75+ Suggested Events, Resources & Learning Ideas for June 20-26, 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 10,000 opt-in subscribers and 2.7 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.

SUBSCRIBE to our eNewsletter to stay up-to-date!
Sneak peaks of our newest podcast.

Bulletin Board

Virtual Programs

Online Program Jun 22-Aug 14

Montessori School of Northampton Summer 2020 Virtual Programs. Online/Northampton, MA. Group classes w/individual lessons/instruction included. Half & full-day options offered. All virtual programs designed to balance engaging instructional content w/mindfulness for appropriate screen time intervals. For elementary & middle school students they offer online modules like Film & Videography, LEGO Engineering w/Play-Well TEKnologies, Social Justice Workshop, How to Make a Radio Play, Make Your Own Podcast, STEM Engineering, Ukulele instruction, Instrument Building, Dance, Visual Arts, Dungeons & Dragons, Graphic Novel/Comic Book Art, and Digital Animation & Coding workshops with Holyoke Codes. For 40+ years, MSN has offered engaging summer programs for children 18mo-8th grade in the tradition of Italian educator Maria Montessori. Dates: Jun 22-Aug 14; Age Range of Participants: 5-14yo. Contact: 413-563-4645. summer@northamptonmontessori.org. msn.coursestorm.com

Online Camp Jun 8 – Aug 28

Virtual Camp

GCC Summer Virtual STEAM Camps. Online. GCC has paired up with Black Rocket, a national leader in tech-education, to bring Virtual Summer STEAM Camps to kids ages 8-14. Taught live by teachers with expertise in STEAM, the online camps will run for 12 weeks. Offering courses on topics such as coding, game design, eSports, virtual reality, and more, Black Rocket’s camps invite students to engage in cutting-edge curriculum designed to encourage their imaginations & bring their ideas to life. Each week-long session is divided into 2 sections: 3-hour session in the morning for 8-11yo & 3-hours in the afternoon for 11-14yo. Virtual Campers will benefit from smaller break-out sessions with Black Rocket coaches and ongoing access to Black Rocket’s Creator Corps. Tuition starts at $149. Dates: Jun 8-Aug 28; Age Range of Campers: 8-14yo. Contact: 413-775-1661. colek@gcc.mass.edu. noncredit.gcc.mass.edu

Now Virtual!

Online Programs Jul 6 – 31

The Bement School Online Summer Programs. The Bement School is excited to offer remote summer enrichment opportunities for middle school-age students in the summer of 2020! Beginning in July, students will engage in academically-focused classes taught by Bement’s renowned faculty. Students will be challenged in small, specialized remote instruction with a focus on individual attention and skill-building that will allow participants to explore their passions or prepare for their upcoming school year. Each class will occur between July 6 and July 31 under a Monday-Friday model with instructor office hours available. Visit online to learn more! Dates: Jul 6-31; Age Range of Campers: 10-15yo. Contact: 413-774-7061 ♦ summer@bement.orgwww.bement.org/summer

Three virtual music programs this summer!

Jul 6 – Aug 16

Virtually Rock the Summer! Institute for the Musical Arts Rock the Summer 2020 to be held on-line. IMA’s on-line music programs offer girls & young women tools to confidently use computers to generate & share music that they create individually & together. Programs will utilize digital tools to enable students to work collaboratively on the development, home recording & virtual presentation of their music. IMA’s faculty is composed of seasoned musicians, producers & engineers, many of whom have been ground-breakers for women in the field of music. July 6-12 Explore Rock ‘n Roll, performance-based program for preteen girls 9–12yo; July 15-26 Rock ’n Roll Performance, designed for teen-aged girls 13-19yo; Aug 6-16 Recording, Engineering & Producing, designed for girls & young women 16-24yo. Programs culminate in virtual concerts/listening party. Dates: Jul 6-Aug 16; Age Range of Participants: Girls/Young Women 9-24yo. Contact: 413-268-3074. info@ima.org. www.ima.org

What would the summer be without a visit to Look Memorial Park, a place where families from all over the region visit to spend time together outdoors and in nature! Open daily 7am-sunset, the park has partially reopened their grounds including their water spray park (11am-4:30pm). Located at the rotary in Florence, the park now has a limited number of picnic sites available for rent (10 ppl. max), and vehicle entry into the park is only $5 on Mondays. Bathrooms & tennis courts are open; however, some attractions are still closed until further notice. Entry to the park is $10/vehicle. Free to walk in. Season passes are $50. Guests are asked to use hand sanitizer before and after play, maintain social distancing, do not wear a mask while in the water, and that children should be supervised at all times. For more info: 413-584-5457.

