Conversation Highlights: The Sunday Edition, March 24, 2019

Explore the Local Landscape and Local History with Hike 125

Explore the Local Landscape and Local History with Hike 125

Alongside camping, hiking stands as one of summer’s most classic family activities. The leafy canopy afforded to hikers on forest trails makes the woods a cool and inviting space to explore, and the potential for exploring nature at its greenest and liveliest is enticing for adventurers of any age. From short afternoon hikes to serious treks, the trails of western Massachusetts have much to offer adventurous families.

On top of the many benefits of hiking is an added bonus this summer, related specifically to local trails that are part of properties maintained by the Trustees of Reservations. To celebrate the organization’s 125th anniversary, the Trustees are holding the Hike 125 challenge, a celebratory event that challenges locals to hike 125 (or more) miles of the Trustees’ trails before December 31, 2016. In addition to a strong sense of accomplishment, heightened awareness of natural phenomena, stronger muscles, and a deepened sense of place, all participants attempting to rise to the challenge will be entered to win special prizes – with those who manage to hike at least 125 miles entered to win the best prizes of all.  Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Camping Adventures Promote Nature-Based Play and Learning

Summer Camping Adventures Promote Nature-Based Play and Learning

Camping is one of the most classic outdoor adventures of childhood, and thanks to the wealth of state parks and forests found locally, there are endless camping adventures to be had in western Massachusetts! From exposing young campers to sleeping outside to allowing children to experience all aspects of the local landscape, camping trips are full of meaningful experiences.

The long days and warm nights of summer provide the perfect conditions for family camping, a tradition that serves as one of childhood’s most classic summer adventures. Camping trips not only allow children to learn how to live outside of their homes, but provide them with the opportunity to engage in experiential learning about their surroundings during all hours of the day (and perhaps the night, too). From afternoon playtime in the woods to an evening of fireflies and campfires to the misty early morning hours that bring endless bird songs, camping trips offer ceaseless exposure to the sights, sounds, and smells of the world. As an added bonus, children who connect with their surroundings are many times more likely to practice environmentally friendly and conservation-minded behaviors as adults. Read the rest of this entry »

Autumn Supports Science-Based Learning in Local Landscape

Fall Phenology Inspires Science-Based Learning in Local Landscape

Phenology – the study of seasonal change in plants and animals – helps to illuminate the slow and subtle daily changes undergone in the living things around us. By combining leaf peeping with an awareness of phenology, families can learn about the science behind the colorful fall landscape.

Along with the colorful transitions that the fall landscape undergoes come opportunities to explore a wide variety of scientific topics. Viewing a fall landscape can serve as a catalyst for studies of botany, dendrology, ecology, and natural history, and can help children to deepen their sense of place and their understanding of themselves as existing within – rather than beside – the local landscape.

Studies of the autumn landscape fall into the broad scientific category of phenology, which is the study of the cyclic nature of growth and change in plants and animals – as is generally attributed to the changing in seasons. The phenology of a New England fall involves observations of patterns of death and preparation for hibernation, as annual plants approach the end of their single-season lives and perennials prepare for a season of frozen sleep.  Read the rest of this entry »

Experiential Learning at Historic Deerfield

Immerse Yourself in Fall & Uncover Its Traditions

Late summer and autumn were busy times in early American kitchens. The abundance of fresh produce needed to be processed and preserved for the winter. This fall, Historic Deerfield interpreters will be cooking dishes featuring apples, pumpkins, and corn.

As brightly colored leaves replace the lush green of summer, sweaters and sweatshirts emerge on chilly mornings, and fresh, local apples become a daily staple. A full calendar of events at Historic Deerfield offers families countless ways to learn about fall in early New England. Families can visit the 350-year-old village for demonstrations and hands-on experiential activities so as to learn – through immersion – about the changes that fall brought to some of western Massachusetts’ earliest settlers.

Of course, some fall traditions remain a part of New England culture today. Exploring Historic Deerfield can help families to uncover the roots of some of their own fall activities and traditions, and can help children to understand the season-related reasons for the timing of certain cultural events. Harvesting the last of the summer’s bounty, for example, and celebrating the changing of the seasons through food of all kinds is a seasonal activity that families will easily relate to. A visit centered around learning about the settlers of Deerfield’s open-hearth cooking style and the crops that they harvested in fall can help children to compare and contrast the things that happen during their own lives in the fall with the events of autumn for early New Englanders. 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 »

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