Step it Up 2007 in Western Mass

Step it Up is the largest day of citizen action focusing on global warming in our nation’s history. A truly infectious grassroots movement, organized through word of mouth, email outreach and the online community. It was a nationwide campaign comprised of over 1300 actions held on April 14, 2007 as part of a National Day of Climate Action. Many local Western Mass communities participated in the campaign, including Amherst, Cummington, Easthampton, Greenfield, Heath, Northampton, Pittsfield, and Williamstown .

We gathered a lot of information on resources at the Northampton rally …

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Voices of Motherhood

(c) Hilltown Families - Voices of MotheringVoices of Motherhood is a project which asks, “What Do We Think About Motherhood?” By recording personal stories about mothering, I hope to demystify myths and reveal personal as well as universal truths about the experience.

Because fathers as well as mothers nurture children, I will be interviewing 30 mothers, fathers and families. Each interview will take no more than 15 minutes, and we can meet anywhere that is convenient for you.

Please let me know if you are interested in being a part of this exploration.

I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to email at or call me at: 413.628.3261.

Thank you,

Victoria Worth

Plant a tree for Arbor Day. Read more … click here for pdf file.

Spring Break Suggested Events

Hilltown Families discover Passover.

It’s Thursday (already!) and I’m home with my daughter. Her school was canceled today due to the fact that it’s SNOWING outside! That’s wacky. That’s New England (or is that global warming?).

This past weekend many hilltown families celebrated Easter or Passover, or both. Click here to see a video from a community Passover celebration in West Chesterfield. One very gracious family invited many non-Jewish guests to gathered for a Sader dinner, sharing the culinary traditions and history of foods served during Passover.

This next week is school break. There’s a lot of things to do at our area museums. I’m certain there’s more going on than what’s listed below. Call your favorite museum to see what’s going on this week. Check with your local library for a free museum pass to borrow.

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Bat Kids at UMass

Want to Be a Bat Kid at UMass?

How would you like to be a bat kid at UMass Softball & Baseball games this Spring? UMass is currently signing up kids between the ages of 5-12 to help out teams during their home games. For available dates and times, please contact Jaclyn Muns at 413-577-0340 or

Celebrate Library Week!

Chesterfield Library (c) Hilltown Families

Library in Chesterfield, MA - (c) Sienna Wildfield

April is a special month for libraries. It’s School Library Media Month, and April 15-21, 2007, is National Library Week.

In celebration of Library Week, Education World editors have gathered from their archives more than 30 articles that offer dozens of great lessons, book-related projects and activities, and other resources for bringing literature to life in the classroom (or homeschool)! Browse through the entire list of resources, or click on the heading below to skip directly to the section you are most interested in.

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BBC Science & Nature: Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519. Italian artist, scientist, engineer. An all-round genius whose paintings and inventions changed the world.

Take an interactive journey through his life and works to discover what made him a true Renaissance man.”


  • Timeline
  • Painting and drawing galleries
  • An interactive tour of Leonardo’s studio
  • Take a quiz to see what type of a thinker you are

From the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). (LII)

Moviemaking Program Can Raise a Girls’ Self-Esteem

New research by Mount Holyoke professors has found increased self-esteem in adolescent females who participated in improvisational moviemaking designed to build confidence and character in girls ages 11 to 14.

ACT NOW! Inc., an Amherst, Massachusetts-based nonprofit founded by Nancy Fletcher in 2000, holds two- and five-day workshops using the MOVIExperience format, in which players brainstorm an original story, create characters, improvise the scenes in sequence on camera, and screen a professional-looking 20- to 40-minute movie immediately after the last scene is shot.

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Meet the Robinsons Gives Negative Adoption Messages
By Vicki Peterson, E.D.
of External Affairs
Wide Horizons For Children

We feel that it is important to warn you about a Disney movie called “Meet the Robinsons” that is now playing in many local cinemas. The advertising for this animated feature makes it sound like a great movie for any young child, but this is misleading. Fortunately, one of our adoptive parents alerted us about the negative adoption messages in the story and the very unhappy experience she had with both of her children who were greatly disturbed by the messages conveyed in this film. As a result, I went to see the film to decide if it warranted putting out an alert to our adoptive parent community. Indeed, I thought the concerns raised were completely justified.

