to stand up for truth and justice.
  • If I Had a Hammer,” a song that’s been sung during the Labor Movement and the Civil Rights Movement
  • We Shall Overcome,” a song that originated back before the Civil War, that Pete Seeger and Joan Baez have been credited for popularizing.

Another great song that has become synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement is an African-American spiritual, “Oh Freedom,” which was sung by Joan Baez on the morning of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s great speech, “I Have a Dream.” Here’s a video of Joan Baez singing “Oh Freedom.”

“The fact that so many folksingers joined Dr. King in his effort to spread the word about civil rights was hugely relevant, not only because it brought a little added media attention to the effort, but also because it showed that there was a faction of the white community that was willing to stand up for the rights of African-Americans. The presence of folks like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Odetta, Harry Belafonte, and Pete Seeger alongside Dr. King and his allies served as an omen to people of all colors, shapes, and sizes that we are all in this together.”[source]

Check out PBS American Experience post Music in the Civil Rights Movements for more info on music from the time.

%d bloggers like this: