60 Suggested Resources & Learning Opportunities in Western MA: March 28-April 3, 2020

Awarded the “Essential Agent of Change Award” by the MDPH’s Massachusetts Essentials for Childhood, Hilltown Families is recognized as a leading family strengthening initiative in the region, promoting “positive parenting through the social norm of community social connectedness.” Serving Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families continues to support the development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, farms, individuals, schools, and non-profit organizations are invited to collaborate with Hilltown Families in their community outreach. With over 9,000 opt-in subscribers and 2.6+ million visits to our web site alone, Hilltown Families can deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA! Find out about our affordable advertising options and how you can partner with Hilltown Families in your online marketing by contacting us at info@hilltownfamilies.org… and scroll down to discover community-based educational opportunities to explore at home this weekend and next week.

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Featured Online Events

Mar 28, Mar 29, Apr 9

Signature Sounds Presents announces The Parlor Room Home Sessions: A curated on-line concert series featuring some of their favorite artists. Watch The Suitcase Junket on Fri. March 27 at 8 PM. Little Roots entertain the whole family on Sat. March 28 at 10:30 AM. Jeffrey Foucault performs on Sun. March 29 at 8:00 PM and Mark Erelli on Thurs. April 9 at 8 PM. All show times are EST and more artists are being added all the time. There is no pay wall, but donations are highly encouraged for both the artist and venue. Access all the shows via www.signaturesounds.com/homesessions.

Now Accepting Aps.

Families are invited to discover the warm, welcoming community at Amherst Montessori School, with dedicated teachers, administrators, and fellow parents who strive to create a sense of belonging for each child and family. Set-up a tour, explore the hands-on, child-centered Montessori curriculum, and learn about the engaging community of Amherst Montessori School. Applications for the 2020-21 school year are now being accepted. Schedule options from partial day to full day with extended hours. Set-up a tour by emailing Susanna at sthompson@amherstmontessori.org or by calling 413-253-3101.

Check out our Summer Directory for nearly
60 summer camps & programs in and around Western MA!

Featured Summer Programs & Camps

Jun 29 – Jul 2

“Brave” Dance Camp with Celtic Heels & Devine Dance in Greenfield, MA. Experience the joy of dance at the “Brave” themed dance camp. Celtic Heels & Devine Dance are offering students the opportunity to attend a four-day workshop incorporating Irish Step, Tap, Lyrical, Musical Theatre, and more. In addition to dance classes, students will create craft projects, learn new rhythms and cadences and improve their balance, posture, and flexibility. With such a variety of styles, there is something for everyone, and a summer workshop is a great way to experience their individually tailored lesson plans as well as the inclusive atmosphere they create with and for their students. Dates: Jun 29-Jul 2; Age Range of Campers: 7-12yo. Contact: 413-475-4726. celticheels@gmail.com. www.CelticHeelsDance.com.

Jul 6 – Aug 21

The Children’s Ballet & Movement Co. Theater & Dance Summer Camp/Summer Dance Intensive in Hadley, MA. The Children’s Ballet & Movement Co. offers two separate dance camps this year! Theater and Dance Summer Camp (ages 4-8) provides a variety of dance forms, arts and crafts, play, swimming, set design and more! Summer Dance Intensive (ages 9-15) offers Ballet, Pre-Pointe/Pointe, Acro Dance, Jazz, Modern, Contemporary, Yoga, and more! Both camps are Monday-Friday from 9am-4pm with Full Day and Half Day options. Whether your child is new to dance or a seasoned dancer, Children’s Ballet & Movement Co. dance camps are sure to please! Dates: Jul 6-Aug 21; Age Range of Participants: 4-15yo. Contact: 413-478-1944. cassieferr@gmail.com. www.childrensballetmovement.com

Jun 22 – Aug 21

LSSE Summer Sports Programs and Day Camps. Amherst, MA. Spend the summer with Amherst Leisure Services! At the LSSE Sports Programs and Day Camps, children will have the opportunity to participate in arts, crafts, games, nature activities, sports programs, and swimming lessons. Their caring and experienced staff will make this a summer to remember. They offer free breakfast and lunch to Early Adventures and Adventure Playground day campers thanks to the ARPS School Nutrition Department. Visit the LSSE website for more information and to find the perfect sports or day camp for your child. Dates: Jun 22-Aug 21; Age Range of Campers: 5-14yo. Contact: 413-259-3065. lsse@amherstma.gov. LSSE.org.

Jun 22 – Aug 28

Rattlesnake Adventure Camps at Morse Hill Outdoor Center. Shutesbury, MA. This is Morse Hill’s 30th year offering fun outdoor activities that facilitate children’s self-awareness, confidence, trust, communication, problem-solving, & teamwork skills. With a foundation in physical & emotional safety, our programs include on-site low & high ropes courses & team-building initiatives, as well as off-site rock climbing, canoeing, raft building, mountain biking, caving, hiking, & more. The 85-acre property by Lake Wyola in Shutesbury includes bike trails, campsites, cabins, and discovery elements. Transportation is available from Amherst & Northampton. Whether campers choose day, overnight, or expedition camps, they will develop their outdoor skills & knowledge while building relationships with counselors & friends. Dates: Jun 22-Aug 28; Age Range of Campers: 8-18yo. Contact: 413-253-1807. summer@morsehill.com. www.morsehill.com

