Learn Local. Play Local.: Peeps to Jelly Beans. Spine Poetry to Easter Baskets.

Community-Based Education Highlights
for Western Massachusetts

Egg HuntsPassoverFarm AnimalsNative SpeciesOrnithologyHerpetologyBatsRural New England HistoryLiving HistoryLocal HistoryCemetery TourMasonryEngineeringSTEMComputer CodingPodcastingHealthy LivingFamily HikeMud SeasonOld Growth TreesEarth DayClimate ChangeGreen New DealGeoscienceMuseum AdventuresPaper CraftsStenciling ArtHarry PotterRembrandtShakespeareImprovMusical TheaterPuppetryFiber ArtsCraft SwapFilm StudiesCommunity SingPianoKlezmer MusicMusic StudiesCreative WritingSpelling BeeLanguage ArtsPublishingMangaCollaborative ConsumptionExperiential LearningToddlersTeensLifelong Learners

These are just a few of the community-based learning highlights we’re featuring this week, April 20-26, 2019… Read the rest of this entry »

Learn Local. Play Local.: Raptors to Folk Art. Postcards to Pancakes.

Community-Based Education Highlights
for Western Massachusetts

HarmonyKids TheaterFilm StudiesBroadway MusicalShakespeareDramaHolocaustMindfulness ImproveMeditative HikeExperiential LearningVolunteeringPark Clean-UpCitizen ScienceCommunity MealCreative Free-PlayNon-CommericalNature-Based LearningEarth Day FestivalSeed BombsWildflowersVernal PoolsNative SpeciesAnimal StudiesBatsHerpetologyBearsMigratory BirdsBirds of PreyRaptorsOrnithologySleddogsMarine BiologyFolk ArtPrintmakingChalk ArtPoetryBookfestGraphic NovelPicture BooksKids Book ClubEvening StorytimeTeen Escape RoomRevolutionary HistoryNative American StudiesPostcardsSoapmakingArcticPiratesEaster BunnyRevolutionary MusterPoliceTouch A TruckFire DepartmentMaker FaireComputer CodingRocketsKineticsPhysicsAeronautics

These are just a few of the community-based learning highlights we’re featuring this week, April 13-19, 2019… Read the rest of this entry »

Learn Local. Play Local.: Slow Art to Matzo. Hero’s Journey to Bird Migrations.

Community-Based Education Highlights
for Western Massachusetts

BalletBroadwayDramaLiterature in TranslationSnow WhiteBeauty and the BeastWomen’s HistoryLocal HistorySleddogsAmerican WoodcockVernal PoolsAmphibiansApril Vacation WeekSummer CampsMovie Theater Birthday PartyFamily CampParents’ Night OutDate NightBaby ShowerEducationEarly Childhood EducationWeek of the Young ChildNature-Based LearningCreative-Free PlaySound ArtMuseum AdventuresSlow Art DayEaster BunnyPassoverRamadanImmigrationRaceIslamic StudiesTEDx TalkHero’s JourneyAnatomy & PhysiologyOrnithologySTEMAstronomyAeronauticsKineticsParenting WorkshopTeen HealthHomeopathy5KRecyclingUpcyclingSustainabilitySeed ExchangeLandscape DesignGardeningFarm to SchoolPancakesMatzaString QuartetOrchestraContradanceFlamencoFiber ArtsAirplanesTrolley CarsMini GolfBasketballKites

These are just a few of the community-based learning highlights we’re featuring this week, April 6-12, 2019… Read the rest of this entry »

Learn Local. Play Local.: Migration to Reconciliation Ecology. Duct Tape to Michelangelo.

Learn Local. Play Local.: Printmaking to Social Justice. Drumming to Farsi Funk.

Learn Local. Play Local.: Hamantaschen to Butter. Neon to Book History.

11th Annual Community Handmade Valentine Swap

10th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

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 »

9th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

New England New Year Traditions: First Night & First Hikes

New England New Year Traditions: First Night & First Hikes

Many family-friendly New Year’s celebrations offer a range of opportunities to not only celebrate, but also to explore by inviting families to visit many locations or landmarks in their local communities.  These celebrations includes performances, art shows, hands-on activities, ceremonies and sometimes food!  Such events encourage Western Massachusetts residents to engage their local community and experience it from new perspectives.  The exploratory aspect of such events provides a place-based element to the cultural learning that New Year’s celebrations foster.  Participants can solidify their sense of place as they learn about and become a part of a local culture, tradition and heritage.  Moving through the local landscape offers insight and understanding of home, place and the meaning of local identity and culture.

