100+ Suggested Learning Ideas, Events & Resources for July 25-31, 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 bthe 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

Online Program Jul 27-Aug 14


Barrington Stage Co. KidsAct! and TeensAct!: The Show Must Go On(line). Online/Pittsfield, MA. Barrington Stage Co. will be holding 2 weeks of virtual camps in August, customized for campers who want to build their acting skills and be engaged creatively. Campers will film themselves under the guidance of experienced teaching artists and create a virtual show together. Teaching artists will teach virtual classes, offer private coaching, and help campers with independent, project-oriented learning. Counselors will be available to answer questions outside of class, provide one-on-one coaching, and help with project completion. Students must have access to Zoom, a Google account, a device with an internet connection, and a camera. KidsAct! for 7–11yo. TeensAct! For 12-15yo. SESSION 1: Aug 10-14. SESSION 2: Aug 17-21. 10am–noon. Cost: $195. Dates: Aug 10-21; Age Range of Participants: 7-15yo. Contact: 413-997-6117. education@barringtonstageco.org. barringtonstageco.org

Deadline to register: August 7th
Add virtual or in-person classes, private lessons, tutoring services, and online educational opportunities to Hilltown Families’ annual Class Directory! The deadline to register for our Class Directory debut is August 7th. Reserve your spot now and benefit from free updates to your listing throughout the year. Advertise in the region’s go-to, online resource for community-based educational opportunities in Western Massachusetts, reaching thousands of students throughout the region.
Sign up by August 7th and take advantage of our advertising package!
More Information. | Reserve a spot. | Submit your listing.

Deadline to register: August 7th
Hilltown Families’ Preschool & Daycare Directory welcomes yearlong listings for preschools, daycares, and early childhood programs across Western MA, including indoor/outdoor and virtual/in-person programs. The deadline to register for our Preschool & Daycare Directory debut is August 7th. Reserve your spot now and benefit from free updates to your listing throughout the year. Advertise in the region’s go-to, online resource for community-based educational opportunities in Western Massachusetts, reaching thousands of students throughout the region.
Sign up by August 7th and take advantage of our advertising package!
More Information. | Reserve a spot. | Submit your listing.

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 25-31, 2020

Saturday, July 25Sunday, July 26
Monday, July 27Tuesday, July 28Wednesday, July 29
Thursday, July 30Friday, July 31

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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 25, 2020

Suggested Events

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


Much of what transpires here on earth is seasonal or cyclical. From the earth’s 24-hour orbit on it’s axis to its 365-day orbit around the sun, many of these cyclical patterns can be tracked in terms of hours or days. But they also exist in terms of years! Even millennia! Comets are an excellent example of a larger cyclical pattern we track according to time. Annually we pass through the same tails of comets, but on a larger scale, comets orbit around the sun, passing by the earth on a more cosmic timeline. For instance, the newly discovered Comet NEOWISE passes by the earth every 6,800 years! For today’s self-directed learning module, we will let comets lead the way, asking questions, and seeking answers.

What’s the difference between comets, asteroids, meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites?

What do you actually see during a meteor shower?

What is NASA’s plan to save the earth from a giant asteroid?

What do we know about the Chelyabinsk Meteor?

When is the next meteor shower? Shoot on over to the American Meteor Society to find out!


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Suggested Events

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


Card games have a rich history and are a popular family past time. Over a decade ago, we asked our readers to share their favorite family card games, and they had many great games to recommend! But if all you have on hand is a deck of playing cards, knowing the rules to a few poplar games can result in hours of fun and a load of learning! Today, our self-directed learning module looks through the lens of playing cards. There are many sociological and emotional developmental benefits for children when playing cards together. Start by getting curious about playing cards, their history, how they are manufactured, the cultural differences between the suites, and the origin of associated folk games. Learn about the different types of card games (i.e., trick-taking, matching, shedding, fishing, etc.), and then select games you’d like to learn to play (or teach to your kids).

