Flower Shows Offer Lessons in Botany & Habitat

Orchids & Tulips: Learning About Botany & Habitat

Every winter, the Pioneer Valley’s greenhouses burst into bloom despite the cold weather outside. Bulbs, planted in the fall, come to life and bloom just as the dreariest time of year begins to relent. Not only do these first blossoms bring hope towards the end of winter with their color and fragrances, they present a seasonal opportunity for families to learn together about habitat, the life cycle of plants, and the structural nuances that differentiate one species from another.

Beginning in February and continuing through the first few weeks of March, three different annual flower shows will be open to visitors in the Pioneer Valley. The first of the three is the Orchid Society’s annual show, follow by Spring Bulb Shows at the Smith College Botanical Garden in Northampton and the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden in South Hadley.  Read the rest of this entry »

Fall Chrysanthemum Show at Smith Offers Community-Based Learning

Budding Botanists Will Love This Show at Smith College Botanic Garden

It might be chilly outside, but Smith College’s greenhouses in Northampton are bursting with color this time of year! Annually, with the month of November, comes The Botanic Garden of Smith College’s Fall Chrysanthemum Show, an exhibition filled with colorful mums of all shapes and sizes (some as large as eight inches across!). Budding botanists will love exploring the greenhouse and inspecting blossoms to learn about chrysanthemums.

Of particular interest at the show is the showcase of hybrid mums created by students in Smith College’s horticulture class. Every year, the mum show includes blooms engineered by students specifically for characteristics like petal shape, color, and/or size. Hybrid blooms are created by hand-pollinating blossoms, a process that requires careful attention to be paid to the plants’ reproductive process. Visitors to the show can view the students’ hybrid flowers and vote for their favorite of the original blooms. The competition has been going on for nearly a century, and past winners’ blooms can be viewed in an online gallery. Take a look at the archived blossoms and try to guess what the flowers whose genetic material was hybridized might have looked like! Read the rest of this entry »

Orchids & Tulips: Learning About Botany & Habitat

Every winter, the Pioneer Valley’s greenhouses burst into bloom despite the cold weather outside. Bulbs, planted in the fall, come to life and bloom just as the dreariest time of year begins to relent. Not only do these first blossoms bring hope towards the end of winter with their color and fragrances, they present a seasonal opportunity for families to learn together about habitat, the life cycle of plants, and the structural nuances that differentiate one species from another. Read more in our post, Flower Shows Offer Lessons in Botany & Habitat.

[Photo credit: (cc) sunoochi]


Calling All Budding Botanists: Audio Tour at Lyman Conservatory

Calling All Budding Botanists…
Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory Offers Audio Tour for Kids & Adults!

The audio tour can be tailored to visitors’ particular interests, and there are separate tours available for kids and adults. The kids tour contains thirty different recordings spread out through the nine differently themed houses of the conservatory.

With winter approaching, fall is transitioning from a brightly colored celebration of cooler weather to a chilly, shadowy, hunkered-down, hollowed-out version of its former self. While the change in seasons is fascinating to watch, it’s not unreasonable to long for greener surroundings. Luckily, Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory in Northampton has just what you need to enjoy a day full of bright, summer-style plant life!

With ten different indoor exhibits to explore, the learning possibilities offered by the conservatory are endless. Tours are available to large groups of visitors, but families and individuals are welcome to visit during the conservatory’s regular hours to explore the hundreds of different plants housed there.

Despite the lack of human tour guides for smaller groups of visitors, tours are still available! Throughout the conservatory are quick response (QR) codes which, when scanned by a smart phone, generate an audio recording of information about a particular climate or type of plant. Visitors who don’t have smart phones can rent audio tour wands (which serve the same function) for $1 per person… Read the rest of this entry »

Woods of the World on Display at Lyman Plant House

Woods of the World
Smith College Lyman Plant House
Northampton, MA

The Woods of the World permanent exhibit consists of 178 unique woods from all parts of the globe and hangs from the walls and ceiling near the north entrance of Lyman Plant House at Smith Botanical Garden in Northampton, MA. Utilize this local resource as a way of supporting your child/students interest in dendrology and forest product manufacturing.