Jun 29 – Aug 21

Summer at The Academy at Charlemont in Charlemont, MA. The Academy at Charlemont Summer Programs. Multiple programs for grades 3-12 running from late June to late August. Week of June 29-July 3 – Arts and Crafts for grades 3-6, 9am-3pm. Week of July 6-July 10 – Maker’s Camp 8:30am-11:30am and Ultimate Frisbee 12:30pm-3:30pm, grades 7-12. Week of August 3-7 – Music Camp 9am-12pm. Week of August 17-21 – Arts and Crafts for grades 7-12, 9am-12pm. Financial aid is available. Participants are asked to bring water bottles, snacks and/or lunch.Dates: Jun 29-Aug 21; Age Range of Participants: 8-18yo. Contact: 413-339-4912. jmitchell@charlemont.org. www.charlemont.org

Jul 6 – Aug 21

Riotous Youth. Lenox, MA. These fun and inspiring 2-week summer theatre programs introduce students ages 7-17 to Shakespeare’s language, his stories, characters, and themes using imaginative and playful methods. Each session ends with a performance piece based on the kids’ experience of the play, which they share with family, friends, and Company members on the final day of the session. Dates: Jul 6-Aug 21; Age Range of Participants: 7-17yo. Contact: 413-637-1199 x172. mmarchione@shakespeare.org. www.shakespeare.org

Jul 6 – Aug 28

Claws, based out of Northampton, MA.Claws camping trips take students 11-17 into wild places. They climb mountains, ford rivers and sea kayak. Students test their edges and boundaries as they learn skills needed to overcome challenges. They move through fascinating terrain and waters, having fun while practicing mindfulness. They gain the ability to control their thoughts and movements, like seal, fish, and birds, bears, and bobcats do. They learn to read the great patterns of biomes, of weather, witnessing grand forces and elements expressing themselves. Claws go into the wild because the wild is where they can grow—where they can grasp life, grip it tight and carry it aloft. This year they’re going to the White Mountains and Casco Bay in Maine. There are trips to the Sierras, too. Dates: Jul 6-Aug 28; Age Range of Participants: 11-17yo. Contact: 413-320-0522. info@biocitizen.org. ma.biocitizen.org.

March 28-April 3, 2020

Saturday, March 28Sunday, March 29
Monday, March 30Tuesday, March 31Wednesday, April 1
Thursday, April 2Friday, April 3

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Resources and opportunities below are shared as a courtesy. While we do our best to share accurate and up-to-date information, please take the time to confirm age appropriateness, registration requirements, and associated costs.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

STE(A)M/RADIO SHOW: STE(A)M Episode with guest DJ’s Dan Crow and John Wood, featuring various artists singing the praises of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Airs on Saturday from 9-10am on WXOJ.Click here select from over 13 years of archived shows! It’s better than Saturday morning cartoons and commercial radio! ♥ Hilltown Families eNewsletter subscribers are invited to an exclusive sneak peek every Thursday of the upcoming show. Check your eNewsletter to listen any time. Not a subscriber? Click here to subscribe to our free Weekly eNewsletter!

AGRICULTURE/SUSTAINABILITY: Did you know that the first Community Supported Agriculture garden was founded in Great Barrington in 1986? The movement was started by Swiss biodynamic farmer Jan Vander Tuin, who came to the United States in the 1980s and assisted with the creation of the Great Barrington garden. The goal of the CSA movement is to create direct relationships between farmers and consumers. This relationship can help to create fair trade policies and livable wages for farmers. Additionally, CSA farms often employ organic and biodynamic approaches to agriculture, which promote ecologically sustainable farming. Now is a great time to sign up for a CSA near you, supporting local farmers and connecting to where you live through locally grown food. Check out CISA’s list of CSA’s in western Massachusetts, and their great DIY resources, including recipes & cooking tips and food preservation & gardening resources. Visit these farms online and consider becoming a member this year! Being a member of a CSA connects you with the local harvest, and your local neighbors via the folks who grow your food! Plus, CSA’s are loaded with embedded learning opportunities!

CULINARY ARTS/KITCHEN SCIENCE: One of the best “classrooms” is right in your own home … your kitchen! Planning and preparing meals with your family can support an interest in culinary and pastry arts while exposing kids to a wide variety of embedded learning opportunities. Classic subjects like math, chemistry, and humanities are readily supported in the kitchen, along with general technical skills and valuable life skills. Any pastry chef will tell you about the importance of kitchen math for making great pastries, including an understanding of fractions and measurement units, and the practice of addition, subtractions, and division. Lessons in chemistry are supported when young chefs learn the science behind the use of baking soda and baking powder and what happens on a molecular level to a protein molecule when heated. Nutrition can be outlined by understanding which foods have carbohydrates, proteins, and/or fats. Sharing the story behind your grandmother’s delicious cookie recipe or researching the history of pancakes online supports lessons in the humanities. Knives skills, operating ovens, and handling food help a young chef gain technical expertise in the kitchen. And life skills to carry on into adulthood can be explored, like how to plan, organize, and purchase ingredients. A kitchen is a mini-lab and learning space. It is a place to not only expand and support interests but also to connect with family and to appreciate where your food comes from and how it was prepared. There are plenty of recipes to be found online, in books, or handed down from family members from which you can select. Just follow your child’s tastes and food preferences and let it lead the way towards learning in the kitchen! If a question is asked (i.e., “Why does bread turn brown in the toaster?” “Why do cookies spread?” ““What is a carbohydrate?” “Can we make s’mores indoors?“)