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Shakespeare & Co.’s Spring Residency Programs Begins Western MA

Shakespeare & Company’s popular Massachusetts spring Elementary and Middle School Residency programs for grades four through seven begin performances this week beginning with Pine Cobble School’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 5:30 pm, April 12th at The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. See complete schedule below.

Other schools involved in the Residency program include:

  • Lenox Middle School
  • Monument Valley Middle School (previously Searles Middle School)
  • Richmond School
  • Upper Middle Cape High School
  • Williamstown Elementary School
  • For more information on the Company’s Residency program and other Education Programs please contact Youth Programs Director Jenna Ware at (413) 637-1199 ext. 172 or

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Playground in Williamsburg

School playground in Williamsburg, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The National Safety Council has compiled a list of safety observances. For the month of April,  their website highlights:

The National SAFE Kids website has additional information on preventing child fatality and injuries which, if followed, could prevent an estimated 38,000 children’s lives each year.

Listen to Podcast:

Hilltown Family Variety Show
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM
Northampton, MA

April 10th, 2007 – 7pm

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Wonder Woman

My daughter been on a superhero kick lately. Last week it was Batman, this week Wonder Woman. I see Spiderman coming down the pike. With Wonder Woman being this week’s pick, it opens the door for an introduction to the Greek myths Wonder Woman is based on.

“Since this influential comic book super hero character was first created by polygamist feminist psychologist William Moulton Marston in 1941, Wonder Woman’s origins and continuing storylines have been tied intricately to Greco-Roman mythology. The ancient Greek and Roman pantheon consisting of Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Athena, etc. have always been rendered as explicitly real in Wonder Woman’s universe. This pantheon is also known as the Olympians, or the gods of Olympus, named after Mount Olympus, the mountain in Greece which was until recently their home.” (

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Art-ful Eggs: Batiked, Wooden & Collage
By Victoria Worth, for Hilltown Families

(c) Victoria Worth - Egg Art at the Children's Art Museum
This past Saturday morning at The Children’s Art Museum (CAM) in Shelburne Falls, my family joined several hilltown families to decorate eggs in celebration of Spring & Easter. CAM offered several ways to create and decorate, creating a festive and rich atmosphere to explore art with my daughter.

One method we were shown was batik egg art, using wax to draw patterns and words, then dipping into colors for a reverse affect. On wooden eggs we used stickers to decorate, an easier project for the very young kids. But my favorite was placing strips of colored tissue paper around an egg, creating a blended collage look.

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What In The World?
Kids’ Music Goes Global
by Bill Childs

(c) Hilltown Families - Robbi K at Brooklyn HootenannyDan Zanes caused a stir a few months ago by noting the overwhelming whiteness of a particular national parenting magazine. (I won’t mention which magazine, because the criticism is pretty fairly addressed to almost any of them.) His point, which is a sound one, is that a “healthy, inclusive, celebratory society is, I think, where the music flourishes.” Well said, Mr. Zanes.

With that in mind, think for a moment about your local record store’s kids’ section. (First, pretend that you still have a local record store, and in the unlikely event that you do, pretend that it has a kids’ section with more than four copies of The Hamster Dance.) What does this record section look like?

I bet your imaginary local record store’s imaginary kids’ section is filled mostly with white musicians. They’re playing tremendously diverse styles of music, no doubt, but they’re not from particularly diverse backgrounds. There are some exceptions, and many of the stars of kids’ music have worked with amazing artists of color (notably Zanes, but also AudraRox and many others), but a disproportionate number look a lot like, well, me. Which is to say: white (particularly after a long, dark winter).

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More reasons to eat green

Vegetarian  CookbookTween and teen girls are the most likely group to become vegetarians, and a recent study linking early consumption of red meat and breast cancer may give girls yet another reason to go veggie. The Harvard University Medical School study of over 90,000 women found that the more red meat the women consumed in their 20s, 30s and 40s, the greater their risk for developing breast cancer fueled by hormones in the next 12 years. The correlation is likely due to growth hormones fed to animals as well as natural hormones in meat, or to substances produced by high-heat cooking processes that may be linked to cancers.