HISTORY & FOLK GAMES/PLAYING CARDS: “The history of the development of the modern card deck includes some surprising facts!” The History Guy illustrated these facts, “portrayed in historical context and for educational purposes.” Check out this video for a general overview and dive deep by learning about the different geographic origins of Chinese playing cards, French playing cards, Ganjifa, German playing cards, Hanafuda, Italian playing cards, Karuta, Spanish playing cards, Swiss playing cards, and Tujeon.

MATH & STATISTICS/PLAYING CARDS: “One deck. Fifty-two cards. How many arrangements? Let’s put it this way: Any time you pick up a well-shuffled deck, you almost certainly hold an arrangement of cards that has never existed and might not exist again.” In this TED-Ed video, How many ways can you arrange a deck of cards? “Yannay Khaikin explains how factorials allow us to pinpoint the exact (very large) number of permutations in a standard deck of cards.”

TECHNOLOGY & MANUFACTURING/PLAYING CARDS: Take a tour of a manufacturing warehouse for playing cards. Getting curious about how systems are designed for manufacturing products, and the influences of the industrial revolution on our society, are useful perspectives to integrate into your learning through the lens of playing cards!

FOLK GAMES/PLAYING CARDS: Here are a few videos for learning the rules of various card games:

Start planning now!

Monday, July 27, 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 crafts and DIY projects can easily integrate hands-on projects with nature-based learning opportunities. For today’s self-directed learning module, we are featuring three DIY projects that are ideal for the summer and can potentially support interests in botany, Native American studies, folk traditions, mindfulness, entomology, and ecology.

BASKET COILING/FOLK TRADITION: Learn the ancient craft of coiling with pine needles. Coiling is an ancient form of basket weaving, a technique used when making pine needle baskets. Traditionally used to carry and store goods, these works of art are rich in American and world history and an excellent way to incorporate natural materials into functional and decorative arts. Learn more about this folk tradition by making your own basket using leaves for our native white pine trees.

SUN CATCHERS/MINDFULNESS: Gathering flowers and leaves to use for a sun catcher is an opportunity for kids to slow down and pay attention to the colors and textures of plants growing in their summer landscape. Gather materials to create a palette to create sun catchers and then follow this video pictorial on how to assemble. Invite a friend or family member from a different part of the country or region to do the same, and then trade! Share with one another the names and stories of the different plants and flowers you’ve selected for your sun catcher. Learn about the ecosystems of other regions through the selected plants while connecting to the season through story and sharing.

BEE HOTEL/ENTOMOLOGY: When looking to attract wildlife for children to observe, we often think of birds. But think about other creatures who could just as easily be housed and fed in your yard via DIY projects? It’s no secret these days that bee populations are quickly declining, and as it turns out, families can take some straightforward steps to offer bees appropriate habitats. To have bees to watch, families can build a bee hotel. There are a few different designs for homemade bee homes, each with a different level of difficulty. The simplest way to create a bee condo involves some recycled materials (paper straws, cardboard, and cardboard tubes) and hot glue, and doesn’t take too long to make. Folks with woodworking skills and slightly more time can use chunks of pine or fir wood (as well as some paper straws!) to make a long-lasting bee hotel that native bees will love to inhabit. Here is one option for a DIY bee hotel:


Schools are accepting applications for 2020/2021 school year!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Suggested Events:

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


Spiders! Maybe not a popular animal to study, but there is much to learn from these eight-legged neighbors, plus, they’re everywhere in the summer months! Learning about the different species of spiders is one place to start! With a field guide in hand, stop to take the time to learn about spiders in their natural habitat, seeking answers to questions like, “What kinds of webs do they spin?” and “How are they beneficial to gardens and ecosystems?” For today’s self-directed learning module, spiders spin a web of interests that connect us to place through amazing arachnids. Here are a few questions and interests to lead the way.

Why are we afraid of spiders? Psychology!

How do spiders spin their webs? Vibrations!