ADVERTISE HERE: Partner with Hilltown Families in your online advertising! Delivering your message each week to over 25,000 subscribers, web visitors, and social media followers, Hilltown Families can deliver your message to thousands of readers in Western MA who are committed to their community and willing to support one another in times of need. Local and online businesses, virtual and local service providers, non-profit organizations, and individuals in need of services are encouraged to reach out to find out about our affordable advertising options. Please send us an email to find out how we can partner together in your online marketing and outreach, contact Sienna at swildfield@hilltownfamilies.org.

June 20-26, 2020

Saturday, June 20Sunday, June 21
Monday, June 22Tuesday, June 23Wednesday, June 24
Thursday, June 25Friday, June 26

Subscribe to Our Weekly eNewsletterAdvertising & Partnership Opportunities
Class DirectoryPreschool DirectoryBirthday Party Venue Directory
Cultural Itinerariesen Español

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, June 20, 2020

Suggested Events: Click here to suggest distant learning and in person events!

Want to have your online or in person event, class, or workshop featured with Hilltown Families? Inquire at info@hilltownfamilies.org.


RADIO SHOW: HFVS Caring for the Earth with Guest DJs, Ruth and Emilia. Award winning mother/daughter children’s duo Ruth and Emilia share their favorite songs about taking care of the environment. Listen in as they play songs about recycling, re-using, reducing, and planting trees and flowers to help mother earth stay healthy! ♥ 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!

SUMMER SOLSTICE: Seasonal patterns can be as subtle as the daily shifting shadows of the Earth-orbiting around the sun. The summer solstice is the culmination of shifting light towards that liminal space where the trend toward increasing sunshine hours pivots towards a decrease in daylight. Today at precisely 5:43pm EDT, cultures across the world and throughout history, celebrate the sun reaching its farthest northerly position from the Earth. The summer solstice is a community-based educational event in which everyone has access. Getting curious about the science of the solstice and its impact on the humanities can be a catalyst for learning while strengthening a sense of place. Cultural heritage, science, and pastry arts are a few points of entry to consider during this seasonal observation.

ASTRONOMY/STEM: “Holy astronomical complexity!” If you think the summer solstice is just the result of the Sun reaching its highest point in the sky and that’s all there is to the seasons, think again! Rebecca Kaplan’s TED-Ed talk, “Reasons for the Seasons,” illustrates the complex answers to a couple of questions. “Why do some regions experience full-time heat while others are reckoning with frigid temperatures and snow?” and “Why are the seasons reversed in the two hemispheres?” Her video illustrates the shape of the Earth’s orbit and the effect on the amount of daylight different regions of the Earth receive. Watch her video and check out a couple of activities TED-Ed recommends to expand your STEM learning, including activities for drawing ellipses and solar angular height measurements.

CULTURE STUDIES/FOLK DANCE: The summer solstice is an important celebration in countries worldwide, celebrated under many names, including Midsummer or St. John’s Day. Traditionally celebrated by European countries, there are also some countries in the southern hemisphere where it is winter who celebrate Midsummer in June, as Europeans influenced the roots of their modern culture, like “Festa Junina” in Brazil. In Sweden, Midsummer is second to Christmas in their cultural celebrations. Many traditions are observed during Swedish Midsummer, including eating Herring and boiled new potatoes, picking flowers, and dancing around a maypole. One of their traditional maypole dances performed at midsummer is Små grodorna (Swedish for “The Little Frogs”), a legendary Swedish dance and song. Follow your interests in your learning about other cultures through the lens of the summer solstice, starting with the Swedish folk dance, Små grodorna. Learn the lyrics here and the dance in this video below:

NUTRITIONAL ANTHROPOLOGY/PASTRY ARTS: The sun sits high in the sky on the longest day of the year, giving our honeybees an abundance of warm sunlight for visiting flowers and making their golden sweet honey. As with any celebration, the summer solstice deserves a delightful dish to honor the sun, the honeybee, and the sweetness of community. Honey cakes are traditional baked items that show up at Midsummer celebrations and are present in cultures all over the world using various ingredients. Greek Honey Cakes are flavored with lemon zest and cinnamon. Sicilian Honey Cakes incorporate olive oil and orange honey. Mexican Honey Cakes combine cayenne pepper and cocoa powder. For the Summer Solstice, try this recipe for a Rustic Honey Cake to share with family and friends on the long day of the year.

COMMUNITY-BASED EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE/UMASS SUNWHEEL: The Sunwheel at UMass Amherst attracts visitors on the summer solstice, helping them gain a greater awareness and understanding of astronomy and cosmic cycles. According to organizers, “At the solstice (stationary sun), the sun’s rising and setting positions barely change for more than a week. From June 15 to 25, the sun’s shift will be less than one-fifth of its own size. That’s barely detectable without astronomical instruments, so any of those days would be great to visit the Sunwheel to see the alignment of the standing stones with the rising or setting position of the sun.” This year self-directed learners are invited to visit the Sunwheel at sunrise (5:15am) and sunset (7:50pm) on June 15-25, 2020. To avoid crowds during the coronavirus pandemic, there will be no presentations this year. Visitors should wear masks and be prepared for the possibility of wet footing and mosquitoes. Families can still enjoy solstice sunrises and sunsets with social distancing! UMass Sunwheel. Rocky Hill Road (near UMass McGuirk Stadium). Amherst, MA.

ONLINE EVENT/STONEHENGE: In Western MA, the Sunwheel at UMass is a solar calendar and observatory families can use to support experiential learning about cosmic cycles and the seasons. Another example of this type of solar calendar is Stonehenge, one of the world’s most famous solar calendars on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire County in South West England. The stones can be seen from miles around and took many hundreds of years to build, beginning in the late Neolithic Age, around 3000 BC. It’s hard to wrap your head around the formidable presence of Stonehenge without visiting in person. The next best thing is to take a 360° tour of Stonehenge and to take the time to learn about the mysteries and theories behind this famous stone calendar. You can also join them live for the summer solstice this year! For the first time, the annual summer solstice celebration will go global via streaming video. They’ll be broadcasting the sunset on Saturday, June 20 and sunrise on Sunday, June 21. Sunset is at 21:26 BST (20:26 GMT) and sunrise is at 04:52 BST (03:52 GMT). (Use this as an opportunity to also learn about time conversion!) They’ll be live for at least 30 minutes before and will be announcing their full schedule soon.

STONEHENGE/SCIENCE: In this episode of SciShow, “What Science Has Taught Us About Stonehenge,” Hank Green reviews the different explanations which have been proposed over the years on the origin of Stonehenge, including lost technology and paranormal theories. But what do we actually know about this prehistoric mystery? Science has taught us a lot about Stonehenge, confirming what we now know and what still remains a mystery.


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Suggested Events: Click here to suggest distant learning and in person events!

Want to have your online or in person event, class, or workshop featured with Hilltown Families? Inquire at info@hilltownfamilies.org.


FATHER’S DAY/HISTORY: Father’s Day is an annual observation day where we can pause to appreciate the Father’s and Father figures in our lives. Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day has a history rooted in gratitude, which signals the celebration of family every year. But Father’s Day and Mother’s Day aren’t the only family-centric days of appreciation. There’s also American Family Day (8/2/20), Parents’ Day (7/26/20), National Grandparents’ Day (9/13/20), and National Aunt and Uncle Day (7/26/20), among others. Different observation days can lead the way to not only learn about history through the lens of the family but also to take the time to practice gratitude and appreciation for members of our family and within our community that hold spaces in our hearts.

