Toytopia: History through the Lens of Toys

Springfield Museums Hosts Interactive Exhibit
Toytopia: January 12-April 28, 2019

Too cold to play outside? Check out a free museum pass from your local library and stop into the Springfield Museums for their new interactive exhibition, Toytopia. Opening on Saturday, January 12, 2019 and running through April 28, 2019 in the Wood Museum of Springfield History. Toytopia features larger than life toys, hands-on play, and immersive learning. Learn about the origins of toys, discover who made them, why some toys succeeded and some failed, and which toys have become collector’s items (and why!).

Filling the entire great hall of the Wood Museum of Springfield History, Toytopia showcases specialty exhibits from many well known toymakers. Toytopia is particularly well-suited to the Wood Museum of Springfield History because of its connections with Hasbro with the Museum’s Hasbro Gameland, a popular family destination for hands-on, larger than life game fun. Read the rest of this entry »

Memorial Day: A Catalyst for Learning, Gratitude, and Kindness

Memorial Day: A Catalyst for Learning,
Gratitude, and Kindness


Red poppies are associated with Memorial Day. Do you know why? Find out in this article, The Significance of Poppies and download this worksheet to supplement learning with young children.

History: What is Memorial Day? According to, Memorial Day “started off as a somber day of remembrance; a day when Americans went to cemeteries and placed flags or flowers on the graves of our war dead. It was a day to remember ancestors, family members, and loved ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice… But now, too many people ‘celebrate’ the day without more than casual thought to the purpose and meaning of the day. How do we honor the 1.8 million that gave their lives for America since 1775? How do we thank them for their sacrifice?” Learn more about the traditional observance, history, and origins of Memorial Day at

Online Resource: Learning about the individuals who served in wartime can have a significant impact on our sense of appreciation as we remember their acts of service. Introduce yourself to the American Vietnam War Veterans who were born on this day/month and those who died on this day/month. How does learning of their age, race, hometown, religion, marital status, length of service, how and where they perished, and reading comments from friends and family, impact your emotional connection to the people who served our country?

Local Cemeteries/Self-Directed Learning: Another way to learn about veterans who served our country is by visiting historic graveyards. In Agawam at the Massachusetts Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery, nearly 10,000 veterans and their dependents have been interred, hosting annual Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day ceremonies. Filled with stone markers that chronicle a community’s history, local cemeteries can provide visitors with a look deep into the past and even into the lives of those who have served our country. Families wishing to engage in self-guided tours of a historic cemetery can visit Longmeadow’s Olde Burying Yard section of the Longmeadow Cemetery, where a collection of headstones serve as a museum chronicling the town’s history. Some gravestones can be explored via virtual tour, while others must be located in person. Historic Northampton offers virtual tours of the city’s Bridge Street Cemetery, a 300-year-old graveyard that is the final resting place of many notable Northamptonites.

Volunteer Opportunity: Remembering American veteran’s also happens in December with the national program, Wreaths Across America. Look for volunteer opportunities at the Massachusetts Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Agawam, MA during their annual placement of wreaths which happens on the 3rd Saturday of December.

GRATITUDE Read the rest of this entry »

Memorial Day as a Catalyst for Placemaking, Historical Learning, and Acts of Kindness

Memorial Day as a Catalyst for Placemaking, Historical Learning, and Acts of Kindness

For some, Memorial Day is a deeply personal holiday, a day for remembering those who have served the people of our country. Participating in these Memorial Day celebrations and ceremonies can also be a form of placemaking, strengthening ties to community spaces and encouraging social interaction between generations. These events also offer a chance to personally thank local veterans and recognize them for their bravery and service.

Ceremonies to honor veterans on this holiday often take place in outdoor, common spaces such as Main Streets, sidewalks, and town commons.

As friends, neighbors, and community members gather in these areas, opportunities for small acts of kindness arise. For example, families can bring a bouquet of daisies or loaves of fresh baked bread to a Memorial Day parade to share with veterans as small tokens of gratitude.

Memorial day parades thus invite people to engage with their communities in placemaking. Participating in parades by marching alongside an organization or viewing the parade from a common space thus supports individual health and well-being by strengthening a connection to place.

