Global Youth Service Day

Global Youth Service Day
Community Service-Based Learning

Families interested in participating in community service can use Global Youth Service Day as an opportunity to choose a cause and begin donating their time and efforts to it.

Every single day, kids are making a difference in their communities. Whether it’s through collecting donations for a food bank, volunteering to walk dogs at a local animal shelter, delivering meals to senior citizens, or helping to raise awareness and support for an important cause, kids can (and do) accomplish some really wonderful things through community service. Not only do such efforts benefit communities, they also help kids to learn important lessons about fairness and equality, community activism, and leadership.

This year, GenerationOn honors the efforts of youth around the world with Global Youth Service Day – an event designed to celebrate kid-lead projects and to encourage youth to become engaged in service within their communities. Taking place from April 11th-13th, 2014, Global Youth Service Day honors youth on six continents and in over 135 countries for their service. In addition to celebrating efforts that are already being made, Global Youth Service Day is designed to promote community service and to draw in youth as volunteers to support a wide variety of causes.
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Children’s Volunteer Morning at The Food Bank

Children’s Volunteer Morning at The Food Bank
Monday, December 23rd, 2013

This community service-based learning opportunity will take place during school vacation week on Monday, December 23rd, 2013, and offers kids and their families a chance to volunteer together while learning about food security and the important work the Food Bank does to support food security in the region.

1 in 5 children in Western Massachusetts live in food insecure households. The holidays are a particularly difficult time for families in need, who must juggle higher heating costs, children needing more meals at home (instead of at school), and recent cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), all while trying to put food on the table and make the holidays a special time for the whole family.

You and your family can help the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts provide food for your neighbors in need during a special Children’s Volunteer Morning in Hatfield.   Find out more…

23 Community Highlights: Building Birdhouses to Making Giving Bags. Jurassic Roadshow to Long Island Express.

Northampton’s annual Pride Parade and Celebration takes place on Saturday starting at 12noon! Celebrate LGBTQ culture and rights – there is a specially designated youth space at the event just for families!

Building Birdhouses to Making Giving Bags. Jurassic Roadshow to Long Island Express. Wild Flower Walk to Historical Fashion Show…

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

Get out into your community and learn while you play!


Service-Based LearningPlaygroups & StoryhoursDinosaurs/FossilsNature & HistoryFashionScienceAnimal/Nature StudiesParent Workshop


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40 Community Highlights: History of Tea to Biology of Frogs. Cultural Festivals to Fundraisers.

The new exhibition, Tea Talk: Ritual and Refinement in Early American Parlors, opens at Historic Deerfield this weekend. Families can learn about the history of the tea trade, historical use of tea in homes, and its role in socializing in early America. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Spaghetti Dinner to Fun Run. Composting to Recycling. Victorian Tea to Potluck Dinner.  Frog Life Cycle to Arabic Cultural Festival…

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

On the heels of Earth Day as we head towards the end of National Volunteer Week, there are still a plethora of events to participate in that celebrate and support sustainability, along with opportunities to volunteer with your family this weekend. Peruse our list below and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!

And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week.

Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!


Community ServiceFundraisersSustainabilityAnimal/Nature StudiesEconomicsCultural StudiesHistory


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34 Community Highlights: Wild Flower Walks to Textile Drives. Weather to Transportation.

Earth Day to Volunteer Week. Beaver Ponds to Raising Chickens. Wild Flower Walks to Textile Drives…

These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!

And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week.

Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

Hilltown Family Variety Show: This Saturday, April 20th, we will rebroadcast our Weather Episode with Guest DJ, Alison Faith Levey.  Tune in for an hour of great music and learning highlights on all things WEATHER!


Community ServiceEarth DayAnimal StudiesNature StudiesHistoryParent WorkshopsCultural Studies


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40 Community Highlights: StoryWalks to Marionette Shows. Salmon Fry to Coatimundi.

There are 3 series of puppet and marionette shows happening during April vacation week in the Pioneer Valley!

StoryWalks to Marionette Shows. Salmon Fry to Coatimundi. American Revolutionary War to Patriot’s Day…

These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play during April vacation week!

And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week.

Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!


StoryWalks ♦ Puppets & Marionettes ♦ Animal StudiesCommunity ServiceHistory ♦ Astronomy


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20 Community Highlights: Woodcocks to Vernal Pools. Radio to Railroad.

Search for courting Woodcocks, an elusive bird that is a sure sign of spring when you discover their entertaining breeding behavior. There are two opportunities to explore: Friday night, April 5th at the Guyette Farm in Plainfield, and Tuesday evening, April 9ths at Northfield Mountain.

Radio to Railroad. Alchemy to Literacy. Polka to Hindustani. Timberdoodle to Madagascar… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!

And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week.

Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!


HistoryLiteracyMusic Studies Environmental, Animal & Nature StudiesCivicsParent Workshops & Resources


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22 Community Highlights: Laura Ingalls Wilder to the Beatles. Vernal Pools to Hot Cross Buns.

One of the oldest Good Friday customs is eating hot cross buns. These small sweet buns, marked with a cross of white icing, may have originated in pre-Christian times. Early Egyptians, Greeks and Romans marked their loaves of bread with symbols to honor their gods and goddesses. Many superstitions grew out of this custom.. Read more about this and other Easter icons in our post, Legends & Lore of Easter Icons.

Laura Ingalls Wilder to the Beatles. Vernal Pools to Boreal Forests. Legally Blonde to Anything Goes…

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

Get out into your community and learn while you play!

And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

HistoryOutdoor AdventuresAnimal StudiesCommunity ServiceGeographyComicsMusicalsScience/AstronomyMuseum AdventuresParent Workshops

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27 Community Highlights: Bread to Sushi. Beekeeping to Bird Houses.

Beekeeping to Bird Houses. Latino Folktales to Ukrainian Pysanky. Bread to Sushi… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!


Sustainability ♦ Nature Science/Animal Studies ♦ Culinary Arts ♦ Musical/Theater ♦ Parent Workshops ♦ Art ♦ Culinary Studies


Easter Sunday in next weekend, March 31st, but egg hunts are happening this weekend and next!  Check out our post, Easter Events in Western MA for a comprehensive list.  Read the rest of this entry »

30 Community Highlights: Spring Equinox to St. Patrick’s Day. Spring Musicals to Film Festivals.

Spring arrives on Wednesday, March 20th with the Vernal Equinox. Families are invited to witness the sunrise (6:45am) or sunset (6pm) at the UMass Amherst Sunwheel. Astronomers Judith Young and Stephen Schneider will discuss the astronomical cause of the suns changing position during the hour-long gatherings. They will also explain the seasonal positions of Earth, the sun and moon, phases of the moon, building the Sunwheel, and answer questions about astronomy

Annie to Oklahoma. St. Patrick’s Day to Spring Equinox. Jane Yolen to Georges Méliès… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!


LiteratureHistoryNature/Animal StudiesParent Workshops/Support GroupsSustainabilitySpring Musicals FilmSt. Patrick’s Day


And be sure to check our list of supporting book & DVD titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

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34 Community Highlights: Tulips to Jazz. Irish Dance to Asian Art.

Explore another culture by introducing a new tradition to your family, Ukrainian Easter Eggs, also know as Pisanski eggs. This month there are several community classes and workshops taking place. Check out our post, The Tradition of Pisanski Eggs, for both a list of upcoming opportunities in Western MA and a video showing you how to make them at home.

Culinary Arts to Forensic Science. Tulips to Jazz. Teen Brains to PreK Friendships. Irish Dance to Asian Art…

These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!

Be sure to check our list of supporting book & DVD titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

STEM ♦ Plants & Animals ♦ Films ♦ Parent Workshops ♦ Culture: Asian & Irish ♦ Art ♦ History ♦ Outdoor Adventures ♦ Literacy, Nutrition & Social Studies

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30 Community Highlights: Spotted Salamanders to Orchids. Afro-Cuban Dances to Purim Celebrations.

This weekend is the Amherst Orchid Society’s annual orchid show at Smith Vocational High School in Northampton. Kids can view a wide variety of orchids – there will be blossoms of all sizes and colors, and families will be able to learn about the proper care for growing orchids at home, as well as the interesting facts about orchids’ unique cycle of growth, how they are pollinated by insects and their amazing beauty.  After the show, head over to the Lyman Conservatory at Smith College for more orchids, as well as cacti, a chocolate tree and many others.  Can’t make it?  Check out the Kids Corner and take a virtual tour of the Smith College Botanic Garden and make plans to go this spring when the bulb show arrives!

Orchids to Spotted Salamanders. Purim Celebrations to Afro-Cuban Dances. Sign Language to Fabric Collage… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!

And be sure to check our list of supporting materials to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

History | Outdoor Adventures | Plant, Animal & Nature Studies | Fiber Arts | Astronomy | Parent Workshops | Cultural Studies | Museum Adventures | Science, Film & Sign Language

HISTORY

This Saturday, February 23rd & Sunday, February 24th, visit Old Sturbridge Village to celebrate Black History Weekend, the village’s educational celebration of Black History Month. The event will include a performance by historical reenactor Tammy Denease as Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave who bought freedom for herself and her son and went on to be a very successful fashion designer and clothing maker. Along with the usual opportunities to learn about 19th century life in New England, families will learn about the history of race issues and the use of slavery in early America. Perfect for students studying American history!

The Northampton Community Music Center presents the Deedle Deedle Dees in concert at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst this Saturday morning! An educational rock band, the Deedle Deedle Dees sing about science, history, and everything in between, making their fun, catchy songs educational as well as entertaining. Then mark your calendars as Lloyd from Deedle Deedle Dees joins the Hilltown Family Variety Show again as our guest DJ on Saturday, March 30th!

Learn about the changes that Williamstown’s Main Street has undergone throughout its existence on Saturday morning, at the Williamstown Historical Museum. Once mostly a residential neighborhood, downtown Williamstown has become the commercial hub of the town. Kids can learn about how their community has evolved, and will be able to put what they know about American history into a specific, locally-centered context.

On Tuesday afternoon, February 26th, learn about the life and accomplishments of WEB Du Bois at UMass’ 19th annual Du Bois Lecture. Arthur McFarlane II, great-grandson of WEB Du Bois, will speak about his great-grandfather’s accomplishments as a civil rights activist at St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield. Older students studying American history and/or the Civil Rights Movement will learn useful and interesting information about a significant figure from the Civil Rights Movement, and will also learn to put what they’ve learned into a modern background.

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35 Community Highlights: Shaker Song to Gospel Music. Sojourner Truth to George Washington.

Sledding on 1830's-style sleds at Old Sturbridge Village.

Sledding on 1830’s-style sleds at Old Sturbridge Village. (Submitted photo.)

Shaker Song to Gospel Music. Sojourner Truth to George Washington. Arctic Wolves to Mountain Lions… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!

History | Culinary History | Animals | STEM | Culture | Music & Dance Studies | Film | Sports | Creative Free Play | Fairy Tales

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22 Community Highlights: Victorian Valentines to Mardi Gras. Winterfest to Fire & Ice.

Having a snow day? Here’s a fun papercraft to make with your kids for Valentine’s Day : Swedish Heart Baskets. Click on the image for directions.

Chocolate History to Guitar History. Victorian Valentines to Mardi Gras. Winterfest to Fire & Ice… These are just a few of the learning & community highlights we’re featuring this week. Get out into your community and learn while you play!

History | Valentine Celebrations | Animals | Community Events | Outdoor Adventures | Mardi Gras | Fiber Arts | Science | Theater Studies

HISTORY

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day go together like peanut butter and jelly! Learn about the history of chocolate – bean to bar – and Valentine’s Day traditions at Old Sturbridge Village on Sunday, February 10th. Families can make their own valentines and meet the local women responsible for the tradition of sharing cards on Valentine’s Day. The tradition began with handmade cards, and grew into an entire company! There will also be demonstrations of chocolate processing and the making of a hot, spiced chocolate drink. Families can also learn a 19th century recipe for chocolate cake! There will, of course, be the usual opportunities to learn about life in early New England that Old Sturbridge Village offers. Families can supplement studies of American history and culture by visiting the village, and make their visit fun and holiday-related by learning about Valentine’s Day traditions! Read our featured post, Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines.

The Springfield Museums will host a lecture titled, “Les Paul’s New Sound: Re-Imagining the Electric Guitar in 1950’s America,” featuring Smith College professor Steve Waksman on Sunday afternoon. The talk will teach visitors about the role that Les Paul’s music played in the changing sound of American music during the mid-20th century. Also featured will be Quinnipiac University professor John Thomas, who will share his process of x-raying vintage guitars to examine their craftsmanship. Great for older students interested in music, music history, and cultural studies and ties into the current exhibit, GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World.

Hold your pinky high – it’s time for a fancy tea at Ventfort Hall on Thursday afternoon, February 14th in Lenox! In honor of Valentine’s Day, the museum is hosting a special tea-tasting event, where visitors can learn about the history of specific tea blends, as well as the origins of teas and recent changes in the tea market. Special emphasis will be placed on the history of the JP Morgan blend, a special tea commissioned by JP Morgan himself – it was his favorite! Best for older students with some background in world history and basic economics, the event will help students learn about world trade, and the changes in food sourcing and sales throughout American history. BYO teacup! Victorian high tea to follow the tasting.

VALENTINE CELEBRATIONS

Use antique valentines for inspiration at a valentine-making workshop at the Wistariahurst Museum on Sunday afternoon, February 10th in Holyoke! There will be plenty of materials on hand, along with Victorian poetry and sayings to embellish your artwork with. Read our featured post, Victorian Valentines Workshop & Era Days at Wistariahurst Museum.

On Tuesday afternoon, February 12th, visit the Sixteen Acres Library in Springfield for a special Valentine tea! Kids ages 5-8 and their parents can learn about different kinds of tea and have some treats (including chocolate milk in place of tea, if they prefer!) – and there will be a special edible craft, too! Wear a fancy hat or don one borrowed from the library. (FREE)

Still need to make some last-minute valentines? The Williston Library children’s department in Easthampton is hosting a pre-Valentine’s Day celebration that will include card and craft making, and a performance of “Little Bear’s Valentine” by Emily’s Players on Tuesday afternoon. (FREE)

Looking for a date night on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, February 14th? Spend Valentine’s evening at MASS MoCA in North Adams – there will be tours, gift-making, romantic games, and couples yoga. End the evening with dinner at Lickety Split! The Kidspace will offer kids’ programming, and parents can drop off kids for their own special Valentine’s evening, including crafts, dinner, and lots of other fun activities.

Another way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is seeing a screening of Casablanca at the Amherst Cinema for a cozy date night on Thursday! Well known as one of the greatest love stories from the golden age of film, the movie stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as lovers forced to choose between love and virtue in Africa during World War II.

Parents and their kids 10 and under can enjoy an evening out at a special parent/child Sweetheart Dance on Friday evening, February 15th in Florence! Hosted by Northampton Recreation, the dance will have live (family-friendly) DJ music, crafts, games, and treats.

ANIMALS

Pooches of all shapes and sizes strut their stuff on Sunday, February 10th at Berkshire Community College in the 12th annual Not Your Average Dog Show in Pittsfield! There are lots of non-traditional categories for pups to compete in, including mystery mutt, best trick, most beautiful eyes, “earresistable” ears, and more. Dog lovers of all ages will love spectating at this event.

Preschoolers can become track-finding nature detectives this morning at the Hitchcock Center in Amherst on Friday morning, February 15th! The Winter Wonderland Detectives program will teach young children to look for tracks in winter, and will include a track-themed storytime and a track-finder guide making activity.

