100+ Ideas, Resources, & Virtual Events for Learning at Home in Western MA: April 18-24, 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 nearly 10,000 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 Learning Resources

Mention Hilltown Families and receive 20% discount.

ReddPrep online tutoring: Northampton, MA. For more than fifteen years, ReddPrep has been preparing students to excel in school and maximize their scores on standardized tests. They offer a wide range of small classes and individual tutoring programs online for middle and high school students, specializing in standardized test preparation and college admissions counseling. Whether your student needs a little academic support or a full-time college admissions coach, ReddPrep is ready to help. Contact ReddPrep today for a free consultation and to craft an online study plan for your student. Mention Hilltown Families and receive a 20% discount on online tutoring. risher@reddprep.com. www.reddprep.com.

Online Classes

Online Classes. Chad Stewart, former Disney Animator and veteran homeschool Dad, offers Online Animation or Drawing Classes for ages 11-18. Weekly classes are one hour long, and industry professionals complete video reviews of homework as a part of every class they teach. The cost is $350 for the full 12-week session, and the Summer Session begins June 1st. Classes tend to fill up quickly so you can hold your child’s spot with a $50 deposit at the time of registration! Classes are held during Summer, Fall, and Spring Sessions, so if you can’t join them now, check back with again! Chad has worked on films such as Tarzan, Emperor’s New Groove, and The Polar Express, and has much to share with students of his Drawing or Animation Classes. Contact: 661-755-5775. kayla@theanimcourse.com. theanimcourse.com.

May 8-10

Are you planning your garden for this spring? Make sure to plant local, organic, and heirloom varieties! Where to get your plants? River Valley Co-op in Northampton, of course! During their annual Mother’s Day Weekend Spring Plant Sale they will be selling flower, veggie, and herb starts for your home garden from local farms, including Windy Ridge Farm, High Meadows Farm, and Bare Roots Farm. A great selection is available at River Valley Co-op during Mother’s Day weekend: May 8th, 9th, 10th from 10am-7pm. River Valley Co-Op. 413-584-2665. 330 N King St, Northampton, MA.

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

Featured Summer Programs & Camps

Jul 6-23

Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School Summer Youth Programs. Northampton, MA. Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School is pleased to announce its 2020 Summer Program offerings for students entering grades 6, 7, and 8. Programs include: Entering the World of Cosmetology; Tour de Cuisine: Cultivating the Young Culinarian; Criminal Justice League; Build Your Own Longboard. Weekly programs from July 6-July 23 half-day runs 8:30am- 12:30pm. Full-day programs run 8:30am – 3:30pm. Students can prepare amazing food, practice beauty techniques, build longboards, or learn about law enforcement. For full course descriptions, including which weeks they will run and to register for a Summer Youth Program, please see their website. Dates: Jul 6-23; Age Range of Participants: 11-14yo. Contact: 413-587-1414 x3406. dcarver@smithtec.org. www.smithtec.org/summer.

Jun 29 – Aug 21

Roots Youth Summer Programs. Westfield, MA. Roots Summer Vacation Programs offer full-day activities for ages 5-12 years old. Regular hours are from 9am-4pm. All summer program attendees will participate in activities at the three major facilities on the Roots campus: 1) Roots Gymnastics Center, 2) Roots Aquatics Center, and 3) Roots Athletics Center. Attendees will rotate between the three facilities each day participating in activities such as gymnastics, swim, soccer and other turf sports, S.T.E.M., crafts, games, water slide, and so much more! Early Drop Off is available at 7:30am, and Late Pick-Up ends at 5pm. Dates: Jun 29-Aug 21; Age Range of Participants: 5-12yo. Contact: 413-562-2333 & 413-568-2782. rootssummer@gmail.com. rootsvacation.com. rootscamp.campbrainregistration.com.

Jul 6-31

College for Kids. Westfield, MA. College for Kids provides innovative and creative educational programs for kids ages 5-14, promoting and maintaining an enjoyable learning environment. Each week will feature different classes, giving the option for parents to enroll their child in a morning session, afternoon session, or both. College for Kids offers a range of subjects including science, computers, magic, cooking, and the arts. In addition to returning favorites such as Digital Nature Photography, Science Discovery for Curious Kids, Broadway Bound, and The Art of Magic, they are excited to offer brand new classes in 2020 including Pie Making, Charcoal Drawing, Bucket Drumming for Beginners, Biodiversity in the World, and more! Dates: Jul 6-31; Age Range of Participants: 5-14yo. Contact: 413-572-8557. collegeforkids@westfield.ma.edu. westfield.ma.edu/cfk.

Jun 8 – Aug 7

Amherst Montessori School Summer Discovery. Amherst, MA. Amherst Montessori’s Summer Discovery offers playful adventures tailored to children ages 12 months to 12 years. Preschool/kindergarten children will have so much fun jumping through sprinklers, playing outside, and exploring weekly themes, including Geology, Insects, Building, and more. Infants/toddlers ages three and below will love AMS’s nurturing environment with outdoor play, songs & movement, water play, and sensory exploration, all with emphasis on building independence. The amazing Michelle Risch leads three weeks of Lego building and creativity with millions of Legos for Elementary children to build wherever their imagination takes them. Varying schedules with extended hours. Dates: Jun 8-Aug 7; Age Range of Participants: 15mos-12yo. Contact: 413-253-3101. sthompson@amherstmontessori.org. amherstmontessori.org.

Jun 26 – Aug 18

Rockin’ the Summer. Goshen, MA. IMA’s residential music programs give girls access to top-notch facilities & instruments, to veteran professional musicians & teachers, and musical exploration & collaboration. Explore Rock ‘n Roll (Jun 24–28; Aug 19-23) offers girls 9-12 opportunity to explore instruments, to begin writing songs, and to participate in a concert. Rock ‘n Roll Performance (Jul 10-19; Jul 24-Aug 2) offers girls 13-19 an opportunity to speak their truth through the medium of rock ‘n roll, gain confidence in performance abilities, improve musicianship, and develop collaborative leadership skills. Studio Recording & Production (Aug 6-16) offers hands-on studio recording seminar for women 16-22 who are ready to record their work and/or interested in engineering and producing. Dates: Jun 26-Aug 18; Age Range of Participants: Girls/Young Women 9-22yo. Contact: 413-268-3074. info@ima.org. www.ima.org.

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.

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.

Jun 17 – Aug 9

The Bement School offers summer programs for children from 4 to 15 years old. Children have the opportunity to enjoy the fun of a traditional day camp and help create their own schedule by choosing from our wide range of unique activities. Digging into Nature at Pine Hill provides outdoor education for ages 5-12. The Junior Camp provides a safe, nurturing camp experience for our youngest campers. The Adventure Day Camp offers activity choices that include cooking, movie-making, sports, nature, arts and crafts, and swimming. The Counselor-in-Training program gives young teenagers experience working with children and developing valuable job skills while still enjoying the fun of summer camp. Summer programs run from June 17 to August 9.

April 18-24, 2020

Saturday, April 18Sunday, April 19
Monday, April 20Tuesday, April 21Wednesday, April 22
Thursday, April 23Friday, April 24

Mark your calendars: Local Virtual Opportunities
Suggest a distant learning event!

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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, April 18, 2020

Online Events: Suggest a distant learning event!

  • Check Hilltown Families Facebook event page for free virtual events! Want to have your Facebook event page added? Add Hilltown Families as a co-host. Event must be free, based out of Western MA, and a single event (not a series). Questions? DM!

EARTH DAY/RADIO SHOW: HFVS Earth Day Episode with Guest DJs Katherine Dines and James Coffey. Katherine Dines (Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Music) and James Coffey (Bluevision Music) have been working together for several years. The two guest DJ’s decided on an Earth Day theme and hope it will be a good fit for listeners during the current global pandemic and far into the future. The songs they collected encourage everyone to continue making positive changes and to spread happiness, harmony, love, peace, hope, and strength around the world. ♥ 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!

FOOD HISTORY/SCONES: There is no better accompaniment to a good stiff, rust-colored cup of tea than a scone. There is, however, considerable variation in what is meant by a scone throughout the English-speaking world. In the first case, the population of Great Britain is evenly divided between those who pronounce it “scone” rhyming with “gone” and “scone” rhyming with “tone.” The word seems to have first appeared in 1513 and may be derived either from the Dutch schoonbrood, meaning “spoonbread,” or from the Gaelic sgonn, a “shapeless mass” or “large mouthful.” Apparently, the original scone was the size of a medium dinner plate and sliced into triangles, a shape more commonly found in the American iteration, while most scones in Great Britain and elsewhere are almost without exception round. But the difference in shape between the American and British scone is only the tip of the iceberg. While the American scone has a crumbly texture, the British version is much more like what we would call a biscuit, less sweet and with a fluffier texture. British scones are sliced in half and slathered with clotted cream and jam.

FOOD HISTORY/EARLY AMERICAN CUISINE: Following the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolutionary War, the cuisine of North America changed forever. Without access to imported foodstuff from Britain and the West Indies, the early Americans were forced to develop their unique culinary traditions. Of course, much of early American cuisine was still linked to its British and European roots, but variations on traditional dishes were common and indigenous cuisine was also a heavy influence. For the Puritans, who had come to the New World particularly from the region of Anglia in Eastern England, traditional dishes were favored, even though substitutions had to be made. Apple pie, for example, perhaps the most quintessentially American dish, is derived from a typical Anglian preparation. Baked beans and porridge were among the most common early staples among the New England settlers, and the abundant seafood offerings also became integrated. Perhaps the most unique adaptation in early American cuisine was the absence of wheat and the substitution of cornmeal and rye in most baked goods. This development is responsible for the innovation of the “johnnycake,” a flatbread made from cornmeal, which is common throughout North America and the Caribbean to this day. Here in this video, interpretive historians share the history and recipe for a traditional johnnycake, something families can do together as a pathway to learn about American History and Culinary Arts.

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?“)

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, April 19, 2020

Online Events: Suggest a distant learning event!

SCIENCE & EDUCATION/RADIO SHOW: HFVS Science & Education Episode with Danny Weinkauf of They Might Be Giants. Danny Weinkauf guest DJs our science and education episode, demonstrating though song examples and commentary his love of both, and how it has influenced his favorite songs and personal writing style. Click here select from over 13 years of archived shows! It’s better than 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!

CBEdu RESOURCE/SCIENCE CAFES: Science Cafes are part of a grassroots movement to open science to everyone and to bring free presentations and engaging conversations into casual community settings. Here in Western MA, working scientist shares their research with the public every month via SciTech Cafe in Northampton. At these monthly events, all ages are welcome, allowing self-directed learners to participate in community events such as science cafes can help them to learn how to engage with an intergenerational community of learners while challenging them to learn more about in-depth science topics on their own. Each science cafe is lead by an expert in the field who share their expertise to science cafe participants. The opportunity to learn about a science topic from an expert scientist grants learners access to a pool of knowledge that is both deep and wide. These events are canceled for April & May, but they have offered a link to support home-based learning relevant to current affairs: Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to “flatten the curve”. If all goes according to plan, SciTech Cafe monthly Science Cafes will start back up in June. Find out who will be presenting at www.scitechcafe.org. Northampton, MA.

DENTAL HYGIENE/BIOLOGY: Do you struggle some nights with getting your kids to brush their teeth before bed? (Exhausting, right?!) Maybe if they were to better understand what causes cavities, and how can to avoid them, they wouldn’t push back so hard on our constant nagging to brush and floss (and to stay away from so many sweets!)? Mel Rosenberg takes us inside our teeth to find out in this animated TED-Ed video. Share it with your kids and let your morning and evening ritual of oral hygiene be a catalyst for learning!

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.

BUSINESS/CURRENT AFFAIRS: Small Business Classes with the Small Business Administration. These free online classes are aimed towards business owners; however, students of business administration can tune in to learn about small business management through conversations around COVID-19 recovery and economic strategies.



Plan your summer birthday now!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Online Events: Suggest a distant learning event!

DANCE STUDIES/JACOB’S PILLOW: Did you know one of the best community-based resources to support an interest in dance studies exists in the Hilltowns of Western MA? Dive into Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive, an ever-growing collection of dance videos filmed at Jacob’s Pillow from the 1930s to today, plus new illustrated essays. Playlists include Women’s History, Black Voices, Cultural Diversity, Distinctive Costumes, Indigenous Dance of the Americas, Men Dancers, and several others. Jacob’s Pillow is a National Historic Landmark, National Medal of Arts recipient, and home to America’s longest-running dance festival, located in Becket, MA.

DANCE STUDIES/WORLD FOLK DANCES: While it is certain that Irish dance traditions date back thousands of years, there is very little recorded information about those traditions until the 17th-century, because most ancient cultural practices around the world were not written down. What we do know is that when the Normans invaded Ireland, they brought with them the courtly ’round dances’ common in Europe during the Medieval period. In the 1600s, we begin to see references to Irish folk dances, known as ‘rinkafadda,’ which were often performed in fields and involved lines or rows of men and women facing each other. By the 1760s, hornpipes and fiddles were added to Irish dancing traditions and the custom of traveling dance masters began and would last until well into the 19th century.- Want to see examples of not only Irish dance but also other traditional folk dances from around the world? Check this out these folk dances from around the world.

SPRINGFIELD SYMPHONY/MUSIC STUDIES: In this video below,Springfield Symphony Orchestra Education Coordinator Patrick McMahon presents a a virtual Musical Petting Zoo as part of the SSO Homegrown Series. Every week, SSO will offers engaging videos from SSO musicians, youth orchestra musicians, members of the SSO staff, and more. There will be music and talk of instruments, composers, and pieces — something different each week.

MUSIC STUDIES/CLASSICAL MUSIC: “Light, bright, and cheerful, ‘The Four Seasons’ by Antonio Vivaldi is some of the most familiar of all early 18th-century music, featured in numerous films and television commercials. But what is its significance, and why does it sound that way?” In this TED-Ed video, Why should you listen to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”?, Betsy Schwarm uncovers the “underlying narrative of this musical masterpiece.”

MUSIC STUDIES/CLASSICAL MUSIC: Hilltown Family Variety Show Classical Music Episode with Guest DJs, Stephen and Bonnie Ward Simon:

MUSIC STUDIES/SOUND: Listen to the modern “Pioneers of Sound!” with Elska as she takes us on a sonic journey into the world of early electronic music, synthesizers, micro-beats, bells and more. Broadcasting from her Arctic island home, Elska teaches us about the origins of the most innovative sounds in pop music, how they were made, and then she plays us fascinating examples from pop music, art music, classical and some music that defies classification all together.

MUSIC STUDIES/EMILY DICKINSON MUSEUM: Fill your home with the sound of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and the music that her life and work inspired. Emily Dickinson Museum House Manager, Margaret Draft, created three new Spotify playlists that celebrate the connection between Emily Dickinson and music. The playlists include covers of songs the poet played in her lifetime, compositions set to her verse, and contemporary music inspired by her life and work. To listen, you’ll need to create a free Spotify account if you do not already have one.

ART STUDIES/SMITH COLLEGE MUSEUM OF ART: Support art studies at home with Smith College Museum of Art from Home. They’re offering up content from the museum’s blog, YouTube channel, as well as content found on their social media sites that were requested by museum followers. Families are invited to visit the museum’s social media often, engaging and sharing ideas with their online platforms. Discover SCMA’s collection with their Discovery Cards, which give a closer look at SCMA’s permanent collection objects. The SCMA YouTube channel features content from the museum’s many artist lectures and talks.

ART STUDIES/HAMPDEN GALLERY: Take a virtual tour of the current exhibit, A Horse Walks Into A Bar, at the UMass Amherst Hampden Gallery. Humor is not the first thing you think of when researching or discussing Contemporary or Modern Art, but it does have a far more significant place than one might presume. R. Crumb, Peter Saul, and Erwin Wurm, to name just three, cannot be completely understood without considering their ability to make us smile or laugh. Even the late Picasso paintings and prints had as much humor as they did restlessness, angst, or sexual tension in his continued quest for the extreme. A Horse Walked Into a Bar is a survey of some of today’s artists who continue to push the boundaries of fine art toward wit and whimsy.

ART STUDIES/THE CLARK: The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, connects folks at home with their collection through virtual programming, which consists of a video series, Clark Connects. New content is added weekly. In this video below, Amanda Bell Goldmakher, senior educator at the Clark, takes a deep dive into George Gray Barnard’s sculpture, Brotherly Love.

ART STUDIES/PRINTMAKING: IS183 Art School of the Berkshires in Stockbridge brings their art opportunities to families at home! Their talented Berkshire artists have created online classes, video tutorials, and printable projects to inspire creativity and encourage making art at home. Their videos explore the art of origami via paper airplanes, sewing skills via plushies, ceramics for all ages, paper art via paper beads, and printmaking via collagraphs.

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, April 21, 2020

Online Events: Suggest a distant learning event!

PSA from thebagshare.org.

COMMUNITY SERVICE/SEWING: Put your skills and interests in sewing and values of kindness to work! DIY Masks of Western Mass is a public Facebook group of volunteers who have decided to help the effort in making Masks for medical personnel, service workers, and other organizations and people who may need them. Swap stories, find support, organize drop-offs via this online group! Also, be sure to connect with the Bag Share Project for future community sewing events to make reusable bags for independent grocery stores, food co-ops, and local libraries.

COMMUNITY SERVICE/HOSPITAL: To ensure patient safety, Cooley Dickinson Hospital is currently following Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidance in accepting non-medical grade PPE (such as homemade masks). In this video are instructions on how to make face masks, which can be dropped off at Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s North Entrance, Monday-Friday, 8am-4:30pm. 30 Locust St. (Route 9) Northampton, MA.

GENDER STUDIES/QUILTING: Families can connect new sewing skills to the study of gender roles in society by using our literary guide for the book Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt, which features both men’s and women’s quilting groups. Traditionally a skill left up to women, sewing is, of course, a skill that anyone can learn and succeed at, and in considering its typical “women only” designation, children can begin to think critically about gender roles in society.

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.

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.

THEATER/LANGUAGE ARTS: Shakespeare’s lasting popularity over hundreds of years may stem from his command of the English language, and the universal themes explored in his plays and poetry. Shakespeare used a great deal of creativity with words. He combined short, familiar words into compound words, and sometimes changed verbs into nouns and vice versa. This is how he invented hundreds of words still used every day. Shakespeare’s plays allow us to explore relatable ideas by reading, performing, and witnessing performances of his words. Plays are meant to be performed, and Shakespeare’s plays undergo countless renditions, iterations, and adaptations on the stage and film. At home, families can celebrate Shakespeare’s lasting impact by screening the 2011 film Gnomeo and Juliet. (Rated G), the 2010 adaptation of The Tempest (Rated PG-13), and the 2012 film Much Ado About Nothing (Rated PG-13).

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH/LANGUAGE ARTS: April is National Poetry Month! Let this national observation month be a catalyst for learning. Families can start with fun projects at home, like Blackout Poetry and Book Spine Poetry. Explore the work of famous poets, including William Shakespeare, Robert Frost, and Safia Elhillo. For recommended titles, check out our posts, Six Novels Written in Verse and Books for Young Bards, and check out our archived column, One Clover & A Bee: Poems for Families to Learn & Love.

POETRY/SENSE OF PLACE: Western Massachusetts has been home to many poets and writers who were inspired by this region’s remarkable landscapes and natural settings. Since April is National Poetry Month, the spring season is a great time to explore some of the homes and writing places of local poets from the past Read more in our post, Poetry & Place in the Hilltowns.

LITERATURE/JANE AUSTEN: Jane Austen once wrote in a letter: “I cannot anyhow continue to find people agreeable; I respect Mrs. Chamberlayne for doing her hair well, but cannot feel a more tender sentiment. Miss Langley is like any other short girl, with a broad nose and wide mouth, fashionable dress, and exposed bosom. Adm. Stanhope is a gentleman-like man, but then his legs are too short and his tail too long.” Austen’s biting wit and relaxed, well-tempered prose have made her one of the most beloved novelists in the English language. Her six novels paint a vivid portrait of middle-class life in 19th century Britain and examine the role of women in society. Wanting her writing to support the development of her readers, her novels were often rooted in the philosophy of personal development.

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 22, 2020

Online Events: Suggest a distant learning event!

ORNITHOLOGY/PEREGRINE FALCONS: Support an interest in ornithology while connecting to where you live through the season … breading season! Several web cameras around Massachusetts are available to the public to witness the Peregrine Falcon breeding season up close and throughout the spring! Get an inside look at the nests of the fastest birds on Earth through the live nest cameras. These cameras are pointed directly at or are within nest boxes and allow an up-close live look at nesting pairs and their chicks. Chicks hatch in early May and leave the nest in mid-June (at about seven weeks of age). View Falcon Cameras. to see the native species live, and check out this video to learn more abut the Peregrine Falcon,

MASS AUDUBON/NATURE STUDIES: Mass Audubon has a newly-launched Explore Nature at Home section on their website. Find videos from their team of amazing naturalists and educators like “Bird of the Day” and “Nature in Your Neighborhood” from cities and towns across Massachusetts. Activities to download for the entire family include nature bingo, coloring sheets, and a scavenger hunt. There are also ways to engage in citizen science by recording wildlife observations and actions you can take to protect the planet.

ORNITHOLOGY/LANGUAGE ARTS: The bird populations in Western Massachusetts have inspired many poets and writers to pick up their pens and compose verses dedicated to our feathered friends, celebrating nature and the land. Cummington native William Cullen Bryant, and Amherst native Emily Dickinson, both wrote poems about the bobolink. This intriguing species migrates back to New England in the late Spring (mid-late May) where it prefers large grasslands, such as hay fields, where they can build their nests on the ground. They are impressive birds, with a curious and clownish fluttering that is a joy to see in the late spring and early summer. Due to their preference to nest in hay fields often utilized by farmers, The Bobolink Project seeks to work with farmers to delay haying fields in order to protect grassland birds such as bobolinks. Learn about bobolinks through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website and their educational videos on different bird species. After learning about their habitat, migration patterns, behavior and nesting preferences, read Bryant’s poem Robert of Lincoln and Emily Dickinson’s poem. The Way to know the Bobolink for examples of how language art can describe the nature and habitat of the bobolink in beautiful and complex ways.

ICHTHYOLOGY/CITIZEN SCIENCE: Do you want to become a volunteer community scientist? Individual volunteers are needed for River Herring Monitoring now through June 30, 2020. No experience necessary. These important fish are starting to migrate up local rivers, and the Connecticut River Conservancy could use the help of individuals/families in learning more about river herring population in the tributaries of the Connecticut River. River Herring are an essential part of the food chain and fish monitoring is an excellent opportunity to spend time outside and discovering your local rivers, while practicing social distancing! How does it work? Individual volunteers are assigned a location, and once a week, they go out to survey for river herring. Virtual training is provided. In Massachusetts, help is needed at the following locations: Three Mile Brook (Agawam, MA); Porter Lake Stream (Longmeadow, MA); and Pond Brook (Springfield, MA). Contact volunteer@ctriver.org to sign up!

MARINE BIOLOGY/WEBCAMS: The Monterey Bay Aquarium has ten live webcams from which to choose! See breathtaking sea nettles drift and pulse, busy tropical fishes, a swaying kelp canopies with swirling sardines and leopard sharks, and even sea otters frolic and swim! Monterey Bay Aquarium Live Web Cams. Watching marine life live might support an interest or possibly spark a new one!

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 23, 2020

Online Events: Suggest a distant learning event!

  • Check Hilltown Families Facebook event page for free virtual events! Want to have your Facebook event page added? Add Hilltown Families as a co-host. Event must be free, based out of Western MA, and a single event (not a series). Questions? DM!
  • Thursday, April 23, 7:30-9:30pm – MUSIC STUDIES/SONG SWAP: “The Ecological Crisis is Here” (Online Swap). Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

ENTOMOLOGY/BEETLES: Mass Audubon invites families to go on a beetle scavenger hunt! “There are at least 107 known species of beetles in Massachusetts, 30,000 in the United States, and 350,000 around the world. How many beetles can you find? While on the hunt, don’t forget to watch how they defend themselves, listen to the sounds they make, and observe how they communicate with each other.” Use their free downloadable activity page, It’s Beetlemania!, to guide you!

NATURE-BASED LEARNING/GREAT BARRINGTON LAND CONSERVANCY: Connecting with nature and sharing discoveries is a great way to stay connected to where you live (while supporting nature-based learning!) during challenging times. The Great Barrington Land Conservancy (GBLC) invites folks to participate as a family or individual in a nature-focused activity they designed for home. During April 2020, GBLC will hold a Tree Seed Photo Challenge. Each week they will post a photo of a seed and ask you to identify it. This challenge leads up to Arbor Day (always the last Friday in April in Massachusetts), where participants will be entered to win prizes. This is a great community invite to step outside, engage with nature, and to learn a little bit more about GBLC and the mission of Arbor Day.

NATURE CENTER/HITCHCOCK CENTER: Keep connected with nature and the seasons while staying safe at home! The Hitchcock Center in Amherst, MA, has virtual nature-inspired offerings, including their favorite off-the-beaten-path hikes, teaching resources, animal anecdotes, seasonal discoveries, bird watching, and nature-based bingo! Find out more online: www.hitchcockcenter.org.

ENTOMOLOGY/BUTTERFLIES: Why Is Blue So Rare In Nature? “Among living things, the color blue is oddly rare. Blue rocks, blue sky, blue water, sure. But blue animals? They are few and far between. And the ones that do make blue? They make it in some very strange and special ways compared to other colors. In this video, we’ll look at some very cool butterflies to help us learn how living things make blue, and why this beautiful hue is so rare in nature.” – It’s Okay To Be Smart

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.

DENDROLOGY/ECOLOGY: For more online tree learning links, check out this list Regreen Springfield posted to their website for using to introduce trees and the natural world via the web.

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

Start planning for Fall 2020!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Online Events: Suggest a distant learning event!

  • Check Hilltown Families Facebook event page for free virtual events! Want to have your Facebook event page added? Add Hilltown Families as a co-host. Event must be free, based out of Western MA, and a single event (not a series). Questions? DM!
  • Friday, April 24, 1-2pm – ART STUDIES/COLLAGE: Collage at Home: Circle Up with Collage (Online Series). Stockbridge, MA. ($)

LOCAL HISTORY/WALKING TOURS: Western Massachusetts is rich in walking tours, an excellent community-based educational learning activity families can do together on their own. Unlike scheduled tours guided by interpreters, self-guided walking tours offer flexibility to explore on terms that best fit the needs of your family within the context of their community. Families can use walking tours as a way to expand on a subject that children learn about in their school-based curriculum while strengthening a sense of place through place-based learning and discoveries. Read more in our post, Learn About Western Massachusetts Communities & History on Foot with Self-Guided Walking Tours!.

NAUMKEAG/LOCAL HISTORY: Learn about history with a journey through the contents of a closet at Naumkeag, the Gilded-Age summer home of the Choate family located in Stockbridge, MA. Now a property of The Trustees, Naumkeag is a quintessential country estate of the Gilded Age with a gracious house, magnificent gardens, and panoramic views. This architectural masterpiece is a National Historic Landmark, providing a special link to the history of the Berkshires.

FASHION HISTORY/HISTORIC NORTHAMPTON: History at Home with Historic Northampton. The museum’s new virtual learning and engagement resources support an interest in local history through their collections and activities. Online learning featured on their website includes fashion history, as shown in this video featuring the history and purpose of a “cardinal cloak.”

