Hilltown Families


Winter Solstice and indeed the entire season provides a unique opportunity to begin to learn and live in deeper connection with Earth. Many people believe that Earth is farthest way and hence colder in winter. Even though this makes logical sense, it is incorrect. This cognitive disconnect (problem) can be the solution to igniting wonderment about Earth.

Children are naturally drawn to explore and understand Nature in their place and time. The reading of, playing with and making of maps and paths helps children develop a connection with and love for Earth. Through active, playful love children are naturally drawn to know more about and take actions to care for Earth.

7-Day Outdoors Family Challenge Want to get outside more, connect with your kids and enjoy some old-fashioned family time? Join in a fun 7-Day Outdoors Family Challenge that was created by Shannon Brescher Shea from We’ll Eat You Up We Love You So in support of the Children and Nature Network’s Vitamin N Challenge to encourage kids to get outside more. This is a 7-day nature challenge is intended to help families spend just… Read More

”Stone age painting” is an opportunity for all, regardless of age, to use and value local resources, celebrate creativity, inquisitiveness and innovation as well as strengthen community throughout the summer and beyond as part of the Summer Creativity Challenge.

Adventure develops connection with our selves, place and community. It is more than cognitive. Adventures help us find our heart place and real adventure ignites a thirst for exploration and stimulates curiosity that can drive learning much deeper. Roots of environmental stewardship and activism grow out of active learning, play, imagination and adventure.

There is a common fear that learning through fantasy leads to misunderstandings and misconceptions. It turns out this may also be, according to research, contradictory to the nature of child development. Integrating and valuing fantasy into the learning landscape cultivates a mindset of not either or, but both and more.

“You can’t solve a problem on the same level on which it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” – Albert Einstein

Learners make connections that link the edges of their own questions, educational subjects, skills, ways of learning, previous knowledge and personal interests to pattern a sturdy, integrated structure much like snapping together LEGOs (if well designed). When we use the edges and value the marginal in the learning landscape we ignite an intrinsic desire to reciprocate, extend and add to the “edges” – self, family, community, ancestors, spirit, nature and the Universe.

Diversity is at the core of life. Human diversity is also key to creativity, resilience and a vibrant, healthy human society. Each person, each child, is an individual with intrinsic worth and it is essential that we use and value the diversity within and between learners, among other people, and in our environment. However, bringing diversity into children’s learning landscapes and lives is often misunderstood… Read more in “Learning Landscapes: Integrating Permaculture with Community-Based Education.”

Year of Small and Slow A new year, a new opportunity to reflect and renew our beliefs, values and intentions. Many people create resolutions each year and then we hit the ground running trying to create big and important changes in our lives. There are of course big milestones worthy of marking and celebrating (like last month when Hilltown Families quietly turned 10 years old!), but in many cases with the new… Read More

This month in “Learning Landscapes,” Jen writes: “Permaculture is a fundamental component of our journey back to wholeness, away from the segregated “me” and into the “we.” Permaculture is a flexible and adaptable holistic design approach based on natural laws that allows us to examine and refine our relationships with a whole ecosystem, including ourselves. Utilizing whole system ethics and thinking as a guide, we implement design strategies that integrate and harmonize with the whole system.” Read on…

There are patterns all around us, from the large-scale patterns of our universe to nano-scale of atoms, and in everything we learn. If we work “with” the natural patterns within children and our environments we can transform what it means to learn, educate and be educated. This month in “Learning Landscapes,” Jen shares ways we can rethink and re-imagine how to design the learning landscape and education as a whole by using tools found in permaculture used to design from patterns down to details.

With passing of the recent equinox we are entering into the cooler weather of autumn in the northern hemisphere – a time for many that is fondly thought of as apple picking season. What are some natural, play-based experiential education ideas for our young Johnny Appleseeds that can take the joy of going apple picking to a whole (systems thinking) new level?

In addition to the typical way of thinking about resources – renewable and nonrenewable – consider the natural, raw intellectual energy of our children. Learn about the open invitation to families and educators to join in the annual, global Cardboard Challenge. Learning if or how we recognize, value and chose to use resources is a choice. All children are natural inquirers who can change the story and transform the future.

Education is our greatest potential resource.

Before jumping into action and using our greatest potential resource, we need to rush to reflection in order to ensure that we and our children can “succeed.”

The ability to self-regulate refers not just to controlling oneself or using and valuing natural resources, but also using and enriching natural relationships – with self, others, and the natural world. We can easily and quickly acquire the academic and scientific “know how,” but it is the traditional wisdom for “knowing how” that can help our children, families, and communities ethically and sustainably learn to “succeed” in transforming the future.

Integrating the ethics and thinking tools of permaculture into children’s learning landscapes helps them extend and enrich their understanding of themselves.

This month in “Learning Landscapes: Integrating Permaculture with Community-Based Education,” Jen shares how superheros are examples of how a complex, interdependent permaculture idea like “catch and store energy” can be meaningfully integrated into a child’s learning landscape…