40 Community Highlights: Valentine’s Day to Black History Month. Creative Free Play to Chemistry.

Pioneer Valley Bread House in South Hadley is holding a bread-baking event that’s open to everyone on Tuesday evening, February 11! Come learn how to bake bread from scratch and share, learn, and create with community members. Baking bread is a fun and useful skill and this is a perfect event to help you get started! Takes place at Five College Women’s Studies Research Center.

Valentine’s Day to Black History Month. Creative Free Play to Chemistry. Bread Baking to Snowshoeing.

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

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

Featured learning highlight this week: The UMass Department of Chemistry and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Institute is holding a family chemistry demonstration night to display the wonders of chemistry and chemical reactions on Thursday, February 13 in Amherst. There will be exciting explosions, colorful reactions, and much more! Come see how cool chemistry is at this family event! Students, parents, and teachers are especially encouraged to attend this free night of science!

Creative Free Play Community Service/Animal WelfareSportsValentine HistoryLocal HistoryNature StudiesOutdoor AdventuresSTEMBaking ♦  Valentine’s DayBlack History MonthParent Workshops

Creative Free Play

Put a little (if not, then a lot!) of creative free play into your child’s day! Families are invited to “Parents and Kids: Making Messy Art Together,” a free workshop on Saturday morning, February 8th at the Hatfield American Legion. Come be creative and explore artistic possibilities with paints, doughs, crayons, chalk, and collage. These activities can help develop fine motor skills while allowing kids the opportunity to be creative and messy… promote emotional well-being while giving them a positive way to express their feelings. In the afternoon, parents and children (ages 6-11) can spend some time at Art-Always making art with Jane Morrison in Florence. Experiment with watercolors, oil pastels, glitter, paint, and more to create landscapes, starry nighttime scenes, and other pieces. Try out different mediums and create beautiful art together!

Can’t get away this winter to warm sandy locations? Take the kids to Eastfield Mall’s giant sandbox found in their Food Court from Saturday, February 8 through Sunday, February 23 in Springfield. A giant sandbox is a great place for kids to engage in creative free play!  Kids up to ages 12you can play solo, in tandem or with other kids in this indoor mock-beach. Plus, its an easy way to meet other parents and maybe even make plan for get together again for some more indoor play!

The Berkshire Museum is offering a special opportunity for creative free-play throughout (and just before) school vacation week, Friday, February 14th through Sunday, February 23rd in PittsfieldWeeMuse: 10 Days of Play brings a roomful (literally!) of materials to build anything a child’s heart desires – cardboard boxes abound, along with necessary items like scissors and duct tape.  Families can build castles, mazes, space ships, and other fantastic creations together, allowing kids to exercise their creativity, take part in non-commercialized educational play, and work on skills for cooperation and collaboration.  Kids can play at the museum multiple times, too- every day brings a new adventure.

Community Service/Animal Welfare

Children love to volunteer and to feel like they are making a difference in the world and the lives of others… especially in the lives of the animals. Volunteering with a local animal shelter offers children the chance to bring about support to the welfare of animals right in their own community. On Saturday, February 8th, the Berkshire Humane Society will host an orientation for their “Humane Hero” program, for kids and parents. This is a new volunteer program just for kids. Families can learn about this new program at one of two different orientations: Berkshire Humane Society in Pittsfield in the morning; Berkshire South Community Center in Great Barrington in the afternoon.

Volunteer your time as citizen scientists on Saturday morning, February 8,  in Lenox.  Observe wild birds and learn about bird banding at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. Sanctuary volunteers will demonstrate how to use mist nets and what information can be gathered through bird banding.  See wild birds up close and learn about the process and importance of data collection and how banding birds contributes to a bank of growing information used to preserve habitats vital to species native to the region.

There will be a fundraising public ice skate to benefit Urban Wildlife Rehabilitation at the UMass Mullins Center rink in Amherst on Sunday afternoon, February 9. Urban Wildlife Rehabilitation focuses on rehabilitating injured, ill, or orphaned small mammals in western Massachusetts. This fundraiser will help the organization be able to afford food, supplies, and medications for these wild animals while giving families a chance to be active together.