COOKING/SOLAR ENERGY: Solar energy science! Build a solar over together with your kids as a way of learning about physics! To get started, you will need materials like is an old pizza box, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, duct tape, and black construction paper. Using aluminum foil and black paper for reflection and absorption of the sun’s rays, and plastic wrap to trap the resulting heat, solar ovens offer a fantastically low-tech method of cooking (or merely warming) foods. MYO solar oven can spark explorations of reflection, refraction, and absorption of light. Education.com has one set of plans for constructing a solar oven, or you can watch this video for another set of instruction via Sick Science:

FOOD HISTORY/PANCAKES: Did you know that pancakes are over 6,000 years old? Although not in the present form we know today, the predecessors to the modern pancake consisted of ground wheat cooked in the form of a pancake. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans ate a type of pancake sweetened with honey! Later in history, American colonists ate pancakes, also known as Johnny Cakes. Modern-day technology and contemporary recipes have added to our cultural repertoire of recipes. For recipes submitted by families in Western Massachusetts, check out our post, “Seasons at Our Table: Maple Sugar.”

WORLD CULTURE/COOKING: In this video, kids try ten different kinds pancakes from around the world. Check this out with your kids for a great way to explore cultures from around the world through the lens of food! Local the country on a map, look up ingredients unfamiliar to you, and best of all, pick a pancake to try making in your own kitchen! Start your recipe search with epicure.com.

INTERNATIONAL FOODS/COOKING: To say that immigration is an important aspect of American history is an understatement. None of us would be here if it were not for immigration. Moreover, the United States is not unique in this. Human populations have been immigrating around the world since the beginning of history. If you go far back enough, you will find that there are no communities of people anywhere in the world that did not originate somewhere else. What this historical phenomenon demonstrates is that human societies are always hybrids. Groups travel and move, and as they do so, they adopt customs, influence the creation of new cultures, and bring certain cultural elements with them. All cultures, from the most heterogeneous to those that might appear homogeneous, are the result of generations of immigration. Food cultures and traditions are one of the best ways to illustrate this historical fact. Chicken tikka masala is a perfect example: one of the most popular and recognizable Indian dishes in the world was likely invented in Scotland by Pakistani chef, Ali Ahmed Aslam, in the 1970s. He decided to add tomato soup to a plate of chicken curry after a customer complained that it was too dry. In this video, hear the story of one chef and learn how to make his “authentic” Chicken Tikka Masala!

FERMENTED FOODS/KITCHEN SCIENCE: Nobody knows the exact origins of Kombucha. This mysterious fermented beverage is thought to originate in Manchuria, in northern China. It is known to be consumed in far eastern Russia in the 19th century and then it migrated to Germany and Europe. The word ‘kombucha’ tells us little about its origins as well, since the term is a misapplied loanword from Japanese. There is a beverage consumed in Japan called ‘kombucha’ which translates literally to ‘kelp tea’ but this beverage has no relation to the effervescent fermented tea which now bears the name. No matter where it came from or how it got here, Kombucha has been steadily growing in popularity in the United States in the 21st century. The refreshing taste and numerous claimed health benefits have made converts out of many people. And it is shockingly easy to brew at home! In this video, Lisa Lov from Relæ shows how to make Kombucha at home.

FOOD SECURITY/SERVICE-BASED LEARNING: Food insecurity can strike anyone, including working families, elders on limited incomes, and people faced with a sudden illness or layoffs. Organizing a Virtual Food Drive with The Food Bank of Western MA can support folks experiencing food security in the region. Organizing a virtual food drive has many benefits, including cost savings to The Food Bank of Western MA in staff time, no extra driving for participants, and accessibility to families near and far who want to support food drives in our region. There are also a lot of learning opportunities, including communication and organization skills. Find out how to organize a virtual food drive and learn more about food security, the value of volunteering, and the need for well-supported food banks in communities. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. 413-247-9738. 97 N Hatfield Rd. Hatfield, MA.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

STE(A)M/RADIO SHOW: STE(A)M Episode with guest DJ’s Dan Crow and John Wood, featuring various artists singing the praises of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Airs on Sunday on WXOJ Valley Free Radio from 7-8am. Click here select from over 13 years of archived shows! It’s better than Saturday morning cartoons and commercial radio! ♥ Hilltown Families eNewsletter subscribers are invited to an exclusive sneak peek every Thursday of the upcoming show. Check your eNewsletter to listen any time. Not a subscriber? Click here to subscribe to our free Weekly eNewsletter!

CITIZEN SCIENCE/LOCAL HABITAT: Families can help with studies of phenology! The National Phenology Network has developed Nature’s Notebook, a citizen science program that aims to get people outdoors and observing nature. Nature’s Notebook has an app and a website where citizen scientists can record observations to help scientists better understand how climate change is affecting plants in New England. The National Phenology Network needs volunteers to take part in many of Nature’s Notebook projects, of which there are several throughout the country. Independent, citizen science like Nature’s Notebook is a great way to connect with nature, learn about phenology, practice gathering data, and learn the basics of experimental design while contributing to a scientific study.