Do you know what the inside of a pine tree looks like? How about the inside of something far less common, like a plum, yew, or gum tree? Get an inside look at all of these trees (and over a hundred more!) at Woods of the World, a fascinating permanent exhibit at the Smith College Botanical Garden’s Lyman Plant House in Northampton, MA.

Woods of the World (also known as WoW) features panels of wood from over 170 trees from all around the world. The panels cover a section of the plant house’s walls, ceiling, and floor and are representative of a diverse group of tree species from all over the world. By visiting this intimate hallway exhibit, families can learn about the uses for and origins of many types of wood, revealing wood grains in all shapes and patterns; while none of the panels have been stained, some have changed shades slowly over time, further expanding the exhibit’s range of colors.

Visitors to the exhibit can use a key, along with numbers on each panel, in order to determine what type of wood each panel represents. A handful of informational displays share information on the shapes and patterns of  wood grains, and how examination of a tree’s grain can be used to learn about the tree and its life. The exhibit also offers information on the American elm tree, a species decimated by Dutch Elm Disease. In addition, the exhibits cork flooring is accompanied by information on cork which is, much to the surprise of many children, derived from a cork tree…

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.

4 Western MA College’s Host National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Four Western MA College’s Host
National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Girls try out lacrosse, squash, softball, golf and many other sports during National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Title IX, the law that made sex-based discrimination in school sports illegal, turns 40 this year!  Young women can celebrate their equality by participating in National Girls and Women in Sports Day at a local Western MA college campus!  The national event takes place on February 1st, but local colleges are hosting their own special days in the weeks before and after the day.

Smith College’s event will take place on Sunday, January 29th from 12:30-4pm in Northampton, MA.  Girls in grades 3-5 are invited to the campus to take part in workshops on sports like rowing, tennis, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, and rock climbing.  Girls will get to choose which sports they learn about- it’s a great opportunity to try out something new, or to learn about a sport that has not traditionally been a women’s sport.  To register, visit www.smithpioneers.com.

Williams College will host their National Girls and Women in Sports celebration on Saturday, February 4th in Williamstown, MA.  Taking place from 10:30am-1:30pm, the event is similar to Smith’s in that it features workshops with student athletes on a variety of sports!  Girls who take part in the event can also take a yoga class or try out rowing!  The event is followed by a women’s basketball game against Bowdoin College, and girls who participated in the event can attend for free.  Girls in grades K-6 can attend.  To register, e-mail erd1@williams.edu.

Springfield College celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Saturday, February 11th from 9am-2pm.  Girls in grades K-6 can visit the school and take part in sports and exercise workshops, and they’ll get to meet the Springfield College women’s basketball team, too (There’s an opportunity to see a game after the event as well.)!  National Girls and Women in Sports Day is not only a way for girls to learn more about sports, it’s a way for kids to learn new and exciting ways to get active and an opportunity for them to see real life examples of successful female athletes.  Registration requested by calling 413-748-3756.

UMass’ celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day takes place on Sunday, February 19th from 12noon-1:15pm in Amherst, MA.  Girls can learn about and try out sports like lacrosse, field hockey, cheer leading, rowing, soccer, and more!  The event also includes a ticket to a women’s basketball game at the Mullins Center at 2pm.  Registration required by calling 413-577-7252.

Taking part in one of the events or just learning about the day can be an empowering experience for young female athletes.  Learning from women who have mastered a sport will show girls an attainable level of skill in a sport, and will provide a realistic picture of where playing a sport can get them in life.

Northampton ❥ Life in a College Town

Mash Notes to Paradise by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Note 6, Living in a College Town

As a neighbor to Smith College, such things as its museum, botanical gardens and the rarely crowded post office in its campus center are features I benefit from in daily life.

In the mornings, I drop my kids off and walk a loop around the Smith College Campus, passing Paradise Pond and continuing up the hill toward the chapel. One morning last year, I realized that amongst the things I’m grateful for living here is this one: I will always know what an 18-year-old looks like.