Learning from women who have mastered a sport will show girls an attainable level of skill in a sport, and will provide a realistic picture of where playing a sport can get them in life.  This weekend there are two free National Girls and Women and Sports Day events happening in the Pioneer Valley:

Springfield College: Girls in grades K-6 are invited to Springfield College for National Girls and Women and Sports Day on Saturday, February 8. This free event includes soccer, volleyball, tennis, and gymnastics clinics, lunch with the college’s mascot, and a Springfield College vs. Wellesley College women’s basketball game. Girls can try out a variety of sports, make new friends, and celebrate the importance of girls and women in sports.

UMass: The University of Massachusetts Athletic Department will host the annual National Girls and Women In Sports Day on Saturday morning, February 8. A free clinic open to girls ages 12 and younger will run at the Boyden Gymnasium featuring instructional stations run by UMass women’s sports programs including field hockey, rowing, soccer and cheerleading. The clinic is being held prior to the women’s basketball game against St. Bonaventure, which tips off at Noon in the Mullins Center.

Valentine History

Learn about the historic roots of two Valentine’s Day traditions, chocolate and valentines, at Old Sturbridge Village this weekend during their “Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines” celebration! Historians will demonstrate how to process chocolate by hand, and then children will get a chance to make their own old-fashion valentines. “Meet” Esther Howland, the woman responsible for the popularity of valentines in the United States and discover the local history behind his mid-winter holiday. Additional winter activities include sleigh rides on the Village Common, old-fashioned sledding, exploring historic buildings, engaging with Old Sturbridge Village interpreters, and making hands-on crafts. Children will also enjoy the KidStory exhibit, where they can pretend to be rural New England villagers from the early 19th century.

The Palmer Historical & Cultural Center will host “Vintage Valentines – Then and Now”  on Sunday, February 9, for an informative and creative afternoon where families will be delighted to learn of the local roots of the Valentine as well as have the opportunity to make their own charming creation. This workshop will include a brief history of the Valentine, several pictorials of vintage Valentines and samples of current renditions. A variety of materials will be available to spark creativity to construct your own Valentine card complete with sentimental prose.

Local History

There will be a free community reception for the Great Falls Discovery Center‘s newest exhibit, Children of the Swift River Valley: 19th and Early 20th Century Images. in Turners Falls on Saturday afternoon, February 8thThe show consists of photographs reproduced from the Swift River Historical Society’s collection and offers a peek into the lives of Swift River Valley residents before their towns were flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir. These images act as powerful reminders of the residents that were displaced to build the Quabbin.

Dana, MA, was one of the four communities disincorporated in 1938 as part of the Quabbin Reservoir Project. Of its two town centers, North Dana and Dana Center, the latter stood entirely above the reservoir shoreline on watershed land taken for the protection of the drinking water quality. While all of the buildings were relocated or removed, Dana Center remains intact with its town common and the foundations of former structures. In 2013, Dana Common was added to the National Register of Historic Places following a lengthy application process. Come by the Quabbin Visitor Center for the free program, “The Continuing Evolution of Dana Common: A National Register Story,” presented by DCR archeologist, Ellen Berkland, MA, RPA on Sunday afternoon, February 9 in Belchertown.

This week’s Museums a la Carte lecture at the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield is, “Sweethearts at Sea: Love and Marriage in the Nineteenth Century New England Whaling Industry,” taking place on Thursday at noon, February 13 In New England whaling communities, women were expected to stay home while men were out at sea, however, some couples defied the industry’s traditions and went out to sea together. Goodheart will talk about these rebel whalers and examine their histories through journals and letters they left behind.

Nature Studies

Families can get outdoors at Mt. Tom State Reservation in Holyoke on Sunday afternoon, February 9, for a “Noticing Nature” guided family hike. Explore the grounds and learn how animals and plants get through the winter. A great winter nature walk for family members of all ages!