SOLAR FLARES/CITIZEN SCIENCE: Families can learn about the sun, the star of our galaxy, by participating in a citizen science project to spot solar flares. Solar Storm Watch helps scientists to track solar storms on their path to Earth by asking citizen scientists to watch for and tag flares, identifying them for the scientists involved.

ASTRONOMY/SUNDIAL: A community-based educational resource available to everyone is the sun! To keep time using the sun, we sometimes check the sky to see its position – but this method isn’t very accurate. Shadows, on the other hand, can give a more precise reading of the time, but only if the right tools are used! Families can create their own sundials using simple materials found around the house, allowing shadows to become their new clock. Beginning at noon on a sunny day, this project requires monitoring on the hour, every hour during the daylight portion of a 24-hour-period. The results are a nature-based time-telling device that can spark explorations of geometry, the structure of time, and ancient history. Making your own sundial can also support the scientific understandings of the earth’s relationship with the sun, and when done with young children, the development and practice of language skills.

AERONAUTICS/NASA: Space is a fascinating place, and a big part of its appeal is the fact that it’s just out of reach for most human beings. NASA offers a kid-friendly website filled with information about the many different missions, projects, and technologies that the organization is responsible for – allowing aspiring astronauts to learn about human research and explore the vastness of outer space. Student games on NASA websites entertain as well as educate. They support national education standards in STEM for students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Read more in our post, Web-Based Space Explorations Blast Off Through NASA Kids’ Club.

ASTRONOMY/CITIZEN SCIENCE: Galaxy Zoo, a web-based citizen science opportunity, asks participants to support researchers in learning about how galaxies form. Citizen scientists participating in Galaxy Zoo are shown pictures of galaxies and asked to classify them based on their shape. In essence, some of these pictures are of galaxies yet to be seen by any other human being, meaning participants might get to be the first to ever them! Galaxy Zoo is used by educators worldwide in a variety of ways to introduce young people and students to the amazing world of astronomy.

ASTRONOMY/ONLINE VIDEO SERIES: A black hole is a phenomenon of spacetime that possesses such a powerful gravitational pull that nothing, not even light particles, can escape from it. Physicists argue that sufficiently dense black holes could even distort and warp the fabric of spacetime itself. It has also been suggested that black holes may have a role in shaping the structure of galaxies, drawing stars and planets into orbit around themselves. Since nothing can escape the pull of a black hole, they are incredibly difficult to study, and these mysterious entities have captured our imaginations. If you are interested in astronomy, check out this Crash Course Astronomy video series:

CITIZEN SCIENCE/METEOROLOGY: CoCoRaHS (pronounced KO-ko-rozz) is a grassroots volunteer network of backyard weather observers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail, and snow) in their local communities. By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive web site, the aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education, and research applications. The only requirements to join are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can affect and impact our lives. Their webpage provides the ability for observers to see observations mapped out in “real time”, as well as providing a wealth of information for our data users. They have a variety of lesson plans and activities to teach children about the science of studying the weather. Supported learning includes the process of scientific inquiry, data collection, mathematical skills, science and technology, Earth and Space science, and global climate change. Participating as a citizen science not only supports learning while helping scientists collect data, it also connects people to place by slowing down and noticing the patterns and processes of nature in their local communities. Find out more at www.cocorahs.org. — Get excited by the data you gather and report as a citizen scientist by seeing how it is used, as this video of Global Precipitation Measurement’s first global map of rainfall and snowfall shows in this one example:

READING & LISTENING/ASTRONOMY: Stargazers can learn more about outer space from the pages of these great books:

And what should you listen to while observing the beautiful moon? The astronomy episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show, of course!

KITCHEN SCIENCE/FERMENTATION: Turn your kitchen into a fermentation station! Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and sourdough can be made at any time of year and are a great way to support experiential learning about chemistry and cellular biology through the lens of food! Zymology (the science of fermentation) supports these learning concepts, but it’s also a rewarding way to spend time in the kitchen as a family. Read more in our post, “Learn About Local Food & Chemistry through Fermentation.

MATH/NATURE-BASED LEARNING: As you gaze at the base of a pine cone, did you know that you’re regarding an incredible example of mathematical reasoning? Nature’s patterns, as it happens, are deeply rooted in the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Ratio. It’s the ultimate in a marriage between the aesthetic beauty of nature, and its mathematical base that makes it make sense. To discover what a learning opportunity this is for the family to share, read our post, “Nature’s Patterns Reveals Mathematical Reasoning.” When outside, look for these patterns in different native species, including sunflowers, pinecones, dragonfly wings, and the eye of a common housefly.


Plan your summer birthday now!

