Hilltown Families


Bees and flowers have an amazingly close relationship. Flowers need bees to reproduce, and bees need flowers to feed their colonies. Take away one, and the other would disappear too. It begs the question: When it comes to evolution, which came first, the bees or the flowers?

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Animals are a common interest among children. Whether they’re in love with cats of all shapes and sizes or fascinated by the destructive power of a shark’s jaws, children can learn a lot through having an interest in creatures. In utilizing the numerous animal-related community-based learning resources available locally, families can support children of all ages in learning about everything from biological classification to compassion. Summer opens up these opportunities and is the perfect time to seek out animal demonstrations, visit the zoo, or learn about biology through volunteering at a shelter.

The Importance of Ice Every time there’s a big storm in Miami, the ocean fountains up through the storm-drains and swamps the streets. This happens regularly now, not just in Florida but all the way to Virginia. The earth has warmed and is warming.

Nature Table for July is crawling out of its skin! Found in and around the river, evidence of aquatic invertebrates is everywhere. From exoskeletons abandoned by suddenly-winged creatures to eggs disguised as bird droppings, this month’s collection speaks to the fascinating and tiny creatures that live at the bottom of the river.

For humans, to bee or not to bee isn’t truly a question – we must always bee! Bees and other pollinators help to ensure that our crops produce food, and they are a critical part of ecosystems all over the world. Despite their importance, however, pollinator populations are declining worldwide and many native species of bees have already gone extinct. How is it that a species so important to our survival is disappearing? Lack of proper habitat is one of the major factors contributing to bees’ recent struggles, and lack of awareness isn’t helping them either! However, thanks to Piti Theater Company, western Massachusetts will be enjoying a spring filled with bee-related events and learning opportunities – helping to increase pollinator habitat, raise awareness about conserving local pollinator populations, and teaching families about the role of pollinators in our food systems.

Though the relationships between the two are generally predator-prey, studying the ways in which birds and insects depend on each other can offer insight into the inner workings of the local landscape. By learning to identify insects and birds, families can explore the who-eats-who of their surroundings!

Easily overlooked, the tracks and sign left by some of our landscape’s smallest creatures are fascinating, and speak volumes as to the habits of the many insect species found locally. Families can explore the miniature world of insects through a photography exhibit at the Westhampton Library!

A River Is Always In Synch Like tiny submariners bursting up and out of the bottom of the brook, breaking into wings and soaring for a short time above the world they once knew, the stoneflies are here, molting from crab-shells they lived in. On the back of my neck, computer keyboard, every boulder around me: they multiply, skitter all directions, avoiding the rushing water they recently called home. The frenzy begins. 

Go on a musical hike with guest DJs Jeff and Paige to explore insects this week on the Hilltown Family Variety Show! Through music and story you’ll learn: how to identify an insect, how insects connect with animals, how insects help humans, and how humans can help insects! Jeff and Paige will play some of their favorite songs as well as fun tunes from other children’s musicians and from a few adult acts. Make sure you have room to dance as you explore nature and science with Jeff and Paige.

Call for citizen scientists! Adventurous, bug-loving families in Western MA can help to contribute to ongoing ant research and identification of species by participating in a project called School of Ants…

Families can use their minds as butterfly catchers in insect nets when visiting the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art this spring and summer, as the galleries will be filled with Carle’s images of crawling creatures of all shapes and sizes! Hands-on art making opportunities enhance the bug-art themed, allowing families to exercise their entomological creativity just as Carle has.

Did you know that dragonflies migrate? Families can observe the migratory habits of dragonflies and participate in meaningful citizen science by taking part in Dragonfly Pond Watch, a project that collects data on dragonfly habits based on observations made at ponds where focus species can be found!

Join a kid-safe bee revival! Support local pollinators in a kid-friendly, fun and educational way from your own backyard. The building of bee condos (also know as insect hotels) mobilizes woodworking skills and the use of recycled materials. When the bees come, the whole family can observe their habits and what plants they take a shine too. Support local pollinators with their own private condo, surrounded by native plants they are best attracted to!

Teaching moments are found everywhere, especially in our gardens and natural surroundings. This month in “The Garden Plot,” Jim writes about climate change and the changes to insect populations this brings. What changes might this bring to our landscapes and abilities to grow crops? Challenge kids to think of the many examples of species that Jim outlines to better understand their adaptability and possible changes – there are lots of possible choices to examine…

Project Native in the Berkshires has a new Native Butterfly House! This new addition will serve as a terrific community-based educational resource to help children and visitors understand the connection between butterflies and our native landscape here in Western MA. Pair a visit with a trip to Magic Wings in South Deerfield and the Springfield Museums’ “Amazing Butterflies” exhibit for a well-rounded educational experience that supplement nature studies involving pollinators & butterflies!

Amazing Butterflies at the Springfield Museums May 25-Sept 2nd, 2013 What do question marks, painted ladies, and mourning cloaks all have in common? They’re all things that can be found this summer at the Springfield Museums’ newest exhibit. And they’re all species of butterflies! Opening on May 25th, Amazing Butterflies is an interactive and informative exhibit created for both children and adults. Created by The Natural History Museum in London in collaboration… Read More

After 17 Years, Cicadas Scheduled to Emerge from the Earth Along the Eastern Seaboard. Will They Be Emerging Here in Western MA? This year, for the first time since 1996, a Magicicada brood will emerge from the ground all across the eastern United States.  This special species – unlike other cicadas – emerges every 17 years with the entire species growing and developing at the same time,  creating synchronized cycles of growth,… Read More

Firefly Watch! Citizen Science Project Thursdays through August 5th in the Berkshires Fireflies are faithful harbingers of summer, but are they disappearing? If so, then why? Help scientists answer these questions by becoming a Firefly Watch Citizen Scientist. Firefly Watch was originally developed by The Museum of Science in Boston, and has taken off around the country with thousands of people participating each year. This summer join the Berkshire Museum and Department… Read More

Mud & Bugs It’s mud season here in the hills and we have a little 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… Read More

Mud & Bugs 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… Read More