This day of remembrance is also a chance to learn about history from a local perspective. A sample of community events to honor Memorial Day include:  Read the rest of this entry »

Lawn Concerts Strengthen the Social Fabric of a Community via Live Music in Green Spaces

Western MA Summer Lawn Concert Series Begin for 2016

Greenfield Energy ParkPlacemaking is a practice and a philosophy. It is an approach to both the creation and use of public spaces, aiming to promote the health and well-being of individuals and communities. Events which support placemaking, such as parades, festivals, outdoor film screenings, and lawn concerts, draw people together and strengthen a connection to neighbors via community spaces.

Some outdoor music series are already underway in parts of western Massachusetts, while others are just around the corner. Concerts on town commons and other outdoor, public areas encourage people to share the space, enjoy family dinner alfresco, and take in live music. These are family-friendly, intergenerational events as well as opportunities to meet and support local musicians. Find one near you, BYO family dinner & blanket, and get ready to take in the sweetness of a summer evening as live music lofts through the air. Read the rest of this entry »

Build Bridges Between Generations by Volunteering With Elders

Build Bridges Between Generations by Volunteering With Elders

Community volunteer work can become an intergenerational opportunity when families commit to engaging with local elders. By connecting with local organizations, elder communities, and volunteer communication networks, families can enrich their own lives and the lives of others. Donations of time, labor, skills, and more can help to provide support to community members, and can help to build bridges between generations.

May marks the national celebration of Older Americans Month, a month-long awareness-raising event meant to shed light on important issues facing older adults. In order to acknowledge such challenges, as well as the many contributions that elders have made to their communities, families can seek out volunteer opportunities that connect them with local elders. Older community members can benefit from everything from social visits to housework and meal delivery, meaning that engaging with elders has numerous entry points. Families can consider their specific interests, skills, and abilities when seeking out elder-centric volunteer opportunities.  Read the rest of this entry »

Photo Contest Celebrates Place through the Lens of Agriculture

Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom Photo Contest

The 2017 MA Agriculture Calendar Photo Contest is seeking photographs of all types of agriculture, including pictures of farms/activities featuring cranberries, maple sugaring, flowers, Christmas trees, fruit, and farm animals.

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The annual Massachusetts Agriculture Calendar is an excellent resource that serves as an educational tool for teachers, legislators and the public and is a collaboration of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom. The calendar provides an attractive daily reminder of the diversity of agriculture across the state. It includes monthly educational/teaching tips, special ag-related days and website links on each page. The contest offers a wonderful opportunity for young people to participate in a hands-on photographical and agricultural learning experience.

There is no age limit, so children and adults of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to enter! For more details and submission form, visit MA Agriculture in the Classroom. Submission deadline is June 1, 2016. (FREE)

[Photo credits: (c) Sienna Wildfield]

The Empathic Impact of Art Celebrated in a Community Comic Jam!

Comic Jam: An Intergenerational Spontaneous Cartooning Event in the Berkshires

What is a Comic Jam? It is a collaborative storytelling adventure for cartoonists of all ages and abilities. Each artist will contribute to one another’s comics, creating unexpected and exciting stories! This project encourages creativity, working together, critical thinking and storytelling.

Various scientific research studies in the last several years have explored the neurological impact of reading in general and reading fiction in particular. A psychologist from York University in Canada found a connection between reading fiction and the ability to empathize.

Fictional stories are highly focused around people, describing their feelings, desires, and actions. When narration includes a character’s thoughts, the reader knows exactly how that character feels, and the reader sympathizes with these emotions. When characters thoughts are not revealed, readers have to think about the possible emotions and thoughts which lead to the character’s actions. This is the same kind of skill we use every day when interacting with people in our lives.

Storytelling is an even more involved empathetic process. When you combine the creative empathy involved in storytelling, with the therapeutic effects of expressing yourself through pictures, the activity has a profound impact. Comic books and graphic novels do just this- they encourage artists and writers to think about people’s emotions, and the social impact of character’s actions on each other. Plus, when a shared interest brings together community through the lens of creativity, it establishes a shared history that ties neighbors across generations, strengthening their sense of place.  Read the rest of this entry »

Intergenerational Drawing Events Support Creative Free Play & Community Connections

Community Drawing Events Inspire Creative Free Play and Self Expression

Creative free play and artistic expression are the focus of two very unique upcoming community events. Using drawing as a central element, these events illuminate the versatility and expressive potential of the art form. Accessible to self-identified artists, reluctant creators, and everyone in between, spring’s artistic opportunities offer rich community-based learning opportunities relating to creativity and self-expression.  Read the rest of this entry »

Cinema Northampton Brings the Big Screen to the Big Outdoors

Catch that Fave From Your Childhood & Your Child on the Big Outdoor Screen!

