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Terrifying though they may be for some people, bugs are fascinating, and make a fantastic topic of study during the summer months. This month’s nature table conquers all fear of insects and sheds light on the critters’ interesting qualities!

So much fun for so little money. It’s as simple as that. We are so lucky to live in a state dotted with an abundance of well maintained state forests and parks. Affordable programs are put in place for us to get as much out of them as possible. *Hint, ask at your local library whether they have free park passes to check out.

Gini from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) lays it all out for us. Get your pens and calendars out, and start scheduling time (s) for the entire family to experience our natural beauty, and connect with nature in your own backyard!

This month on Mass Appeal, Sienna and Ashley talk about community-based events and resources that support an integrative approach to nature-based learning. The summer months are a great time of year to get outside with your kids and allow nature to become their classroom. In this video clip, Sienna talks about looking through the lens of your local habitat to find ways for your families to engage in your community while supporting interests and education. Look for opportunities and resources that integrate learning cross a variety of interests!

All summer long and through the fall, find out about nature-based learning opportunities happening around western Massachusetts here on Hilltown Families. These are terrific ways to let your kids (and yourselves!) learn and connect with your local environment. Children who come to understand and value nature often carry that perspective into adulthood. Give the children in your life a strong, early connection to the world around them through nature-based learning activities in your community!

Our watersheds are fractal and living patterns. In “The Ripple: Stories About Western MA Rivers” this month, Kurt encourages families to discover how nested we are in our watersheds this summer and to treat yourself to an adventure or two in the Westfield River watershed!

A product of our own habit of observing our surroundings, our ability to identify the contrast between things allows us to deepen our understanding of specific plants, creatures, and other aspects of the natural world. This month’s nature table highlights the search for dichotomy – a quest to identify the space between.

Fascinating creatures that they are, turtles have been given their very own holiday! Families can celebrate World Turtle Day with a visit to Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary to learn about local turtles, or can explore the wetlands of the Berkshire to look for endangered bog turtles!

Spring has finally hatched here in western Massachusetts, and along with the new season comes some more hatching – this time bringing new creatures to our landscape. This month’s nature table explores a collection of egg-laying and egg-hatching local creatures!

April is a funny month. Our thumbs turn blue from pressing on the fast foward button to bring us kicking into Spring sunshine. It’s a time that really requires we wring out that last drop of patience. Looking at Nature Table for April, you see rocks. While not alive, they bear the markings of a long existence and a storied past. All accumulated through patience. Or being as strong as a rock. Read on and learn why “everybody needs a rock.”

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new nature table whose contents inspire learning along a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. A tradition carried out by teachers, environmental educators, and nature-curious families, nature tables bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. The idea behind a nature table is to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season, and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves. A nature table can include a variety of items, and is often accompanied by a set of books and/or field guides so that children can take part in further learning at their own will.

After twelve months’ worth of Nature Tables and a new year of growing and changing about to begin, it’s time to reflect upon the knowledge, treasures, and discoveries of exploring our surroundings. What new things will the spring bring to us? Only time will tell!

This month’s nature table brings new meaning to murder mystery dinner! Made up of the bits and pieces collected from various mealtime crime scenes, the current collection shines light on the connections between creatures and encourages young naturalists to consider what a variety of animal signs can tell an observer about their habits.

This month’s nature table features some out-of-season gems discovered thanks to the Thanksgiving snowstorm. Knocked from trees laden with snow, two kinds of nests are ready to be learned about, while evergreen needles serve as reminders of winter’s certain coming. Explore the overlap of summer, fall, and winter with this month’s collection!

From sheep shearing to American chestnut trees, this month our nature table is filled with fascinating place-based science themes. Winter birdwatching has begun, and fall mushroom season is just beginning to end – it’s a perfect time of year to practice using field guides to identify these fungi and feathery beasts!

October is a bright month, and the nature treasures of mid-fall are plentiful. Similar to September’s offerings, collections this month in “Nature Tables” have included lots of mushrooms, seeds, and colorful leaves – all indicators that though temperatures have remained warm, the winter is coming!

Volunteer for river conservation by participating in the Westfield River Committee’s Watershed Blitz! River-loving, conservation-minded families can volunteer alongside experts in order to spot and identify the many plant and animal species that reside on the river’s banks – working together to gather useful information about the local environment. Held in celebration of the committee’s 20th year of preservation work, the event not only supports future preservation, but promotes community participation in the process!

September’s chilly mornings have arrived, bringing with them the first natural indicators of fall. The back-to-school month’s treasures reveal an emerging rainbow of color amongst the summer’s sea of green, as well as the harvest of foods of all kinds (for both humans and local creatures!). Though early fall flowers may be allergy-producing for some, they’re also an indicator of seasonal change – and bouquets of them can cause both sneezes and nostalgia for summer’s lush gardens. This month’s nature table blends the treasures of late summer with the surprises of early fall, opening children’s eyes to the overlap in seasons that we’re currently experiencing.

The summer’s last nature table brings with it a hodgepodge of items gathered in destinations near and far. Inviting comparison of landscapes, treasures gathered in a variety of natural surroundings highlight the similarities and differences of places explored throughout the summer. August’s nature table is a reminder of all of summer’s adventures, and the exciting learning that takes place in an unfamiliar landscape.

Rivers and lakes are full this July following the influence of Hurricane Arthur and random rain storms. Our overheated selves find that all roads lead to the riverbanks and lakesides for us to find soothing coolness. These relief bearing waterways also provide for July’s Nature Table. It’s a very different looking nature table to previous ones- probably because the waterways have become destinations for a warm and sometimes sticky summer! Plus, there’s much to find on your hikes to cool streams tucked deep into the woods!

And that means more nature-based learning for children! Check out our Nature Table for this month and see what you can add to your own!

Camping is the great American tradition where families bond, away from the distractions of daily technologies; and where they can drink in nature, unleashing the explorer within. Camping breeds a love for nature and bolsters an environmental consciousness and is fundamentally a great community-based learning experience for kids.

Every late June, a collective effort to get everyone camping outdoors (even in their backyard) is being promoted by National Wildlife Federation in order to raise funds for conservation. You can go camping anytime of course, so read on learn about the Great American Backyard Campout!

June Is Bustin’ Out All Over…so goes the song and so goes the truth in Western Massachusetts! Nature Table for June is the last for the school-year but collections will continue throughout the summer. June is the month when nature raises to meet the insatiable curiosity of children, and provides a conveyor belt of treasures for nature based learning. Read the post and see what nature has left on the table!

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new nature table whose contents inspire learning along a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. A tradition carried out by teachers, environmental educators, and nature-curious families, nature tables bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. Read how springtime’s spice brings a variety of life to the nature table in May!

During the coming months, the Westfield River Committee is offering a series of Saturday workshops, work days, guided explorations, and other events in order to engage the community in a process of learning about and how to care for the river and its watershed. The Wild and Scenic Saturdays offer a mix of educational activities, opportunities to engage in community service, and adventures into the watershed’s fascinating wilderness.

“One of the best things my mom did for us was providing hours of unstructured free play,” writes Carrie this month in “What to Play?” “She gave us the gift of just being kids…”

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new nature table whose contents inspire learning along a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. A tradition carried out by teachers, environmental educators, and nature-curious families, nature tables bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. Find out what our March table hosts…

Every month, Hilltown Families will feature a new nature table whose contents inspire learning along a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. A tradition carried out by teachers, environmental educators, and nature-curious families, nature tables bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities…

With chilly temperatures and icicles, we’re having the perfect winter for some great snow studies this year! The white coating that covers our landscape here in New England not only offers opportunities for winter sports, but it is also a great creative medium that can support science studies too! The chemistry behind snowflakes and frost are just waiting to be discovered…

“I am always amazed at how the kids tend to be the ones to notice the pulse of our natural world through their curiosity,” writes Angie this month in ‘Parenting Green.’ What are some of the ways your family stays connected to nature when the winter wind and snow makes you feel like it’s not worth the fight to get bundled up?

Invite yourself to the opportunity of experiencing a side of the Bear Hole watershed in West Springfield that many do not experience… at night! The West Springfield Environmental Committee is offering families a chance to explore the dark nighttime woods for themselves on a guided hike at Bear Hole this Saturday evening…

Science in the Parks in Pittsfield A Remedy to Summer Slide Public parks are accessible green spaces families can visit in the summer months to both observe and explore nature. Whether they be well-manicured or allowed to grow wild and free, our local parks offer a lot to learn and explore in terms of ecology, natural & local history, and creative free play. Science educator Lisa Provencher is holding a Science in… Read More

9 Hiking Adventures For All Ages in the Berkshires Get outside and explore a local mountain (and landmark!) with the family this summer!  The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is offering nearly ten different weekly hikes throughout the summer at Mount Greylock State Reservation, the highest point in the state of Massachusetts.  Families of all ages and hiking abilities will find multiple opportunities each week to venture to various parts of… Read More

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