Read the rest of this entry »

First Day Hikes for the New Year

Setting Intentions on the First Day of the Year with a First Day Hike

The New Year is often seen as a moment of reflection and intention-setting.  While on your first hike, consider taking your journal with you.  Nature can be inspiring and provides a place for contemplation and meditation.  A few writing prompts to help you get started:

  • What is a new skill you would like to learn this year?
  • Describe one of your favorite memories from last year.
  • Make a list of the favorite places you visited in your community last year.
  • Make a list of places you would like to explore further this year.
  • What is a new skill that you learned last year?

Check our list of Weekly Suggested Events to discover first day hikes to select for the first day of the year!

[Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield]


Museum Explorations of Christmas

Museum Explorations of Christmas

Local museums are an experiential way to explore the history of New England holiday traditions and how our present customs were influenced by the cultural practices of the past. Whether you’re interested in learning about food traditions from the past, historic decorations or customary festivities, museum exhibitions and demonstrations provide us with tangible examples in their exploration of history and culture. Specifically, living history museums and events are engaging ways to witness firsthand how holidays were celebrated in early New England. Hands-on activities and demonstrations create unique experiences for visitors to learn about different holiday festivities. It’s also a great opportunity to see how the season was celebrated in a non-commercial way; many decorations and gifts were handmade!

Download our Nov/Dec issue of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts to discover winter holiday traditions being celebrated across the region.  Read the rest of this entry »

Community Celebrations of Hanukkah

Celebrate Hanukkah

Hanukkah is the Jewish holiday known as the Festival of Lights. For eight days, Jewish families light one more candle of the eight that create the menorah each evening. In Western Massachusetts there are many places to explore the traditions of Hanukkah and Jewish culture through community events and local museums. Bring your family to celebrate while participating and learning about customs of the holiday.

Here in this video is a brief history of Hanukkah and the origin of many customs:

Find community events for celebrating and discovering the traditions of Hanukkah in our list of Weekly Suggested Events.

Download our Nov/Dec issue of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts to discover winter holiday traditions being celebrated across the region.







50 Years of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa: Celebrating 50 Years!

In 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga established an African American and Pan-African holiday, Kwanzaa, based on traditional African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. Organized around seven principles (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith), Kwanzaa aims to preserve, continually revitalize, and promote African American culture. A week-long celebration observed from December 26 to January 1. During this time, look for annual community-based celebrations in which to participate.

Share this video with your kids, discovering the history and tradition of this celebration:

The Malcolm X Cultural Center at UMass in Amherst hosts an annual Kwanzaa Celebration. Other annual Kwanzaa celebrations take place in Springfield and Pittsfield. Learn more about the symbols, values, and history of Kwanzaa online at www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org.

Download our Nov/Dec issue of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts to discover winter holiday traditions being celebrated across the region.

Three Kings Day Customs: Food, Giving & Celebrating

Three Kings Day Customs: Food, Giving & Celebrating

The intersection of food and culture are great ways to make learning connections! Make Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread) at home and discover this delicious food tradition!

On January 6th in many Hispanic countries, the Day of the Three Kings, or Los Reyes, is celebrated. This day marks the biblical adoration of the magi or the three kings that came to visit the newborn baby Jesus. Each king comes bearing a gift. Traditionally on this day gifts are exchanged and, on the island of Puerto Rico, another sweet and interesting tradition occurs with children writing a letter to los reyes asking for gifts. Then, on the night before the Day of the Three Kings, children gather cut grass and place it in a box underneath their bed. The grass is meant for the kings’ camels to eat. In exchange for the grass, and in gratitude, the kings leave a special little gift for the children!

Learn about the extended holiday season and the traditions and celebrations that accompany Three King’s Day through reading, baking, crafting, and celebrating in our post, Three King’s Day Offers Multi-Cultural LearningRead the rest of this entry »

Sense of Place: Holiday Traditions

Holiday Strolls: Getting to Know the Places Around You

Holiday Strolls

During the holiday season, many communities and neighborhoods host special events that gather everyone together in the spirit of friendship, community and wonder. It’s a great way to discover the unique identity of a place and its traditions. In Western Massachusetts, each community has a distinct character and its own way to commemorate the holiday spirit. By participating in these events, not only do you have the opportunity to engage your community, but you also help to preserve local history and culture.

Towns across the region host an extended evening of activities with shops open late to encourage support of local merchants while connecting with neighbors as the days get shorter, including Amherst, North Adams, Northampton, Northfield, Turners Falls, Shelburne Falls, Stockbridge, and Williamstown. Download our Nov/Dec issue of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts to discover more about these annual events.




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 »

Suggested Events for June 4th-10th, 2016

Hilltown Families List of Weekly Suggested Events

Suggest EventIf you have a community event, educational program or service opportunity for youth/families happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, self-post your event at any time on our “Suggest An Event” bulletin board. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school/homeschool class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business/school, service, open house, volunteer opportunity or general announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families… help us help you! Click HERE to find out more.