COMMUNITY EVENTS

Shovel out your car and visit MASS MoCA in North Adams on Saturday, February 9th – for Free Family Day!  Along with the usual opportunities to learn about (and make) modern art by visiting the museum’s galleries, there will be special performances, tours, and workshops today, too!  Families can learn all about the many works of art housed at MASS MoCA  by taking tours which will be held throughout the day.  Visitors ages 16 and older can take part in a dance workshop with Batsheva Emsemble (bring water and a towel!).  The day ends with a family-friendly psychedelic Latin dance party featuring the sounds of Brooklyn’s Chicha Libre!  Tickets to the show cost extra for those over 12.   (FREE)

Easthampton’s 5th annual Fire and Ice Art Walk takes place on Saturday evening, February 9th, FEBRUARY 16TH! The event features, of course, beautiful and interesting artwork by local artists and locations throughout town, and will also offer exciting wintery activities for families. There will be a bonfire at Nashawannuck Pond (but ice harvest has been cancelled), luminaries, live music, poetry readings from 6:30-7:30 at participating Art Walk locations, and a collaborative community art project titled, “For the Love of Easthampton, Valentines for the City,” will be taking place at city hall for families to participate in! Read our feature post, Warm Up this Winter with Easthampton Fire & Ice Art Walk!

Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride, race down a hill in a cardboard box, play some frisbee (winter style!), watch fireworks, taste chilis entered in the chili cook-off, a marvel at ice sculptures, and practice your cross-country ski skills on Sunday, February 10th at Winterfest Amherst (rescheduled from Saturday, Feb. 9th)! The annual event takes place at the Cherry Hill Golf Course, and features tons of exciting winter-themed family activities. Beat cabin fever and spend the day outdoors!

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

Snowshoe with the Trustees of Reservations at Peaked Mountain in Monson on Sunday afternoon, February 10th! Snowshoes available for rent with registration.

Explore Chapel Brook in Ashfield with the Trustees of Reservations on Thursday morning, February 14th and learn to identify moss and lichen species! The 1-2 hour hike will include lots of stops for observation and identification practice, so bring any interesting field guides or other resources if you’d like!

Look for tracks and other signs of wildlife on Wednesday morning, February 13th at Mt. Greylock with the Berkshire Natural Resources Council in Adams! The 2-4 mile expedition will take about 2 hours, but is relatively easy. Hikers can see a new beaver lodge, and can wander through some of the many game trails created by the wildlife who call the mountain home. An excellent supplement to studies of local biodiversity and natural resources! (FREE)

MARDI GRAS

On Saturday, February 9th from 9-10am and Sunday, February 10th from 7-8am, tune in on your FM dial, or listen live via streaming audio at www.valleyfreeradio.org, to the Hilltown Family Variety Show! Children’s book author and musician Johnette Downing and Grammy Award winning producer Scott Billington offer a carnival of Louisiana roots music; a showcase of Cajun, New Orleans Rhythm and Blues, Zydeco, Brass Band and Jazz music by Louisiana artists. (FREE)

Celebrate Mardi Gras and Carnival together at Mardival on Sunday afternoon in Nothampton! The Academy of Music hosts this special performance, featuring the Expandable Brass Band, Samba SA, and the Jaimoe Jasssz Band with special guests Samirah Evans and Duke Robillard. The event will share New Orleans-style jazz and Brazilian music to celebrate the annual celebration of Carnival in New Orleans and Rio de Janero.

With Mardi Gras is coming up, prepare for the celebration by making a mask at the Forest Park Library in Springfield on Tuesday afternoon, February 12th! There will be feathers, beads, glitter, and more to make beautiful, unique masks with – express yourself, cajun-style! (FREE)

FIBER ARTS

On Sunday afternoon, February 10th, see a display of needlework in the Springfield Central Library’s Wellman Hall, and then work on your own crochet and hand-weaving skills! All skill levels are welcome, but young weavers/crocheters/knitters should be mature and able to interact with adults easily. Guidance will be offered for beginners. BYO materials. (FREE)

SCIENCE

Students from Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School present their projects for the Science and Innovation Fair at the Berkshire Museum on Tuesday, February 12th in Pittsfield! Approximately 170 students have participated in preparation for the event, and 80 collaborative projects will be displayed. Visitors can learn about the projects and ask questions about the young scientists’ methods and processes, and will also get free admission to see the museum’s exhibits. Students can be inspired by the projects that they see, and the high schoolers can serve as role models for independent work and scientific inquiry. (FREE)

THEATER STUDIES

By special arrangement with Hilltown Families, Shakespeare & Company in Lenox is pleased to offer our readers a rare opportunity to take in a classic Shakespearean performance paired with a guided tour backstage. On Friday, Feb. 15th at 10am, schools and homeschooling families are invited to a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Tina Packer Playhouse, followed by a backstage guided tour where participants can learn how the process of theatre is crafted in the costume shop, prop studio, and production workshop. Tickets for this package are only $8/person and a Study Guide for educators is available to download before attending. To reserve discounted tickets, contact Alexandra Lincoln, and let her know you are a Hilltown Families reader: 413-637-1199 x131. Shakespeare & Company is located at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox. www.Shakespeare.org.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 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.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

26 Community Highlights: Glass Blowing to Handmade Valentines. Ice Harvest to Hobby Railroad.


February is Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month. From the archives, we have a few episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show that would make excellent listening anytime, including the Underground Railroad Episode, Martin Luther King, Jr. Episode and Black History Month Episode— great shows for introducing American history and heroes to younger children through song and story. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield) 

Spelling Bee to Cosmology.  Glass Blowing to Handmade Valentines. Ice Harvest to Hobby Railroad. African-American History Month to Groundhogs Day… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week.  Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

Animals & Nature MYO Valentines
Black History Month
HistoryMusic & Art
Science & SpellingParents’ Night Out

ANIMAL & NATURE STUDIES

Saturday, February 2nd is Groundhog Day! Families with young children can celebrate in the morning at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls by learning about the winter habits of the shadow-searching creatures, and make a guess about whether or not winter will last for six more weeks

Learn about raptors at the Greenfield Center School on Sunday afternoon, February 3rd at their annual free Birds of Prey Open House with Tom Ricardi, Raptor Rehabilitator. Bird-related activities and projects, like owl pellet dissecting, will be lead by Center School teachers.

In Williamstown in the afternoon on Sunday, explore Field Farm for their free Winter Wildlife Day at Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation. Dress warmly to trek around the farm, searching for signs of wildlife and learning about how the many creatures who call the farmlands home survive during the winter months. Bring snowshoes or skis if you wish. Warm up after your adventure by toasting marshmallows over a campfire! 4

In the morning on Wednesday, February 7th in Williamsburg, start out your day with some fresh air with a free guided hike at Petticoat Hill with the Trustees of Reservations. The theme of the hike is edible plant identification, and the hike will stop a few times along the way for observations. Bring a field guide and a camera if you want.

HANDMADE VALENTINES

Did you sign up for the Hilltown Families 5th annual Handmade Valentine Swap? Whether you did or not, making handmade valentines is a great way to push against the commercialization of yet another holiday, while being creative with your family and friends. There are a few opportunities to get out in your community to make valentines with others this weekend!

On Saturday morning, February 2nd, sign up to take part in the Eric Carle Museum’s Valentine-making party, which will take place in the museum’s art studio in Amherst or make your own valentines at the Mason Library in Great Barrington. In the afternoon on Saturday, families can also make their own handmade valentines at Art Party in Easthampton. If you can’t make any of those, on Sunday evening, February 3rd, kids ages 8-14 can learn basic drawing and print-making techniques with local artists at the Shutesburny Town Hall to use to create unique and beautiful handmade valentines.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

There are also a few upcoming events happening at area museum that support the study of American history for older students. On Saturday morning, February 2nd the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield presents, “Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery,” the first in a two-part lecture series featuring author Barbara Krauthamer. The presentation will use historic images (including the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, Sojourner Truth, abolitionist conventions, and more) to examine what the freedom granted by the Emancipation Proclamation really looked like in the years just after its implementation. Older students can pair the event with studies of American history and civil rights – gaining a critical understanding of the implications of the historic proclamation can help students better understand the roots of race-related conflicts and inequalities. The second lecture will take place at the same time on Saturday, February 9th.

Learn about the history of slavery in the Connecticut River Valley on Thursday at noon, February 7th at the Springfield Museums’ Museums a la Carte lecture, featuring Amherst College Professor Robert Romer. During the 1700’s, it was commonplace for important, prominent people to own slaves – even ministers. Older students can learn how the practice of slave-holding affected the history of their community.

Learn about the powerful images that Norman Rockwell created during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s on Friday afternoon, February 8th in Stockbridge. Norman Rockwell Museum’s Curator of Education Tom Daly will share the stories behind the creation of such paintings as “The Problem We All Live With,” “Murder in Mississippi,” and “New Kids in the Neighborhood,” and Rockwell’s dedication to civil rights throughout his career.

HISTORY

The annual Amherst Railroad Society Railroad Hobby Show takes place this weekend (Feb. 2nd & 3rd) at the Big E in West Springfield, and contains everything related to rail travel, from real life railroad pieces to scale models and extensive hobby train set-ups. There will be displays from railroad historical societies, hobby builders, suppliers, and more – the event has something for everyone, whether you’re new to studying railroads and model trains of a seasoned enthusiast! Families can learn about the history of rail travel, and the numerous types of trains and their uses. Kids can also learn about the history of railroad use in the area, and will learn about how their community has changed over the years.

Attend an old-fashioned ice harvest at the Old Shop Pond at the Noble and Cooley Center for Historic Preservation in Granville on Saturday afternoon, February 2nd. Dennis Picard, director of Storrowton Village, will teach visitors about the historic practice of cutting ice from the pond to store for the year. The museum will show a short video about the history of ice harvesting in New England on loop, so that visitors throughout the day can learn even more about winter life in early New England.

Local author Sarah Kilborne will read from American Phoenix: The Remarkable Story of William Skinner, the Man Who Turned Disaster into Destiny. on Sunday afternoon, February 3rd. The book tells the story of Skinner’s life, and offers much information about the history of local silk production, and Haydenville’s recovery from the 1874 flood. Takes place at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg.

Families can do hands-on activities to learn about early New England life at Old Sturbridge Village! The village’s winter homeschool day takes place on on Friday, February 8th and will feature a variety of special workshops for all ages, in addition to the daily opportunities to explore the village, meet historical re-enactors, and learn all about 1830’s culture and practices. Some of the workshops offered today include learning to make a kitchen grater using tin-working techniques, open hearth cooking, and studying the language of fans and dance etiquette.

MUSIC & ART STUDIES

Celebrate the opening of glass artist Noah Rockland’s new glassblowing studio on Sunday, February 3rd in Montague. Families can learn about the art of glassblowing and watch demonstrations.

Smith College’s John M. Greene Hall will be filled with the sounds of a capella on Sunday afternoon, February 3rd in Northampton. The Northampton Arts Council’s annual Silver Chord Bowl will feature groups from Smith College, Northeastern, the University of Connecticut, Yale, Tufts, NYU, Berklee College of Music, and the Northamptones. Families will love the unique sound that each group has, and can learn to better understand a capella music by listening to a sampling of well-performed pieces.

The Mt. Holyoke College Music Department presents flutist Andrea Kapell Loewy, principal in the Acadania Symphony, in concert on Wednesday afternoon, February 6th in Hadley. Students with audience skills can learn about the unique sound of this beautiful wind instrument at this free performance.

SCIENCE & SPELLING

Older students can learn about the science behind the human sense of smell at the OEB Science Cafe on Monday evening, February 4th in Hadley. This free event will take place at Esselon Cafe, and will be lead by UMass graduate student Tom Eiting will explain his work researching how nasal passages work and how smell is perceived in the brain.

Where did the universe come from? Learn about its origins on Tuesday evening, February 5th with cosmologist Lawrence Krauss at Williams College in Williamstown. Best for older students, the talk will cover recent developments in the field of particle physics, as well as ideas behind why there is something in the universe instead of nothing at this free talk.

The second annual Westfield city-wide spelling bee, Words With Friends, takes place on Thursday evening, February 7th. Students from all of the city’s fifth grade classrooms have participated in preliminary bees, and this final event will include two top spellers from each school! Takes place at Westfield State University.

PARENTS NIGHT OUT

Saturday night, February 2nd: Enjoy an evening of classic jazz at the Gateways Inn Restaurant in Lenox. The event is a fundraiser for the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School’s high school, and will feature local musicians.

Thursday, afternoon February 7th: Enjoy an indulgent night of wine and chocolate at the Springfield Museums! There will be wines to taste, chocolates to try, and delicious chocolate hors d’ouevres, as well as guest speaker Donald Williams, a professional wine buyer.

Friday, evening February 8th: New Orleans’ own legends the Preservation Hall Jazz Band are playing The Clark in Williamstown! Playing both Dixieland and traditional jazz, the group represents the historic Preservation Hall’s decades-long musical tradition.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 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.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

37 Community Highlights: Ice Harvest to Winter Farmers’ Market. Chinese New Year to Tu B’Shevat.

This weekend, January 26th & 27th, Old Sturbridge Village celebrates Fire and Ice Days! Families can visit the village to take part in the annual event, which includes many of the activities typical to an 1830’s New England winter. Families can skate on the pond, go sledding on vintage sleds, take a horse drawn sleigh ride, and learn about (and try!) ice harvesting. Indoor activities include a fireside magic show, a talk on the history of ice skating, a thaumatrope-making craft, and opportunities to learn about 19th century methods of staying warm throughout the village. Pair a visit to the village with studies of American history and culture or a look at the evolution of technology, and compare the ways that early New Englanders battled winter to the ways we have adapted to handle cold weather today. Kids get free admission through the month of January!

Ice Harvest to Winter Farmers’ Market. Chinese New Year to Tu B’Shevat. Wind Turbines to Meteorology. Hendrix to Ben-Hur… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!  And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

It’s that time of the year when families are being to think about their next step with their children’s education. Several schools will be offering open houses this weekend, along with a preschool resource fair for families just starting their investigation in various learning institutes and establishments offered in the region. Here are seven upcoming opportunities:

  1. Saturday, Jan 26th at Montessori School of the Berkshire in Lenox Dale from 9-11am
  2. Saturday, Jan 26th at The Common School in Amherst from 10am-12noon
  3. Saturday, Jan 26th at UMass OFR Preschool Resource Fair in Amherst from 10am-1pm
  4. Saturday, Jan 26th at Hartsbrook School in Hadley from 10am-12noon
  5. Sunday, Jan 27th at The Academy at Charlemont from 1-3pm
  6. Sunday, Jan 27th at Cloverdale Cooperative Preschool in Florence from 1-3:30pm
  7. Next Sunday, Feb 3rd at Greenfield Center School from 1-4pm

CULTURAL STUDIES

Celebrate the Chinese New Year with the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School on Saturday afternoon, January 26th in Northampton! Families can learn about Chinese culture, as well as the traditions surrounding the event. Then later in the week, pay a visit to the Smith College Museum of Art’s Asian art exhibit to learn more about Chinese culture – it opens on February 1st!

In the morning on Saturday, celebrate the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat – also known as Jewish Earth Day- with Jewish entertain-ucator Felicia Sloin and puppeteer Kate Holdsworth at Temple Beth El in Springfield. This free performance is filled with music, puppets, and stories that will teach kids about the holiday. The show is designed for young children, but all are welcome to come and learn about Jewish culture and traditions. Then on Sunday morning, January 27th, continue the celebration at Temple B’Nai Israel in Northampton! Tu B’Shvat is a celebration of trees, and calls for reflection on our relationship with the natural world. Families of all backgrounds can take part in this free celebration, which will include lots of fruit and environmentally-themed games.

LOCAL FOOD

Celebrate CISA’s Winter Fare Week at the Northampton Farmers’ Market and the Springfield Winter Market this Saturday, January 26th. These markets are filled with a wide variety of local produce and locally produced foods – shop tables filled by farms, bakeries, orchards, and more to find foods your family will love. At the Northampton event there will be special workshops on food preservation, sustainability, and self sufficiency, too! Families who preserve their own food can participate in a barter market, too – trade your homemade pickles for local blueberry jam, or eggs from your chickens for homemade local applesauce. At the Springfield event, stop by the market for workshops and fun kids’ activities. The workshops offered will be on teaching kids to cook and preparing efficient, eco-conscious, and affordable family meals.

