20 Community Highlights: Balsam Fir to Flatware. American Indian Cuisine to Cotillions.

Christmas Bird Count to Watershed Investigators. Balsam Fir to Flatware. American Indian Cuisine to Cotillions….

These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

Peruse our list below and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!

Featured learning highlight this week:  Would you like to learn more about what the holidays were like in the past? The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center and The Mount have partnered to present “Downton Abbey and Gilded Age Holiday Entertaining,” with food historian Francine Segan on Sunday afternoon, December 15th in Great Barrington. She will discuss the variety of traditions, etiquette, dishes, and entertainment that were popular in high society during the Gilded Age, such as calling cards, horse-drawn coaches, high tea, cotillions, formal dinner, and more. The evening also includes trivia, tastings, demonstrations, recipes, and a screening of Somewhere in Time (1980; rated PG). This fascinating and entertaining lecture would be best for older students interested in history, food, or film.


Citizen ScientistOrnithologyNature StudiesDendrenology  ♦ Historical TradeChristmas HistoryMusic HistoryCreative Free PlayLocal History


Citizen Scientist/Ornithology

According to the National Audubon, prior to the turn of the century people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt.” They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won. Conservation was in its beginning stages around the turn of the 20th century, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition -a “Christmas Bird Census”-that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them. Over hundred years later, hundreds of citizen scientists head for the woodlands, fields, ponds and rivers to compete with fellow participants and find the most number of birds, building on the tradition started so long ago.

On Saturday, December 14th, several Christmas Counts happen in Western MA, including the Athol Bird and Nature Club’s Annual Christmas Bird Count. Meet at the Millers River Environmental Center early in the morning for this yearly citizen scientist tradition. Learn about local birds and how to identify them. Best for adults and older students interested in birds.

Other Christmas Bird Count opportunities include:

  • Springfield Area Christmas Count: Saturday, December 14th, 2013. Contact: George Kingston. 413-525-6742. gcking@yahoo.com
  • Central Berkshire Christmas Bird Count: Saturday, December 14th, 2013. Contact: Holly Higinbotham. 413-684-3724  higinbo@hotmail.com
  • North Berkshire Christmas Bird Count: Saturday, December 21st, 2013. Contact: Leslie Reed-Evans. 413-458-5150 lre@wrlf.org
  • Westfield Area Christmas Count: TBA. Contact: Seth Kellogg. 413-569-3335. skhawk@comcast.net
  • South Berkshire Christmas Bird Count: TBA. Register by Dec. 20th. Contact: Rene Laubach. rlaubach@massaudubon.org

Another opportunity to get out and observe birds while participating as citizen scientists this weekend will be at the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox where they will be participating in bird banding on Saturday morning, December 14th.  Sanctuary volunteers will demonstrate how to use mist nets and what information can be gathered through bird banding.

Nature Studies

Take a closer look at one of our local watersheds at the Great Falls Discovery Center’s “Watershed Investigators,” on a free Saturday morning, December 14th, during a family program where kids can learn new ways to look at and understand the world around them using games, crafts, exploration, etc. This week’s program allows kids to build their own water turbines! Designed to best fit students in grades 2-5, but all ages are welcome. Turners Falls.

Join Aimee again on Sunday, December 15th at Savoy State Forest as she leads a free snowshoe trek (hike if no snow) up the Busby Trail in Windsor. Here you can see great views of Mt. Greylock, 19th-century stone walls and cellar holes, and learn about winter ecology, evergreen trees, and animal tracks.

Dendrenology

With it’s dark-green, long-lasting needles, the balsam fir is a very popular Christmas tree.  Maybe your family has one in your living room this hoiday season, decorate with lights and handmade ornaments. The resin of the balsam fir is a traditional remedy for colds and some say it was sweetened and chewed prior to the advent of chewing gum. Join naturalist/educator Aimee Gelinas at Tamarack Hollow in Windsor on Saturday, December 14th, to learn more about balsam fir and make simple balsam crafts, such as wreaths, door hangings, balsam balm, and fir needle sachets. These handmade crafts will make great holiday gifts and are an excellent way to learn more about the balsam fir. This is an adult program, but may be appropriate for older students.