GENEALOGY/FAMILY HISTORY: Celebrate Father’s Day with family stories and shared memories. In doing so, you may want to consider making your own family tree together to preserve your personal histories. You can collect letters, photographs, and other significant objects in your family history before sitting down to create your family tree. Social media sites, such as Pinterest, can help you curate a group of images that inspire what you would like the family tree to look like. Perhaps it’s an art activity everyone does together that can be framed and displayed in your living room. If you’d like a family tree that is multimedia, consider adding anecdotes, recipes, stories, photographs, and letters. Making a family tree together provides the space for intergenerational interaction, storytelling, and the sharing of personal history.

WORLD CULTURE/KINSHIP: “Not every language talks about family the same way. Why did Latin have so many words for “cousin”? When does “brother” also mean “sister” in Hawaiʻian? How did Ashanti kin terms thwart British colonizers? An animated exploration of kinship around the world!” In this episode of NativLang, “Family Trees in Other Languages: Our World’s 7 Kinship Systems,” learn about different cultures through their kinship systems, follow your questions, and be curious to discover the world through the family tree.

WORLD CULTURE/INDIA: Creating or reviewing your family tree? Let the idea of the family tree lead your learning about cultural history, starting with this episode of Great Big Story, “The Largest Handwritten Family Tree in the World.” “The Ganges River is a highly revered site by Hindus and an iconic, historical epicenter in India. As hundreds of thousands of people visit the Ganges each year, there is a dedicated group of priests, better known as pandits, working quietly behind the scenes. In small offices that line the river, they keep handwritten records of everyone who has visited the holy site. These documents function as historical and genealogical archives that even record births and deaths in each visiting family. With archives dating back 20 generations, it is the largest handwritten family tree in the world.”

POETRY/FATHER’S DAY: In 1910, inspired by the already established Mother’s Day, the first Father’s Day was proclaimed. It wasn’t until 1972 that it became a federal holiday to be observed on the third Sunday in June. Similar to Mother’s Day, consider celebrating this holiday with the father figures in your life. Give non-commercial gifts that are handmade or creative in thought to those you consider fatherly spirits by making cards and offering gifts that engage your creativity and our local community. (So much better than another tie or wallet!) Looking for the right words to share in your handmade card? Let poets inspire your muse! Many have shared emotions and stories as they relate to the father figure in their lives. Visit www.poets.org and search for “poems about fathers.” Let Father’s Day be a catalyst for sharing and exploring poetry with children, supporting language arts and emotional intelligence.

COMMUNITY-BASED EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE/VISTAS & BYWAYS: June is a month that encourages time spent outdoors, so why not plan an excursion along one of the many Western Massachusetts scenic byways! Along the way, you can stop at different farm stands, take photographs of beautiful country views, take a hike, and enjoy a picnic lunch at one of our many vistas. (See September/October Season issue of Learning Ahead for a list of area vistas.) Scenic byways to explore with the father figures you cherish in your life can be found at www.bywayswestmass.com. They include:

While traveling these back roads, look for rivers and their tributaries and see if you can identify their impact on local history as you travel through different mill towns, taking the time to learn about the various manufacturing industries that resulted in the 19th-century industrial age. Note the architecture of the mill buildings, the infrastructure remnants of rail transportation, and the repurposing and transformation of spaces once used for industry. You’re sure also to encounter covered bridges, museums, historic districts, landmarks, and wooded landscapes while traveling, so plan accordingly and arrive feeling curious!

Start planning now!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Suggested Events: Click here to suggest distant learning and in person events!

Want to have your online or in person event, class, or workshop featured with Hilltown Families? Inquire at info@hilltownfamilies.org.