Another way to enjoy food locally is by joining in a community dinner or breakfast! This Sunday morning, January 27th, bring your family to fill up on pancakes with the Belchertown Fire Department at a community pancake breakfast! … Maple season is just around the corner! Get your pancake chops ready now!

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)

This Saturday morning, January 26th, learn how to be a mad scientist – safely! – using ingredients found in your kitchen! Kitchen Ka-Boom at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield is a special program filled with wacky kid-safe experiments that can be easily replicated at home and will help kids learn about basic scientific principles.

In the afternoon on Saturday, kids can build crazy LEGO creations at the Dickinson Library in Northfield! LEGOs are a great creative medium for kids interested in design and architecture, and can help them develop their own creative stories based on characters and structures that they build.

On Wednesday evening, January 30th, the Collaborative for Educational Services is offering a free parent workshop, “Tech for Tots,” focused on developmentally appropriate use of technology. The workshop takes place at Hatfield Elementary School, and parents will learn about the impact of use of technology on normal child development – technology use can impact social skills, learning, and brain development if not done appropriately.

Students at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School will present their own unique, independent science research on Wednesday evening, January 30th, at the school’s annual science fair! Students choose their own topics to research, then are mentored by an expert in the field that they have chosen in order to help them learn how to do accurate research, provide them with necessary background information, etc. The process helps students learn how to be a scientist, and the role that scientific research plays in our lives. Families can learn about many different scientific phenomena by viewing the exhibits, and can learn about ways to conduct their own scientific research at home.

On Thursday afternoon, January 31st, meet an actual television meteorologist! Sprout Homeschool Science Program is offering a field trip to a television station in Springfield where kids will be able to learn about how air temperature, the water cycle, weather monitoring, and knowledge of climate all help meteorologists make their weather predictions. Kids will be able to see meteorology equipment and can ask questions, too! Fits perfectly into elementary-aged studies of earth sciences, especially the water cycle and climate.

Also on Thursday afternoon, in preparation for the Science and Sustainability Expo happening in April, there will be a KidWind Workshop for educators and parents of youth in grades 4-12 to learn how to build a mini wind turbine in Greenfield. Build and take home a free model electricity generating wind turbine with your own blade design. Learn about the knowledge, skills and resources needed to bring wind energy education to your youth using standards-based activities in an engaging, hands-on manner.

MUSIC/FILM STUDIES

Enjoy some mid-day Baroque music at the Pelham Library on Saturday at noon, January 26th! The library’s monthly tea will feature a free performance by The Montague Consort, featuring music for piano and recorder. Great for older students interested in learning about music history!

On Saturday evening, The Academy of Music Theater in Northampton screens Hendrix 70: Live at Woodstock, a documentary about Hendrix’s road to Woodstock, as well as footage of his most famous (and probably most memorable) performances. Young music buffs will love seeing Hendrix’s Woodstock performance and hearing live version of his classic songs. Older students interested in music history can learn about the early days of classic 70’s rock and will learn more about the history behind the sounds that influenced much of today’s music. Then on Sunday, January 27th, head over to the Springfield Museums to check out GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World, an exhibit which shares the history and science behind this iconic musical instrument. Families can also learn about over 60 rare, unique, and antique instruments, learn about playing music through hands-on interactive exhibits, and more!

The Clark Museum’s Widescreen Wonders series continues on Saturday in Williamstown with a free screening of Ben-Hur, a 1959 epic about the Roman Empire in Palestine. The film, directed by William Wyler, included a cast of thousands of actors and swept in eleven Oscars. Older students interested in film will love seeing this classic!

LITERACY

Celebrate the 151st birthday of prolific writer Edith Wharton on Saturday, January 26th at The Mount in Lenox Wharton’s beautiful and historic home! The mansion will be open for visitors of all ages to explore for free – guides will be available for tours throughout the day. Kids can do a scavenger hunt and make their own journals to write down their thoughts and ideas – just like Edith! Tie the celebration into family studies of classic literature and/or historic homes and architecture.

Monday evening, January 28th is the first meeting of First Steps to Reading, a free workshop series for parents of kids from birth to five years old in Belchertown. Parents will learn ways to prepare their children for reading at home by sharing books, writing, playing, exploring and singing. The workshops run weekly through March 4th, and each meeting will focus on a different aspect of reading preparation, teaching parents how to support their children’s budding literacy.

Families with early readers can take part in a free literacy workshop at the Lee Library on Tuesday morning, January 29th! The workshop is part of a six-week series, and is open to families with kids ages 5 and younger. The program will focus on teaching skills that will eventually help children learn to read in school – parents can work on these basic skills at home with their kids in order to help them be ready to read!

Do you ever wish that you could recommend your favorite books to other library visitors? The Forest Park Branch Library in Springfield invites Forest Park Reads, a free series where families can read new books (or chapters of books) and then rate them using a star system so that other library visitors can choose great new things to read on Tuesday afternoon, January 29th!

SNOWSHOE HIKES & ANIMAL STUDIES

Snowshoe under the full moon at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox on Saturday evening, January 26th, or spend the entire day and evening outdoors on Sunday, January 26th, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and snow hiking at Stump Sprouts Cross Country Ski Area in Hawley!

Learn about the secret lives of amphibians on Saturday afternoon, January 26th at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield. Berkshire Community College professor Tom Tyning will present information about frogs and salamanders, as well as his new book – A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles.

SPORTS

Smith College’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day celebration takes place in Northampton on Sunday afternoon, January 27th! This free event, open to girls in 3rd-5th grade, celebrates girls and women participating in sports at all levels – from professional ice hockey to high school basketball to recreational summer soccer. Girls participating in the event will learn about (and get to try!) many of the sports played by women at the collegiate level, including rugby, cheerleading, field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, rock climbing, and more. The event is a great opportunity for girls to learn about advanced levels of sports, and the female athletes they meet can serve as role models for budding athletes of all abilities.

If your girls are interested but can’t make the Smith College event, girls in grades 3-8 can participate in a similar free event on Saturday, February 2nd at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ National Girls and Women in Sports Day event in Williamstown! There will be separate workshops for kids and adults, all of which will teach girls and women about participating in sports and the many different athletic opportunities available to them. The event celebrates the female presence in athletics, and young participants will learn about the hard work that it takes to be a higher level athlete.

THEATER STUDIES

By special arrangement with Hilltown Families, Shakespeare & Company in Lenox is pleased to offer our readers a rare opportunity to take in a classic Shakespearean performance paired with a guided tour backstage. On Friday, Feb. 15th at 10am, schools and homeschooling families are invited to a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Tina Packer Playhouse, followed by a backstage guided tour where participants can learn how the process of theatre is crafted in the costume shop, prop studio, and production workshop. Tickets for this package are only $8/person and a Study Guide for educators is available to download before attending. To reserve discounted tickets, contact Alexandra Lincoln, and let her know you are a Hilltown Families reader: 413-637-1199 x131. Shakespeare & Company is located at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox. www.Shakespeare.org.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 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.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

30 Community Highlights: Bald Eagles to Owls. Artful Dining to Outsider Art.

The Quabbin Reservoir, a man-made body of water, is home to numerous species and provides a vast amount of habitat to these creatures. Visit the reservoir on Saturday, January 19th to learn about the nearly 30 bald eagles that call the reservoir home!

30 Community Highlights: Bald Eagles to Bats. Opulent Banquets to Trolley Lines. Teen Open Mic to Nurturing Your Baby… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!

MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.

Celebrate and honor Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 29th annual MLK Community Breakfast on Saturday morning, January 19th. An Amherst tradition, the event includes performances from the Amherst Regional High School jazz band, the Hope Community Church Choir, and the Common School Chorus, and will feature main speaker Dr. John Higginson, UMass history professor. Along with breakfast, music, and celebration of civil rights and Dr. King’s life, the event will include the distribution of community awards.

Six more ways to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day take place on Monday, January 21st.

  1. Join community members in Northampton for the 29th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration
  2. Volunteer for MLK Day of Service with MassAudubon in Easthampton.
  3. Old Sturbridge Village is open with special programs celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Sturbridge
  4. The Community Music School of Springfield presents their annual musical celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  5. Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the 4th Annual Interfaith Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Great Barrington
  6. Learn about the powerful images that Norman Rockwell created during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s during a guide tour of Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbrigde

Find out about all of the events in 6 Ways to Observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Western MA.

ANIMAL STUDIES

The Quabbin Reservoir, a man-made body of water, is home to numerous species and provides a vast amount of habitat to these creatures. Visit the reservoir on Saturday, January 19th to learn about the nearly 30 bald eagles that call the reservoir home! Mass Audubon hosts the event, which will include a visit to the visitor’s center in Belchertown to learn about the reservoir’s interesting history, a drive around the reservoir to visit lookout points and search for eagles, and a trek through the woods to search for other feathered wildlife.

Eagles are the only bird of prey being highlighted this week… families can also learn all about the many types of owls found in Western MA at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton on Saturday evening. Come see a puppet show of local author Jane Yolen’s picture book, Owl Moon! After the puppet show, take a walk in the sanctuary’s woods to listen for owl calls and search for signs of owls.

Long ago, animal tracking was essential to survival – now, it’s a way to learn what other creatures call the woods home, and to learn about the biodiversity of the area in which you live. Visit Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton on Saturday morning to learn about many different types of animal tracks and signs, and explore outside to find and identify some!

The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield is coming alive with creatures of the night – the museum’s newest exhibit is all about bats, Bats: Creatures of the Night. The exhibit opens on Saturday and there will be fun family activities all afternoon, including a scavenger hunt, echolocation experiments, and wing-making. The museum is also offering a lecture on bats later in the afternoon.

Two libraries are welcoming live animals to their stacks on Saturday to meet their youth patrons, and to be petted and read too! In the morning, kids can meet a real live llama at the Ramsdell Library in Housatonic, and in the afternoon, specially trained therapy dogs will be available as reading buddies at the Westfield Athenaeum. Both events are free.

Visit the Great Falls Discovery Center for a bear-themed Discovery Hour on Friday morning, January 25th in Turners Falls! Though the real bears are hibernating, there’s still lots to be learned about them during this free event.

HISTORY

Want to learn about the history of the Mount Greylock Ski Club? Join the the Williamstown Historical Society on Saturday morning, January 19th at the Milne Library in Williamstown. Club member Mary Merselis (who joined in 1965) will share nearly 75 years worth of local history, including the club’s role in building Greylock’s Thunderbolt Trail and in creating the National Ski Patrol.

Beginning Sunday afternoon, January 20th in Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute will present a four-part lecture series, “A Feast for the Eyes: Food, Porcelain, Silver, and Luxury Fabrics.” Darra Goldstein, professor of Russian at Williams College, will present the first lecture in the series, “Artful Dining: The Orchestration of the Meal.” Goldstein will explore feasts, from the ribald gatherings of the European Middle Ages through the opulent banquets of the Renaissance and on to the excesses of America’s Gilded Age. Older students can get a unique view into European history.

In Springfield on Thursday, January 24th, the Mason Square Library hosts, “Circle in the Square,” an ongoing community discussion of local history and community memories. This free afternoon meeting will focus on researching local history, and special guest Ed Lonergan (librarian and neighborhood resident) will help attendees learn ways to find out history about their own homes that they may not have known! Great for students interested in researching their community – learning about local history can help students put national history into a local context that they can relate to.

In its heyday, Holyoke was a bustling hub of industry, drawing workers from all over New England, and even Canada and Europe. The Connecticut River powered the city’s many factories, and there was even a trolley line! On Thursday afternoon, January 24th at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, local author Bob McMaster will read from his new novel Trolley Days, a coming-of-age story about two young boys growing up in early 20th century Holyoke. Best for older students, this free reading puts an exciting, fictional spin on local history and can help students to learn more about the rise and fall of local industry and life in Holyoke past.

ASTRONOMY & ART STUDIES

On Saturday afternoon, January 19th learn all about Mars at Western Gateway Heritage State Park in North Adams, while celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of Mars Attacks.

Artist, educator and author of “Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America,” Phyllis Kornfeld, will present a slide talk on the art of inmates at the Stockbridge Library on Friday afternoon, January 25th. This presentation will be paired with a discussion of their work, common types of art produced, and its place amongst mainstream American artwork. Older students can attend the event to learn about prison culture, the universality of human artistic expression, outsider art in America, and other topics related to art, psychology, and criminal justice.

JUST FOR TEENS

The Belchertown Teen Center is holding an Open House at the center on Saturday morning, January 19th. The center is open Tuesdays-Wednesdays afternoon every week, and offers activities, sports, homework help, and a safe place to socialize in a semi-supervised environment.

Northfield Mountain is offering a free snowshoeing workshop for women ages 16+ on Saturday afternoon! Have a mother-daughter day of learning all about the winter sport, or teens can go with their BFF! Learn everything from the specifics of snowshoeing gear, the history of the sport, and the best types of trails for snowshoeing!

Teens, make yourself heard at the Barrington Stage Company’s first ever youth open mic on Saturday evening, in Pittsfield! The free event is open to youth ages 19 and younger who are interested in sharing performance of any kind. Each performer will get a 10-minute time slot to share music, poetry, performance art, and any other creative performance! The event will take place at Mr. Finn’s Cabaret, in the lower level of the Barrington Stage Company.

Teens can dance the night away in their most elegant attire at the Hartsbrook School’s annual Viennese Ball at the Northampton Center for the Arts on Saturday evening! The event is open to youth ages 12yo+ and parents/guardians, and includes dessert & dancing.

On Wednesday evening, January 23rd, teens can sing their hearts out with Berkshire Sings!, a community singing group at the Berkshire South Regional Community Center in Great Barrington. Singers of all abilities welcomed (adults, too) to sing pop, jazz, folk, showtunes, and more.

Teens can make a masterpiece out of food at the Forest Park Branch Library in Springfield on Thursday afternoon, January 24th! Use everyday food items as materials in what could possibly be the messiest but most beautiful art you’ll make this week. There will be prizes for the least amount of food used, most amount of food used, most colorful, most creative, and other limits.

JUST FOR PARENTS

Do you know how to survive an emergency situation? On Sunday afternoon, January 20th, Earthworks Programs in Ashfield is offering a workshop for adults that will share information and teach skills for surviving everything from a power outage to being lost in the woods

A free workshop series for parents of infants (babies 0-12 months) begins Wednesday, January 23rd at the Gateway Family Center in Huntington. Titled, “Nurturing Your Baby,” the series will teach parents about infant development, sleep strategies, infant massage, and other methods of caring for your baby.

The Collaborative for Educational Services hosts, “Why Do They Do That? Challenging Behaviors and Effective Responses,” at the Ware Family Center on Wednesday evening, January 23rd. The free workshop will teach parents of toddlers and pre-school aged children about the causes of common challenging behaviors and some strategies for dealing with them effectively.

On Thursday morning, January 24th, Baystate Health in Springfield is offering a free workshop for parents on the physical and emotional changes that kids go through during puberty, and will teach ways to effectively communicate and provide emotional support throughout childrens’ transition. “Family Matters! Encouraging Healthy Choices by Promoting Positive Self-Esteem.”

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 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: (ccl) Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs]

32 Community Highlights: Silver Mines to Labyrinths. Laura Ingalls Wilder to Citizen King.

Educators can learn about creative ways to connect comics to curriculum at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge during an educators workshop on Saturday, January 12th. Participants will learn a bit about the history of comic book art, as well as many ideas for using comics as learning material alongside common curriculum topics. This special workshop is being held in conjunction with the museum’s exhibit, “Heroes and Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross.” ($$)

From Silver Mines to Labyrinths. Fiddler on the Roof to The Tempest. Laura Ingalls Wilder to Citizen King… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week, including opportunities to get outside and take the family snowshoeing! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

Read the rest of this entry »

14 Community Highlights: Winter Trail Days to Chasing Ice. Preschool Fair to Teen Social Justice.

This week there are a few events to inspire and education on ways individuals and communities have in the past and can in the future bring about positive change. 