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Easter Candy Lore

Easter Candy – Fact or Fiction?


  • The first chocolate eggs were made in Europe in the early 19th century and remain among the most popular treats associated with Easter.
  • 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are made for Easter each year.
  • 16 billion jelly beans are made for Easter.
  • Each day, five million marshmallow chicks and bunnies are produced in preparation for Easter.
  • Easter is the second top-selling confectionery holiday behind only Halloween.
  • 88 percent of adults carry on the Easter tradition of creating Easter baskets for their kids.
  • 76 percent of people eat the ears on chocolate bunnies first.
  • Red jelly beans are kids’ favorite.
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records the largest Easter egg ever made was just over 25-ft high and made of chocolate and marshmallow. The egg weighed 8,968 lbs. and was supported by an internal steel frame.

Source: National Confectioners Association

World Health Day: 7 April

Collection of links to sites related to World Health Day. “On this day around the globe, thousands of events mark the importance of health for productive and happy lives.” Also includes links to recent UN documents on the subjects of human health and illness prevention and treatment. Available in several languages. From the Dag Hammarskjöld Library of the United Nations (UN). (LII)

Hilltown Spring Festival – May 19th, 2007

Marking its 25th year of service to the region, Hilltown CDC will present its first-ever Hilltown Spring Festival on May 19 at the Cummington Fairgrounds. Planned activities include live performances by area musicians and community groups, a crafts show, business expo, children’s entertainment, and, of course, an abundance of food and drink offered by local restaurants and businesses.

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“Wow! I am so excited to have discovered this beautiful website.
What a great resource for our community. Thank you so much.”
– Katryna Nields

No matter how you celebrate the arrival of spring, you’ll find many ways to celebrate this weekend for we are rich in Spring, Passover and Easter events! Also, take a look under “The Outside World” (left-hand column) for fun & educational seasonal links. Share your web gem by posting in our “comment” box at the end of this week’s Suggested Events.

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Hilltown Family Variety Show
World Premiere!
April 3rd, 2007 – 7pm

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  • HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOWSuper Heros Invasion – Batman
  • Dennis Caraher – Elephant Played Electric Guitar
  • The Nields – Going to the Zoo
  • The Beatles – Octopus’s Garden
  • Jim Dale – Green Eggs and Ham
  • Uncle Rock – Break a Few Eggs
  • Rosie Flores – Red, Red Robin
  • HFVS Special Guest – Dennis Caraher
  • Zoe Lewis – Sheep
  • Langston Hughes – Dreams
  • Rebecca Frezza – If I Were a Kite

We’re Going to the Zoo!

April is National Zoo and Aquarium Month. Read We’re Going to the Zoo! for local Western MA places to visit, sites to surf and books to read – all about the zoo!

The Nields sing a great rendition of Tom Paxton’s, We’re Going to the Zoo. My daughter and I love the Nields, a sister/mother duo from the hilltowns. We saw them recently at the Amherst Library for a great family performance from their album, All Together Singing in the Kitchen. Read more about that performance here on Hilltown Families. They will also be performing live on Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child this Saturday (04/07/07)!

If you’re looking for more zoo songs, Alphabet Soup has a nice page of songs, poems and fingerplays, and Perpetual Preschool has a short list of songs too.

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April is National Zoo and Aquarium Month

At the ZooThere are lots of opportunities to visit zoos, farms and aquariums in our area. We’ve put together a list of suggested locations below. Please post any recommendations you may have in the comment box below to add to the list.

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Snap-Shots & Juice On-The-Rocks @ Jalopy’s

The Brooklyn Hootenanny was F-U-N! Bill & Audra did a swell job putting it together. My daughter & I are still tired! But it was well worth it. I’m too tired to really write anything creative, so instead I’ll offer a photo montage and videos from our adventure.

[rockyou id=62168595]

Lots of cool musicians, and even cooler kids. Click here to see a list of all the performers. You can be sure to hear many of these musicians on the Hilltown Family Variety Show, premiering this Tuesday at 7:00pm on WXOJ!

