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How does winter stillness connect us to place? What activities and hobbies reoccur every year? What skills have been shared and passed down through the years because of New England winters? How does the stillness of winter impact our emotional well-being and interconnections. Can the art of letter writing keep pace with modern day letter writing? How can we practice this art in the winter months? These questions and their answers lead us toward the answer to the question, how does winter stillness connect us to place?

We’re spoiled in Western Massachusetts! Our summers are a bounty of local agriculture and food. We have the opportunity to eat seasonally most of the year and then winter arrives, the summer farmers’ markets disappear, and our kitchens feel a little lackluster. What do we cook without all of the colorful foods of summer?

One way to get some inspiration for your next winter culinary adventure is to visit living history museums to experience daily living routines and food preparations from the 19th century. Visitors can see firsthand what types of recipes 19th century Americans were preparing during the cold months of the year. In addition to New England culture, other cultures can be explore via community-based resources. Food traditions from fish on Friday to turkey on Thanksgiving are rich in history and a delicious lens for learning about culture.

How do you think your food consumption would change if you were to eat only foods from within 10 miles of your home? What foods would you not have access to and how would it impact your diet seasonally?

Presidents’ Day celebrates the life and work of George Washington. Although Washington’s birthday is on February 22nd, the holiday is celebrated on the third Monday to allow us to enjoy a three day weekend. Presidents’ Day is also a chance to explore the tenets of democracy and civil freedoms.

Interestingly, the freedom to read has not always been seen as a freedom. Citing the freedom to read as a part of our Constitution’s First Amendment, the American Library Association hosts a Banned Books Week every year to celebrate the freedom to read. Here is a list from The American Library Association of the top 20 American novels that have been challenged. Why do you think they have been banned or challenged? How many have you read?

Did you know that Calvin Coolidge, the U.S.’s 30th President, attended Amherst College and was mayor of Northampton in the early 1900’s? We have our very own slice of U.S. Presidential history here in Western MA. Have you ever cross the bridge over the Connecticut River that connects Hadley to Northampton? That’s the Calvin Coolidge Bridge. There’s also the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum at the Forbes Library which houses a collection of materials related to Calvin Coolidge’s life and are available to historians and researchers interested in the public and private life of Calvin Coolidge.

Think about this:

What books have you read that were once banned or on a challenged list?
What does the freedom to read mean to you?
What was the literacy rate among women in the United States in the 18th century? What was it later in the 19th century?
How can literacy, the right to read, and the value of reading literature help shape an ethical and compassionate democracy?

Every year, Americans exchange an average of 142 million Valentine’s Day cards – making the holiday near the top of the list of card-exchanging holidays (second only to Christmas). Valentines come in many different shapes and sizes, and can be handmade or store bought, clever and creative, or very traditional. Whatever form they come in, the valentines that we exchange each year have their roots right here in western Massachusetts, and are symbolic of the love, caring, and appreciation that we have for the important people around us.

Think about this:

In 19th century New England, the winter season was a time for gathering and socializing with family, friends, and neighbors. As the fields lay dormant in anticipation off the agricultural season, rural New Englanders used the cold season as a time for meeting friends, having conversations, and visiting with one another. Before the telephone or telegraph, visiting a friend’s home was a way to share news, gossip, and stories. Now with the invention of social media, automobiles, and blended fabrics, how do communities gather in the winter months, celebrating local culture and strengthening their sense of place?

Today in Western Massachusetts winter festivals provide a gathering space for friends, families, and neighbors to get together, visit with each other, tell stories and share news… just as our predecessors in this region did before us. Winter festivals provide the space and occasion for community members to enjoy the winter season through art collaborations, fairs, and winter-themed activities. Additionally, these festivals are a way to explore different art forms, such as ice sculpting, share skills with others, and learn about local history and cultural traditions. Celebrate winter at these annual festivities and start a new family tradition!

Think about this:

What are the tools used in sculpting ice? What are the challenges ice sculptors face that other sculptors of different media don’t?

How would families and neighbors gather in the winter before the invention of automobiles and highways? How did the inability to travel far distances impact communities and relationships?

How do winter festivals gather communities together? What types of activities do they host in order to foster connection and togetherness during the colder months?

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, a January and February cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts includes:

NATURE-BASED activities connect us to the land: Nordic skiing, alpine skiing, ice skating, & snowshoeing;
VALUE based engagement on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Service-Based Learning Events & Civic Engagement;
Learn about New England TRADITIONS: Ice Harvesting;
African American History Month as a CATALYST for learning: Poetry, History & Art;
Mark the SEASON by sharing & connecting: Winter Festivals & Placemaking;
INTERGENERATIONAL engagement for Valentine’s Day: Handmade, Non-Commercial & Creative-Free Play;
Looking through the LENS of Presidents’ Day: Freedom & Literacy;
Discover seasonal FOOD: Winter Farmers’ Markets.
Local HABITAT connects us to ourselves: Writing & Mindfulness

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News! Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield, joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. This month Sienna and Seth talked about ways to engage in our community in the late fall. Reviewing the newest edition of Learning Ahead, Seth and Sienna talk about learning through the lens of the food, habitat and culture found in the Nov/Dec issue of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA:

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, our Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for November and December includes…

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Foliage, Pumpkins & Hauntings Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!). This monthly segment continued on… Read More

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News! Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield, joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Monday, August 29, 2016. This month Sienna and Lauren talked about agricultural fairs, fall festivals, one room schoolhouses and apples featured in the debut of “Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA.”

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Funded in part by Mass Humanities, Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a NEW bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

By emphasizing place-based exploration through humanities inquiry, these cultural itineraries connect residents of all ages to their place, helping to shape a more comprehensive understanding of our cultural identity, heritage, and history. This contributes to establishing meaningful relationships between young people and elders, and more active citizens.

With these FREE downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history and a strengthened sense of place. Click through to download a free 38-page PDF!

Spotlighting a different event in Massachusetts history for every day of the year, Mass Moments makes the state’s history accessible and exciting for learners of all ages. Alongside information about each event, families can find links to further resources and locations to visit – making for an all-encompassing community-based learning experience!

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