Winter Trail Days to Chasing Ice. Preschool Fair to Teen Social Justice. Worksongs to Work of 1000… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

SOCIAL JUSTICE & CONSERVATION

Teens interested in exploring the history of social justice movements (and/or Jewish history) can learn about the Kosher Meat Boycott and its place in the American Labor Movement on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 6th in Greenfield at Temple Israel. Participants will focus on learning about the key ideas of the movement (related to work and time), Jewish ethics, and relevant Jewish cultural history. This free workshop is designed for Jewish teens, but is open to those of any religious or cultural background interested in supplement their learning.

The Trustees of Reservations will host a free screening of “The Work of 1000” at the Wistariahurst Museum on Thursday evening, Jan. 10th in Holyoke. The film is about environmental pioneer Marion Stoddart’s work to restore the Nashua River after years of pollution from industrial manufacturing. Stoddart, along with communities along the river and the Trustees of Reservations, helped to lobby successfully for the Massachusetts Clean Water Act, and helped to set a standard for treatment and respect of bodies of water. Stoddart will be in attendance to share her experiences firsthand and answer questions. Great for older students (grades 4+) learning about conservation and community organizing. Pair with a family reading of Lynne Cherry’s book, A River Ran Wild, which tells the natural and human-impacted history of the river alongside beautiful illustrations.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The Berkshire Museum Little Cinema will screen “Chasing Ice,” Sat.-Mon. evenings and Mon. afternoon in Pittsfield. This award-winning film is National Geographic photographer James Balog’s documentary of the Arctic with breathtaking imagery that tells of the Earth’s changing climate. Balog’s videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. A beautiful film to supplement environmental science studies.

HISTORY

Sing along to traditional southern worksongs with Max Godfrey and Friends at Williams College on Wednesday evening, Jan. 9th in Williamstown. The collection of songs included were originally created by prisoners, but have been rediscovered by agricultural workers and are sung to make hard labor more bearable. Most follow a simple call-and-repeat format, and are, as a result, quite easy to participate in and learn quickly. Godfrey works to search through recordings in order to share them with people in order to keep up the musical tradition. The free event will include dinner, and lots of music! Students of any age will love singing along, and the event can be tied in with studies of the history of rural America and American agriculture.

The MIFA Theater screens the documentary, “After the Factory,” in the Great Banking Hall at the South Hadley Falls Bank and Trust Building in Holyoke on Friday evening, Jan. 11th. The documentary examines how the cities of Detroit, Michigan and Lodz, Poland have dealt with sustaining their populations and re-strengthening their post-industrial economies. Both cities have rich and interesting histories, and the film fits well with studies of American and European history. The film is also relevant for studies of local history, as the city of Holyoke is facing similar issues.

CULINARY ARTS

Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy in Longmeadow is hosting Cooking With Parents and Grandparents on Monday afternoon, Jan. 7th – a free workshop where kids and their grown-ups can learn traditional shabbat recipes. Families can learn to make challah, potato knishes, and other treats. All are welcome to come learn how to make these traditional recipes in kid-friendly ways.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

Winter Trails Day happens at Northfield Mountain on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 5th. Families with older children can learn to snowshoe and/or cross country ski during free workshops hosted throughout the afternoon. Gear provided.

On Sunday afternoon, Jan. 6th, celebrate the opening of Community Field in Holyoke with Winter Fun! Skate for free on the refrigerated ice patch (skate rentals available), go for a snowshoeing adventure, and warm up with some hot cocoa!

STEM

The Jones Library in Amherst hosts a free Chess Club for youth ages 7yo and older with Andy Morris-Friedman on Saturday afternoon in the Amherst Room.

The Westfield Athenaeum is offering a special Nook petting zoo on Wednesday evening, Jan. 9th. Families can try out the devices for free and learn about some of their features – trying out a Nook can be helpful if you’re thinking about investing in on.

FOR PARENTS

On Tuesday evening, Jan. 8th, Frank Grindrod of Earthwork Programs will share strategies for preparing your family for an emergency at River Valley Market Co-op during a free workshop in Northampton. Participants will learn what things are best to have on hand, and what strategies to have prepared for a variety of emergencies, including a power outage, extreme weather, being lost in the wilderness, etc.

Learn more about the Brain Gym program with Childcare of the Berkshires on Wednesday evening, Jan. 9th at Abbott Memorial School in Florida. This free program focuses on utilizing movement to promote brain stimulation, and parents will learn about the basic principles that the program focuses on.

On Thursday morning, Jan. 10th, the Northampton Parents Center is hosting its annual free Preschool Fair at the Parents Center in the lower level of Edwards Church. Representatives from local Northampton based preschools (and a few from neighboring towns) will be on hand to answer questions.

In the evening on Thursday in Florence, the Valley CDC is hosting a free four-part workshop series for first-time homebuyers at Florence Savings Bank. There are a lot of benefits to participating if you’re about to buy your family’s first home – the certified class will help families get access to special loan programs, will teach participants how to access money for down payments and closing costs, and will share information about many other parts of home shopping and the legal processes that come with home-buying.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 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.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

20 Community Highlights: First Nights to First Day Hikes. Emancipation Proclamation to John F. Kennedy.

Ring in the New Year with First Nights and First Day Hikes! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

First Nights to First Day Hikes. Emancipation Proclamation to John F. Kennedy. Dinosaurs to Bubbles… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!  And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

NEW YEARS EVE

In Holyoke on New Year’s Eve, families can enjoy performances, music, museum adventures, merry-go-round rides, and a New York-style ball drop by 4pm as part of Holyoke’s First Night, Jr., a special family celebration to ring in the new year! Popular magician Ed Popielarczyk will share illusions, there will be live ice-carving, families can get unique balloon sculptures created, the merry-go-round will be offering unlimited rides, and there will be lots of other special guests and events.

Northampton’s First Night provides endless opportunities for family fun on New Year’s Eve! The 12-hour event features a wide variety of performances at spaces throughout town. Families can see puppet performances, learn about numerous types of music and instruments, watch local youth share their skills in a talent show, see incredible feats of physics performed by the A to Z yo-yo team, watch family-friendly theater, and dance along to local favorites for kids and adults.

Both Wilbraham and Orange celebrate too! Wilbraham will celebrate New Year’s Eve as part of their 250th celebration.  There will be live music, food, entertainment, and fireworks! And the 16th Annual Starry Starry Night celebrates New Year’s Eve in the heart of downtown Orange with live music, dancing, and hayrides. Puppet parade and fireworks too.

Another annual tradition is at Jiminy Peak in Hancock where there is a beautiful torchlight parade down the mountain as soon as the ski lifts close, followed by fireworks over the mountain!

HIKES

What better way to usher out and welcome in a New Year than a hike through the winter woods with your family?  On Saturday, December 29th, explore Bartholomew’s Cobble with the Trustees of Reservations in Sheffield– the yearly Hot Chocolate Saturdays series begins this week! Throughout the winter, families can hike, snowshoe, and/or cross-country ski at the Cobble, and end their excursion with a cup of cocoa in the visitor center. Families can practice looking for signs of birds and mammals, and can explore the changes that have taken place to the landscape since winter set in.

On New Year’s Day, guided hikes across the country start off the new year on Tuesday, January 1 as part of a National First Day Hikes movement, a “get outdoors” initiative for people of all ages. In the morning, Mass DCR will offer a guided hiked of the DAR State Forest in Goshen. Visitors can learn about the history of the Daughters of the American Revolution State Forest and enjoy a tour of the Nature Center. Meet at the warming hut for a short (1 mile) for a free family-friendly hike.

In the afternoon on New Year’s Day, families can explore remnants of abandoned farmland, forest succession and perhaps see some wildlife at Pittsfield State Forest on a free guided First Day Hike with Mass DCR. The 45-minute, 2.5 mile trek will follow the Tranquility and Hawthorn trails – dress warmly and bring your snowshoes. Leashed dogs are welcomed too.  Meet at the State Forest Ski Lodge. Afterwards return to the rustic lodge for  hot chocolate by the fireplace.

HISTORY

Old Sturbridge Village is open for school vacation! Kids get free admission, and families can enjoy a host of historic and seasonal activities, including sledding and skating! There will also be indoor performances of all sorts, crafts demonstrations, and hands-on activities for kids. Families can learn about life in early New England, and the many different skills and resources that 1830’s life required.

Monday evening, December 31st, celebrate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation – and celebrate, the new year, too! – with historical reenactments, celebration, and more in Springfield! Taking place at the Sovereign Bank building, the city of Springfield’s unique new year’s celebration will be hosted by the Peter Brace Brigade, and will feature historical reenactors, dressed in period clothing and Civil War uniforms. There will also be music, treats, and celebratory champagne for adults.

On Tuesday, January 1st at 2pm, ring a bell to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation! Churches throughout the Pioneer Valley will be letting the beautiful sound of bells ring out through the crisp air in remembrance of Lincoln’s landmark policy to end slavery – celebrate in your own home by ringing bells and learning together about the history surrounding the proclamation and the changes that it brought to the country.

SCIENCE

The Springfield Museums are alive with science adventures! On Saturday, December 29th, families can take in a performance by Dinoman Dinosaurs at the Springfield Museums. Dinoman will take the audience on a trip through the Mesozoic era, using magic, mayhem, and spectacular props. On Sunday, December 30th, the museums host BubbleMania! BubbleMania: Effervescent Entertainment is filled with comedy and wit, and will teach audience members all about the amazing magic of bubbles – all to a soundtrack of swing music. Then on Friday evening, January 4th, visit the Springfield Museums for Stars Over Springfield, an exciting skygazing event at the museums’ observatory. Hosted by the Springfield Stars Club, the event will help kids learn about the things that they see in the sky every night. In case of overcast weather, a planetarium show will be presented instead.

YOUTH EXHIBIT

Opening reception for a group exhibit titled Places We Live, Play & Learn: Narratives of Life by Western MA Youth Photographers, comprising of 20 Western MA youth ages 10-18, takes place on Sunday at noon, December 30th in Cummington.  Youth participants in this group exhibit were encouraged to explore, document and share their connections to their hometowns through photographic images and an accompanying narrative. Combined, the pieces together reflect and communicate how these participating youth view and understand their local history, culture and/or community values, as well as the significance of the physical spaces surrounding them.

PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT

Make a New Year’s resolution to spend time with your husband, wife, partner and/or friends this year!  Book a babysitter or sleepover for your kids and consider these four options for a fun parents’ night out this coming week:

In Franklin County on Saturday, December 29th: Celebrate New Years Eve a few days early at the Arts Block in Greenfield! The Roger Salloom Band, Charles Neville, and Jessica Freeman will play a fantastic show at Brick Wall Bistro.

In Hampshire County on Monday, December 31st: Ring in the New Year at Popcorn Noir’s Glitter Ball in Easthampton with dinner, music and a party! There will be tarot card reading, gogo dancers, hula hooping, costumes, and more!

In Hampden County on Thursday, January 3rd: Test your knowledge together on Springfield history at a trivia-themed Culture and Cocktails event at the Springfield Museums! Guests can also explore the Wood Museum of Springfield History’s newest exhibit, titled, “The John F. Kennedy Experience!”

In Berkshire County on Saturday, December 29th: Bring your sweetheart or good friend to Hilltop Orchards in Richmond, home of Furnace Brook Winery, for a full moon snowshoe trek and bonfire.  There will also be wine tasting and live entertainment following a 1.5 hour guide trek through the woods.  Snowshoe rentals available too.  – Also in Berkshire Cty., on Friday, January 4th: Yes, Maria, Yes! You can see the David Wax Museum at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield! The group – named one of the best acts at the 2011 South by Southwest festival – plays a fusion of Mexican folk, American roots, and indie rock.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 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.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

24 Community Highlights: Beneski Museum to MASS MoCA. Hansel & Gretel to Stone Soup.

The holidays are a great time to share family stories and legends from different cultures and traditions. One such story is that of the Christmas Spider. Check out this post from our archives, The Christmas Spider & the Legend of Tinsel, to read about one child’s own personal legend of the Christmas Spider, and how the legend of the Christmas Spider is told in other cultures too. You can also learn to make your own Christmas Spider holiday cards in our archived post, DIY: Christmas Spider Holiday Cards. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Beneski Museum to MASS MoCA. Storytelling to Marionettes. Hansel & Gretel to Stone Soup. Classical Music to Chemistry… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!  And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

HOLIDAY CHEER

There’s still a lot of holiday cheer to be had before December 25th! There are several opportunities for kids to visit with Santa before Christmas Day. He will be making appearances at the Pelham Library, Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Look Park in Florence, Buttery Brook Park in South Hadley, Lord Jeffrey Inn in Amherst, and Yankee Candle in South Deerfield. There’s also time to take in a couple of holiday classics, like performances of A Christmas Carol with PaintBox Theatre in Northampton and Berkshire Theatre Group in Pittsfield, or a screening of It’s a Wonderful Life at the Amherst Cinema and the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington.

STORYTELLING

The holiday season is a great time to share stories with friends and family. In this month’s column, “What to Play? Play Ideas for Family & Community,” Carrie St. John writes about how stories can lead to hours of pretend play and how they can encourage children to create images in their minds bringing the story to life. She also shares great games to help spark storytelling with friends and family.

If you enjoy storytelling at home, be sure to check out Cheli’s list of recommended children’s picture books for stories on the many of the holiday traditions she wrote about last year in her monthly column, “Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings & Reviews.” If you’d like to get out into your community, there are several storytelling events to take the family to.

Celebrate the season by sharing stories about holding onto light and love during the darkest part of the year at the solstice storytelling celebration at the Magical Roundhouse in Colrain on Saturday evening. On Sunday evening, a special Luminarium Storytime takes place at the Hatfield Library.

During school vacation week there are several stories being told at area museums using puppets and marionettes. At the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, CactusHead Puppets presents, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” on Wednesday morning, Dec 26th in Amherst. Later in the afternoon, puppeteer Carl Sprague will present a marionette production of the classic Brothers Grimm tale, “Hansel and Gretel” at Ventfort Hall in Lenox, then again on Thursday, Dec 27th & Friday, Dec. 28th. Then again at the Carle Museum on Friday, Dec 28th, Tom Knight Puppets presents, “Stone Soup and Other Tales,” a collection of songs and skits for all ages.

MUSEUM ADVENTURES

After Christmas Day, many museums will be holding special hours and offering additional programming for school vacation, Dec. 26th-30th.

Kids get free admission at Old Sturbridge Village during the school break (and in Jan. too!), and families can enjoy a host of historic and seasonal activities, including (weather-dependent) sledding and skating! There will also be indoor performances, craft demonstrations, and hands-on activities. Families can learn about life in early New England, and the many different skills and resources that 1830s life required.

Historic Deerfield in South Deerfield continues to celebrate the holidays during winter break with traditional decorations, open hearth cooking demonstrations, and craft making. Visitors will learn about holiday celebrations in early New England, as well as the sweeteners and spices used in baking (and where they came from!) in Deerfield’s early days.

Lions and Tigers and Museums, Oh My!, will be on view at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute’s Stone Hill Center in Williamstown, utilizing video, hands-on activities, taxidermy, and innovative displays. Bring the kids while off from school to be a part of this exciting learning environment for all ages!

The Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College is offering special hours for school vacation! Families can visit the museum for free to learn about everything from dinosaur bones to how the Pioneer Valley was shaped – the museum is home to hundreds of plant and animal fossils, taxidermic animals of numerous species, and lots of exhibits on geology and mineralogy.

MASS MoCA in North Adams is open and offering lots to see and do for families during school vacation (as well as on Christmas Eve)! The KidSpace will be open, and there will be museum tours (for older students), as well as a special tour of the Sol Lewitt exhibit. Families can explore the museum galleries and learn about the many different pieces on exhibit.