Monday, March 31, 2020

FAMILY MUSIC/KINDIE MUSIC: Legendary children’s musician Laurie Berkner helping kids and parents find a routine, get up and move, and learn and play together. Families can join Laurie, direct from her house, for LIVE “Berkner Break” concerts, streamed most weekday mornings at 10am on her Facebook page. Laurie offers an abundance of songs, playful movement activities, stories, and educational songs. Laurie creates an entire world of song and expression in which enthusiasm and respect for the growing child is front and center, with emotional development sitting right alongside intellectual development. Laurie Berkner has also created a 50-minute “Educational Music Videos” where kids can practice and learn with Laurie as they watch this compilation of over 20 music videos that focus on counting, the alphabet, telling time, emotions, and so much more.

FAMILY MUSIC/KINDIE MUSIC: Award-winning folk musician Alastair Moock was scheduled to perform at the Jones Library on March 21. While the Children’s Music Series at the library has been canceled, families can still enjoy the music of Alastair Moock by listening to his guest DJ appearance of the Hilltown Family Variety Show in this archived episode, Songs of Hope Episode, and by checking out his newest video released just this week!

MUSIC STUDIES/EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC: Since its creation in Montreal in 1994 Godspeed You! Black Emperor has been one of the leading acts in the experimental scene. What began as a trio has grown to a collective of up to 14 musicians, creating earth-shaking, awe-inspiring music soundscapes. At times meditative, haunting, dreamlike, chaotic, and explosive, the band uses a variety of field recordings, sampled vocals, and instruments to build their signature post-rock aesthetic. From the beginning, Godspeed You! Black Emperor has been highly political, writing songs about the second Palestinian intifada or ‘uprising’ and including the links between various record labels and the military-industrial complex in their liner notes. Performing at MassMoCA in 2018, Godspeed You! Black Emperor gave an enthralling and mind-bending performance. Give a listen to support an interest in experimental music, isolating and blending sounds as the musician let them rise.

ART STUDIES/SYMBOLISM: Gustav Klimt is one of the most significant figures of the Symbolist movement and created some of the most recognizable paintings of the fin de siecle in Central Europe, especially his impressive golden 1907 piece “The Kiss.” Something of an eccentric, Klimt wore nothing but long, flowing robes when he worked, and his studio was filled with cats. In an ill-advised experiment, Klimt covered his sketchbook with cat urine, believing that it would act as a fixative. It did not, and the stinking sketchbook was literally and figuratively “consigned to the dustbin of history.” Want to learn more about Gustav Klimt? Here is a brief introduction to Gustav Klimt’s life and some of his paintings:

ART HISTORY/MAPLE SUGAR SEASON: Western Massachusetts landscape painter Robert Strong Woodward (1885-1957) was born in Northampton, MA, and settled in the Hilltowns where he produced many works of art. Woodward was a landscape painter, mostly depicting the rural countryside and living that surrounded him. Woodward’s works can be viewed online at the website run by the nonprofit Friends of Woodward. One of the themes he explored is the sugaring season, and one painting in particular, Late Sugaring, shows maple trees with red tapping buckets along Route 112 in Buckland, MA. Painted in 1934, this image is a typical New England scene that one can still witness driving along the same road in the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. This beautiful region, largely unchanged throughout the decades, still offers that majestic New England experience that Woodward captures in this painting. Peruse the gallery online to support both an interest in art history and culture studies. For families who live in Western Massachusetts, while viewing the online gallery, get curious and ask yourselves what has changed over the years? What has remained the same?

ART HISTORY/SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING: Sam-I-Am, Yertle the Turtle, Marvin K. Mooney, the Cat in the Hat, and other silly Dr. Seuss characters have been well-loved by young readers for decades. Best known for his invented words, imaginary animals, and ridiculous yet thought-provoking plots, Dr. Seuss is one of the most well-known children’s authors of all time. A native of western Massachusetts, Dr. Seuss drew upon his surroundings to create images for his stories. The industrial landscape of his hometown of Springfield is reflected in the zany, unaffected-by-gravity architecture found in many illustrations, and the town of Whoville is rumored to be based upon the city of Easthampton and towering Mt. Tom. In Springfield, the Springfield Museum is home to the The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, and in Northampton, R. Michelson Galleries is home to a collection of original artwork and even the “secret art” of Dr. Seuss, along with unorthodox taxidermy and illustration art. Learn more about the lesser know artwork of the artist, Theodor Seuss Geisel, in this video, The Secret Darker Art of Dr. Seuss.

MUSEUM ADVENTURES/ONLINE: The Springfield Museums might be closed, but their staff is working on several ways to stay engaged with local families. The Museums added a new page, Explore the Springfield Museums, to their website expressly for engagement even if families can’t visit in person. Activities include offerings from the staff at the Museums’ interactive centers: The Cat’s Corner, The Smithsonian Spark!Lab, and The Art Discovery Center. Videos include science, art, and family activities. Springfield Museums. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, MA.

ART STUDIES/VIRTUAL MUSEUM TOURS: While western Massachusetts’ museums offer a wide array of art pieces, online resources can be used to add depth and breadth to studies of art and art history. Using Google Cultural Institute, families can explore the museum collections of institutions in far-away places (like Romania or Spain!) and dig deep into the archives of organizations all over the globe. By connecting museums and other institutions worldwide, Google Cultural Institute allows users to virtually tour and learn about the pieces included in thousands of curated collections. Read more in our post, Google Cultural Institute: A Portal to the Cultural Treasures of the World.”

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM/VIRTUAL LEARNING: The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA has daily videos to support learning via their collections and natural resources.