Do you want to learn how to identify trees in the winter? Michael Wojtech, author of Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast, will lead a free winter tree walk at Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area in Florence on Saturday afternoon, December 14th. Wojtech will teach about the many different characteristics that can be used to identify trees during the leafless season, the functional aspects of bark and its form, and the environmental cues that have influenced these diverse characteristics. Older students and adults interested in trees, ecology, and natural history will enjoy this fun and informative walk in the woods.

Historical Trade

What does silverware, flatware, tableware and cutlery all have in common?  You use them to eat with! On Saturday, December 14th, learn about the art of silversmithing and the process of making a sterling silver flatware set for an 18th-century American home with silversmith Steve Smithers at Historic Deerfield who will go through the entire process, from research and design to the actual silver work itself. See if he can tell you the difference between all four and share the history of their evolution and change in name.

Christmas History

What were the holidays like in 1940 here in Western MA? Learn about Christmas as it was during World War II at the Springfield Armory on Saturday afternoon, December 14th. Ranger Susan Ashman will talk about how Armory workers celebrated Christmas during the war, then families can tour the Commanding Officer’s House, which will be decorated for the holidays. Step into the past and discover what Christmas was like during wartime. Older students interested in history will benefit from this educational and timely program.

Take a step back in time this holiday season at Sturbridge Village, where you can celebrate  Colonial Christmas during their “Christmas by Candlelight” event. This historical celebration happens every weekend leading up to Christmas.  Families can experience life in the 1800′s through sleigh rides, a recreation of Mrs. Cratchit’s Christmas dinner, Christmas traditions, carolers, Father Christmas, Santa Claus, a puppet show, music, dancing, and much more. This event allows visitors to experience the Christmas holiday as it was in the past in Colonial New England.

Would you like to learn more about what the holidays were like in the past? The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center and The Mount have partnered to present “Downton Abbey and Gilded Age Holiday Entertaining,” with food historian Francine Segan on Sunday afternoon, December 15th in Great Barrington. She will discuss the variety of traditions, etiquette, dishes, and entertainment that were popular in high society during the Gilded Age, such as calling cards, horse-drawn coaches, high tea, cotillions, formal dinner, and more. The evening also includes trivia, tastings, demonstrations, recipes, and a screening of Somewhere in Time (1980; rated PG). This fascinating and entertaining lecture would be best for older students interested in history, food, or film.

Music History

In our modern society, most of us (even a lot of kids, and certainly many teens) are well aware of the effect that corporately-run big box stores have on small businesses, tightly knit communities, and local economies. Filmmaker Brendan Toller’s documentary, I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store, tells the story of the national impact that big media, big business, and internet-based purchasing has had on a very specific part of our economy and our culture. As part of Historic Northampton’s series “Fast Forward: New Filmmakers at Historic Northampton,” there will be a screening on Sunday afternoon, December 15th featuring interviews with musicians, authors, activists, record labels, and more.

Is it “the Beatles” or “The Beatles?” On Sunday afternoon, December 15th, learn about the history of The Beatles at the Lenox Library’s Distinguished Lecture Series talk “The Beatles Weren’t Really So Great! (Or Were They…?)” presented by David L. Glass. Glass will discuss the history and hype of the Beatles. Best for older students interested in music.

Creative Free Play

Get messy making art! On Monday morning, December 16th, bring your preK kids to “Parents and Kids: Making Messy Art Together” at the South Hadley Family Center for a free workshop offered by the Collaborative for Educational Services. Come be creative and explore artistic possibilities with paints, doughs, crayons, chalk, and collage… creative-free play at it’s finest!

Local History

Calling Springfield it’s home, the first Merriam-Webster dictionary was issued on September 24, 1847 and sold for $6.  Learn more about the formation of Merriam-Webster from it’s beginnings to the present day at the Springfield Museums’ “Museums a la Carte” lecture, “Dictionaries and How They Got This Way: The History of Merriam-Webster in Springfield,”on Thursday afternoon, December 19th with John M. Morse, President and Publisher of Merriam-Webster Inc. The lecture features images of people and places in the Pioneer Valley that are important in the history of Merriam-Webster.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and many other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events. All of our listed events are “suggested.” Please take a moment to confirm that these events are happening as scheduled, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before heading out.

[Photo credit: (c) Lewis Scharpf]

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