Read on and discover a couple of videos from the evening, and read what other’s are having to say about the Brookly Hootenanny:

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Hilltown Family Variety Show

Hilltown Families is very excited to announce the
Hilltown Family Variety Show (HFVS)
Tuesday evenings at 7:00pm
on WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM

Valley Free Radio – Northampton, MA

Premiering on April 3rd, 2007!

Persephone On-air at WXOJ

Share your evenings between bath and bed-time during a half hour radio adventure.

  • Discover new music from some of the hippest kiddie musicians around.
  • Rediscover classics, traditional tunes and folksongs.
  • Experience world cultures with music from different regions of the world.
  • Listen to jazz, big band and blues the kids will groove to while soothing your nerves at the days end.
  • Hear bits of poetry, stories and spoken word.
  • You never know what you’re going to discover on HFVS!

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Brooklyn Hootenanny

(c) Hilltown Families - Bill & Ella from Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child at the Brooklyn Hootenanny

Pictured here is Bill Childs and Ella from Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, a local children’s radio show aired every Saturday morning. This past weekend HF headed to NYC for a Hootenanny with nearly twenty-five rockin’ kiddie musicians that Bill and AudraRox organized at Jalopy’s in Brooklyn. Photos will be posted from the event soon, so check back with us for a photo review of our adventures in New York.

Let us know about your exciting weekend adventures here on Hilltown Families by posting your comments below. Have a neat photo you’d like to see on HF? Send it our way with a brief description.

Now, check out what’s happening this coming weekend …

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Failing Schools See a Solution in Longer Day

By Diana J. Schemo

[Fall River, MA., March 26, 2007] — States and school districts nationwide are moving to lengthen the day at struggling schools, spurred by grim test results suggesting that more than 10,000 schools are likely to be declared failing under federal law next year.

In Massachusetts, in the forefront of the movement, Gov. Deval L. Patrick is allocating $6.5 million this year for longer days and can barely keep pace with demand: 84 schools have expressed interest.

Click here to read more.

Mud & Bugs

Insects by K. Pike

It’s mud season here in the hills and we have a little time before the torturous black-fly season, followed by the ever so itchy mosquito season – a time when our kids can easily be mistaken for having the chicken pox and adults have at least one token bug bite on their face in an ever so prominent spot.

Towards the end of the summer, copious numbers of tent caterpillars that wiggled all over our trees, bushes, rain gutters and lawn furniture, turn into swarms of butterflies. Ahhhh … the hilltowns, an entomologist’s promised land.

If you have a child that doesn’t scream and run at the sight of a spider, or makes stomping on ants a competitive sport, then you just might have a budding entomologist on your hands – or at the very least,  a child that is open to learning more about INSECTS. There are many books available on arthropods and spiders, including guides to use out in the field to identify any bug your child may thrust towards you while asking if it’s poisonous.

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Happy Vernal Equinox!

There are plenty of community events this weekend on which to blow your New Year’s resolutions, including an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast in Ashfield, and a chili cook off in Hinsdale for lunch on Saturday. But no worries … you can get back on that resolution train by shaking your caboose with drumming and dancing in Shelburne Falls the next day. Read More


(c) 2007 Steve Harwood - All Rights Reserved.

With the Women’s Final Four just around the corner, Dads & Daughters offers advice on how to spend time with your daughter during the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship season.

March Madness is underway in women’s college basketball (and the start of the WNBA season isn’t far behind!). This is an exciting time for dads to watch or listen to the women’s game with their daughters and stepdaughters. Here are some tips for fathers and stepfathers during tournament time:

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Now You See ‘Em, Now You Don’t

When you were a kid, children’s movies and television didn’t have many females or characters of color. That’s all changed for today’s kids, right? Not.

Now You See ‘Em, Now You Don’t: Gender & Racial Disparity in TV for Children is a new report released today (03/21/07) that documents this persistent problem. The report draws on the most comprehensive content analysis ever conducted on children’s television and movies.

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Cinderella Ballet

(c) Hilltown Families- Cinderella Ballet

The Pioneer Valley Ballet performed Cinderella at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA, this past weekend. Families attended with young girls dressed in fancy gowns, tiaras and ribbon wands. A lovely performance for the entire family, on both Saturday and Sunday.

Visit the Pioneer Valley Ballet on-line for future productions at

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