Supporting Seasonal Learning in the Late Summer with Community-Based Educational Resources & Opportunities
Late Summer Resources & Opportunities that Support Seasonal Learning Through Community-Based Education
For many, Labor Day marks the end of the summer, but warm days extend well beyond the first Monday in September. Take advantage of the full summer season by engaging in community-based resources that support your interests, education, and community values before the cold weather sets in.
Resources like conservation organizations, local waterways, harvest meals, and even cornfields are just a few resources that can support both self-directed and facilitated learning during these last few weeks of summer.
Nature Conservation Organizations
Our local ecosystems are home to thousands of species of flora and fauna, have a fascinating natural history, and connect us to our heritage. By engaging with community-based conservation organizations that focus on our river ecosystems, families can learn about and connect with our local landscape through the seasons of the year. Conservation organizations like the Westfield River Wild and Scenic Committee (WRWSC) and the Connecticut River Watershed Council all support learning through our local rivers with annual events. Every September the WRWSC host an annual Watershed Blitz where families can participate as citizen scientists by spending a day on the river with a riparian specialist. The Connecticut River Watershed Council also host their annual volunteer event in September, the Source to Sea Cleanup.
Other environmental organizations, including Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in the Pioneer Valley, Biocitizen in the Hilltowns, and Bartholomew’s Cobble in the Berkshires, all host facilitated activities, including hiking trails, citizen science opportunities, and guided canoe trips. And with over ten Mass Audubon designated wildlife sanctuaries in Western MA, your bound to find opportunities near your home to help you connect with the changing landscape in the late summer.
Learn more about resources in Western MA in our related posts, Local Nature Centers Connect Families to Nature Through Interpretive Programs.
Rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds offer pathways for exploring the change of season via canoes and kayaks, affording opportunities to experience our local landscape from a vantage point often not accessible on foot. Whether it’s in a kayak or a canoe, paddling on the open water offers a unique perspective to witness wildlife and the change of seasons. If you don’t have a boat for paddling, check with your local outdoor outfitter or campgrounds for boat rentals, including Tully Lake Campground in Royalston and Zoar Outdoor Adventure in Charlemont.
A couple of the nature conservation organizations mentioned above facilitate guide paddles too. To find additional opportunities check our list of Weekly Suggested Events for special events that utilized our local waterways to support learning and points of entry to community engagement, including the Annual Kayak-a-thon hosted every year by All Out Adventures.
To discover the history of canoes and kayaks and examples of their integration in art and literature, check out our Summer Season issue of Learning Ahead. With a historical appreciation of canoes and kayaks, there are many unique waterways in Western Massachusetts to take these crafts out to explore and connect with our local landscape.
Learn more about waterway resources in Western MA in our related posts, Urban And Rural River Walks and Trails Highlight Natural and Human History.
Throughout history, community has been built through the sharing of food. Shared throughout the world as a universal human need, food provides a common thread through which all people can be woven together. Community meals offer much to families regarding learning opportunities, supporting intergenerational engagement, storytelling and establishing a shared history. An additional benefit of community meals is that the theme of food serves as a common interest for all those involved, providing a foundation upon which for further connections to be built.
During the late summer, community harvest meals are great intergenerational opportunities to sit down with neighbors of all ages, making connections and nurturing relationships across the generations. Participating in a community meal does more than filling your belly… it strengthens the social fabric of the community by developing a sense of place in our children!
A few annual community harvest meals to check out in the late summer include the free Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Common in late August, the Plainfield Volunteer Fire Department community chicken barbecue on the Sunday before Labor Day, the Chilifest in Sunderland, and community meals hosted by our faith-based communities, including the First Congregational Church of Hatfield’s annual Chicken Barbecue.
Corn mazes are classic New England traditions that transform cornfields into community building experiences. Before we had corn mazes, corn has been a staple in the diet of countless cultures for thousands of years. Today, corn is the largest produced crop in the world, and can even be a source of adventure as played out in corn mazes. There are a few in Western MA you can check out with your family starting in September, including Mike’s Maze at Warner Farm in Sunderland Hicks Family Farm Corn Maze in Charlemont, and Meadow View Farm Corn Maze in Southwick. Many of these mazes offer a fun and challenging outdoor adventure for families of all ages, along with other activities and farm-fresh produce and perennials. Let the adventure get your kids curious about corn and it’s variety history and many uses. Educators can use this teacher-friendly guide to the evolution of maize to help get kids interested in learning more!