100+ Suggested Learning Ideas, Events & Resources for July 11-17, 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 over 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 learning ideas and community-based educational opportunities to explore at home and outdoors this weekend and next week.

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New England “OPEN” Air Museum reopens indoor & outdoor exhibit spaces! The New England Air Museum is the largest aviation museum in New England with 3 large hangars, outdoor exhibits, and 100+ aircraft ranging from early airships & flying machines to supersonic jets & helicopters. Open every day from 10am-3pm with public programs and activities ongoing in socially distanced style. With 90,000 square feet of aircraft hangars and wide-open hangar doors, there is no better place to go for safe, socially distanced fun. The outdoor space will remain open with 10 aircraft, and visitors can see another 50 aircraft indoors, plus dozens of engines and exhibits on various aspects of aviation history. The entire museum has been cleaned and sanitized with daily cleaning protocols to ensure the health & safety of all. Admission: $16/adults; $10/children 4-14yo; Free for ages 3 & under and Veteran. Located at 36 Perimeter Road in Windsor Locks, CT.


Online Program Jul 27-Aug 14

Berkshire Music School – Rock On(line) & OnStage LIVE! Online/Pittsfield, MA. BMS brings its most popular summer camps online! For youth 11-15, OnStage LIVE helps young singers free their voice through sessions focused on choosing repertoire, building stage presence, and working with a pre-recorded track. It’s the perfect opportunity for singers to prepare for auditions & theatrical performances. (July 27-31). Geared towards high school and college-age musicians, Rock On(line): Solid Gold Solos gives students the chance to tackle that solo they’ve always dreamed of playing with masterclasses, group instrument lessons, and workshops in songwriting and theory/composition. The program culminates in an online performance opportunity. (Session 1: Aug. 3-7 & Session 2: Aug. 10-14.) Private lessons are also available. Dates: Jul 27-Aug 14; Age Range of Participants: 11-21yo. Contact: 413-442-1411. smoderski@berkshiremusicschool.orgwww.BerkshireMusicSchool.org

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. In-person and virtual event organizers, local and online businesses, virtual and local service providers, non-profit organizations, and individuals are encouraged to reach out to find out about our affordable advertising options and marketing packages. To find out how we can partner together in your online marketing and outreach, contact Sienna at swildfield@hilltownfamilies.org.

July 11-17, 2020

Saturday, July 11Sunday, July 12
Monday, July 13Tuesday, July 14Wednesday, July 15
Thursday, July 16Friday, July 17

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Online and in-person events and resources shared below are done so as a courtesy and not as an endorsement. While we do our best to share accurate and up-to-date information, please take the time to confirm information, age appropriateness, registration requirements, safety protocols, and associated costs.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Suggested Events

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


The summer months are perfect for a bike ride! The bike paths are accessible for tandem rides, and these warmer months are often when children graduate from tricycles to two-wheelers. Besides being a heart-healthy activity that gets families outdoors through slow-travel in their neighborhoods and across town, bikes can support many interests for self-directed learning. With today’s module, let bikes lead the way for learning about engineering, history, manufacturing, cultural studies, aviation, and women’s studies.

BICYCLE/ENGINEERING HISTORY: “The bicycle is just as enjoyable to use as it is pragmatic, which is why it’s endured the test of time so well. Of course, it’s also managed to stay around because it’s adapted continuously and tweaked to fit any purpose. The journey from the velocipede and the boneshaker to the modern-day bike has certainly not been a quick one either. Here’s a short animated film of the progressive story to help you along with your riding history.”

MOUNTAIN BIKING/HISTORY: “Today’s hipsters and their fixie bikes are not the first to embody the cyclist’s too-cool-for-school persona. In the 1970s, counter-culture types in the mountains north of San Francisco took to careening down Mount Tamalpais. They were riding for adventure, exploration, and a way to interact with the landscape; they were not riding for exercise.” In this Fig. 1 by the University of California video, “The Daredevils Who Invented Mountain Biking,” Sarah McCullough, whose Ph.D. dissertation at UC Davis explores the history of mountain biking, explains how this group of renegade cyclists invented the sport.”

MANUFACTURING/BIKE PARTS: Take your interests in bikes and learn about the manufacturing of parts, like wheels and bike chains … and even bamboo bikes!

CULTURAL STUDIES/CUBA: In the 1990s, a bicycle revolution happened in Cuba. Bikes were introduced as an alternative and necessary mode of transportation. The culture was impacted as thousands of Cubans began riding bicycles for reasons ranging from transportation, business ventures, and leisure. In this video, Havana Bikes, “Ángel, a typical bike riding Habanero, provides a brief insight into Cuban bicycle culture and the importance of bike mechanics in the capital as we come across both riders and repairmen.”

AVIATION HISTORY/BIKE POWER: Did you know that before inventing the world’s first successful airplane, Orville and Wilbur Wright owned a bicycle shop? They repaired and rented out bicycles and eventually built their own bikes and invented small improvements to the machines. In addition to gaining practice in engineering skills, this business funded their aviation experiments. Fast-forward 60 years to Southampton University, where design students create the first human-powered aircraft to officially take-off and fly!

WOMEN’S HISTORY/BICYCLE: Besides funding aviation projects, inspiring engineers, and decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, what else have bicycles helped? Feminism. Cycling exploded around the 1890s as an affordable form of transportation. Learning to ride bicycles provided women with newfound mobility and freedom. Restrictive women’s clothing of the time, such as large hoop skirts and tight corsets, were not practical for cycling. The popularity of cycling lead, in part, to a change in women’s dress, which challenged ideas about women and their behavior. Although there were plenty of dissenters who wrote of the dangers of women’s cycling, unstoppable changes were already in motion. Learn more in this video, “How bicycles boosted the women’s rights movement.

LEARNING TO RIDE: Do you have kids just learning to ride a bike, or transitioning out of training wheels? How are you teaching them to ride their bikes? Check out our post, How Are You Teaching Your Kids to Ride A Bike? for reader recommendations and advice for parents with kids learning to ride a two-wheeler, along with this sweet short film about taking risks!


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Suggested Events

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


It’s cherry season! Tart cherries are turning red on cultivated cherry trees around Western Massachusetts, followed by native species in Mid-August to early September. One of the top producing countries of sweet cherries (Prunus avium) and tart cherries (Prunus cerasus), with roots in Native American culture (Prunus virginiana), it’s no wonder this stone fruit is a part of our cultural heritage. Cherries find their way onto our dinner tables and in our pantries. They are a great way to learn about Native American food traditions, colonial food history, culinary arts, wild edibles, food preservation, and local resources & seasonal events.

FARMERS’ MARKETS/FARMS & CHERRY FESTIVALS: Celebrations of the harvest are found in all communities, connecting agriculture with a sense of place. Cherry season is an example of a local harvest with associated festivals. While many of these might not be happening this year, festivals throughout the country often occur, like the Paonia Cherry Days Festival in Colorado, Emmett Cherry Festival in Idaoccure National Cherry Festival in Michigan. Closer to home is the annual Cherry Festival at Outlook Farm Barn & Eatery in Westhampton, slated for this year on Sunday, July 12. In addition to Outlook Farm, Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton is open to couples for PYO cherries and sells their cherries at the Tuesday Marketing in Northampton. And Clarkdale Fruit Farms sells their cherries at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market!

NATIVE AMERICAN STUDIES/FOOD STUDIES: Food is a strong pathway towards a sense of place. Eating a meal made solely with ingredients that are native to a region, like native chokecherries, can help connect us to a region through native wild edibles that are rich in cultural heritage. In this Great Big Story video, “The Chef Bringing Native American Food to Your Table,” Native American chef Sean Sherman helps re-educate the palate of Americans. He accomplishes this mission through gourmet dishes that use indigenous ingredients from North America, like chokecherries, bergamot, and buffalo, while abstaining from colonial ingredients, such as beef, wheat flour, and dairy.

COLONIAL HISTORY/COLONIAL AMERICAN COCKTAIL: For our lifelong learners, discover the history of Cherry Bounce via a recipe from the 1700s. Watching this video and preparing Cherry Bounce is a fun way to integrate lessons in Colonial American and food history.

PASTRY ARTS/CHERRIES: Pair lessons in pastry arts with cherry season! The French dessert, clafoutis, is a delicious way to prepare cherries. With a flan-like batter dusted with sugar, Limousin clafoutis is easy to make and best served lukewarm with cream. Pick up fresh cherries this week and give this recipe for an amazing French dessert a try! If you can’t get your hands on fresh cherries, substitute with fresh blackberries! After serving up this delicious dessert, see our Multicultural Celebration section to learn more about French pastries!

FOOD PRESERVATION/MARASCHINO CHERRIES: You’ve seen these bright red globes on top of ice cream sundaes and as a garnish to cocktails and Shirley Temples. These sweetened preserved cherries make a delicious topping, but their commercial brines with harsh chemicals aren’t so sweet. Learn how to make your own maraschino cherries at home with a basket of fresh fruit from your local farmers’ market or co-op and enjoy a homemade batch with your next ice cream sundae!


Start planning now!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Suggested Events:

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


Holidays and cultural celebrations can be found within the roots of the cultural heritage of a region. These yearly events often sprout out of events within religion, politics, and agriculture. Learning about multicultural celebrations is one way to learn about the culture and heritage of another country through the lens of their annual holidays and celebrations. In today’s self-directed learning module, lets journey to Japan, Portugal, France, and Puerto Rico by paying a visit to festivals, celebrations, and observation days, which happen in July. Let your learning spark curiosity, diving deeper by researching where your interests lead you, compare and contrast different festivals and political systems, integrating culinary arts by preparing associated foods, and explore their regional geography and habitat.

RELIGIOUS STUDIES/OBON FESTIVAL: In July, the Japanese Buddhist celebration of Obon takes place, a festival also known as the Feast of the Dead. Celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years, this is a time for families to come together to honor their ancestors through family reunions and visitations to ancestral family places. Contemporary celebrations include food, dancing, and of course, family. Learn more about Obon in this video. Compare and contrasts this holiday with other festivals of the dead, like El Dia de los Muertos in Mexico (Nov 1-2). Let it inspire telling your own family stories and notice how the sharing of family history through oral traditions connects the past with the present moment.

RELIGIOUS STUDIES/LADY OF FATIMA: July 13 is the Celebration of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. According to Wikipedia, “Our Lady of Fátima is a Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary based on the Marian apparitions reported in 1917 by three shepherd children at the Cova da Iria, in Fátima, Portugal. The three children were Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto.” It was on July 13, 1917, in which the third child experienced an apparition. Learning about the story behind Our Lady of Fátima, which took place in a small isolated village in Portugal, can support studies in history and theology through the lens of religious saints and the celebratory traditions in which cultures participate. In this video, learn more about the Our Lady of Fátima and take the time to deepen your studies of pilgrimages made by ancient and contemporary societies through research and discussions.

FRENCH HISTORY/BASTILLE DAY: Bastille Day on July 14 marks the beginning of the French Revolution. Learn more about Bastille Day and the history of what caused the French Revolution in the TED-Ed video, “What caused the French Revolution?” Learning about another country through its economic and political history is one point of entry. Other points of entry include food (pâtisseries), habitat (French Alps), and cultural heritage (bouquinistes).

PUERTO RICO HISTORY/CONSTITUTION DAY: July 25 is Puerto Rico Constitution Day. In this Vox video, “Why Puerto Rico is not a US state learn how “Puerto Rico became a US commonwealth, the tangled relationship that developed, and how it all affects prosperity and development on the island today.”


Schools are accepting applications for 2020/2021 school year!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Suggested Events:

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


Animated short films can spark the imagination and open up channels of learning. In today’s self-directed learning module, we’re featuring three short animated films to support learning and curiosity about the relationship between flowers and humans, the resiliency of nature and an optimistic outlook on mortality, and an animated representation of a well-known piece of classical music.


Plan ahead for Fall 2020!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Suggested Events:

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


The ability to walk on water has fascinated humans for millennia! We’ve created devises to help us walk on water and many have been inspired through illusions and faith. But scientifically speaking, we simply are not able. For this reason, we should be in awe of the 1,200+ species of animals who actually can! Their ability to walk on water is due to their relationship with physics and the chemistry of H2O. Many creatures have developed the skill to walk on water, including birds, lizards, mammals, spiders, and insects. Close to home here in Western MA, water striders capture our imaginations and reverence as they glide across the surface of still waters in the summertime. This native insect species is our guide today as we learn about entomology, physics, and chemistry through these select videos and STEM-based DIY science projects.

ENTOMOLOGY/WATER STRIDER: Water striders are native insect species who capture our attention during the summer months at nearby ponds and lakes. But did you know these fascinating creatures which serenely glide across calm waters are aquatic predators to which many insects face their doom? An important part of our ecosystems, learn about this amazing insect and their relationship with the physics of water in this Deep Look video, “This Is Why Water Striders Make Terrible Lifeguards.”

PHYSICS/SURFACE TENSION & ADHESION: Budding entomologist inspired by water striders can deepen their appreciation by learning about the scientific concepts of surface tension, cohesion, and adhesion in this Khan Academy video

DIY STEM ACTIVITY/SURFACE TENSION: “If you glance at a water strider, at first you might think that it is floating in the water, just like a boat. However, if you look very closely, you will see that it’s sitting on top of the water without actually breaking through the surface. How is that possible?” Surface tension! Learn more about this phenomenon from Science Buddies by building your own water strider and checking out their written instructions for an in-depth look.

PHYSICS/VIBRATION: Another fascinating way to learn about science through water is by discovering the effects vibration has on water. Water striders taught us about surface tension, but what are the other unique properties of water? In this jaw-dropping science experiment, the camera is able to capture what the naked eye can not see. Let it inspire you to follow your curiosity to learn more about the physics of water!


Start planning now!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Suggested Events:

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


Summertime games can bring us right back to our own childhood while imparting a sense of place through play during the warmer months. There is a wide variety in the types of games kids play, including tag games, hiding games, jumping games, memory games, parlor games, and hand games. Let these styles of games inspire your learning of new cooperative activities with friends and family, strengthening friendships and family bonds. Also, let your self-directed learning lead you to discover the history of these games and cultural variations through research and reading.

HAND CLAPPING GAMES: Clapping games are terrific summertime fun that can be done in the car on long road trips, in the sand at the beach, while waiting in line for your favorite ride at the amusement park, and so on! Read on about the different clapping games you can introduce into your child’s learn-scape. We’ve included resources to show you how: Hand Clapping Games: Summer & Schoolyard Creative Free Play that Supports Learning.







Start planning for Fall 2020!

Friday, July 17, 202

Suggested Events:

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


Whether it’s 4th of July fireworks or the May 2020 launch of a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station, rockets are inspiring to watch and are history in the making. Let’s ride this momentum of interest and curiosity with a self-directed learning module on rockets! Featured here are five videos explore physics, engineering, technology, women’s studies, and of course, play! These videos plus a Rockets: Educator Guide produced by NASA, which includes STEM activities, are sure to propel self-directed learning!


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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