LADY SLIPPER/NATIVE ORCHID: “Writing professor Kyhl Lyndgaard finds that 19th-century attitudes about ‘Indian removal’ were echoed by a notable shift in the common names of native orchids.” This is the sentence that begins the article, “Taking Off the Moccasin Flower and Putting On the Lady’s Slipper,” published by Potash Hill, the magazine of Marlboro College. Using the Lady Slipper (sp. Cypripedium acaule), in which we’ve seen a “bumper crop” this year, as a catalyst for learning, let’s begin here, the renaming of native orchids and other plants. Learning about the history and origin of different native plant species names can support a wide variety of subjects, including Native American studies, U.S. history, ethnobotany, poetry, and ecology. In Lyndgaard’s article, these subjects are tied together by weaving a story about Indian Removal through poetry, history, and the renaming of the Moccasin Flower. Read more in our post, Nature-Based Learning: Learning through the Lens of the Wild Orchid.

ETHNOBOTANY/CULTURAL STUDIES: Ethnobotany weaves together countless stories to study the relationship between local culture and people and the traditional knowledge and practical use of local plants. For decades, ethnobotanist Nancy Turner has roamed Canada’s west coast, recording how First Nations elders dug roots, picked berries, and prepared ancient foods. Here she shares one of the stories she has documented:

NATIVE PLANTS/NATIVE AMERICAN STUDIES: Guided by local plant phenology and looking through the lens of ethnobotany, we can support our learning about traditional cultures and native plant species within the context of the season. Look for local resources with primary source context, like the burning of mishoon canoes with Nolumbeka Project and living examples of native plant species used within the context of ethnobotany at botanical gardens like the Berkshire Botanical Garden. Check out books from your local library to support your learning, too, like Native Plant Stories by Joseph Bruchac for early learners and Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moerman and Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer for life-long learners. Get curious as you explore, asking questions, and seeking answers. The Native American Ethnobotany Database is an online resource for discovering plant-based foods, medicines, fibers, and dyes of Native American Peoples. Type in a native plant species near you and let the answers and your curiosity lead your learning.

WILD ORCHID/INTERDISCIPLINARY LEARNING: Returning to the Moccasin Flower, our learning can easily branch from Native American studies and ethnobotany towards ecology, art, and even mythology. Here are a few links to continue your learning through the lens of Cypripedium acaule. Pick your point of entry and let your interests lead the way:

WOODLAND GARDENS: Woodland gardens, also known as shade gardens, are pleasant types of gardens to create and enjoy. Just like the educational value of growing an annual food garden, preparing and attending a woodland garden with your kids has many embedded multidisciplinary learning opportunities too: Determining the proper pH can support an interest in chemistry; Understanding how the different layers of a woodland garden depend on one another and how they support native insect populations can support and interest in ecology and biodiversity… Yet woodland gardens seem to confuse both novice and intermediate gardeners alike. If you follow these five steps in our archived post, The Garden Plot: Woodland Gardens Grow Multidisciplinary Learning, you will be well on your way to a successful woodland garden.

Schools are accepting applications for 2020/2021 school year!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Suggested Events: Click here to suggest distant learning and in person events!

Want to have your online or in person event, class, or workshop featured with Hilltown Families? Inquire at info@hilltownfamilies.org.


STRAWBERRY SEASON: To Algonquin tribes, for whom present-day New England was once home, as well as many other Native American Nation’s, June’s full moon is known as the Full Strawberry Moon. The burst of red berries happens quickly, and the time during which strawberries are harvested is relatively short compared to many other fruits and vegetables. As a result, June’s moon served as a symbol of strawberry season. Learning these traditional names of the moons and their associated Native American stories will teach us about Native American culture within the lens of the seasons. Through gratitude and acknowledgment of our natural environment, in this video Grandmother Kim Wheatley shares a traditional Indigenous strawberry teaching by way of song and story.

COMMUNITY-BASED EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE/PYO FARMS: One of the most experiential ways to learn the strawberry fruit is to pick your own. Western Massachusetts is filled with farms, many of which begin their summer season with PYO berry patches. For young children, picking berries on a farm offers experiential learning about botany and ecology (worms, spiders, slugs, etc.). For older children, berry picking provides a chance to learn about farming practices and seasonal foods. Learning about how strawberry plants grow can give children an entirely new appreciation for the seasonal nature of the delicious red berries. Check with your favorite PYO farm to see what they PYO opportunities they are offering this year, including Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst and Mountain View Farm in Lanesborough.

