25 Community Highlights: Backstairs Tour to Paper Lanterns. Corn Worm to Fishways.

Backstairs Tour to U.S. 20. Corn Worm to Fishways. Paper Lanterns to International Children’s Day… 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:  Do you like learning about nature? What about reading children’s books? Nature is the theme of some great children’s books, including many by Springfield author Thornton W. Burgess. He was an acclaimed naturalist and children’s book author, and is the subject of Christine Palmer Lowrance’s book, Nature’s Ambassador: The Legacy of Thornton W. Burgess. Lowrance will be at Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary to sign books and talk about Burgess. This is part of the Sanctuary’s free Turtle and Field Day event on Saturday, May 24 from 10am-2pm. Families can explore the trails, go on a natural history walk, and search for turtles, frogs, and more in the pond. Children’s book- and nature-lovers of all ages will enjoy this fun and informative program on natural history, animals, nature, and children’s books. Call 413-584-3009 for more information. The Sanctuary is located on Main Street in Hampden, MA.


Animal StudiesAgriculture & Fiber ArtsLocal HistoryBread BakingCommunity ServiceNature StudiesTravel/TransportationHistory/Martial ArtsActivism/Performance Art  ♦ ArchitecturePlant StudiesSTEMCrafts & Culture


Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:
North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

Animal Studies

Do you like learning about nature? What about reading children’s books? Nature is the theme of some great children’s books, including many by Springfield author Thornton W. Burgess. He was an acclaimed naturalist and children’s book author, and is the subject of Christine Palmer Lowrance’s book, Nature’s Ambassador: The Legacy of Thornton W. Burgess. Lowrance will be at Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary to sign books and talk about Burgess. This is part of the Sanctuary’s free Turtle and Field Day event on Saturday, May 24 from 10am-2pm. Families can explore the trails, go on a natural history walk, and search for turtles, frogs, and more in the pond. Children’s book- and nature-lovers of all ages will enjoy this fun and informative program on natural history, animals, nature, and children’s books. Call 413-584-3009 for more information. The Sanctuary is located on Main Street in Hampden, MA.

Standing up to 6 feet tall, did you know a male moose can weigh upwards to 1000 pounds! And did you know that we share their habitat here in Western MA? Join Williamsburg Woodland Trails in Williamsburg on Wednesday evening, May 28, for a presentation on moose in Massachusetts at the Meekins Library. UMass Amherst Department of Environmental Conservation PhD candidate Dave Wattles will discuss movements, habitat use, thermoregulatory behavior, and road interaction of moose in Massachusetts. Older students interested in studying local animals, conservation, and nature will enjoy this free informative talk.

Community-based educational opportunity available for all ages as fish lifts and ladders showcase a broad species of fish and the environmental challenges they face. Critical thinking is an essential by-product as children view the efforts made to maintain a river’s natural flow at the Turners Falls Fish Ladder and the Robert E. Barrett Fishway in Holyoke. Read our post, Fish Ladder & Lift Elevates Local Learning & Critical Thinking, and make plans for a visit this weekend or next week!

Agriculture & Fiber Arts

There’s a lot more to sheep than fancy sweaters and toasty warm socks – and the upcoming Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair has got it all! From shearing to spinning, raising to eating, showing to herding, the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair will showcase all things sheep-related. A visit to the fair can bring lots of animal-induced excitement, spark creativity, satisfy curiosity, and inspire all kinds of learning. On Saturday & Sunday, May 24 & 25 at the Cummington Fairgrounds, the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair will provide families with the opportunity to learn experientially about portions of agriculture, art, and the manufacturing of small-scale goods that are important both within our history here in western Massachusetts, and in our current modern culture as well.

Learn about sheep shearing and the many uses for wool at Old Sturbridge Village’s Wool Days, May 24, 25, and 26. Families can see a herding demonstration, view the sheep get their annual shearing, and watch costumed historians go through the process of preparing wool to be used as a textile. Lots of hands-on opportunities too, like dyeing yarn, knit or crochet scarves for deployed soldiers, meet animals, and learn about wool from llamas and alpacas. This living history event can teach kids and adults of all ages about each stage of wool production and it’s history in Colonial New England.  Check your local library to see if they have a museum pass to the Village you can borrow to attend for free with your family!