VENTFORT HALL/AMERICAN HISTORY: Take a virtual tour of Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox, MA! Ventfort Hall is an imposing Jacobean Revival-style mansion built in 1893 for Sarah Morgan, the sister of J. P. Morgan. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Ventfort Hall is the home of The Museum of the Gilded Age. The Gilded Age as a time of rapid economic growth in the United States, occurring in the late 19th century. Ventfort Hall was one of the approximately seventy-five so-called “Cottages” built in Lenox in the last century when the village became a popular Gilded Age resort. Through exhibits and events, The Museum of the Gilded Age interprets the great changes that occurred in American life, industry, and society during the Nineteenth Century, a fascinating period of American history. For more information, take a virtual tour in this video and visit them online at http://www.gildedage.org.

AVIATION HISTORY/VIRTUAL MUSEUM: The New England Air Museum in Windsor, CT, has made it easy for folks to stay engaged with the museum online while supporting studies in STEM, aerodynamics, and history through the lens of aviation!

SOCIAL MOVEMENTS/LUDDITES: Sewing has been a vital part of human life for more than ten thousand years. The earliest forms of sewing involved using animal sinews and bones. The world’s first sewing machine was invented in 1790 by Englishman Thomas Saint and the technology quickly shifted the production of textiles from the home to massive mills throughout England. Working conditions in these mills were exceedingly harsh and artisans whose skills had been passed down for generations suddenly found themselves being replaced by unskilled laborers. The general sentiment among textile workers was that automation and industrialism were bound to make them increasingly irrelevant. This situation came to a head in the early 19th century, while Great Britain was embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. Groups of weavers and other textile workers began burning down mills and destroying machines. Drawing inspiration from the legendary Ned Ludd, who allegedly destroyed two stocking frames in 1779, the workers began calling themselves ‘Luddites.’ The response by the British government was severe. At one time during the Luddite Uprising, which lasted until 1817, there were more British troops fighting the Luddites than fighting Napoleon. All over the country, the Luddites attacked industrialism by all possible means. Mill owners were assassinated, merchants who traded in industrially produced textiles were attacked, and countless machines were destroyed. After the British government declared the destruction of a machine to be a capital crime and increasing numbers of Luddites and their sympathizers were hanged or killed by the army, the movement lost momentum. The legacy of Luddites, however, has had an enormous impact on the history of the labor rights movement. Renowned historian Eric Hobsbawm, for example, identified machine breaking as an early form of “collective bargaining by riot.”

THE TRUSTEES/LOCAL HERITAGE: The Trustees of Reservations has launched a new Trustees at Home page on their website. Get a virtual dose of nature. Connect with art, culture, and history. Learn how to cultivate your garden. Keep the kids busy. Visit one of their working farms. And more!

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 TOUR: 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.”

CULTURAL HISTORY/TOILET PAPER: Let’s learn through the lens of toilet paper! Oddly tied to current affairs, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has left many grocery store shelves empty of toilet paper! Why? Fear of a dirty behind? Who knows. But what we do know is the history behind (pun intended!) toilet paper. History Guy shares a look at world history and culture in his video, A Brief History of Toilet Paper.

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.


Mark Your Calendars.
Local Online Opportunities.
Virtual. Online. Zoom.


Check Hilltown Families Facebook event page for free virtual events! Want to have your Facebook event page added? Add Hilltown Families as a co-host. Event must be free, based out of Western MA, and a single event (not a series). Questions? DM

Saturday, April 25, 9:30-11am – TODDLER/PARENT: Baby Sign Language Workshop. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Monday, April 27, 7-8:30pm – LITERATURE/BOOK DISCUSSION: VIRTUAL: Great Books Discussion: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Monday, April 27, 8-10pm – FILM STUDIES: VIRTUAL: Far Out Film Discussion via Zoom: Dr. Mabuse the Gambler. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 28, 3:30-4:15pm – YA BOOK CLUB: VIRTUAL ONLY: Kids’ Book Club: King of the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

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

Thursday, April 30 – LANGUAGE ARTS/POETRY: Poem in Your Pocket Day. 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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