The Springfield Museums have activities happening each day during the holiday vacation week. There will be a combination of planetarium shows, science demonstrations, activities to accompany their Gingerbread Fairy Tales Exhibit, and daily performances. Performances through Dec. 30th including Charismatic Comedy Magic, The Realy MCoy Show, Dinoman Dinosaurs, and BubbleMania.

Make your own comic book art at drop-in workshops at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge during school vacation! The museum is currently hosting an exhibit of comic book art by Alex Ross, and the activities included in the workshops will give kids a chance to create their own comic book-style artwork. Superheroes will be roaming the museum, too – be sure to visit the galleries to find them!

CLASSICAL MUSIC AND CHEMISTRY

On Thursday afternoon, Dec. 27th, kids can be mad scientists at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield. Along with the help of the museum’s very own crazy chemist, kids can learn how to do exciting and surprising (and safe!) experiments with regular household materials.

Richard Perlmutter presents Beethoven’s Wig at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield on Friday afternoon, Dec. 28th in a free performance. Hailed as opening the door to classical music in a way that’s fun for kids, Beethoven’s Wig is now honored as great family musical entertainment. Here’s an award-winning animated video of Beethoven’s Wigs version of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony:

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 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.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

 

22 Community Highlights: Boreal Forest to Kitchen Science. Symphony to Contra Dance.

Looking for a non-commercial gift to give your kids? One that promotes creative-free play while offering lessons in chemistry and math… and doesn’t cost that much? Why not put together a box of kitchen ingredients with directions on how to make gak, slime, play dough, bubbles,  paint and chalk?! Check out the July post of, “Let’s Play: Tactile Play” by Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Carrie St. John. She includes recipes to print out for all of these, and your kids will have a blast getting icky, goopy and gloppy in the kitchen!

Boreal Forest to Kitchen Science. Papercrafts to Winter Crafts. Symphony to Contra Dance… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!  And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

NATURE STUDIES

Volunteer as a Citizen Scientists this Saturday, Dec. 15th as a participate in the annual Mass Audubon Christmas Bird Count! The event relies on citizen scientists to locate and count species of birds – and the data collected is used to assess local bird populations. Kids can learn to identify and find species of birds, practice using field guides, and learn how to draw conclusions from their own data. Contact a CBC facilitator nearest you.

Explore Notchview’s Boreal Forest with Aimee Gelinas and the Trustees of Reservations this Saturday too. Learn to identify trees such as spruce, fir, and Christmas fern, and search for signs of intrepid winter-battling mammals. Happens in Windsor.

LANGUAGE ARTS

Inspiring interest and encouragement in reading and writing can come to children in many ways. Having a themed celebration inspired by a book, storytimes, reading to dogs or even meeting authors, all have the potential inspire a love for reading and writing.

On Saturday morning, Community Action is hosting Snow Day, centered around Ezra Jack Keats’ well-known children’s book, The Snowy Day. Celebrate winter by making snowflakes and ornament, and enjoying a storytime in Greenfield. Every child will receive a free copy of their very own book!

Later in the day on Saturday in Westfield, young readers can Read with Rover at the Westfield Athenaeum. Specially trained therapy dogs will be at the library to serve as patient, calm, non-judgemental reading buddies for kids who are working on reading aloud.

In Stockbridge at the Red Lion Inn, also on Saturday afternoon, families can meet four local authors! Sarah Sedgwick Genocchio (A Stockbridge Childhood), Pat Pope (Johanna’s Gift), Janet McKinstry (Rosie and Friends, Unleashed in Berkshire County), Susan Geller and Susan Merrill (I Live in Stockbridge) will all share their books. Older children can find inspiration in writing short stories by hearing these authors share what it takes to be a published author and by asking them questions about their experiences as a writer.

STEM

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) based learning opportunities can be found in simple play, papercrafts and even in the mixing of ingredients found in your kitchen. For example, basic math, physics and engineering skills can be practiced with LEGOs. Several libraries offer their youth patrons a chance to participate in free LEGO clubs, including: Sunderland Library on Saturday morning; Ramsdell Library in Housatonic, also on Saturday morning; and the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 19th

Origami and papercrafts are a way to practice geometry. The Arms Library in Shelburne Falls hosts Paper Capers on Saturday afternoon, a free event that includes papercrafts of all kinds. Families can make accordion books, ornaments, beads, and more!

Get a taste of chemistry as a mad scientist at Kitchen Kaboom! at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield on Saturday morning! Along with the help of the museum’s very own crazy chemist, kids can learn how to do exciting and surprising (and safe!) experiments with regular household materials.

HISTORY

We’ve mention a couple of ways recently to explore history at two ongoing December events, including Old Sturbridge’s Christmas by Candlelight and Historic Deerfield’s Heritage Holiday. Another opportunity is by learning about the origins of the holiday carol, 12 Days of Christmas. On Saturday afternoon, find out about the possible symbolism behind the carol at the Jones Library in Amherst, where Dr. Thomas Bernard (professor at Springfield College) will share his ideas.

MYO HOLIDAY GIFTS

There’s still time to make your own holiday gifts! Sunday, Dec. 16th, is the Make-and-Take Craft Fair with fun and interesting holiday crafts at the Montague Grange! The fair will include activities for crafters of all ages, including beeswax candles, miniature terrariums, jewelry, and ornaments.

Then on Wednesday evening, visit Art Party Studio in Easthampton for an evening of wintry holiday crafts. There will be all sorts of special holiday materials to use – experiment with unique media (like glittery twigs, bells, and more!), and create a holiday masterpiece to give or decorate with.

What grandmother won’t love a hand-knitted scarf from their grandchild, dropped stitches and all?! Kids ages 7-11 can spend Thursday afternoon, Dec. 20th, knitting away at the Monson Library. Instruction will be available for casting on and off and doing basic knit and purl stitches. Kids who are ready to move on to more difficult projects can get support, too!

MUSIC, DANCE & SONG

Hear the Pioneer Valley Symphony play holiday favorites at the annual Family Holiday Concert in Greenfield on Saturday evening. The show will also feature performances by the Pioneer Valley Symphony Chorus and the Greenfield High School Chorus.

Go contra dancing on Saturday evening in Lenox. Dances are a great way to get exercise, learn about rhythm, and gain better balance and movement skills. Contra dancing provides a friendly intergenerational environment in which people of all ages can contribute and participate equally.

Sing along to songs for the holidays at the Hubbard Library in Ludlow on Tuesday evening, Dec. 18th. David Polansky will share songs for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the entire winter season.

HIKES

Join the Berkshire Natural Resources Council in exploring the Clam River in Sandisfield on Wednesday morning. The evergreen-filled property bumps up against the river – explore the area, search for animal signs, and enjoy the winter air.

Hike Chapel Brook with the Trustees of Reservations in Ashfield on Thursday morning. The easy to moderate hike will include lots of opportunities to spot animal signs, enjoy the crisp winter air, and get some great exercise.

Northfield Mountain celebrates the solstice this year with a hike on the cross-country ski trails on Friday evening, Dec. 21st. BYO headlamp to light the way! The trek will be filled with facts and quotes about (and celebrating!) the winter solstice.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 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.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

[Photo credit: (ccl) Mike Allyn]

31 Community Highlights: Victorian Crafts to Holiday Traditions. Winter Yule to The Nutcracker.

9 Chanukah events are featured for the next week in our post, Chanukah Highlights in Western MA. Families of all backgrounds are welcome and many events can serve as a celebration for Chanukah or a family exploration of Jewish history and traditions.

Quarry Hikes to Animal Adaptations. Victorian Crafts to Holiday Traditions. Winter Yule to The Nutcracker… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!  And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!


HIKES/NATURE STUDIES

On Saturday morning families can preregister for one of two hikes. The first hike takes place at Peaked Mountain in Monson where participants can learn to search for signs of animals who are still around for the winter. The Trustees of Reservations – and local naturalist Kevin Kopchynski – will guide the exploratory hike.

Also on Saturday morning, Connecticut River Valley Sanctuaries will sponsor a hike at the historic Becket Quarry. Families can look for moose tracks and industrial archaeology at the 300-acre Historic Becket Quarry and Forest Preserve. Located high atop the Berkshire Highlands and preserved by the Becket Land Trust, this former granite quarry offers a feast of fauna, glacial erratics and rich helpings of cultural history. This site features artifacts of the former Hudson-Chester Company that was in operation for almost a century until the 1960s and is often called a “ghost quarry” for its spooky, abandoned appearance. Best for ages 10yo and older.

HISTORY

Historic Deerfield continues their celebration of the holidays with traditional decorations, open hearth cooking demonstrations, silhouette making (a historic craft), and craft making for visitors all weekend.

In the afternoon on Saturday, the Wistariahurst Museum invites families to make Victorian crafts at their Holiday Crafts for the Family event in Holyoke. Learn how to make Christmas crackers, beautiful beaded ornaments, lanterns and more.

In the evening, families can celebrate the holiday season the old-fashioned way at Old Sturbridge Village while learning about the history of many holiday traditions. The historic village’s Christmas by Candlelight series offers families a chance to enjoy non-commercial, relaxed holiday festivities and activities and takes place Fri-Sun through Dec. 23.

Other opportunities to explore local history this weekend is at the Lenox Historical Society‘s annual Holiday Open House, a tour and lecture at the Shaw-Hudson House in Plainfield, and a tour of Arrowhead, home of Herman Melville, in Pittsfield.

THEATER & DANCE

This week there are a number of holiday theater and dance performances happening throughout Western MA to get your family into the holiday spirit! On Saturday evening in Northampton, the Northampton High School presents their Fall One-Act Festival and Smith College students present Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and on Sunday, Ventfort Hall in Lenox hosts a Christmas handchime concert.

On both Saturday and Sunday, Mill City Productions in North Adams presents, “Fireside Yuletide,” a theatrical reading of classic family holiday tales, and the Shea Theater in Turners Falls hosts “Welcome Yule,” a performance of stories, songs, and dance to drive away the dark of winter.

There are a couple of ballet productions of The Nutcracker all weekend too. The Pioneer Valley Ballet presents “The Nutcracker” at the Academy of Music in Northampton, and the Albany Berkshire Ballet present “The Nutcracker” at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.

Later in the week on Wednesday & Thursday, Dec. 12 & 13, the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Academy presents an annual Holiday Jubilee Winter Showcase, also at the Academy of Music in Northampton.

Looking for a Parents’ Night Out? Shakespeare and Company presents David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries at the Bernstein Theater in Lenox, every Friday-Sunday through Dec. 30.

HOLIDAY STROLLS CONTINUE

The 7th annual holiday celebration, “A Special Day in Northfield,” happens all day on Saturday. This non-commercial community holiday celebration offers families an opportunity to explore, be creative, and enjoy what Northfield has to offer! Local artists and antiques stores will be open, too, so if you want to do any holiday shopping, you can shop locally and/or handmade. Another holiday stroll that happens on Saturday is the 4th Annual Dickens Days Village Stroll happening all day in downtown Westfield.

Later in the day on Saturday, explore downtown Great Barrington during their Holiday Stroll – the town is decorated for the holidays, the air is cool and crisp, and the town is alive with holiday spirit. Visit locally owned shops to get a jump start on shopping locally (and potentially handmade!) for the holidays.

On Thursday evening, Dec. 13th, downtown Turners Falls comes alive for the holidays for, “It’s a Wonderful Night!” The town will be filled with festive storefront displays, roving musicians, caroling, a tree lighting, and a free screening of, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” at the Shea Theater at 8pm. Some shops will have extended hours for the evening, in order to encourage visitors to shop locally for the holidays.

SINGING

The annual Lenox Caroling Festival takes place this weekend – and competition will take place on Saturday at numerous locations throughout the town. Visit one – or all! – of the locations to hear a variety of beautifully performed holiday music.

On Sunday afternoon in Northampton, the Whole Children Chorus and the Florence Community Band perform Songs of the Season at Northampton High School, and in Pittsfield, Berkshire Lyric presents, “Deck the Halls,” at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, featuring the Blafield Children’s Chorus, the Monument Mountain High School Chorus, the Spartones, and Guademaus.

The Northampton Community Music Center brings together choral groups from all over the Pioneer Valley for an evening Holiday Choral Festival for all ages on Monday, Dec. 10 at the Helen Hills Hills Chapel in Northampton.

PARENT WORKSHOPS

On Monday evening, the Northampton Parents Center is hosting a free workshop titled, “Talking To Your Kids About Sex: A Workshop for Parents of Young Children,” at Bridge Street School in Northampton.

The Collaborative for Educational Services host a free Active Child workshop on Tuesday evening at the South Hadley Family Center for parents to get advice and learn strategies for parenting a spirited child.

ARCHEOLOGY

Archaeologists must often apply a skill set similar to those used by forensics experts – they look at remnants of lives (caves, basements, stone walls, etc.) and use tiny clues in order to deduce the use of the place, item, etc. On Monday evening, Dec. 10th, older students and their parents can learn how archaeologists have used these skills to determine information about the history of the earliest European settlers in New England at Greenfield High School, where Central Connecticut State professor Ken Feder presents, “Monk’s Caves, Sacrificial Altars, and Wandering Celts.”

PASTRY ARTS

Whole Foods Market in Hadley is hosting a cooking class for 8-12yo kids on Tuesday evening, Dec. 11. Participants will make whole-grain cookies and bread while learning about making healthy choices for eating and developing healthy eating habits.

ARTS & CRAFTS

Visit Art Party Studio in Easthampton on Wednesday, Dec. 12th for an evening of wintry holiday crafts. There will be all sorts of special holiday materials to use – experiment with unique media (like glittery twigs, bells, and more!), and create a holiday masterpiece.

ANIMAL STUDIES

How do New England animals survive the winter? They all have unique adaptations that allow them to deal with the cold temperatures and changing food landscape. Learn about these adaptations and the creatures that you may see in the winter at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls on Friday morning, Dec. 14th.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 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.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

[Photo credit: (ccl) Jordan Chark]

29 Community Highlights: Gingerbread Houses to Latkes. MYO Gifts to Choral Performances.

Town wide holiday strolls and luminaria walks
bring community together in a festive holiday atmosphere while supporting local businesses. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Holiday Stroll to Luminaria Walk. MYO Gifts to Choral Performances. Gingerbread Houses to Latkes. Filmmaking to Sewing… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!

HOLIDAY STROLLS

Town wide holiday strolls are often times an annual affair that always brings community together in a festive holiday atmosphere while supporting local businesses. This week there are six holiday strolls we’ve highlighted:

  1. South Hadley Holiday Stroll on Sat., Dec. 1st: Tree lighting, Santa and holiday music.
  2. Williamstown Holiday Stroll on Sat., Dec. 1st: Parade (including a reindog parade!), Santa, performances, singing and sleigh rides.
  3. Stockbridge Luminaria Walk on Sat., Dec. 1st: Caroling by candlelight.
  4. Stockbridge Holiday Stroll on Sun., Dec. 2nd: Recreated downtown from the days of Norman Rockwell.
  5. North Adams Hometown Holidays on Thurs., Dec. 6th: Family activities, music, crafts and open shops.
  6. Pittsfield Upstreet Friday on Fri., Dec. 7th: Local artists and artisans at shops, galleries, and restaurants throughout town.

SINGING

As the days get shorter and shorter, people link to sing more and more! It’s a nice way of balancing out the increasing darkness as the Winter Solstice approaches. This week we’re highlighting seven choral and music performances to consider taking your family to this weekend:

  • Musicians from the Berkshire Music School will perform a special concert of holiday music at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 1. The show will also feature the Sunshine Singers – a youth chorus – and Bing’s Strings
  • Berkshire Theater Group presents Mary Verdi, a local singer-songwriter who performs annually for the holidays at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield. The show will feature a bell choir, a seven piece band, and an appearance from the Craneville Children’s Chorus. Two shows are scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1st.
  • The Hilltown Choral Society presents a special holiday concert at the Village Congregational Church on Saturday evening, Dec. 1st in Cummington, and then on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 2nd at the First Congregational Church in Ashfield.
  • Amherst College’s Johnson Chapel will be filled on Sunday, Dec. 2nd for two shows with the sounds holiday music, performed by the school’s Choral Society and Madrigal Singers.