❥  The rhythms of Campus Life—how every school year includes a big reminder of newness in the form of orientations and parents dropping kids off for the very first time and new Smithies navigating their way downtown like schools of fish and signs of welcome on bed sheets and flash mob traffic—define everyone in proximity to the campuses. Even if the terrifying jaywalking tendencies of otherwise smart college students are vexing, so much about living in a college-rich area delights me. I have become accustomed to things that might have otherwise caught me off-guard like visible piercings, tattoos and any color hair (or none).

In this college-rich area, there are always more lectures, concerts and controversies than I can possible keep track of, let alone attend. I love that. I feel as if living here boredom isn’t an option. You can just go learn something new. I love knowing that some of my retired friends take classes and I love that Northampton High School Students have that opportunity. Case in point: my tenth grader anxiously awaited Mountain Day this fall. I live close enough to Smith College’s Helen Hills Hills Chapel to hear the bells at seven on Mountain Day morning. I have always loved how that campus ritual spills into the ‘hood.

Read the rest of this entry »

Screening of “Race to Nowhere” in Northampton on Jan 30th

The Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School in Haydenville, MA writes:

The Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School (HCCPS) is joining the Smith College Department of Education and Child Study and the Smith College Campus School in sponsoring the screening of the important film, “Race to Nowhere” on Sunday Jan, 30 at 3:30 pm in Wright Hall on the campus of Smith College (33 Prospect Street) in Northampton, MA. A discussion will follow the film. All parents, educators and other interested adults as well as Middle and high-school age students are invited and encouraged to attend. There is no charge!

“Race to Nowhere” was made by a concerned mother turned film-maker. The film’s focus – the pressure on students to perform and the resulting consequences, seems both timely and appropriate for many students in our area. The portrait the film paints is one where cheating is commonplace, stress-related illness, depression and burn-out are rampant and ironically, young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

Following the screening viewers can share ideas and reactions with a spectrum of folks from around Western MA. Contact HCCPS for more information about the screening: 268-3421.

A Day at the Botanic Garden of Smith College

Pet-Free Till Now: The Botanic Garden at Smith Works its Magic

Koi pond in the Stove House at the Smith College Lyman Conservatory. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

We’ve been a pet-free family for almost 15 years. The first three years of our marriage we worked so much that having a pet would have been animal cruelty. I was finishing my degree, writing some huge thesis and drinking too much Chai. Matt was working a few jobs and writing.

We added a child, then two more kids, one with some extra needs. Pets are beyond us.

Theo, my youngest, has some fear of animals. Ever since he was a baby he has seemed unenthusiastic. I remember taking Henry to a little petting zoo farm when we lived in Connecticut. He was a happy three year old running around pointing at goats, sheep, chickens and making all the appropriate sounds. Theo, at age one, just wanted to crawl back inside mama. I had to wear him on my back — he hid under the cape of the Ergo. By the time he was two, it was pretty clear he didn’t like it. “No, no, farm! No, no horses, neigh!”

As he grew older, I realized he was fearful of dogs, but no more so than my oldest who outgrew it and now loves dogs. I kept thinking Theo would just outgrow it, but this summer I discovered he was afraid of cats, squirrels and chipmunks too. At my in-laws he was refusing to go downstairs alone for fear of a very ancient, sage cat who does not care about his existence. Outside at friend’s house, a chipmunk raced by his feet and he sobbed for 10 minutes.

In the Succulent House, prickly cacti made the boys stay close! (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

We have a problem, which is why nothing surprised me more than when we had our first ever animal breakthrough at the The Botanic Gardens at Smith College, in Northampton, MA.  Theo fell hard for the koi in the pond in the Stove House.  He sat there patiently, kneeling on the narrow pathway, begging, “Fishies, come jump out of the water and say hello to me, Theo. I like you! I will take care of you!”

We tried to move on, but he kept running back to the pond. Eventually, the big fish, whom Theo called Momma Fish, swam towards the surface near Theo and made a fishy-kissy face. Delightful! Thank you, Momma Fish.

