26 Community Highlights: Chain Reactions to Aviation. Candy Land to Medieval Feasts.

To help kids understand the concept of interrelatedness, try building your very own chain reactions at home using dominos! Building chains of dominoes is the classic DIY chain reaction. On Monday afternoon, Feb. 17, the 7th Annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza take place!  See this classic DIY chain reaction take place on a large scale and marvel at the cascade of a chain reaction.

Chain Reactions to Aviation. Saber-Tooth Cat to Arctic Gray Wolf. Candy Land to Medieval Feasts….

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: Did you know that the world’s largest collection of dinosaur tracks is housed at Amherst College in the Beneski Museum of Natural History?  The Museum offers opportunities for families and students to learn about the natural history of the Pioneer Valley and many other parts of the world during February Vacation week, Feb 18-21, with free guided tours for families with children ages 5 and up. There are over 1,700 specimens (including skeletons of a mammoth, cave bear, and saber-tooth cat, and skulls of a tyrannosaurus rex and a triceratops!), some from as far away as Patagonia, housed at the Museum, along with several collections, including anthropology, ichnology, meteorites, mineralogy, osteology, paleobotany and taxidermy. These guided tours will help museum visitors discover all the neat things the museum has to offer while learning about the natural history of the Pioneer Valley.


Animal TrackingMusic StudiesHistoryWolvesSTEMMuseum AdventuresCreative Free PlaySnowshoe Hikes


Animal Tracking

Kids ages 5-12 can learn all about animal tracks and sign at Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary with naturalist Kevin Kopchynski in Hampden on Saturday morning, Feb 15. Learn about the different types of animals living at the Sanctuary and search for their tracks in the snow.  First look for signs of animals, then locate their tracks, observing how they travel across the snow and the point of entry and exit.  Did they climb up a tree? Scurry under a bush?  What about tracks that just end?  Did the critter fly away… or was it lunch for a bird of prey? Kids will love this hands-on outdoor program, investigating where they live and feeling connected to animals, nature and the season.

Teens can learn all about animal tracking too on Saturday afternoon, Feb 15, at Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center. Learn how to identify tracks left in the snow by local wildlife. Are the tracks you discover those of an herbivore or carnivore?  Which track came first, and why? Maybe you will find signs of porcupines or a fox.  Maybe the elusive fisher or bobcat? This free program teaches teens about common track patterns and helpful tips to track and learn about animal behavior. Snowshoe rentals are available for a fee.

Music Studies

Pete Seeger, an American folksinger, activist, and hero to many, passed away late last month at the age of 94. Come together and celebrate his life at All Souls Church on Saturday afternoon, Feb 15 at a special sing-along in Greenfield. This informal, intergenerational sing-along is open to all. Feel free to come join in, bring a guitar and strum along, or just listen.  On Sunday evening, Feb 16, another community sing-along celebrating the life of Pete Seeger will be held First Congregational Church in Amherst. Come share songs, stories, and memories. All are welcome.

In India, Mumbai, formerly named Bombay, is one of the most populated cities in the world.  The culture there is a blend of music, food, traditions and theater. As part of the Four Sundays in February series, the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton presents Mumbai in Massachusetts: An Afternoon of Classic Indian Music with Shahid Parvez Khan (sitar), Max ZT (hammered dulcimer), Aditya Kalyanpur (tabla), Jay Gandhi (flute, bansuri), and Amit Kavthekar (tabla). These talented musicians will perform an array of songs in the classical genre, each with their own unique style on Sunday afternoon, Feb 16. Children with audience skills can take in the unique sounds these “exotic” instruments bring in concert.  In this video, you can hear the beautiful sounds of the hammered dulcimer, played by Max ZT:

History

In 1885 President’s Day was established in recognition of our first President, George Washington.  In the late 1960’s, there was a shift from the day being recognized as Washington’s Birthday to President’s Day, tipping the tricorne hat in honor of all U.S. Presidents. On Monday, Feb 17, celebrate President’s Day at Old Sturbridge Village! There will be plenty of fun and educational events happening in honor of this national holiday, including toasting the memory of George Washington, hearing a presentation by John Quincy Adams, making and learning about a tricorne hat and thaumatrope, and much more!  Kids get in free!

Celebrate Black History Month at the Springfield Armory on Sunday, Feb 16, during “Men of Color to Arms!: The Story of the 54th Regiment.” Guest ranger Ryan McNabb will discuss the history of the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first regiments of African-American units from the North in the Civil War. After the talk, there will be a blank firing demonstration and a musical interlude of “Songs from the Soul. Learn about Civil War history from Living Historians from the MA 54th Regiment and the Peter Brace Brigade at this free event.

The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History is offering a docent-led “mini tour” titled “The Duryea Motor Wagon: The First Successful Automobile,” with Museum Educator, Arch Battista. On Sunday afternoon, Feb 16, Battista will discuss the Duryea Motor Wagon Company, the first successful gasoline-powered horseless carriage, which traveled the streets of Springfield on September 20, 1883. Discover the history of the automobile as it relates to Springfield in this guided tour.

Animal Studies: Wolves

Would you like to see a wolf up close? Discover the amazing lives of wolves and the many roles they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems at the Berkshire Museum on Tuesday afternoon, Feb 18 in Pittsfield. Atka, an 11-year-old Arctic Gray Wolf from the Wolf Conservation Center, will be at the Museum to help teach about wolves. Learn about the natural history of wolves in the United States, why they are important to ecosystem health, and the importance of wolf conservation during this rare opportunity to see this misunderstood predator up close.

STEM

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. During school vacation week there are several opportunities for elementary aged kids to explore physics and engineering through creative-free play using these little plastic building blocks! On Saturday morning, Feb 15, the Northampton Recreation Department‘s Play-Well LEGO Workshop takes place at JFK Middle School in Florence. Kids will be given instructions, challenges, and competitions for which they will build LEGO creations.

At the Erving Public Library, the LEGO Lady will be visiting Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons.  Jean Daley, aka the LEGO Lady, will be visiting with some special projects for LEGOmaniacs!  On Wednesday afternoon, Feb 19, the Lanesborough Public Library invites LEGOmaniacs to visit too! Then on Friday afternoon, Feb 21, Berkshire South Regional Community Center in Great Barrington has a drop-in Lego group for ages 5 and up.

Other STEM activities during school vacation week include aviation, physics, robotics, astronomy, and chemistry! Two of these science opportunities involve a short day trip just over the board. In Connecticut, visit the New England Air Museum for hands-on activities relating to planes, aviation, physics, and more throughout the week, Feb 17-21. The New England Air Museum is an aerospace museum with three display hangars located at the Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, CT. With nearly 100 aircrafts and helicopters, kids can see aircraft up-close while asking questions about aviation and the physics of flying. For school vacation week, the Museum is offering activities for kids like glider engineering, an egg drop challenge, a LEGO race, open cockpits, and an aero modeling workshop.

On Monday afternoon, Feb 17, you might remember from our post, Science & Fun of Chain Reactions, that the Seventh Annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza is taking place at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in Vermont. At this event, skilled domino stackers put together an epic display of chain reactions! The 2011 stack included nearly 21,000 dominoes, as well as some cobra weave sticks and elements inspired by Rube Goldberg machines!

Museum Adventures

It’s February’s Family Fun Day at Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum on Saturday, Feb 15This month’s theme is feasts and medieval life and will include a kid-friendly tour of the museum. Additionally, families can do crown-themed crafts, listen to a reading the picture book A Medieval Feast by Aliki, and participate in a discussion about feasts and the foods. The event presents an opportunity for children to be involved in consent-based learning about medieval history and culture, and to explore the art of the era. Discover this great local museum and learn all about medieval life at this fun family-oriented free event.

Did you know that the world’s largest collection of dinosaur tracks is housed at Amherst College in the Beneski Museum of Natural History?  The Museum offers opportunities for families and students to learn about the natural history of the Pioneer Valley and many other parts of the world during February Vacation week, Feb 18-21, with free guided tours for families with children ages 5 and up. There are over 1,700 specimens (including skeletons of a mammoth, cave bear, and saber-tooth cat, and skulls of a tyrannosaurus rex and a triceratops!), some from as far away as Patagonia, housed at the Museum, along with several collections, including anthropology, ichnology, meteorites, mineralogy, osteology, paleobotany and taxidermy. These guided tours will help museum visitors discover all the neat things the museum has to offer while learning about the natural history of the Pioneer Valley.

Creative Free Play

What would it be like to take a hike through a forest made of peppermint sticks, or to climb a mountain made of gumdrops? Ask your child and hear the squeals the ideas generate! On Saturday, Feb 15 from 9am-1pm, the classic racing board game, Candy Land, comes to life at the Hatfield Public Library! The basement of the library will be transformed into a life-size Candy Land game! Just like the classic board game, players will use cards to make their way around the board. The Molasses Swamp, Peppermint Forest, Gumdrop Mountains, and other locations will be set up as different stations with activities like crafts and puzzles. The event is free and open to all ages, making it a great opportunity for intergenerational fun and community play. Community members of all ages can work together to make their way around the board and participate in the activities set up along the way. You can even come in costume, dressed as Candy Land characters like Gramma Nutt, Mr. Mint, or King Kandy!

The Berkshire Museum is offering a special opportunity for creative free-play throughout (and just before) school vacation week 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 – every day brings a new adventure. Come by the museum on Wednesday evening, Feb 19 for a free Community Night. Along with their partner, Pop-Up Adventure Play, the Museum will offer loads of fun activities and opportunities for creative free play! There will be a giant shadow puppet screen, an instrument petting zoo, marble tracks, and more.

Snowshoe Hikes

  • Berkshire Natural Resources Council is leading an easy guided hike at the Berkshire South Regional Community Center in Great Barrington on Saturday, Feb 15.
  • Join Mass Audubon and Aimee Gelinas of Tamarack Hollow Nature and Cultural Center for a snowshoe hike at Windsor Jambs in Windsor on Saturday, Feb 15.
  • The Trustees of Reservations hosts a hike/snowshoe at Bullitt Reservation in Ashfield on Tuesday morning, Feb 18.

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) marika.laurel]


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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