HISTORY

The holidays offer a unique lens with which to history. There are a few opportunities happening this weekend that visit local history and the history of New England around the holidays.

All day on Saturday, Dec. 1st, is the Historic Homes Tour in Stockbridge. Visit some of the area’s most interesting landmarks, including Naumkeag, Merwin House, Elms Cottage, and Edith Wharton’s former home, The Mount. Families can learn about local history and architecture – older students can use the tour as a way to pair American history with a look at the evolution of, and changes in, home design.

Storrowton Village in West Springfield is celebrating the holiday season this weekend during their Winter Festival. Along with tours of the beautifully decorated village, there will be demonstrations of 19th century crafts, ice sculpting, crafts for kids, music performances, storytelling, caroling, animals to meet and learn about, and more.

Historic Deerfield is celebrating the holidays all weekend too with traditional decorations, open hearth cooking demonstrations, wagon rides, and craft making for visitors (create a gift to share!). Visitors will learn about holiday celebrations in early New England, as well as the sweeteners and spices used in baking (and where they came from!) in Deerfield’s early days. It’s a unique opportunity for kids to learn about the history of the spice trade, and the long history of imported goods and dependency on a world market that the United States has.

The Keep Homestead Museum in Monson hosts a Holiday Open House on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 2nd. Decorated for the season, tour the museum and see how rooms might have been furnished at the turn of the century. There is furniture, silver and cut glass, collections of rocks, minerals and shells, quilts and other needlework done by the women of the family, along with the extensive button collection (the pride of the museum).

Betsy Ross – creator of the American flag – is a complicated and interesting historical figure. Learn more about her life as an upholsterer in Philadelphia – and her life outside of work – at the Jones Library in Amherst on Thursday evening, Dec. 6th. Great for older students learning about American history, feminism, and feminist figures.

CULINARY ARTS

Chandler’s Restaurant hosts a kids cooking class on Saturday, Dec. 1st. in South Deerfield. Parents can explore the world of culinary arts with their kids in a structured and relaxed environment. Youth participants are familiarized with raw ingredients, how to prepare them, and their nutritional value. This month homemade pasta is being made. A brief tour of Chandler’s commercial kitchen follows.

At Hops and Vines in Williamstown, families can make their own gingerbread houses on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 1st. Kids can practice their architectural and creative skills with a fun medium. Replicate your own home or an easily recognizable local building, or create a masterpiece all your own.

Get ready for Chanukah with a holiday cooking class offered by the Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy on Monday afternoon, Dec. 3rd in Longmeadow. The class, titled, “Cooking with Parents and Grandparents,” is open to all families from the community and will feature fun cooking activities, including donut making, edible-wearable menorah building, and dreidel (edible and non-edible) making! Kids can learn about Chanukah traditions and get ready to celebrate the holiday, too.

Want to learn how to make latkes for Hanukkah? Chef Greg will be doing a cooking demo with recipes to share on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 6th at Wild Oats Co-op in Williamstown.

MYO HOLIDAY GIFTS

Giving children an opportunity to make their own gifts to give for the holidays is not only an excellent, non-commercial, alternative to holiday consumerism, but it can also support creative free play! Here are five MYO Holiday Gift Highlights for this week:

  1. Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School in Haydenville will host a day of wreath, craft and gift-making for all ages on Saturday, Dec. 1st. Great opportunity to MYO holiday gifts that are eco-friendly.
  2. Make your own unique and artistic holiday cards in the studio at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst on Saturday morning, Dec. 1st. Materials, including envelopes.
  3. Greenfield Center School host a Crafty Rumpus Open House, a creative, free holiday gift making event for families on Saturday, Dec. 1st in Greenfield.
  4. Learn to make a density ornament – using a variety of colored liquids – with Alchemy Initiative at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield on Saturday, Dec. 1st.
  5. Make your own wintry snow globe at the Berkshire Co-op in Great Barrington on Friday afternoon, Dec. 7th! This special hands-on, just-for-kids craft time is back by popular demand!

ARTS & CRAFTS

Older teens interested in improving their artistic skills or their knowledge of art techniques and art history are invited to attend, “Que Sera, Seurat,” a free intergenerational workshop on pastel painting and pointellism at the Lee Library on Monday evening, Dec 3rd!

Help to make a video to advertise the Hatfield Library’s 2013 summer reading program to younger readers on Tuesday afternoon, Dec 4th. Sign up to be part of a 3-week project to create the video – and learn some filmmaking techniques while you’re at it! Open to 5th and 6th graders.

Families with preK kids can visit the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge for Kids Create on Wednesday morning, Dec. 5th, for a hands-on art program for kids where they can learn about techniques and media for creating art.

The Goodwin Library in Hadley hosts authors Nicole Blum and Debra Immegut who will be sharing ideas from their new book, Improv Sewing – A Creative Approach to Freeform Techniques on Wednesday evening, Dec. 5th. Tools and supplies will be available for visitors to do some crafting of their own, too! Best for older kids and parents who have some basic sewing skills.

18 Community Highlights: Steampunk to Colonial Crafts. Family Films to Holiday Lights.

Apples were important in the diet of early Deerfield settlers- many homes even had their own orchards!  Learn about the varieties of apples grown and the dishes created with them at Historic Deerfield this weekend. There will also be a craft activity (from 12noon-4:30pm) where visitors can make their own apple pomander ornaments to take home.

Steampunk to Colonial Crafts. Family Films to Holiday Lights. Simplicity Parenting to Parent Cafe… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!


HISTORY

Celebrate Thanksgiving 1830’s style at Old Sturbridge Village! This weekend, Nov. 24th-25th, there will be lots of special activities and demonstrations taking place throughout the village, offering visitors a chance to learn about early New Englanders’ Thanksgiving traditions. See demonstrations of tin-oven cooking, watch a shooting match, try your hand at colonial crafts, and learn about the many Thanksgivings celebrated throughout the year in early New England.

On Monday evening, Nov. 26th, the Wistariahurst Museum in Hoyloke presents, “Decoding the 12 Days of Christmas,” with Dr. Tom Bernard. The presentation will look at the historic roots of the lyrics of the classic Christmas carol, and will provide cultural context for each line, as well as basic history of the pilgrimages that took place during the Middle Ages. Best for older students.

SERVICE BASED LEARNING

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night: Join Hilltown Families for an evening of volunteering together with your family during our first ever Family Community Service Night! On Friday, November 30th from 4:30-7:30pm in Northampton, families can come together for a fun evening visiting five different volunteer stations, each offering a simple, hands-on service project for all ages. Volunteering as a family helps children learn values like kindness, respect and friendliness, and on this evening you can volunteer with five different local non-profits in a single evening! Space is limited so reserve a spot for your family today!

MOVIE SCREENINGS

After all that eating on Thursday and shopping on Friday, why not relax and take in a movie with the kids on Saturday? The Lee Library screens recent blockbuster, Brave, in the morning, a movie about a fiery, feisty girl out to prove herself, and offers a refreshing change to the Disney female protagonist line-up. In the afternoon, Images Cinema in Williamstown screens the holiday classic, Home Alone! Find out what happens when an 8-year-old boy gets left at home while the rest of the family vacations for the holidays! And in the late afternoon and evening, Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington is host their annual screening of the classic, The Wizard of Oz! It’s a classic film, and this is a rare opportunity to see it on the big screen.

If you want to take in something a little more intellectual, later in the week the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge offers a special screening of, Heirloom Meals: Savor the Holidays, a PBS production that focuses on the connections between food, family, and heritage. The production includes traditional recipes and stories of families’ handed-down ties to foods and takes place in the early evening on Friday, Nov. 30th. Great for older students with an interest in nutritional anthropology.

HOLIDAY HIGHLIGHTS

Throughout the holiday season, lights adorn trees, bushes, and buildings at Look Park in Florence! Visit the park’s Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Display to see a colorful light display – maybe even take a train ride through the park. Forest Park in Springfield is lit up for the holidays too! Springfield’s annual Bright Nights display features intricate, sparkly scenes throughout the park – there are elaborate displays, as well as decorative lights everywhere. Celebrate the holidays with a drive through the park to enjoy the festive displays.

Westfield lights up Monday night, Nov. 26th at the annual Lanternlight Parade and Greenlighting – marking the beginning of the city’s holiday celebrations.  Families can hear live music from Westfield High School students, and enjoy cookies and cocoa at a reception hosted by the Westfield Athenaeum Children’s Department.

The city of North Adams celebrates the first of the season’s Hometown Holidays events on Thursday evening, Nov. 29th, with a special community celebration featuring holiday crafts, face painting, carriage rides, ice art, live music, and more! Downtown businesses will be open, too, for early holiday shopping.

Light the Merry Maple with the Amherst Chamber of Commerce on Friday night, Nov. 30th in Amherst. The Amherst Regional Middle School chorus will perform, along with the UMass marching band, and there will be food, hayrides, and crafts, too. And in Pittsfield on Friday evening, families can begin their holiday season at the annual treelighting. The ceremony will feature the Taconic High School Chorus, a visit from Santa, and warm drinks for all.  The Berkshire Museum will be offering half-price admission during the tree lighting, too – visit to see this year’s Festival of Trees display!

ARTS & CRAFTS

The Westfield Athenaeum is hosting a free Steampunk workshop on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 24th, followed by an authentic Victorian Tea! Students in grades 6-12 can  learn about this pseudo-Victorian fashion and create their own Steampunk accessory. On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 25th, artist April Woodard-McNiff is offering a free 2-part printmaking workshop for kids at the Shutesbury Town Hall.

Later in the week on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 29th, the Monson Library hosts a free Knitting for Kids! Get your needles ready and learn very basic knitting skills. Kids can use what they learn to make scarves, head wraps, leg and arm warmers, potholders, and more – perhaps as a holiday gift!

PARENT WORKSHOPS

Greenfield Family Wellness is hosting a free workshop on Wednesday evening, Nov. 28th at the library at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School in Shelburne Falls – and it’s coming just in time, since it’s about parenting during the holidays! “Simplicity Parenting for the Holidays,” will offer parents suggestions, strategies, and support for creating a plan for effective, simplifying parenting plans for the holiday season. On Thursday evening, Nov. 29th in North AdamsChildcare of the Berkshires’ Parent Cafe takes place. This monthly event includes a free catered dinner, and loosely structured time to talk with other parents about parenting strategies, and challenges faced while parenting.  And the Federation for Children with Special Needs is offering a free parent workshop in the rights of parents of children who are on IEP’s on Thursday evening, Nov. 29th. The seminar will be conducted in Spanish, and will take place at the Care Center in Holyoke.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 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.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

31 Community Highlights: Balloon Parade to Puppets. Wild Turkeys to Kitchen Science.

Families can make their own holiday gifts at many of the craft fairs happening now through the holiday season. Families can make their own glass ornaments this weekend at Snow Farm’s Seconds Sale in Williamsburg, MA. It’s a great way for older kids to learn about this skilled craft while making a family keepsake for the holidays. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Balloon Parade to Puppets. Family Volunteering to Shopping Local. Wild Turkeys to Kitchen Science… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week, including fun things to do on Black Friday other than going to the mall! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

MUSIC STUDIES

Music from different cultures and genres will be performed this weekend in Western MA. At noon on Saturday, Nov. 17th at the Pelham Library, Ricardo Frota will be performing, “Sounds from the Brazilian Rainforest: The Ecology of Sound.” This free performance emulates the sounds, rhythms, and feelings of the rainforest, and also includes music from indigenous cultures around the world.

Balinese Gamelan, an innovative cross-cultural form of music, will be performed by Gamelan Galak Tika at Williams College on Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th. Balinese Gamelana is a music style which features gongs, mellophones, and hand drums to create a percussion-heavy hammer-like sound. This free performance takes place in Chapin Hall in Williamstown.

In the evening on Saturday, Nov. 17th, older children with audience skills can take in a performance of a capella music by local a capella groups at Smith College in Northampton, or an evening of blues and gospel music at the Village Congregational Church in Cummington. Both performances would also be a great choice for a date night!

STEM

On Saturday, Nov. 17th kids can choose from chemistry in Berkshire County or engineering in Franklin County. In the late morning the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield hosts Kitchen Kaboom! – a hands-on science activity for kids where they will learn to use kitchen materials to do safe but exciting (and simple!) science experiments. The Sunderland Library has a free LEGO Club that meets this morning too. Children ages 6yo+ and their adults can come and practice their engineering and architectural skills while getting creative and sharing their inventions. Space is limited for both events, so call ahead.

There’s a free LEGO club that meets mid-week too. The Berkshire Athenaeum’s LEGO club meets on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 21st. This month’s meeting’s theme is favorite foods – kids can use blocks to make food-inspired creations, work together to develop ideas, and use the blocks to discover and experiment with basic principles of architecture and design.

ANIMAL STUDIES

On Saturday, Nov. 17th there are a couple of opportunities for kids to learn about local wild birds with Mass Audubon!

Wild turkeys are easy to spot in Western Massachusetts – they seem to be in nearly everyone’s backyard! On Saturday morning, come to Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton to learn about turkey feathers, turkey habitat, turkey habits, and more – then explore the sanctuary’s trails and search for some real live turkeys. Kids can also learn firsthand about bird banding on Saturday morning at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox. Visitors can watch as birds are caught in mist nets, then banded in order to be tracked and used for data collection. Participants will also be able to help record data, and learn what the information collected from banded birds is used for!

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

Take a hike! Explore the trails at High Ledges in Shelburne on Saturday morning, Nov. 17th and see panoramic views of the Deerfield Valley. The area is home to a wide variety of trees – practice identifying them while adventuring. Open to adults and older teens and lead by Mass Audubon. Later in the week on Wednesday morning, Nov. 21st, hike the Vermont-Massachusetts border with the Trustees of Reservations at Mountain Meadow in Williamstown! The hike will take visitors to the summit of Mason Hill – bring snacks and lots of water.

HISTORY

Apples were important in the diet of early Deerfield settlers- many homes even had their own orchards! Learn about the varieties of apples grown and the dishes created with at Historic Deerfield on Saturday, Nov. 17th (and Friday, Nov. 23rd). There will also be a craft activity where visitors can make their own apple pomander ornaments to take home.

On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 18th, learn about the “new elite” in colonial American at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at the Springfield Museums. Museum Docent Betty Romer will lead a tour of the galleries, during which participants will learn about the history behind the artistic representations of the new Americans who made fortunes in commerce and banking. Best for older students, the tour fits well with studies of art history and early American history.

Want to learn how to “read” old photographs with the Pelham Historical Society? On Monday evening, Nov. 19th, Doug and Justin Kimball (of Kimball Auctions and Amherst College’s Art Department, respectively) will help attendees learn about photographs, and participants are encouraged to bring photos of their own to share and learn about! Takes place at the Community Center in Pelham.

PUPPETS

Kids love puppets! Plus they’re great for encouraging creative free-play! On Saturday morning, Nov. 17th, at the Hatfield Library, there will be a morning of creative puppet play where kids can practice their puppetry skills, create characters, and use puppets to create a puppet production. A little later at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, families can watch puppeteer Jonathan Keezing’s production of Timeless Tales. Keezing uses unique and diverse puppetry styles to tell fables and folktales. Both opportunities are free.

On stage, in the afternoon on Saturday, Nov. 17th, and Friday, Nov. 23rd, Picture Book Theater presents Eric Carle’s The Very Quiet Cricket and The Very Lonely Firefly – puppet style! – at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. See these classic children’s stories come alive with all of the beauty of Carle’s signature collaged illustrations.

HOLIDAY CRAFT FAIRS

It’s so easy to shop local and handmade this holiday season! Choices even include recycled, repurposed and make your own! Here are a few craft and holiday fairs happening this Saturday, Nov. 17th to consider, but not an exhaustive list by any measure.