Classic films come to big screen this summer with Cinema Northampton! Made possible by a collaboration by many local organizations, the film series brings old favorites to an outdoor screen on the lawn at Forbes Library for a fun intergenerational evening. It’s movie-going at its best!

Old classics come to the big screen this summer thanks to Cinema Northampton, a community film series made possible by a collaboration between a handful of local organizations. Bringing outdoor movies during the summer months and indoor movies once its cold out, the Cinema Northampton series brings together cinephiles of all ages – offering older folks a chance to watch a favorite film from childhood, and providing an opportunity to share the classics with children.

Created through the pooled resources and expertise of Northampton Community Television, the Forbes Library, the Northampton Arts Council, the Academy of Music, and Northampton’s Parks and Recreation Department, Cinema Northampton is unique amongst summer film and performance series in the Pioneer Valley. As evening is often the most enjoyable part of the day during the hottest parts of the summer in western Massachusetts, films will be screened outdoors in the evening on the lawn at Forbes Library. Families can bring blankets and comfortable seating, bug spray, and snacks or food to buy treats from local vendors who will be on hand to share their wares. Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: 15 Recommended Activities Grandparents Can Do With Their Grandkids in Western MA


Arts and crafts are an excellent activity for grandparent to do with their grandkids!  The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, a non-profit organization offering a creative community environment for art-making, has open studio hours from 1-5pm every day except Sundays. Grandparents can get creative with their grandkids and other families, making keepsakes together! [Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

Patricia Valenti writes, “What are some good activities in the area for grandparents to do with their grandkids, or are there any local grandparents groups? I watch my daughter’s son a couple of times a week and want to get out with him more!”

  • Carrie Gabinelle Duda recommends, “Tons of playgroups around. I’ve seen plenty of grandparents there.”
  • Zoe Wright Johnson recommends, “The Northampton Parents Center seems particularly grandparent friendly!”
  • Abbe Laine Schiowitz recommends, “The Amherst Family Center is grandparent friendly as well.”
  • Community Network for Children recommends, “We have playgroups and story hours that grandparents attend as well.”
  • Amy Vlastos Benoit recommends, “The Belchertown Family Center too!”
  • Kara Kitchen recommends, “The Dalton CRA sees many kids with their grandparents at Kindergym (includes play, craft, snack+swim time!) on Mon. & Wed. mornings, swim lessons (grand/parent/toddler class is free!), at their many sports leagues games, as well as their many free community events (like concerts, movies, holiday events).”
  • Berkshire Athenaeum recommends, “Have you considered a visit to one of our many local museums? We have museum passes for free/reduced general admission.”
  • Sandy Courtney recommends, “The Palmer/Monson Family Network runs a Drop-In Playgroup Tues-Fri mornings. Check out the Friends of the Palmer/Monson Family Network Facebook page for updates! – Most libraries have story hours for children as well – Monson Free Library has Weds mornings @ 10:30 and Baby Story Time on Friday mornings @ 10:30.”
  • Jean Engel recommends, “The childrens department at the Lee Library is always safe and welcoming. There are many weekly activities there.”
  • Linda Bennett-Mason recommends, “Yes the library in Westfield is good too.”
  • Mandy Gerryrecommends, “Come to the Northampton Parents Center, in downtown Northampton, lower level of Edwards Church. Open 9:30-11:30 M-Th, drop in playgroup for birth to 5 and their caregivers.”
  • Sharon Hawkes recommends, “The librarian from Lenox is thrilled to see all these nice comments about libraries (And yes, the Lenox Library also have storytimes and special events about once a month that are great for bonding with grandkids)!”
  • Carrie St John recommends, “Monday story time at Forbes Library (Northampton). There is also a play area and craft/puzzle area.
  • Donna Todd Rivers recommends, “If they are interested in starting their handcrafted holiday gifts…a mug for Dad with their handprints on it, a beaded necklace for Mom that they made themselves…at Bisque, Beads & Beyond (Pittsfield)!