Schools are accepting applications for 2020/2021 school year!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

KINDNESS/HOMELESSNESS: Thanks to Birthday Wishes, a nonprofit organization serving much of New England and New York, children living in homeless shelters can celebrate their birthdays with games, cake, and gifts – and there are lots of ways in which families can help to support the organization’s efforts! Birthday Wishes’ mission is made evident through their name: they make homeless children’s birthday wishes come true. This is done in a few different ways, depending on a family’s living situation. Birthday Wishes organizes and holds parties for children – either individually or in groups – at homeless shelters in numerous communities. However, some children reside in safe shelters where non-residents aren’t able to visit. For these children, Birthday Wishes provides a Birthday Box packed with everything a family needs to have a small gathering to celebrate – cake mix and frosting (as well as a baking dish), party hats, favors, decorations, and – of course – presents!

SERVICE-BASED LEARNING/VETERANS ASSOCIATION: Families can engage in community service projects by becoming involved with the Veterans Association of Central Western Massachusetts’ volunteer program or by donating items to veterans who live on the VA campus. While most volunteer opportunities are for older teens and adults, groups of children are invited to visit as recreation volunteers – an opportunity that can range from helping residents get outside to enjoy beautiful weather to performing a concert. Visiting the VA is an excellent way for families and community groups to reach out to those who live there. It provides residents who may not be able to explore the community very often with a slice of local culture. Additionally, a visit can provide volunteers with experience working in an intergenerational environment, and will allow them the opportunity to learn from community members they may not have encountered otherwise.

COMMUNICATION SKILLS/IDD SERVICE ORGANIZATION: Best Buddies, an organization that works to provide individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with inclusive opportunities, offers e-Buddies, an email penpal program for teens and tweens. E-Buddies supports social inclusion by matching people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) with their peers who do not have IDD. Volunteering with this email penpal program allows older students to practice computer technology, communication, and social skills through the development of meaningful relationships with people with IDD. Read more in our post, “Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Pen Pal Program for T(w)eens.

LITERATURE GUIDE/NEW ENGLAND CULTURE: In late winter and early spring, when the days are warm but the nights are still cold, the sap starts to run in sugar maples. Throughout New England, buckets and tubing begin to adorn trees, and the steady plinking of sap dripping into buckets can be heard throughout the sugarbush. Check out this literature guide, Titles for Exploring Sugaring Season” to use to support learning about sugaring – both the science behind it and the role that it plays in rural New England culture.

LITERATURE/ONLINE MAPPING: Make great use of Google maps function by building Google Lit Trips, which gives a whole new dimension to great literature by merely putting literary characters on the map. This free enhanced visual aid enhances literacy and mapping skills and gives readers a sense of place. Many great literary stories are rooted in “journey,” and Google Lit Trips grasps this opportunity, giving readers another layer of learning. Read more in our post, “Google Lit Trips Puts Literary Characters Back on the Map.”

Plan ahead for Fall 2020!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

LIGHT POLLUTION/CITIZEN SCIENCE: The night sky is a community-based educational resource available to everyone by simply stepping outside your home. Become a citizen scientist by gathering data on your observations of the celestial bodies above and participating in the project, Loss of the Night. Created by German researchers, Loss of the Night is designed to collect information about the amount of sky glow (also known as light pollution) present in populated areas all over the globe. An additional goal of the project is to help users learn more about the stars that they see above them and the seasonal changes that take place in the sky. Read more about this citizen science opportunity in our post, Citizen Scientists Wanted to Map the Stars. Participation with support learning about the impacts of light pollution has on our native species while supporting interests in astronomy and the scientific process.

NATIVE SPECIES/ZOOLOGY: Though the relationships between the two are generally predator-prey, studying how birds and insects depend on each other can offer insight into the inner workings of the local landscape. By learning to identify insects and birds, families can explore the who-eats-who of their surroundings! Read more in our post, Studies of Birds and Insects Illuminate Interconnectedness in Nature.

NATIVE SPECIES/ORNITHOLOGY: Springtime is filled with sightings of all kinds of exciting natural wonders. The season’s outdoor appeal makes it a perfect time of year not only for enjoying our natural surroundings, but for learning about conservation and species preservation, too! Springtime is the season for bird sightings as Western Massachusetts becomes filled with a variety of migrating bird species in the early spring months. Read more in our March/Spring Season issue of Learning Ahead. Download your free copy here.

ECOSYSTEMS/DIY: For experiential learning lessons in biology, ecology, and ecosystems, make your very one tabletop biosphere! People of all ages can make tabletop biospheres, and it is a creative, scientific, and educational process. Planning a tabletop biosphere allows for the exploration of local resources, including pet stores and local bodies of water. Assembling a tabletop biosphere and observing on over months and possibly years, sparks curiosity and supports learning about ecology and living ecosystems. Read more in our post, “Tabletop Biosphere: Lessons in Biology.”

HERPETOLOGY/CITIZEN SCIENTIST: Not long from now, local ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools will be teeming with life. These aquatic habitats are home to a variety of fascinating species – including many types of frogs! As the landscape awakens, families can prepare for the appearance of local amphibian species by learning to identify common species, exploring the life cycle of amphibians, and engaging in citizen science opportunities. Read more in our post, Listen for Frogs, Become a Citizen Scientist“.