Summer Camps in Western MA

Nearly 70 summer camps & programs, in and around western MA, to choose from with new camps added every week!

Check out our featured post, 2016 Summer Camps and Programs in Western MA for a comprehensive list of summer camps & programs in the region! Summer opportunities featured range from music, arts & crafts, wilderness adventures, dance, performance art, farming, rock climbing, STEM, pre-college, sports, theater… to good old traditional summer day or overnight camps/programs! There’s something for all ages, toddlers to teens! Check it out and start making your summer plans! — Do you have a summer camp or program you’d like to have included in our comprehensive list? Find out how you can submit your listing HERE.

Bulletin Board

Jun 4

Join The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst for their 11th Annual Children’s Book Festival: Games Galore on Saturday, June 4, from 10am-4pm. The event celebrates games—from scavenger hunts and board games to art projects and outdoor fun! Families can play oversized games like Connect Four, Checkers or giant Jenga, as well as enjoy a nature scavenger hunt through the Museum’s grounds. Enjoy the amazing Yo-Yo People. Games Galore welcomes artists Emily Neuburger who will create hairdo shaped papers and Jeff Mack will read from his new book, Playtime?. Visitors can also create their own board games in The Carle’s Art Studio. All activities are free with Museum admission. See www.carlemuseum.org for schedule or call 413-658-1100.

Jun 5

Join Lander-Grinspoon Academy for a day of carnival fun! When? Sunday, June 5th. Where? LGA, 257 Prospect St., Northampton. There will be Games, Prizes, Face painting, Dunk tank, Bounce obstacle course and more! Food & drink from Holyoke Hummus Company, Chanterelle-To-Go, LGA Bake shop, Herrell’s Ice Cream & Fort Hill Brewery. Tons of fun for the entire family. Event takes place rain or shine. Entrance is free but activities will require tickets. Email office@landergrinspoon.org if you have any questions.

Jun 5

Insight Meditation Center of Pioneer Valley presents “Raising Spiritually Intelligent Children,” a Sunday, June 5 workshop at Eastworks in Easthampton, MA with author, psychologist, and teacher Dr. Christopher Willard. Participants will learn how to cultivate virtues like Effort, Patience, Determination, Truthfulness, Loving Kindness, and Equanimity. Dr. Willard is the author of Child’s Mind, Mindfulness for Teen Anxiety, and Growing Up Mindful. This workshop is appropriate for parents, caregivers, educators, therapists, social workers, and all who work with and care about the next generation. Suggested contribution: $25-$40 plus a voluntary donation to Dr. Willard. Please pre-register. Questions: general@insightpv.org.

The Bement School’s summer programs offer the fun of traditional day camp with the flexibility of a range of unique activities. The Adventure Day Camp offers engaging games, crafts, & swimming with activity choices that include cooking, rocketry, sports, nature, art, & swimming. Outdoor Challenge Weeks are an exciting collaboration between Bement & Adventure In Adventure Out. The CIT program gives teens experience working with children & developing valuable job skills while still enjoying camp. The Junior Camp provides a safe, nurturing camp experience for our youngest campers, who enjoy thematic activities, including games, arts & crafts, & outdoor play, as well as field trips & daily swim lessons. Contact summer@bement.org with questions!

Now Hiring

Tinkergarten, a fast-growing Northampton-based company with the mission to get kids learning through outdoor play, is currently hiring for the PT position of Parks & Green Space Advocate. This position is responsible for liaising between Tinkergarten and the parks and greenspaces nationally in which they run their programs. The ideal candidate is an exceptional diplomat, negotiator and communicator; enjoys advocating for an idea, cause or mission; and is excited about the fluidity, informality, and fast pace of working for a startup. For more information, see tinkergarten.com. If interested, send your LinkedIn profile or resume and a note about why you are interested in the role to support@tinkergarten.com.

ADVERTISE HERE: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! See your summer camp, class, community event, school, open house, audition, homeschool program, workshop, volunteer opportunity, wellness program, local business, program, after school class, or non-profit featured here in the Bulletin Board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and in our weekly eNewsletter, reaching thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Find out more about our advertising options and how you can partner with Hilltown Families in your online marketing by emailing us at info@hilltownfamilies.org. Find out more about this targeted marketing opportunity HERE.

Become a Contributing WriterJOIN OUR TEAM OF CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Interested in becoming a Contributing or Guest Writer for Hilltown Families? We welcome writings that reflect the community building and educational efforts parents, teens, teachers, artists, activists and community leaders work towards and accomplish and how that affects, supports and empowers our families. All writing styles welcomed, including local reviews, DIY posts, seasonal cooking/local food, and community-based educational & community service learning opportunities/resources. Send your query to info@hilltownfamilies.org.