Looking for more ideas? Stop by River Valley Market Co-op in Northampton and check out the show in their gallery, Hilltown Families: Traveling Photography Exhibit. All images are from Western MA and the proceeds benefit Hilltown Families. Also, check out Sarah’s column this month for several more great suggestions, including a few of her favorite independently owned stores in the Valley, in her post Handmade, Independent and Local for the Holidays in Western MA.

FAMILY VOLUNTEERING

Volunteering as a family is a fun way for families to create memories together while making a significant contribution to their communities. Over on our Facebook page we’ve shared several ways families can contribute to their community, including:

  • Clean up Burbank Park in Pittsfield this Sunday, Nov. 18th, home of Berkshire Bioblitz.
  • Crafternoon” this Sunday, Nov. 18th in Ashfield to help create items for Christmas Crafts for the Cure.
  • Socks for Seniors,” a sock drive at Florence Savings Bank for a program that supports the Highland Valley Elder Services.
  • Donation drives at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg that support the Hilltown Food Pantry, Northampton Survival Center and the Dakin PV Humane Society
  • An all-ages holiday card craft to benefit Concord Prison outreach project at the Greenfield Library

And much more! We post daily updates to our Facebook page, so make sure you “Like” our page. But “Liking” our page isn’t just enough… Facebook has changed the rules for organizations so that you won’t see all of our posts unless you do more than “like” our page. Find out how you can receive all of our juicy Facebook updates in your Facebook newsfeed!

Have you heard yet about the Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night? Join Hilltown Families for an evening of volunteering together with your family during our first ever Family Community Service Night. On Friday, November 30th from 4:30-7:30pm in Northampton, families can come together for a fun evening visiting five different volunteer stations, each offering a simple, hands-on service project for all ages. Volunteering as a family helps children learn values like kindness, respect and friendliness, and on this evening you can volunteer with five different local non-profits in a single evening! This is a free event, however, space is limited. Reserve a spot for your family today! Can’t make it but want to volunteer for the event? We have an acquisition list of things we need for the night of if you’d like to help us collect what we need. Email swildfield@hilltownfamilies.org for a list of what we are looking for.

POST THANKSGIVING DAY

Looking for something to do on the day after Thanksgiving rather than going to the malls to shop? Here are six suggestions:

  1. Visit the Amelia Park Children’s Museum in Westfield to explore the exhibits and play… and meet Santa, too! He’ll be visiting just for the day, so visit him while you can.
  2. Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox will kick off its 5th annual A Home for the Holidays program. The 1893 mansion will be lavishly decorated for a Gilded Age Christmas by a host of volunteers, among them the Ventfort Hall Flower Ladies.
  3. Celebrate the unofficial kick-off of the winter holidays with the Springfield Museums where there will be a special holiday puppet show, holiday art projects, science activities, and a chance to see the museum’s gingerbread house contest exhibit!
  4. Watch the Cat in the Hat (and many of his friends) parade through downtown Springfield in the annual Parade of Big Balloons! It’s like a mini-version of the Thanksgiving parade in New York – without the travel.
  5. Dress warmly and head to Moonlight Magic, the village of Shelburne Fall’s annual holiday stroll. Over 1,000 luminaries line the street and sidewalks to create a festive atmosphere. The event includes Lighting of the Village, Parade of Lights, Visits with Santa, Carolers, Street Performers, Vendors, Classic Cartoons, and Trolley Rides!
  6. Forest Park is lit up for the Holidays! Springfield’s annual Bright Nights display features intricate, sparkly scenes throughout the park – there are elaborate displays, as well as decorative lights everywhere. Celebrate the holidays with a drive through the park to enjoy the festive displays!

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 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.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

35 Community Highlights: Square Dance to Ballet. Make-Your-Own Gifts to Community Dinners.

Kids love to move & dance! This weekend there are several opportunities for them to dance and learn about different styles of dance. From Irish Dance to Square Dance to Ballet to Contra Dance… or just an all around community dance party! See our highlights below. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Make-Your-Own Gifts to Community Dinners. Beatrix Potter to Eric Carle. Hindu to Native American. Square Dance to Ballet… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES/HIKES

The Franklin Land Trust has several hiking trails for families to explore in Franklin County. Get out with the kids and enjoy the tail end of Fall before thick blankets of snow arrive. Other opportunities this Saturday, November 10th, include the a search for geologic and historic landmarks at the Lime Kiln Farm Sanctuary with Mass Audubon in Sheffield, and a morning nature hike at Springside Park in Pittsfield with naturalist Victor Capelli.

On Sunday morning, November 11th, families can explore a Bear Spring, rock ledges, and ancient shorelines and see unique plant life like witch hazel, mountain laurel, and sassafras at Pine Cobble in Williamstown, and in the afternoon explore the Hilltown Land Trust’s Stevens Property in Huntington– a site covering over 350 acres of land skirting the Mt. Pisgah ridge line and filled with forests, streams, and boulders.

HISTORY

Saturday evening, November 10th, experience a darkening Fall evening just as early New Englanders did at Old Sturbridge Village’s Evening of Illumination. Guided tours – lit by candles, oil lamps, and firelight – will stop by a handful of the village’s homes and shops around the common.

On Sunday evening, November 11th, at Smith College in Northampton, older students can learn about Marion Turner, a resident of Florence from 1898-1903 – Turner was African-American, a woman, a nurse, and also an open cross-dresser. New research from the Sexual Minorities Archives will be presented on Turner’s life, and what her experience says about the culture of early 20th century Northampton.

GEOLOGY, ASTRONOMY & NATURE STUDIES

See rock specimens of all shapes and sizes at the Jewelry, Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show and Sale at Greenfield Community College on Saturday, November 10th. Kids can see a wide variety of stone specimens, jewelry, fossils, and geology-themed art. In the evening on Saturday, November 10th, families can gaze into the night sky at the stars with Arunah Hill at Notchview in Windsor!

In Amherst on Tuesday morning, November 13th, the Hitchcock Center’s Nature Discovery Day will focus on salmon and other anadromous fish! Participants will visit the Salmon Station in Sunderland and learn about freshwater fish’s habitats, as well as the special adaptations that allow salmon to live partly in freshwater and partly in saltwater.

MAKE YOUR OWN CRAFTS & HOLIDAY GIFTS

Making your own holiday gifts is a great way to get creative with your kids, and an excellent alternative to the commercialism that takes over the holiday season. This coming week there are several MYO gifts and crafts happening as either a dedicated event or part of a larger community event, like at Snow Farm in Williamsburg where as part of their annual seconds sale on Saturday, November 10th you can make your own glass ornament in their glass studio. Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School’s Holiday Handcraft Fair is on Saturday too with several opportunities to MYO gifts, including hand-dipped beeswax candles and jumpropes, and at the Whatley Library families can make a stuffed critter out of felt.

Bird lovers will enjoy a hand made gift that welcomes their feathered friends to their homes too! On Saturday, November 10th, the Amherst Family Center hosts a free morning family program at the UMass that begins with making a bird feeder out of recycled materials. And on Wednesday, November 14th, the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke will host an evening event for families to make a bird feeder, also out of recycled materials.

LITERATURE

On Saturday afternoon, November 10th, celebrate Beatrix Potter and her classic children’s tales featuring a menagerie of woodland critters at White Square Books in Easthampton, and in the morning watch you favorite fairy tales come alive in the morning as Red Door Theatre in Feeding Hills presents, “Aesop’s Fables!

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is celebrating its 10th birthday on Sunday afternoon, November 11th with a book signing bash! Authors Tony DiTerlizzi, Peter Laird, and Eric Carle himself will be signing books and drawing doodles for visitors in Amherst.

Later in the week, the Forbes Library in Northampton will discuss GLBT literature for boys on Wednesday evening, November 14th. Participants can discuss the barriers to getting books with gay children as characters published, and imagine what a book with gay kids as characters would look like!

CULTURAL STUDIES

Saturday, November 10th, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield hosts the Chief Konkapot Festival of Native American Culture and History. In the afternoon Jerry Thundercloud Macdonald will performing Mohawk stories, songs, and dance, and in the evening Joseph Firecrow and Northern Cheyenne flautist, singer, and songwriter (Grammy-nominated!) will perform.

The Chief Konkapot Festival of Native American Culture and History continues on Sunday, November 11th, with an afternoon performance features Larry Spotted Crow Mann, who will present Nipmuck stories, songs, and drumming alongside the Quabbin Lake Singers. Sandy Rhodes follows, sharing a presentation on traditional pow wow culture, dance, and regalia.

If you miss Joseph Firecrows performance at the Berkshire Museum, The Berkshire Community College Committee for Diversity will also host him in a free noontime performance on Monday at noon, November 12th in Pittsfield, and on Thursday evening, November 15th, the committee invites the public to come celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, at Bombay Bar and Grill in Lee.

PARENT WORKSHOPS

On Monday evening, November 12th, Childcare of the Berkshires is offering a free 3-week parenting workshop series for parents of children ages 5-12 in North Adams. Parents will learn tools for helping to develop independence, character, and responsibility in school-aged children, as well as strategies for positive discipline and effective communication.

Scott Noyes is presenting a free workshop on “Children’s Rivalry” on Tuesday evening, November 15th in Great Barrington. Learn how to help children with rivalry, competition for parent’s attention, resentfulness, envy and conflict.

Baystate Children’s Hospital hosts a free evening workshop for grandparents and parents-to-be on Wednesday, November 14th in West Springfield. Called, “Your Baby is Having a Baby,” the workshop will share information on maximizing your role as a grandparent and ways to be supportive to new parents.

COMMUNITY DINNERS

There are a host of community dinners happening this week! A couple we’ve featured this Saturday evening, November 10th, include the Monson-Glendale United Methodist Church’s Polish Dinner in Monson, and the Berkshire Trail Elementary School community dinner, featuring locally-made Ooma Tesoro’s pasta sauce and bread from Bread Euphoria (there will even be gluten-free pasta) in Cummington.

Also featured on Thursday evening, November 15th, are Faith United Methodist Church’s community spaghetti dinner in Chicopee, and in Ashfield the Bullitt Reservation’s community potluck and discussion on saving money and saving energy.

On Friday evening, November 16th, bring a dish to share (incorporate local foods if you can!) to a community potluck with C3 Deerfield (Creative Community Central) at the South Deerfield Congregational Church. Following dinner (at 6:30) will be workshops on making hula hoops and earrings.

DANCE

There are a few dance opportunities happening on Saturday, November 10th. In the morning, Celtic Heels School of Irish Dance is offering free trial classes for kids and parents in Greenfield. In the evening families can dance the night away at the Lander-Grinspoon Academy PTO’s Bake-and-Shake DJ Dance Party in Northampton, or learn square dances at the Chesterfield Grange community square dance.

Dancers from the Berkshire Albany Ballet present scenes from the nutcracker on Wednesday afternoon, November 14th at the Mason Library in Great Barrington, and on Friday evening, November 16th, the Northern Berkshire Contra Dance takes place at the First Congregational Church in Williamstown.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

25 Community Highlights: Chrysanthemums to Cider Donuts. Opera to Big Band Jazz.

Chrysanthemums are in bloom at the Smith College Botanic Gardens in Northampton. Starting Saturday, November 3rd. Bring the family for an impressive botanical display!  Before going, explore the rich history of the chrysanthemum and when you arrive examine the wide array of forms and colors that are cultivated. See if you can get your kids to pick out the different varieties of chrysanthemum displayed at the show. Check the show brochure for a list. Click here for printable coloring sheets of different flowering forms.

Chrysanthemums to Homemade Candles. Doghouses to Cider Donuts. Opera to Big Band Jazz…. These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

APPLES

Franklin County celebrates its plentiful apple harvest and the delicious batches of cider that follow at the 18th annual Cider Days all weekend! The event includes fun events and activities county-wide – including an apple pancake breakfast, wagon rides and orchard explorations, cider pressing, lots of tastings (of ciders for big kids and little kids), and chances to learn about apple varieties, heirloom apples, organic orchards, and more! It’s a chance for families to develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of our local apple industry..

Families can also learn about the culinary history of apples at Historic Deerfield on Saturday, November 3rd.  Their open hearth cooking program continues, with a focus on apples! Families often had their own small orchards, from which to harvest crops for cider, baking, storage, cooking, etc. Learn about traditional apple dishes and preservation of apples for the winter! There will also be workshops on making apple pomanders.

CULTURAL STUDIES

Native American artist Teri Greeves will be at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield on Saturday, November 3rd at 10am to lead a hands-on beaded medallion workshop for kids to accompany the museum’s Rethink! Native American Art exhibition. Kids will learn basic beadworking skills, and will also learn about the role of beadwork in traditional Native American art. In Springfield at the Robyn Newhouse Hall, storyteller Eshu Bumpus will be telling stories from around the world on Saturday afternoon. Eshu captures his audience by telling a variety of African, African-American and World folktales leavened with music, humor and mystery.

MAKE YOUR OWN HOLIDAY GIFTS

The Fiber Festival of New England takes place this weekend in West Springfield, featuring fiber arts and crafts, demonstrations and workshops, and a sale of all things fiber! Families can attend one of their workshops held during the Fiber Festival to learn how to make your own holiday gifts.  Workshops including Beginner Rug Hooking, Fancy Felted Soaps and Needle Felted Sheep.

Shop local and handmade this Saturday, Nov. 3rd at the Handmade for Kids Holiday Fair, co-sponsored by Hilltown Families. Happens at the Berkshire Trail Elementary school in Cummington and supports the Cummington Family Center.

In Cummington on Saturday, November 3rd is the 3rd annual Handmade for Kids Holiday Fair at the Berkshire Trail Elementary School. There will be a couple of felting workshops for families to make your own craft to take home or give. Also on Saturday at the Tilton Library in Deerfield and the Lilly Library in Florence, there will be two bookmaking workshops.  Kids and their parents can learn how to make books together in these workshops, and then go home and make their own books as holiday gifts.

Later in the week on Friday, November 9th, kids can learn how to make homemade candles at the Berkshire Co-op in Great Barrington. Candles make great holiday gifts, and are handy all around the house (especially in the darkest months of the year!).

PLANT STUDIES

Chrysanthemums are in bloom at the Smith College Botanic Gardens in Northampton. Starting Saturday, November 3rd, visit to see a wide array of colors and blooms of all sizes. Kids can learn about the growing and blooming process that the plants go through, and can learn about greenhouse gardening, too.  There will be extended evening hours on Friday, November 9th from 6-8pm.

In Northfield on Saturday, November 3rd, youth ages 12yo+ and their adults can join forester Helen Johnson at Northfield Mountain for a late fall tree ID walk. Characteristics like bark, branching patterns, buds, overall tree shape, and habitat will be used to aid in identification. There will also be discussion about impacts on the forest from insects, diseases, and invasive plants. No previous tree identification skills are required for this field walk.

FAMILY VOLUNTEERING

On Saturday, November 3rd, families can help build doghouses for Kane’s Krusade in Ludlow, an organization that helps dogs in need in the Springfield area. The organization is putting together CARE Kits (Canine Assistance Resources and Education) for families who struggle financially to care for their dogs – providing assistance in the form of insulated dog houses, leashes, collars, treats, etc. helps to keep dogs with their loving families, rather than in shelters.

On Sunday, November 4th, take part in the very first Cider Donut Run to benefit the Amherst Survival Center in Amherst. Families can choose to run a 10k, or to participate in the much less strenuous 2.4 mile run/walk, both of which begin at the Mill River Recreation Area. Enjoy the beautiful fall foliage and the crisp, clear autumn morning air while getting great exercise and helping to support a vital community resource.

STEM

This weekend there are several opportunities for kids to practice their math, science, and engineering skills. The Sunderland Library has a Lego Club on Saturday morning, November 3rd. Children ages 6yo+ and their adults can come and practice their engineering and architectural skills while getting creative and sharing their inventions.  The Jones Library hosts a Chess Club for youth ages 7yo and older with Andy Morris-Friedman in the Amherst Room on Saturday afternoon. And on Sunday, November 4th, an informal Chess Club happens at the Lilly Library in Florence. Participants are encouraged to supplement existing chess boards by bringing their own too.