We were then able to fully enjoy the rest of the Botanic Gardens. Henry and Theo enjoyed pretending to be monkeys as they were able to recognize the jungle plant found in the Palm House. Following the paths, looking the the oversize leaves and blooms was warm adventure on a chilly weekend.  Another favorite spot was the Succulent House, where the prickly cacti made them stay close to mom and dad. We got to show them lemons, oranges, and other fruit hanging off the branches

We got to show them lemons, oranges, and other fruit hanging off the branches. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Although it is getting chilly outside, we toured the Rock Garden. These hearty plants like the weather.  It was lovely to explore this outdoor garden before it was snow-covered. — We plan on returning for the Fall Chrysanthemum show in a few weeks (Nov. 6th-21st). In the meantime, Theo and I walk up frequently to the Botanic Gardens sell hello to Momma Fish. We are talking about perhaps a fish of our own. “I will wake up early on Christmas morning, at 6:30 o’clock,” says Theo, “and I will tell Santa I am wanting a fish pet for Christmas today.”

I hope you decide to visit the arboretum and gardens at the Smith College  with your kids.  The conservatory is open daily from 8:30—4 o’clock. There is no admission fee, but donations are graciously accepted.  If you’re driving in, find out directions and where to park here. A nice idea before you go would be to visit their Kid’s Corner on-line and to take a look at their Conservatory Map and Virtual Tour so you can get your bearings before your visit.


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.

Chrysanthemums: In the Garden & On the Dinner Plate

The Queen of the Fall Garden at Smith College

Smith College 2007 Fall Chrysanthemum Show (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Smith College 2007 Fall Chrysanthemum Show (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On Friday my family stopped by the Fall Chrysanthemum Show at the Botanic Garden of Smith College in Northampton, MA. Cascades of chrysanthemums lined the walls in the Lyman Conservatory, creating an amazing display of “floral pyrotechnics.” Our 5yo daughter went around smelling and counting the different colors that were being displayed, while looking for petals on the ground. She gathered a pretty large collection of fallen petals, storing them in the front pocket of my coat as we strolled around the conservatory. I tried to get her to examine the wide array of petal forms that had been cultivated, but she was more interested in squirreling away the petals found on the ground.

I recommend the show as an community based educational opportunity to supplement a botanical home/school. Explore the rich history of the chrysanthemum and examining the wide array of forms and colors that are cultivated. See if you can get your kids to pick out the different varieties of chrysanthemum forms displayed at the show. Check the show brochure for a list. Click here for printable coloring sheets of different flowering forms.

(c) Hilltown Families - Chrysanthemum Show at Smith College

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

(c) Hilltown Families - Chrysanthemum Show at Smith

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Did you know that chrysanthemum petals are edible? Not that you’d want to eat the petals found on the ground there, like my daughter wanted to do when I told her they were edible. But potted chrysanthemums kept on the kitchen window sill, or petals gathered in the fall from your garden, would be more suitable. The Forgotten Art of Flower Cookery by Leona Woodring Smith has a whole chapter on the chrysanthemum with sixteen different recipes that call for chrysanthemum petals.

I found a recipe in Cooking with Flowers: Wherein An Age-Old Art is Revived by Zack Hanle that I’ll share here:


  • 1 dozen fresh lichee nuts (you could probably use the canned ones instead)
  • 2 mangos
  • 2 fresh peaches (and again, probably canned or frozen since peaches might not be around in the fall)
  • 2 large bananas
  • 4 tangerines
  • 1 or 2 large, yellow chrysanthemums
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (maybe more of the whipped cream instead of mayo?)

Peel and slice mangoes, peaches, bananas and place in a salad bowl. Peel lichee nuts (or open the can) and tangerines and remove tangerine segment skins. Add to bowl. Whip cream and fold into mayo (or whip extra cream and skip the mayo). Pour mixture over the fruit. Wash chrysanthemums, drain and remove petals. Scatter over the salad and serve ice cold. Serves 4.

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