For a list of playgroups and story hours that happen each week, be sure to check our List of Weekly Suggested Events for a comprehensive list!

List of Weekly Suggested Events

Intergenerational Interview & Writing Project

Listen to a Life
An Intergenerational Writing/Interviewing Project

Participating in the Listen to a Life project affords students the opportunity to learn to appreciate experiences of elders in their community and the value of their advice and guidance, something that is too often missing within American communities.

A loss of information and experiences between generations is accepted as relatively normal within American culture- but as each generation misses out on learning about those before them, valuable lessons and stories are lost.  In order to encourage learning from older community members, kids can participate in a unique intergenerational  interview and writing project, the Listen to a Life Contest!

The Listen to a Life Contest calls for students ages 8-18 to interview a community member over the age of 50 (who is not their parent) about their hopes and goals over the course of their life, the ways in which they achieved their goals or overcame obstacles, and how their goals may have changed or evolved over the course of time.  Students are then asked to write an essay (up to 300 words) on the information that they’ve learned.  There are great prizes available to winners (including a computer, EdOptions products for the student’s school, and more!), but the more valuable parts of the contest aren’t prizes.

By conducting interviews and writing the essay, students will learn about and reflect on the changes that take place throughout life and the process of becoming older and wiser as a result of experience.  Students will learn to appreciate the experiences of their elders and will hopefully also learn to value the advice and guidance of older community members- something that is too often missing within American communities.  To learn more about the contest, visit

[Photo credit: (ccl) Ronn Aldaman]

Q&A: Intergenerational Opportunities in Western MA

Question and Answer

Gardening is a great intergenerational activity for kids and seniors to share together. The Williamsburg Intergenerational Gardening Program connects seniors with students in the hilltowns. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Can anyone recommend intergenerational opportunities for children/elders in Western MA?

  • Marie Westburg writes: The Council on Aging is joining forces with The Williamsburg Intergenerational Gardening Program and started in April in Haydenville, MA… Call 413-268-8410 to sign up!  – This program aims to connect seniors to the successful gardening program at the Williamsburg Elementary School through senior-led workshops and field trips and shared gardening time. This program allows seniors to share their knowledge of farming and food, offer ways for seniors to continue gardening, provides adult mentors for local children, and forges lasting relationships between seniors and youth in Williamsburg.
  • Pauline Delton writes: Garden together. Even if just small plants in pots.
  • Melissa Wells Flynn writes: Story time at the library. – The Amherst Family Center is a good venue for children to share active and creative time with their elders without the elders having to “keep up” with the children as much as at a playground.
  • Tricia Love Walsh writes: Contra dancing
  • Jill Robinson writes: Not sure if this is still happening, but The Food Bank of Western Mass does an Intergenerational Community Meal in a few towns/cities. It is an 8 week program that teaches folks about healthy and affordable shopping, cooking, etc. check out their website for more info:
  • Swansea Benham Bleicher writes: Every day we have grandparents bringing their grandchildren to Northampton Parents Center. If you don’t have local grandchildren, you can come down and read or do crafts with the children.
  • Donna Todd Rivers writes: Craft together. Family Nights, Grandparent Days and Mother/Grandmother and me tea in May at Bisque, Beads & Beyond (Pittsfield, MA)!
  • Melissa Adams writes: Fertile Ground at Williamsburg Elementary has opportunities for seniors to help students with gardening projects.
  • Angelique Candace Baker writes: This may be a bit too specific but my grandmother said she used to take my mom to the merry go round from Mountain Park in Holyoke so for her it’s something nice and brings back memories.
  • Sandra Dias writes: “Beetle Bop,” an Intergenerational Music and Movement Group for children preschool age and younger. Older siblings are also welcome. Rockridge Retirement Community, 25 Coles Meadow Road, Northampton. Children sing songs familiar to both the young and the seniors. Refreshments are included. Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.
  • Alisa Blanchard writes: The Red Tent; West Side Garden project; Berkshire Hills Chorus.

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