KITCHEN SCIENCE/STRAWBERRIES: Did your family pick a bounty of strawberries? There are a lot of ways to integrate these red jewels into learning opportunities in your kitchen. Teach kids how to make smoothies, jam, bake a pie, or reproduce an old family recipe, and help support their skills in reading comprehension, following directions, basic math, measurement, and of course – self-sufficiency. Putting up berries by canning, freezing, or cooking them into a jam, jelly, or sauce is a great way to prolong the season, like this video for

Here are some cookbooks that make great resources for using strawberries in the kitchen:

Plan ahead for Fall 2020!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Suggested Events: Click here to suggest distant learning and in person events!

Want to have your online or in person event, class, or workshop featured with Hilltown Families? Inquire at info@hilltownfamilies.org.


ENTOMOLOGY/NATIVE BUTTERFLIES: Much like bees, butterflies play an essential role in our ecosystem. As pollinators, butterflies help to ensure that plants exchange genetic material, which we depend on to enjoy many of our favorite foods! However, changes in the way humans live and how we interact with our surroundings have caused butterfly populations to decline (especially the iconic monarch). Learning about butterflies and their role in our ecosystem can support an understanding and appreciating our surroundings. Luckily, opportunities for self-directed learning about these beautiful Lepidoptera happen all summer as different species of butterflies visit your home garden, local parks, and nearby meadows. Paying attention to the different colors and sizes of butterflies you see, their behavior, plants they visit, the days and times you see them, and participating in a butterfly count are a few ways to connect to the season through butterflies. Keep a butterfly journal where you can take notes and include sketches of butterflies you see and the plants they visit or images you might snap with your phone or camera. Following the changing flora and fauna in your local landscape is a great way to support interests and education while deepening a sense of place.

LEPIDOPTEROLOGY/GARDENING: If you’re lucky, this time of year, you might catch a kaleidoscope of male butterflies in the act of “puddling.” The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) is one of the most common butterflies in our region. You can sometimes find the males in a group on the ground along the edge of a river where they are retrieving salts that are necessary for reproduction but not available in nectar. Even better, you can create a butterfly feeder where butterflies can come and puddle near your home garden. Learn how to create a butterfly puddler in this video:

BIOMIMICRY/LUNA MOTH: According to Wikipedia, “Luna moths are not rare, but are rarely seen due to their very brief (7–10 day) adult lives and nocturnal flying time. As with all giant silk moths, the adults do not eat, and thus are not seen visiting flowers.” But if you do happen upon the rare opportunity of seeing a Luna Moth, you can’t help but be dazzled by their lime-green coloring and “brilliant, feather tail.” Scientists were curious as to why Luna Moths have these long tails, so they did a bat-load of scientific research and found that their form interferes with the echolocation of bats, their number one predator. In this video, learn about the biomimicry and how the Luna Moth supports scientific research in stealth aircraft development, which can deflect radio waves.

ENTOMOLOGY/LEPIDOPTEROLOGY: SciShow Kids asks, “Do you have a favorite insect? We really like butterflies! But there’s another awesome insect with really big wings and long antenna that you might see flapping around: moths! Moths and butterflies can look really similar, but we’ve got some tips to help you tell them apart!” Discover these tips in their episode, “Butterfly or Moth?” Grab the kids and join them to learn about the differences between the two. Tips include the differences between a cocoon and a chrysalis, straight and feathered antennae, how they hold their wings, and what time of the day they are active. After learning, play their guessing game, “Moth or Butterfly?”


Start planning now!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Suggested Events: Click here to suggest distant learning and in person events!

Want to have your online or in person event, class, or workshop featured with Hilltown Families? Inquire at info@hilltownfamilies.org.