Can spiders fly? Yes, thanks to physics!


Plan ahead for Fall 2020!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Suggested Events:

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


In the summer months, compost bins are filled with all kinds of extraordinary wonders – worms, bugs, and leftover summer fruits and veggies – in all decomposition stages. Did you know that some of the bits of food that land in your compost bin can live a second life? Many of the food scraps that we discard can be turned into new plants, and for some, more food! Creating a kitchen scrap garden at any time of the year is incredibly easy and equally fascinating, and it can lead to experiential learning on plant growth and biology. In today’s self-directed learning module, get a cursory look at store bought produce you can regrow and which ones will produce more food. Plus, get a few lessons in botany along the way!

GARDENING/FOOD SCRAPS: Food scraps possessing the ability to regenerate easily fall into a few different categories. Edible bulbs, like scallions, onions, and garlic, will happily continue to produce flavorful green shoots so long as their white bulbs are preserved. Biennial green plants like celery, bok choy, lettuce, and cabbage can grow anew if the portion of the plant from which where the leaves and stalks originate.

Try growing food from bits left over from:


Start planning now!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Suggested Events

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


During the summer months, many families enjoy the great outdoors at night with a campfire. Learning about fire safety and extinguishing a campfire properly are two top priorities, and after that, let your curiosity lead the way. Today’s self-directed learning module includes these learning priorities and encourages curiosity about fire chemistry, how to build a campfire, foods to prepare over an open flame, and campfire stories!

What is the science behind the burning of wood & charcoal?

How to build a campfire?

Which campfire is best for you?

Are you cooking on a campfire? Here are some food hacks to share with your kids.

Need your morning pick-me-up after an evening camping in the woods? Blend a love of coffee and history by learning about this 18th-century technique and give it a try during your next camping adventure.


Start planning for Fall 2020!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Suggested Events:

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


So far this summer, our fruit-based learning has included strawberry, blueberry, and cherries. The first two are a type of berry, and cherries are a type of stone fruit! The summer begins with berries, peaks with stone fruits, and ends with apples. Seeing as it’s mid-summer, let’s learn through the lens of stone fruits in today’s self-directed learning module! Pick up a basket of freshly picked stone fruit at your local farmers’ market and get inspired by its juicy sweetness to learn about botany, agriculture, pastry arts, chemistry, and living art through the lens of fruit!

STONE FRUITS/PEACHES & NECTARINES: Let’s begin our learning with this video on how peach grow + two fun facts: 1.) A nectarine is a peach without the fuzz! 2.) And haptodysphoria… it’s a phobia of peach fuzz! Who knew? In this video, learn a bit about botany and agriculture (and psychology!).

LIVING ART/GRAFTING: Bud grafting is a type of grafting mostly done with stone fruit trees, whereas scion grafting is done with apple and pear trees. There’s much to learn about the plant biology and agricultural practices of grafting. Give “grafting” a Google and see what you discover. But first, get inspired by Sam Van Aken, a stone fruit tree artist who creates trees with 40 varieties of stone fruits through bud grafting. The process is one of living art, working with the seasons and fruit trees able to grow in the same regions. Sam has “created more than a dozen of these trees, planted at sites such as museums around the U.S., which he sees as a way to spread diversity on a small scale.”

BAKING/CARAMELIZATION: Roasting stone fruits on a sheet pan with sugar, butter, and lime juice is loaded with lessons in the physics and chemistry of caramelization. There’s nothing better than dessert to spark an interest in STEM! It could also work the other way around! Those interested in chemistry can use their interests as a path towards learning about pastry arts! Learn about the science behind caramelization and then give it a closer look via a tasty dessert recipe that calls for stone fruits and the science of caramelization.

LITERACY/JAMES & THE GIANT PEACH: To round out today’s self-directed learning module on stone fruit is probably the most famous story to ever featured a peach! Peaches + literacy = a well-loved story acted out here in this short storytime video.


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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