Later in the week, on Tuesday, November 6th, the Hatfield Library will host a science program for 8-10yo students, and on Wednesday, November 7th, visit the East Longmeadow Library for some afternoon chess!

ANIMAL & NATURE STUDIES

Country Quilt Llama Farm is paying a fur-filled visit to the Lenox Library on Saturday morning, November 3rd! Kids can learn about llama farming and the uses for llama fiber through storytime, large pictures detailing important parts of llama life and llama-raising, and many llama-products to touch and inspect. There will be a llama visiting, too for kids to meet and learn about.

Get your kids to stop and think about what adaptations nocturnal animals have that allow them to navigate the dark landscape so well.  Then bring them to Mass Audubon on Saturday night to learn all about nighttime living on a family night hike. Families with kids ages 5-12yo can explore Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary by dark in Easthampton, and learn to make sparks with rocks, listen for night sounds, and learn to see without a flashlight.

Humans and other animals have very different ways of preparing for the winter. While we turn on the heat, pull out sweaters and wool socks, and freeze our favorite seasonal foods, animals have very different adaptations. Children ages 6-9 (grades 1-4) can visit the Hitchcock Center in Amherst on Tuesday, November 6th for a full day program on how the local landscape and the animals that call the valley home prepare for winter!

The Berkshire Environmental Education Network hosts the annual BEEN Conference for Environmental Educators on Tuesday, November 6th, at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield. The conference offers workshops for educators of all types, all of which will be centered around the theme of hands-on, place-based environmental education. Attendees will get to choose from over 20 different workshops – the learning possibilities are endless.

MUSIC STUDIES

Amherst Cinema screens, “The Girls in the Band,” a film that tells the story of women in big band jazz, on Monday evening, November 5th. Female vocalists are fairly common in the jazz world, but female musicians are not – an issue examined by looking at the lives and accomplishments of notable female jazz musicians.

The Westfield State University department of music presents an opera for young audiences on Friday morning, November 9th. This year they present “Hansel and Gretel” by Engelbert Humperdinck. It tells the Brothers Grimm fairy tale story in song, of the two children lost in the woods, tempted by a house made of candy, who fall into the clutches of a child eating witch. They eventually defeat her plans to eat them and are reunited with their parents. This work is being presented in a piano/voice version on Dever Stage and runs about a half hour. Open to the public.

Matt Cusson, a locally-grown and nationally known singer/songwriter and pianist, is offering a songwriting workshop at The Garage in Pittsfield on Friday afternoon, November 9th! A self-taught musician, Cusson is a winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and has performed with acts such as James Taylor, Cee Lo Green, and Brian McKnight.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and other events & activities happening all next week in our comprehensive list of Weekly Suggested Events, published every Thursday.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

22 Community Highlights: Musicals to Mystery. Day of the Dead to Candlelight Tours.

On Halloween, families can join in the celebration of Day of the Dead! The Southwick Library will have sugar skulls available for teens to come decorate with icing, feathers, glitter, etc., and the Meekins Library in Williamsburg invites families to bring in Day of the Dead mementos to add to their community altar and to sample Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead Bread). — Interested in learning more about Day of the Dead  (Diá de los Muertos)? Check out our post, “El Dia de los Muertos (Video & Resources“) to learn about this Mexican celebration. This post is from our archives and includes a short education video, traditional foods, curriculum & activities, history & photos, suggested titles and web reviews. — We also have a terrific DIY tutorial on how to make your own Mexican sugar skulls in our archives.  Learn how to make this traditional Mexican Day of the Dead culinary art in our post, “DIY: Mexican Sugar Skulls.” 

Musicals to Mystery. Day of the Dead to Halloween. Spiders to Candlelight… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

ANIMAL/NATURE STUDIES

Spiders can be a bit creepy – but they’re fascinating, too! Visit Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary on Saturday morning, Oct. 27th in Easthampton to learn about the many different types of arachnids found all around the world – there will be hands-on activities.  Later in the afternoon families can meet some interesting creatures at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls with Teaching Creatures, a free show-and-tell program that helps kids learn about animals with interesting evolutionary adaptations. The program will focus on the different defense mechanisms that animals have, and how and why they have evolved.

On Sunday morning, Oct. 28th, teens and their parents can explore Bear Swamp with the Hitchcock Center in Amherst! The rocky area includes a pond, which is home to diverse plants and wildlife.

ARCHEOLOGY & ASTRONOMY

Archaeologists must often apply a skill set similar to those used by forensics experts – they look at remnants of lives (caves, basements, stone walls, etc.) and use tiny clues in order to deduce the use of the place, item, etc. On Monday evening, Oct. 29th, older students and their parents can learn how archaeologists have used these skills to determine information about the history of the earliest European settlers in New England at Greenfield High School, where Central Connecticut State professor Ken Feder presents, “Monk’s Caves, Sacrificial Altars, and Wandering Celts.

The Springfield Science Museum will be open for public sky-gazing on Friday evening, Nov. 2nd. Now in it’s 75th year of connecting the public with the night sky, this month’s viewing marks the anniversary of the first public demo of the planetarium with a talk entitled, “The Korkosz Brothers and their Amazing ‘Star-ball.”

THEATER & MUSIC

We’re rich in musical performances this weekend, many of which are performed by local youth:

  • Pinkalicious! The Musical, performed by Ja’Duke Productions in the auditorium at the Eric Carle Museum, happens on Saturday, Oct 27th in Amherst.
  • The Evolution of Rhythms, an original show presented by Youth Alive on Saturday evening, Oct. 27th, takes place on the Barrington Stage Company’s main stage in Pittsfield.
  • Little Shop of Horrors, a musical present by Black Cat Theater, will be at South Hadley High School on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, Oct. 27th & 28th.
  • The Secret Garden, produced by the Monson Arts Council, will be performed on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, Oct 27th & 28th, and Friday evening, Nov. 2nd at Memorial Hall in Monson.
  • Legally Blonde: The Musical will be performed on Saturday evening, Oct. 27th at Westfield State University.
  • Rumors, Neil Simon’s classic farce, is Williston Northampton School’s fall theater production in Easthampton, with their final performance on Saturday evening, Oct. 27th.
  • The Pirates of Penzance! is a musical comedy presented by Bay Path College in Longmeadow on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, Oct. 27th & 28thth, and Friday evening, Nov. 2nd in the Mills Theater.

STEM

Teens can explore science of all kinds at UMass’ ScienceQUEST on Saturday, Oct. 27th  in Amherst – a free event for high school age youth, where students can visit campus, take part in hands-on science activities, and tour the school’s science labs. Students will learn not only about studying college-level sciences, but can choose to take part in workshops on obscure scientific topics like hidden universes and polymers! Students can learn ways to apply their interests to topics in science that they may not have been aware of, and will learn about the practical applications of many unique scientific studies.

DAY OF THE DEAD

White Square Books hosts “Ghost Stories of the Ancient Greeks and Romans” with UMass classic professor, Debbie Felton on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 27th. Felton will lead participants to discover ancient Halloween-type festivals that celebrate the dead in this free event in Easthampton.

On Halloween, families can join in the celebration of Day of the Dead! The Southwick Library will have sugar skulls available for teens to come decorate with icing, feathers, glitter, etc., and the Meekins Library in Williamsburg invites families to bring in Day of the Dead mementos to add to their community altar and to sample Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead Bread).

HISTORY

On Saturday evening, Oct. 27th, tour the spooky Skinner Mansion at the Wistariahurst Museum by candlelight. The tour will be guided by a museum interpreter and families (with older kids) can learn about the history behind this Holyoke museum.  Then on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 28th, and Monday evening, Oct. 29th, tour the Forestdale Cemetery – final resting place of many of the families who played key roles in the development of early Holyoke. Lead by city historian Penni Martorell, the tour will teach visitors about the development of their city and community.

PARENT WORKSHOPS

The Amherst Family Center hosts Dinner On Us on Monday evening, Oct. 29th, a free weekly parent conversation series.  This week’s topic is empowering children to be responsible and respectful – parents can gain new insights and gather useful information, and share their experiences with others.

Gateway Middle School hosts, “Guiding Good Choices,” on Thursday evening, Nov. 1, a free workshop series in Huntington for parents on helping teens to develop strategies for keeping drugs and alcohol out of their lives, encouraging family involvement, and helping youth recognize and utilize their own strengths.

MISC

The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield is hosting yet another round of PechaKucha presentations on Tuesday evening, Oct. 30th! The event is a space for community members to present a series of 20 20-second slides (20×20 is another name for the event) on any topic they choose – audience members can leave having learned about anything from candy bar shapes to native plants. Best for older students (mature tweens and teens), the event is a great way to celebrate diversity in knowledge and experience within the community!

The Westhampton Library hosts, “Nothing to Hide: Mental Illness in the Family,” an exhibit featuring photographs and interviews with families whose lives have been affected by mental illness (including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, etc.). The exhibit can help students in learning the side of mental illness not often shared publicly – the side that debunks stereotypes and illustrates strength, courage, integrity, and accomplishment. There will be a free author talk on Friday evening, Nov. 2nd from 7-8pm with Jean Beard, co-author of the exhibit’s namesake book.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 200 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

22 Community Highlights: Mask-Making to Costume Design. Historic Harvest to Historic Trades.

Cemeteries are great places to learn about local history this time of year. On Friday, Oct. 26th at 7:15pm, the Longmeadow Historical Society will host their annual Ghosts on the Graveyard. Reenactors will present a first person story at the graves of various long deceased townspeople by lantern light. Merchants, tavern keepers, Civil War soldiers, grieving widows and mothers, missionaries, and a man who raced homing pigeons. Participants can meet behind First Church on Route 5 in Longmeadow beginning at 6:30pm. The event is not frightening for young children. Participants should dress warmly and bring a flashlight. Refreshments will be served. Free event. Donations welcomed.

Shoe Making to Top-Secret Technology. Mask-Making to Costume Design. Film Studies to Outdoor Adventures…… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

FAMILY VOLUNTEERING

Volunteering with your family in your community is an excellent way to encourage civic engagement while cultivating compassion and gratitude in your children. This weekend there are a least four ways families can volunteer together in tasks that include park clean-ups, gleaning food, and a 5K Run/Walk. On Saturday morning, Oct. 20th in Amherst, families can volunteer to help glean leftover unharvested produce from local farms! All harvested food will be donated to a local food pantry – Not Bread Alone. By participating, kids can learn how to harvest foods, and will be contributing to the survival of their community. Also on Saturday, Oct. 20th, the West Springfield Friends of Parks and Recreation will be working to clean up the Rotary Pavillion at Mittineague Park and welcome volunteers to help maintain the park, a valuable community resource! Helpers of all ages are welcome – there are tasks both big and small.

Then on Sunday morning, Oct. 21st, Stanley Park in Westfield will be hosting the first ever WGBY Community Champions 5k Race/Walk. Participants can choose to do either a race, or to walk the course as a family. The race is a benefit for the station and its valuable programming. In the afternoon on Sunday, Oct. 21st, the Greenfield Energy Park, which serves as concert venue, meeting place, and green space for the community, welcomed families to volunteer in their seasonal clean up of the park before winter comes. There are jobs both big and small for people of all ages, sizes, and abilities.

NATURE & ANIMAL STUDIES

Have you ever seen a Witch’s Hat growing in the ground? They can be found in the woods all over Western MA! Join Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton on Saturday morning, Oct. 20th to learn where to find these interesting plants, then see how many you can spot. Then in the afternoon on Saturday, families can visit the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls to learn all about raptors with representatives from the VT Institute of Natural Science who will share a live raptor with visitors, and discuss where they live, what they eat, and their behavior. This information will be used to help kids grasp the basic concepts of food chains, predator-prey relationships, and the interdependence of nature. Once the sun sets there will be stargazing Saturday night with Arunah Hill at Notchview in Windsor. Families can learn to identify stars and constellations, and locate planets.

Bats rely on their echolocation in order to navigate the air and find food during the nighttime. Developed areas create a lot of white noise – which interferes with the bats’ echolocation. Learn about how the phenomenon is affecting bat populations across the US, and learn about efforts that are being made to help preserve bat populations at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton on Thursday evening, Oct. 25th. Best for older students, this event supports studies of the effects of humans on the environment.

Creatures can be hard to find sometimes, since they’re so well camouflaged! On Friday morning Oct. 26th, the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls host, “Where in the Wild?” – a program where kids will be able to learn about the animals who are the best at hiding, and why!

HISTORY

Old Sturbridge Village’s Fall Harvest Days take place this weekend, Oct. 20th & 21st. Visit the village to celebrate fall – 1800s style! Visitors can help out with the village’s harvest of potatoes, corn, and root veggies; tour orchards, taste numerous varieties of heirloom apples, and watch an ox-powered cider press in operation; and learn skills for preserving the harvest, like bean shelling and corn shucking, learn about root cellar storage, churning butter, and more!

Learn about historic trades at Historic Deerfield on Saturday, Oct. 20th with sewing and shoe-making demonstrations! Linda Oakley will show visitors useful types of stitches and will demonstrate sewing projects that would have been done by early residents of Deerfield, while Peter Oakley will demonstrate shoemaking, creating the style of shoe worn by New England settlers.

Franklin County has produced lots of important inventions and innovations, including the tap-and-die and some of the top-secret technology that helped to win World War II! Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke hosts a lecture Monday evening, Oct. 22nd on inventions and innovations that have come from the area. Albert Shane, curator of the Museum of Our Industrial Heritage, will share lots of interesting information about the industrial history of Franklin County. Older students can put studies of American history and engineering into a local context by learning about big local ideas!

On Thursday afternoon, Oct. 25th, tour the Stockbridge Cemetery to see the graves of notable former residents (like Norman Rockwell and the Sedgwick family) at Luminaries: Exploring Stockbridge Cemetery! Participants can learn about the history of many famous and prolific people whose final resting place is the cemetery.

ART, THEATER & FILM STUDIES

With Halloween on everyone’s mind, masks and costumes are a great way to discover art and theater. Learn how to make masks with the Royal Frog Ballet Performance Collective at a Mask-Making Workshop for all ages on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 20th in Montague, and on Wednesday afternoon, Oct 24th, learn how gory costumes are made for stage productions with Williams College’s costume director, Deb Brothers in Williamstown. Then on Thursday, Oct. 25th, the Williams College Museum of Art hosts “Ghouls in the Galleries: Exploring the Monsters of WCMA’s Collection.” Monsters in the museum will be rooted out by Deena Bak (’13) and she will aid participants in understanding what these monsters reveal about the nature of fear from a variety of cultural perspectives. Best for older students interested in art and cultural studies. Also on Thursday, Oct. 25th, the Berkshire Museum’s Little Cinema in Pittsfield is screening part 3+4 of, “The Story of Film: An Odyssey.” Great for cinephiles of all ages!

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

With the last of the autumn leaves falling from the trees, this is a great time to get out in nature on a hike with the family (or without), discovering both local and natural history before the snow flies. On Saturday, Oct. 20th, explore the High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary by hiking the Wolf Den Trail in Shelburne, and experience the sanctuary’s 400+ species of hardwood plants, and the many diverse habitats that it encompasses. The same day in Colrain, explore historic Catamount Hill and learn about the fascinating history of the forest and the hill’s “ghost town,” or explore North Adams from a different perspective – the riverbank! The Hoosic River Revival Coalition will offer a guided riverwalk through town, stopping to observe and learn about historic locations, as well as the natural history of the river.

Later in the week on Wednesday, Oct. 24th, what better way to spend a crisp weekday morning than to hike the Hoosac Range after dropping the kids off at school, or with your older homeschool kids! Enjoy beautiful views overlooking North Adams. And on Friday, Oct. 26th, hike under the stars at the Alford Springs Reserve with your teens, BFF and/or sweet honey!

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and nearly 200 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events.

SUPPORTING BOOK TITLES

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