Learn about insect through song! The South Hadley Children’s Chorus, in collaboration with the Larch Hill Collaborative, presents The Insect World Concert on Saturday afternoon, February 8 in Amherst. The free concert celebrates bees and pollinators through displays and singing

Outdoor Adventures/Snowshoeing

Once used as a necessary tool for fur traders and trappers, snowshoeing is the fastest growing winter sport in the U.S. With nearly 10% if all snowshoers being youth ages 7-11, it’s an exciting outdoor activity that encourages kids (and adults!) to get off their electronic devices and out into nature. The Trustees of Reservations at Bartholomew’s Cobble is hosting a Snowshoe Trek on Saturday morning, February 8 in Sheffield, exploring the reservation’s forests, fields, hills, and river, as well as wildlife tracks and signs, on this easy-to-moderate trek. On Saturday afternoon, join Franklin Land Trust for Family Fun at Guyette Farm in Plainfield for more snowshoeing, sledding, games, hot chocolate, s’mores, and a bonfire. Then on Valentine’s Day (Fri., 2/14) Mass Audubon is holding a family-friendly evening Full Moon Snowshoe Hike at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox.


Our libraries not only support literacy and language arts, the can also be places to learn about math & science! Kids can come learn about and make origami at the Emily Williston Memorial Library in Easthampton on Tuesday afternoon, February 11, a fun way for kids to engage with an activity that supports their discovery of geometry. Then on Thursday afternoon, February 13, kids in grades 4-6 are welcome to attend the Monson Free Library’s “Fizz Boom Splat Science Club,” learning about rocks and minerals through hands-on activities.

The UMass Department of Chemistry and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Institute is holding a chemistry demonstration night to display the wonders of chemistry and chemical reactions on Thursday, February 13 in Amherst. There will be exciting explosions, colorful reactions, and much more! Come see how cool chemistry is at this family event!

Join students from the Rudolf Steiner High School for their annual Science Fair and Open House, held in the school auditorium in Great Barrington on Thursday evening, February 13. Roughly fifty 7th and 8th grade students will present their projects, which they carried out with the help of a mentor. Topics are in the fields of biology, physics, chemistry, or earth science, and projects include pendulums, electric cars, model ecosystems, and more. Families can attend this free fair and learn about a wide variety of scientific principles and phenomena, and the projects will serve as a perfect example of self-directed work and academic initiative.


Pioneer Valley Bread House in South Hadley is holding a bread-baking event that’s open to everyone on Tuesday evening, February 11! Come learn how to bake bread from scratch and share, learn, and create with community members. Baking bread is a fun and useful skill and this is a perfect event to help you get started! Takes place at Five College Women’s Studies Research Center.

Valentine’s Day

  • Saturday morning, February 8 in Turner Falls: Valentine-inspired crafts, cards, and other heart-themed projects at Carnegie Library.
  • Saturday morning, February 8 in Northampton: Valentine’s Day storytime and craft party at Forbes Library.
  • Saturday afternoon, February 8 in Amherst: Valentine’s Day activities at Amherst’s new co-op, All Things Local Cooperative Market.
  • Saturday afternoon, February 8 in Easthampton:  Valentine craft project at Knack.
  • Sunday afternoon, February 9 in Longmeadow: Father Daughter Valentine’s Ball at the Greenwood Children’s Center.
  • Wednesday afternoon, February 12 in Great Barrington: Valentine card and craft making at Mason Library.
  • Thursday afternoon, February 13 in Stockbridge: 24th Annual Valentine Book Party at Stockbridge Library.

Black History Month

  • Monday afternoon, February 10 in Westfield: Westfield State University presents “Complementary Lives: The Common Thread Between Booker T. Washington and Samuel E. Courtney.”
  • Wednesday afternoon, February 12 in WestfieldWestfield State University presents “From History to New Success,” a cross-cultural, inter-generational workshop experience about the intersections of history, career success and life in a diverse, digital world.
  • Thursday afternoon, February 13 in Westfield: Westfield State University presents a Library Poetry Walk with poetry and spoken word pieces related to Black History Month.
  • Thursday evening, February 13 in Amherst: W.E.B. DuBois Afro-American Studies Department at UMass Amherst presents “Black Women and the Arts in the 21st Century,” with Toni Morrison, Sonia Sanchez, and Bernice Johnson Reagon.

Parent Workshops

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

[Photo credit: (cc) Fated Snowfox]

Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Amherst, Ashfield, Bernardston, Charlemont/Hawley, Chesterfield, Conway, Heath, Leyden, Montague, Montgomery, South Hadley and Shutesbury Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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