Start planning now!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

ECOLOGY/VERNAL POOLS: Vernal pools, also known as ephemeral pools, are temporary pools of water that occur in the spring, hence the name ‘vernal.’ They are caused by winter snow melt or seasonal rain. Despite being dry for most of the year, these pools are a vital part of the ecological landscape. Because they are temporary, fish do not live in them, which allows for reptile, amphibian, and insect species to thrive. Many species of amphibians travel to the vernal pools for mating. They lay their eggs in the pools and then when they hatch, the creatures travel out of the pools. Due to this, vernal pools can be one of the busiest ecosystems in nature. New England is home to many vernal pools and are especially active at this time of year. They’re a great example of “nature’s classroom!”

FORESTS/ECOLOGY: The taiga, also known as the boreal forest, is the largest biome, or animal and plant habitat, on the planet. This forest encircles the northern portions of the globe and accounts for around 30 percent of the world’s forests. In North America, the southernmost portion of the forest includes parts of northern New England, where it is known as the north woods. Scientific research has confirmed what traditional communities have always known: the forest is a sentient superorganism made up of individuals that are capable of communicating with each other. Tragically, despite this and the fact that all life on earth requires forests due to their ability to capture carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, billions of trees are cut down every year, and only 5% of the world’s old-growth forests remain. Screen the film The Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees and learn about the science of what makes the sacred northern forests so vital to our survival as a species and the impact a single person can have in the restoration of our forests.

ECOLOGY/RECOMMENDED READING: The Ripple: Synchronization of the Watershed Flora & Fauna

BOTANY/MAPLE TREES: Families interested in sugaring can use maple sugar season as an opportunity to support place- and community-based studies of math and science, allowing children to learn new skills and concepts within a meaningful context. To successfully produce maple syrup, families must first learn to identify trees accurately. Young naturalists will need to look closely at the tree’s bark, tiny buds, and twig growth patterns to identify each species of maple. Getting up close and personal with a tree’s bark provides a secondary means to leaf-less identification. Sugar maple bark is made up of thick plates formed over time, with comparatively large rifts between them. It’s dark brown on the oldest trees, but lighter on younger ones, and tends to have a chunky look to it. Rather than collecting bark samples, try photographing the bark of many trees so that samples can be placed side by side. Bark identification is tricky without a close look at the tree’s leaf buds and is best used as a means of confirming a suspected sugar maple after leaf buds have been examined. Hunting for sugar maple trees (Acer saccharum) before they leaf out supports lessons in botany through the lens of food, habitat, and New England heritage. Return to the tree you have identify this spring and see it it’s leaves confirm your find!

BOTANY/SUGGESTED TITLES: Books to support studies of tree identification before they leaf out include:

Start planning for Fall 2020!

Friday, April 3, 2020

HISTORY OF COLOR/NATURAL DYES: Did you know that Tyrian purple, one of the most valuable and ancient natural dyes, is actually created by grinding up the shells of tens of thousands of sea snails? The color produced by this dye is a vibrant reddish purple that actually becomes brighter over time! This dye was being used by the Phoenicians in the Eastern Mediterranean as early as 1570 BCE and was a major status symbol for members of the Roman and Byzantine nobility. As a matter of fact, at certain periods, the only people allowed to wear clothing dyed with purple were members of the imperial family itself! Natural dyes can create a wide variety of bright and colorful hues. Learn about natural plant dyes in the exhibit guide for The Art and Science of Dyeing (And check it out in person at The Botanic Garden of Smith College through June 30, 2020 once they reopen.)

RENAISSANCE HISTORY/SWORD FIGHTING: Are your children or teens interested in history? Theater? Sword fighting? Learning about history can be extra engaging with an intersecting interest, especially one which can be active and participatory. Several community-based resources can support learning about history through an interest in sword-fighting and theater, along with online opportunities to guide the way. The Pioneer Valley Fencing Academy in Easthampton and Riverside Fencing Club are two local educational services that offer classes and engaging Facebook posts that encourage online learning. And Shakespeare & Company in Lenox is known for providing backstage guided tours where visitors can try out swords used as props in productions. This interest can further be explored online with a read of Shakespeare Theater Company’s tip of the hat to such props, the unsung heroes of theater. But interest in history and sword fighting can connect to not only theater but also films and literature. The classic family film, The Princess Bride, based on the 1973 novel of the same name by William Goldman, contains a famous sword fighting scene with accurate references to historical sword fighting techniques. Screening this film, or The Mark of Zorro, can be a fun way to see sword fighting in action at home while catching references to historically significant fencers such as Rocco Bonetti, Agrippa, and Capo Ferro. You can screen the film as an introduction to the history of sword fighting, and kids who love the film can also consider reading the book upon which it is based, or vice versa.

ART HISTORY/VIRTUAL MUSEUM TOURS: Norman Rockwell Museum’s online museum resource, Illustration History, allows families to explore the history of the art of illustration. Filled with important and interesting images, biographical information about artists, and information explaining the cultural context of illustrations, Illustration History provides an in-depth look at the role of illustration and the transformations that the art has undergone as culture has evolved. Read more in our post, Illustration History: Online Educational Resource & Archive for the Art of Illustration.”

