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Fall in Western Mass is when nature literally takes center stage; a destination visitors outside the area flock to because of the gorgeous dynamism of the season. The trees and their changing foliage are great connectors for kids (in a sense they connect to themselves!) to the outdoors and their sense of place. In this change lies a wonderful community-based educational opportunities tied to art and science. Read on to see how you can get your kid hooked on fall by collecting, creating and learning in their own backyards!

What is it? Where is it?

Allow this free word scramble printable to lead curiosity during April! Support language arts by unscrambling the letters to identify what’s in each picture. In early Spring, look for these treasures in nature throughout the Hilltowns of western Massachusetts and around New England.

Use this printable to encourage local engagement in the natural world by searching for native and invasive species, identifying seeds from different trees, and supporting interests in ornithology, botany, and mycology.

Engaging in the natural world, a community-based educational resource available to everyone, supports a sense of place. Make learning relevant to where you live!

Click here to download.


Hilltown Families Printables is sponsored by Curly Willow on the Westfield River. Nestled in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains on the east branch of the Westfield River, Curly Willow on the Westfield is an emerging space for the passionately curious. A convergence of mindfulness and community-based education. Member, Community-Based Education Network™.

Don’t let the change of seasons happen without engaging your kids/students with the new exterior design that Mother Nature provides! Collectig leaves, creating land art and using them in arts & crafts can alert children to their surrounding natural environment while stimulating self directed learning! Leaf collecting also provides opportunity for some math, science, and social studies learning, too…

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, community-based education specialist and Hilltown Families’ Founder, 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, April 29, 2019 with Sienna and Danny talking about seasonal patterns, annual events, and national observations as a resource for supporting education and values through community engagement in May.

This monthly segment continued on Monday, March 25, 2019, with Sienna and Ashley talking about migrations and new life; community-based resources and service-based learning opportunities that support interests in the field of phenology, the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.

What have you missed over on our Facebook page? Check out some of our top posts from this past week!

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On a rainy evening (or two or three) very soon, all over New England, when the snow and ice are almost gone, and the temperature is 40 degrees or more, frogs and salamanders will make their annual spring migration. They wend their way from their upland winter havens to the vernal pools where they hatched to lay their fertilized eggs in the water. Sometimes, however, roads cross these ancient paths, and many of them are killed. The Wendell State Forest Alliance invites families to help our fellow amphibian neighbors avoid this fate by participating as a salamander crossing guard! Here’s how…

As the weather temperatures fluctuate in the late winter and early spring, track the seasonal changes through the lens of local species, agriculture, and native species. This monthly on Mass Appeal, a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC, Hilltown Families Founder, Sienna Wildfield, and Mass Appeal co-host, Danny New, talking about a few early signs of spring we can look for through the lens of local species, agriculture, and native habitat.

With chilly temperatures and icicles, we have 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…

Springtime is filled with sightings of all kinds of exciting natural wonders. The season’s outdoor appeal makes it a perfect time of year not only for enjoying our natural surroundings, but for learning about conservation and species preservation, too! Springtime is the season for bird sightings as Western Massachusetts becomes filled with a variety of migrating bird species in the early spring months.

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.

This month the Ripple takes us to the riverside, to witness a life larger than we imagine, older and stronger than the mountains and the sky, and as immediate as we are.

Crisp fall days are a great time for outdoor hands-on science! Using fall-harvested crops and the natural phenomena of autumn as inspiration, families can explore everything from weather prediction to animal tracks. These engaging outdoor science projects can be enjoyed by scientists of all ages, and require few materials – the learning inspired by each project will come naturally thanks to participants’ curiosity and ability to observe! Learn what color leaves different trees produce in the autumn and learn to read your landscape.

One of the biggest factors tying food to culture is habitat. The ecological factors which determine which edible plants thrive in an area partially determines the meals which become a culinary mainstay within that culture. Post globalization, it is possible to find food from all over the world in the United States. Shopping at farm stands and farmers’ markets, and attending local food festivals can reconnect citizens with their local food culture. The community-driven, outdoor nature of these events (particularly in warm months) also drives placemaking.

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. 

Living the life riparian—what does it mean? What could it mean? How can we live it? The best place to consider these questions is by the river side. Every river drains a unique watershed, collects unique nutrients, which in turn become habitat and food for unique creatures, which eventually become nutrients themselves, again. And all tumble down to the sea from mountain heights, carried by streams, brooks and rivers. — Read more in The Ripple!

Phenology – the study of seasonal change in plants and animals – helps to illuminate the slow and subtle daily changes undergone in the living things around us. By combining leaf peeping with an awareness of phenology, families can learn about the science behind the colorful fall landscape.

Leaf studies aren’t just for the fall! Citizen scientists can participate in Project BudBurst’s fall data collection project by identifying and observing local plant species. Information submitted to the project helps scientists learn about the year-round changes that species undergo, and families will learn more about their surroundings by participating!

Fall in Western Mass is when nature literally takes center stage; a destination visitors outside the area flock to because of the gorgeous dynamism of the season. The trees and their changing foliage are great connectors for kids (in a sense they connect to themselves!) to the outdoors and their sense of place. In this change lies a wonderful community-based educational opportunities tied to art and science. Read on to see how you can get your kid hooked on fall by collecting, creating and learning in their own backyards!

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.

Do you about phenology? It’s the study of cyclic and/or seasonal phenomena in plants and animals. Citizen scientist opportunities and phenology-based community celebrations can offer a lens into nature science and local culture. Learn more…

Don’t let the change of seasons happen without engaging your kids/students with the new exterior design that Mother Nature provides! Collectig leaves, creating land art and using them in arts & crafts can alert children to their surrounding natural environment while stimulating self directed learning! Leaf collecting also provides opportunity for some math, science, and social studies learning, too…

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