Hilltown Families


Our river ecosystems are about more than just water – they about thousands of species of plants and animals, fascinating natural history, and the connections between humans and their surroundings. By utilizing resources made available by a handful of local community-based organizations, families can learn about and connect with our local landscape.

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.

Focused on the search for patterns in nature, this month’s nature table encourages families to consider their place in the local landscape – and the universe. From twigs to entire watersheds, nature’s patterns share a common theme; by recognizing this pattern, families can place themselves within these patterns and gain a deeper awareness of the interconnectedness of the world.

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!

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!

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join Hilltown Families for an evening of community service art-making on Friday, June 6th from 4-7pm at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA, for “We (heart) the Deerfield River,” the final community-service through art event in a series of five free family community service nights!

Take thee to the river! This month in “The Ripple: Stories About Western MA Rivers,” Kurt challenges you to stop and look for the rivers and brooks nearest you, and to take a moment to experience the aromatherapy they possess during this time of transition from green to brown… you’ll be doing yourself (and your family) a favor! Oh, and be sure to bring your camera!

Last week an energetic group of Hilltown Families citizen scientists and Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen, conducted our fourth annual rapid biotic assessment of the Westfield River in West Chesterfield. This month in Kurt’s post, “The Ripple,” hear all about it, what we found and images from the afternoon…

Families Learn about the Relationship Between Benthic Invertebrates and River Ecology with Hilltown Families & Biocitizen Halloween’s upon us and the leaves are almost down—and for river lovers that means it’s time to do Rapid Biotic Assessments (RBA), which involves capturing and cataloging the bugs—benthic invertebrates —that live on the riverbed. Certain bugs like stonefly-nymphs need lots of oxygen to survive, and when you find a bunch of them, it’s a sign… Read More

Thinking Like A Watershed One of the funnier thoughts I’ve heard goes like this: “I want to be one with nature.” You might have heard of this thought, or a variation of it, too. The reason I find it funny is that it’s actually impossible not to be “one with nature,” if being “one” means directly, physically and existentially connected to the vital sources of being. If, by any chance, you are… Read More