SOCIAL STUDIES/CARTOGRAPHY: While old maps are interesting on their own, they provide an excellent entry point for studies of local history. The state department of education includes local history in their frameworks for third-grade social studies. Still, local history is a topic that can be learned about at varying depths by students of all ages. Read more in our post, “Maps of Massachusetts: Supporting Social Studies & Local History.”

WOMEN’S HISTORY/PAST & PRESENT RESIDENTS: Western Massachusetts is home to so many women changemakers who have dedicated their lives to enacting social change through the arts, critical inquiry, and learning. Still today, there are many women poets, writers, activists, artists, teachers, educators, and scientists that reside in Western Massachusetts who continue to work towards positive social change that fosters female empowerment and diversity. These efforts add to women’s voices in our globalized society and economy! March is Women’s History Month, a national observation that honors and pays tributes to those women who dedicated their lives to social justice, the environment, education, and positive change for society. Their fortitude and perseverance as pioneers are honored during the month of March. Read more in our post, “Local Women & Local History:Understanding New England Women’s Lives from the Past.”

CREATIVE FREE-PLAY: We have a couple of columns that have great ideas for generating both facilitated and self-directed play. Check out these archived columns, What to Play? Play Ideas for Family & Community and Let Them Grow: Fresh Ways to Engage Toddlers in Creative Free Play.


Local Online Opportunities.
Virtual. Online. Zoom.

Friday, April 3, 11am – SOCIAL STUDIES/CURRENT AFFAIRS: The Stranger and the City: An Online Seminar on HOME. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, April 4, 10:30am-12:30pm – COMMUNITY PLANNING: Community Meeting, accessible trail & park. Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, April 4, 2-10pm: MUSIC STUDIESCOVID-Stock. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, April 4, 3pm – DANCE STUDIES/IMPROV: Introduction to DanceProv Online! Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, April 4, 7-9pm – MUSIC STUDIES/FOLK MUSIC: Pioneer Valley Folklore Society Song & Story Swap via Zoom. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, April 5, 1-7pm: MUSIC STUDIESCOVID-Stock. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 7, 6-6:45pm – PHYSICAL EDUCATION: Strength & Toning Zoom Class. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 7, 7-8pm – STORY TIME: Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando, author Andrea Wang. (Teacher Guide.) Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 7, 7-8pm – DANCE STUDIES/JAZZ: Jazz Class via Zoom. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, April 8, 6-6:45pm – PHYSICAL EDUCATION: Stretch Class via Zoom. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, April 8, 6pm – LITERACY/BOOK CLUB: Virtual Book Club. Sunderland, MA. . (FREE)

Wednesday, April 8, 7-8pm – DANCE STUDIES/BELLY DANCE: Middle Eastern Belly Dance via Zoom. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, April 8, 8-9pm – DANCE STUDIES/BALLET: Ballet Class via Zoom. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, April 9, 4:30pm – DANCE STUDIES/AFRICAN DANCE: Afro Workout. Amherst, MA. . (FREE)

Thursday, April 9, 6-7pm – DANCE STUDIES/TAP: Tap Class via Zoom. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursdays, April 9, 7-8pm – DANCE STUDIES/SWING & CHA CHA: East Coast Swing & Cha Cha via Zoom. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Friday, April 10, 11am – SOCIAL STUDIES/CURRENT AFFAIRS: The Stranger and the City: An Online Seminar on HOME. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Friday, April 10, 1-7pm – INTERGENERATIONAL/KINDNESS: Card Making for Seniors. Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, April 16, 10am – SPECIAL NEEDS/SUPPORT: Special Needs Family Alliance. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Friday, April 17, 11am – SOCIAL STUDIES/CURRENT AFFAIRS: The Stranger and the City: An Online Seminar on HOME. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 19, 12am – Saturday, April 25, 11:30pm – CHEMISTRY: Digital Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW) 2020. Global. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 21, 7-8pm – EAST ASIAN STUDIES: Samurai: Fact and Fiction, with Dr. Ethan Segal, Michigan State University.. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, April 29, 7-8pm – EAST ASIAN STUDIES/PHILOSOPHY: Confucianism, with Dr. Jeffrey Richey, Berea College. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, May 9, 10am-3pm – MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS/EXERCISE: Virtual Walk MS. Florence, MA. (FUNDRAISER)

Wednesday, May 6, 6pm – SPECIAL NEEDS/SUPPORT: Special Needs Family Alliance. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 13, 7-8pm – EAST ASIAN STUDIES/RELIGION: Religion in China: Daoism, with Dr. Jeffrey Richey, Berea College. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, June 3, 7-8pm – EAST ASIAN STUDIES/RELIGION: Religion in China: Buddhism, with Dr. Jeffrey Richey, Berea College. Amherst, MA. (FREE).

Hilltown Families’ list of Suggested Events is supported in part by grants from the Amherst, Bernardston, Buckland, Chester, Gill, Goshen, Hadley, Heath, Hinsdale-Peru, Holyoke, Montgomery, Mt. Washington, New Salem, Northern Berkshire, Pelham, Plainfield, Rowe, Shelburne, Shutesbury, South Hadley, Springfield, Washington, Westhampton, and Windsor Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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