June 4-10, 2016


Suggest an Event | Forecast | Museum Passes | Weekly eNewsletter | Farmers’ Markets | Libraries| Berkshire Family Fun | Advertise/Sponsorship | en Español

Donate Now Read the rest of this entry »

A Library in Miniature: Tiny Book Show Brings Art Show and Book-Making

A Library in Miniature: Tiny Book Show Brings Art Show and Book-Making

A mobile library of miniature proportions is making its way toward western Massachusetts! The Tiny Book Show, a traveling library of handmade miniature books, will be visiting western Massachusetts on its country-wide tour to showcase a collection of handmade books – all no more than 3 inches tall or wide – created by amateur and expert artists alike from all around the world. A project of New Jersey-based community art organization The Creativity Caravan, The Tiny Book Show is housed and transported in a 1965 Covered Wagon camping trailer, the miniature books nestled together in a similarly miniature former living space.

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The Tiny Book Show will make appearances at three separate locations in Franklin County, offering local families the opportunity to peruse the beautiful handmade books filling the mobile library. Additionally, The Tiny Book Show will be partnering with local community organizations and educational institutions in order to offer book-making workshops, allowing those visiting the library to learn to make their very own original miniature books.  Read the rest of this entry »

New Placemaking Event Explores the Arts in Westfield

Explore the Arts in Hampden County at Westfield’s Arts on Elm

Western Massachusetts’ omnipotent local arts scene is growing! Last summer in our series spotlighting arts-based community organizations, we featured Easthampton City Arts+ , Pittsfield’s 3rd Thursdays, Turners Falls RiverCulture, North Adams DownStreet Art, and Holyoke’s Gateway City Arts, all of which support a community’s cultural identify. The region’s newest art walk event – Arts on Elm – will showcase local artists, musicians, makers, and other creators in the heart of downtown Westfield. Presenting a variety of ways to engage with and learn about the arts, Arts on Elm offers families the opportunity to engage in meaningful community-based learning while supporting placemaking.  Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Mobile Art Boxes Support Placemaking in Florence

Florence Night Out Celebrates with Return of Mobile Art Boxes

Mobile Art Boxes will be blooming in Florence again this spring. These wonderful storage containers/pop-up galleries are part of the village-wide festivities that are happening as part of the 5th Florence Night Out, Friday, May 6, 2016. Florence Night out is a fun, free event that celebrates community through creativity. Starting at 3pm Florence will be hopping with art shows and open houses, an outdoor craft market and walking tours, special food and music all over town. Florence Night Out 2016 officially ends at 8pm but music events continue into the night.

Art is a broad term, referring of course to the visual arts but also to music, film, storytelling, theater, and other forms of human expression. The subject of art can be an interesting pathway into philosophical discussions, since opinions on the definition and value of art vary across individuals, Oscar Wilde once said that, “all art is useless,” possibly meaning that the value of art lies in the object itself, not in how it is “used.” The process of making art, however, can have many practical uses. Creating art, whether you are a professional artist or you are just doodling to pass the time, has therapeutic benefits.

Where art is located or performed may influence the way we think about it. Artwork preserved in a temperature-controlled gallery, for example, may affect viewers differently than land art or sculpture. Land art is a medium in which installations are made from natural elements of nature such as soil, rock, leaves, branches, water, etc, and left in that natural environment. As opposed to gallery artwork, land art is meant to be changed over time by weather and environmental events. Land art draws connections between order in nature, and the organization which humans impose upon nature, as these elements blend over time. Gallery art is sought out intentionally, while land art can be stumbled upon by accident.

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Community Renaissance Festival Makes History Come Alive!

Community Renaissance Festival Makes History Come Alive!

The 14th Annual Community Renaissance Festival hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies brings history to life! There will be sword demonstrations, juggling, Tarot reading, dancing and music!

Living history and open-air museums and events provide interesting insight into the ways in which we engage with historical information. Renaissance fairs first emerged in the United States in the 1950s, as part of a larger interest in medieval culture and music, resulting is placemaking events that support learning through engagement.

Living history challenges actors and attendees to think about history beyond events, learning about customs, dress, accents and behaviors. Vendors sometimes sell foods and items traditional for the time period. Living history, unlike historical texts or documentaries, is hands-on and interactive. Some renaissance and other living history events provide demonstrations of skills such as blacksmithing, and early printing methods. People of all ages who enjoy dressing up can feel like a more active participant by donning their renaissance wear along with the actors.

The 14th Annual Community Renaissance Festival hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies will be highly entertaining and educational. This event will take place on Saturday, May 1, 2016 from 11am-4pm. Attendees of all ages will have the chance to witness and learn about jewelry making, pottery, weaving, and woodworking. There will be sword demonstrations, juggling, Tarot reading, dancing and music. Plus, a book sale will allow for continued historical learning after the event.  Read the rest of this entry »

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