SUMMER SUN/HELIOSEISMOLOGY: Helioseismology is the study of the structure and dynamics of the sun through its oscillations. Using the sun for hands-on science, well, we can just call that fun! Utilizing summer sun can mean making the most of the long days, but the endless rays offered this time of year lend themselves to sunshine-based science projects. Whether studying the physical characteristics of the sun, like it’s core, solar flares or sunspots, or the relationship between light and heat, examining evaporation, or exploring UV radiation, sun-based science is best when conducted during the sun’s brightest, warmest, and strongest time of year! In this episode of CrashCourse, “The Sun: Crash Course Astronomy #10,” let’s take a look at the two-octillion ton star that rules our solar system.

DIY CRAFT/SUN PRINTS: An activity that allows young scientists to experiment with the power of the sun’s rays is the creation of construction paper sun prints. Often created using special photosensitive paper, sun prints can be easily done at home using dyed paper and interesting objects. When left in the sun, construction paper will fade. When objects are layered on top of the paper, the paper is protected, leaving behind an un-faded spot in the shape of the object. By using materials that let varying degrees of light travel through them, young scientists can explore the qualities of transparency, translucency, and opacity while creating their artistic masterpieces. Here is another idea that uses cloth and acrylic paint rather than just construction paper:

SCIENCE EXPERIMENT/SUNSCREEN: With the heat of the sun comes the constant application of sunscreen, and, of course, we’re all hoping to use the most effective sunscreen possible. While choices can be made based on SPF, brand, and/or ingredients, experimenting to see what sunscreens work best can support healthy decision-making and teaches young scientists about the powers (and dangers) of UV radiation. The simplest way to test sunscreen involves applying it to construction paper and waiting for the sun to fade the paper. A more tech-y sunscreen test uses a UV monitor to track the amount of UV radiation that makes its way through the barrier provided by various sunscreens. Either method of testing sunscreen illuminates the reasons for its use! If you have more than one bottle of sunscreen, give this experiment a go testing the differences between SPF levels and brands. If you get different results, get curious, ask why, and search for the answers.

SOLAR ENERGY/DISTILLATION: After all of this time in the sun, scientists are bound to get thirsty eventually. There’s no need to find a faucet, though, as the sun can be used to distill water! A simple solar still can be created at home to utilize evaporation to clean water. With simple weights and the sun’s heat, saltwater can be scientifically transformed into deliciously drinkable freshwater, though the process is slow. Obtaining an entire glass of water, or even enough water to have a good drink, can take a whole day or more. Still, the science behind the process is fascinating, and water purification is a useful skill to have. In this video is a simple experiment using saltwater. Give it a try, and as the video suggests, try other liquids and compare and contrast the results.

SOLAR ENERGY: Did you know that every hour the sun produces enough energy to power the earth for an entire year! At 109 times the size of the earth, the sun can curb our dependence on fossil fuels via solar energy. In this video,  “Material Marvels with Ainissa Ramirez – Solar Cells,” Ainissa walks us through the process of converting sand into solar “sandwiches,” explaining how these solar cells are made and how we can benefit from the energy they can capture from our old friend, the sun.


Start planning for Fall 2020!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Suggested Events: Click here to suggest distant learning and in person events!

Want to have your online or in person event, class, or workshop featured with Hilltown Families? Inquire at info@hilltownfamilies.org.


NATURE-BASED LEARNING/MATHEMATICAL REASONING: As you gaze at the base of a pinecone, 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.

NATURE-BASED LEARNING/GEOMETRY: “From spirals to spots to fractals, nature is full of interesting patterns. Many of these patterns even resemble geometric shapes. One of the most common? Hexagons. Why do we see this six-sided shape occur so many times in nature? Why do we see this six-sided shape occur so many times in nature?” In this episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart, “Why Nature Loves Hexagons,” learn the answers to these questions. Through bubbles, basalt columns, and honeycombs, discover the integration of math, physics, and biology in the exploration of hexagons in nature.

GEOMETRY/CRYSTALS: Have you ever wondered why some crystals are specific shapes. In this TED-Ed video, “How do crystals work?,” discover the hidden mathematics inside the atomic repeating patterns that contribute to the crystalline structures of not only minerals, but also sand, DNA, ice, and metals. Learn what causes them to grow into these shapes and the geometric properties of crystals that contribute to this process.


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.

%d bloggers like this: