The EarthLoom® weaves new life into Fells youth programs

When the Friends of the Fells Youth Programs Director Ann Frenning Kossuth first saw an EarthLoom® on display at a Maine Farmer’s Market, she knew immediately that it would be perfect for summer camp.  It could serve not only as a rainy-day activity but also as an intentional way to bring children together in community to create art in a nature setting.

“The EarthLoom is a living symbol of our intention to weave together the fabric of community… It brings the magic of weaving together to groups, celebrations, and ceremonies.” — Weaving a Life Founder Susan Barrett Merrill

To make this special loom of nature materials woven on a man-made frame happen in time for summer 2019, the Friends first secured a $300 grant (with the help of volunteer Michelle Desveaux) from the National Coalition for Education & Cultural Programs (NCECP) via the Stoneham Business and Community Educational Foundation (SBCEF).

After that, Principal Fallon of the Medford Vocational and Technical High School (MVTHS) agreed to let the Friends work with the MVTHS Carpentry Department — pro bono.  Mr. Brown and his crew built the loom’s 6-foot+ frame and Jesse MacDonald, our Development Associate, took care of bringing the materials to and from the shop — ultimately delivering it direct to the Tudor Barn.

Tudor Barn image credit: Mike Ryan


Years ago, under former Executive Director Mike Ryan’s oversight, the mid-19th-century stone Tudor Barn (above) was lovingly restored with the help of $15,000 in fundraising efforts by the Friends of the Fells. Since then, however, the building has not been used to its maximum potential. Happily, this year by storing and using the EarthLoom at the Tudor Barn, it has transformed the use of the space by youth actively weaving in the summer forest program.

All images (other than Tudor Barn) courtesy of Fells Forest Programs camp instructors.

Spaces still available for some weeks in Summer 2019. Sign up today!

The StoryWalk® Kickoff Event
Saturday, October 7 10:00 – 11:00 am
Location: Greenwood Park across from Stone Zoo, Stoneham (see map)

Join us as we kickoff this fall StoryWalk® at the Fells! We will meet at the play area at Greenwood Park, meander our way through the Crystal Springs Trail while reading the pages of the story It’s Fall, by Linda Glaser. When we finish, we will enjoy a craft, sing-a-long, and other fun activities.
Registration requested but is not required. Call 781-246-5187.

Middlesex Fells StoryWalk®
Saturday, October 7 – Sunday, October 22, 2017

It’s Fall! by Linda Glaser is the next book for our collaborative StoryWalk® from Saturday, October 7 through Sunday, October 22. The book brings out all the colors and beauty of the fall season. Skip and swoosh through the leaves, as red, orange, yellow, gold and brown leaves fall down around us. A marvelous way to experience the colors and textures of fall, explore the wonders of autumn, including the animal life, the plant life, and the weather of the season!

The walk begins at Greenwood Park, in Stoneham (across from the Stone Zoo), and will continue along the Crystal Springs Trail in an easy, 1/3-mile loop. Foster your child’s connection with nature as well as their literacy skills by participating in our StoryWalk® in the Fells! This project is a collaboration of Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Malden Coordinated Family and Community Engagement, Mass in Motion, Medford Family Network and North Suburban Child and Family Resource Network.

The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library.

“Camp Out! The Ultimate Kids’ Guide from the Backyard to the Backwoods,” by Lynn Brunelle ($13.95) is the perfect primer for any family contemplating a camping trip with young children. Such an endeavor is a daunting prospect for new (and new-ish) parents. All the information needed for a successful camping trip with kids is contained in this book, presented in a light-hearted, kid-friendly style. At nearly 400-pages, Brunelle has thought of everything including what to pack, how to set up camp, and helpful menus and recipes for backpacking trips or car camping.

Even if you aren’t planning on an overnight trip, the bulk of the book – over 200 pages – is dedicated to fun and games that could be enjoyed on any day trip or hike with children.  The “Backpack Naturalist” section includes experiments and activities that are intriguing yet simple to follow. The section “Campsite Crafting” has several creative activities that any parent or educator could do with budding artists. “Let Loose” includes games and songs for long car rides, daytime, and nighttime at the campsite.

In spite of the length, the book does not feel too dense or filled with extraneous information. The editing, formatting, and illustrations make it a very enjoyable reference that personally, I would not want to go camping without!

“The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature,” from the Children’s Education Staff at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden ($12.95), is another valuable resource for any adult interested in imparting a love of nature on a young child in their life. This 120-page book is best enjoyed with the participation of an engaged adult, such as an educator, willing to impart the information contained in the rather-dense pages. The activities in this book can be enjoyed in the backyard or within a couple hours from any city in the Northeast. While the introduction on “how to be a nature explorer” may have benefited from more editing and kid-centric enticement (Campout! Is much better in this regard), the rest of the book is helpfully organized by seasons and typical settings, such as “beach”, “city”, “woods”, and “meadow.” This novel approach makes it the ideal practical reference guide for Friends of the Fells members to pick up and put down frequently throughout the year.

What really sets this book apart from other guides in this genre are the full-page photo-realistic illustrations, the scale and size of which have been enhanced to emphasize various natural elements in a given setting. These illustrations of trees in urban settings and common woodland plants and animals will be immediately recognizable to you and your little ones. They are also highly effective educational guides and inspiring works of art.

Armed with the wisdom of a seasoned camper and naturalist, you may feel inspired to take your knowledge beyond the Middlesex Fells Reservation. The following titles published by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) are great resources for hikes near and far with kids of all ages. For hikes close to home, check out “Outdoors With Kids: Boston” by Kim Foley MacKinnon, which includes 88 hikes in Massachusetts alone, organized by proximity to Boston, and denoting the appropriate age groups for each hike. Beyond Massachusetts, MacKinnon provides several options to explore in Rhode Island, Connecticut, southern New Hampshire and Maine. Further afield, “Outdoors With Kids: Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont” by Ethan Hipple and published in 2014 includes 75 of the “best family camping, hiking, and paddling trips” based on age and child’s ability. Each trip includes a map, photograph, driving directions, a thoughtful description of the hike, nearby facilities, and information on fees, if any. Even though most of the information contained in these AMC titles is available on the internet, these books make it a cinch to compare excursions side-by-side with all of the pertinent information at your fingertips: How far? How difficult? Can we bring the dog, and what else is around there? E-book and paperback versions of the AMC books are available from Amazon.

Happy trails!


By Rebecca Redelmeier

Students from Tufts University and Medford High School journeyed outside of the classroom in early February to strap on skis and build the relationship between both schools’ outdoors clubs. Ten members of Medford High’s Students of the Fells Club joined 14 Tufts Mountain Club members for a day of skiing at Pat’s Peak in New Hampshire.

Niklas Tower, Program Director for the Students of the Fells, a program initiative of the local non-profit Friends of the Fells, led the coordination of the event. He reached out to Jonas Procton, Tufts Mountain Club’s Stewardship Director, to explore the possibilities of partnering the outdoor interests of both schools.

“I knew that Tufts does a lot with Medford High but we hadn’t brought the outdoor interests together yet,” Tower said. “Through Jonas, there was a lot of energy to make that happen, and I thought it would be a great opportunity.”

Students of the Fells has developed over the past two years and first collaborated with the Tufts Mountain Club last year, although the club has previously partnered with parent organization Friends of the Fells.

A recent grant from the Cummings Foundation 100K for 100, obtained by the Friends of the Fells, has afforded opportunities to expand Students of the Fells’ roster of activities.  Their efforts include growing Students of the Fells clubs in the five communities that surround the Fells, including Winchester, Malden, Stoneham, Melrose, and Medford.  Through self-funding and donations, Medford Students of the Fells were able to afford the cost of the ski trip and provide full scholarships to two first-time skiers.

Over the course of the day, members of Students of the Fells and Tufts Mountain Club gathered together on the beginner bunny hill, challenging black diamond routes, and even the tubing slopes, racing, laughing, and snapping action shots of each other.

More experienced Tufts Mountain Club members also spent the day teaching beginner skiers from both Tufts and Medford High how to ski. “We got some Tufts people who could help teach skiing and other people who wanted to learn how and matched up,” Procton said.

Members of both outdoors programs see the advantage of growing this partnership for future outdoor events. Zach Maffeo, a senior at Medford High, noted that the joint program benefited both communities. “Tufts could benefit from the community outreach opportunities, and we could benefit from learning from [Tufts students]. It’s a good way for high school and college students to bond,” Maffeo said.

A precedent for Medford High collaborating with Tufts already exists through programs organized by Tufts’ education department. With a shared interest for the outdoors and with the Middlesex Fells Reservation located just a few minutes from both schools, both Tower and Procton hope that joint outdoors trips become an annual collaboration as well.

Tower, who is working to expand the Students of the Fells to neighboring communities, has already partnered with a Tufts marketing class to develop Students of the Fells’ social media platforms (follow their progress on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook @findyourfells).

“I’d love to continue to grow the relationship between Tufts and Students of the Fells,” Tower said. “My hope is to get some Tufts students who would want to intern with us.”

Already, the Tufts Mountain Club organizes frequent outreach activities with other local youth programs, such as the Malden YMCA. According to Procton, reaching out to more youth in the community is important to the Tufts Mountain Club’s mission of spreading accessibility to the outdoors.

“We’re definitely going to try to continue our work with Medford High,” Procton said. “One of our main goals is to bring our outdoors skills to the community around us and get as many people interested in the outdoors as possible from a young age.”

At the end of the ski day, the bundled group of Medford High and Tufts students posed together for a photo in front of the illuminated ski slope, cold toes and big smiles as evidence of a successful day spent on the slopes.

“As long as everyone had a great time and no one’s hurt, I’m happy,” Tower said.

And on the bus ride back to Medford, the sound of excited chatter and plans for future collaborations made it clear that students had had a great time as well.

Are you looking to get your high school involved with Students of the Fells?  Reach out to Nik Tower through the Friends of the Fells office at or 781-662-2340.