Local History

Sojourner Truth played an important role in U.S. history – she was an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist in the 19th Century who spoke about her experiences as an enslaved woman in order to promote human rights activism. She is also important in terms of local history – Truth lived in Florence for several years in the mid-1800s, where she, along with other prominent abolitionists, established Florence as a center for antislavery resistance and stop on the Underground Railroad. Celebrate her legacy, learn about her life and activism, and recognize two local high school students who will be receiving the Sojourner Truth Scholarship for Social Justice at the 12th Annual Sojourner Truth Celebration on Sunday, May 25 from 2pm-4pm. This free event features addresses by the scholarship recipients, a performance by local musician Deja Carr, and a keynote address by Dr. Amilcar Shabazz, a professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst. There will be a walking tour of Sojourner Truth’s Florence (12:30pm) before the celebration. Older students interested in history, social justice, and activism would benefit from attending this event. The Sojourner Truth Memorial is located at the intersection of Park and Pine Streets in Florence, MA.

Have you ever wondered what life was like for soldiers from Western Massachusetts during the Civil War? What were their camps like? What did they eat? The Hatfield Historical Society is holding a special event on Sunday, May 25 from 9am-12pm & 2-4pm in honor of Memorial Day, and to promote their new exhibit, The Things They Left Us: A Glimpse Into Civil War Life for Hatfield Men and Boys. Families can view the exhibit in order to learn about the soldiers’ living conditions during the Civil War, see how they cleaned their guns, taste foods like hardtack and Johnny Cake, and discover what life was like for soldiers from Hatfield. The exhibit features diary excerpts, photographs, a Confederate tourniquet, and more. Representatives from the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry will be at the museum with a multi-tent Union soldier encampment and will perform drilling exercises on the lawn. All ages can discover what life was like during the Civil War at this special Memorial Day event. The Hatfield Historical Society is at 39 Main Street in Hatfield, MA.

Learn about the roles, relationships, living conditions, and working expectations of the 20 servants who staffed The Mount and its property each summer on a Backstairs Tour on Sunday morning, May 25 in Lenox. These tours will highlight the roles, relationships, living conditions, and working expectations of the 20 servants who staffed the house and property each summer.  Taking a Backstairs Tour will allow families to learn about the story of the home and Edith Wharton’s place in literary history; more importantly, however, it will shed light on the class divisions that existed during the Gilded Age in the United States. Students can ponder the ethics of keeping servants, and can think about fair working conditions and wages when they consider the servants’ employment. Those who are interested in history and want to know more about class dynamics in the late 1800s and early 1900s will enjoy this tour.

Bread Baking

June 1st is International Children’s Day! Celebrate on Wednesday evening, May 28, at the Pioneer Valley Bread House. They will celebrate different ways in which children bring knowledge and curiosity to life. Participants will learn to bake and create bread together in an intergenerational setting. While the bread rises and bakes, bread-makers enjoy conversations, story-telling, and other creative activities. Takes place at Five College Women’s Studies Research Center in South Hadley.

Community Service

Help clear the Keystone Arch Bridge Trail in Chester of invasive Norway maples at a community service work day this Saturday, May 24. Through this community-service learning opportunity, older students who are interested in nature and conservation can learn about invasive species and how to identify Norway maples while participating. Read about the fascinating history of the Keystone Arch Bridge at www.keystonearches.com.

Nature Studies

Learn what makes these wetlands so amazing and how to identify the amphibians and invertebrate animals that use vernal pools to breed in Northfield on Saturday morning, May 24.  Join the Dickinson Memorial Library in exploring a local vernal pool as part of their Northfield’s Woodlands series of programs. Search for salamanders, frogs, tadpoles, and more, and learn about these interesting creatures and why they live in vernal pools at this free nature-based learning program.

The Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst is holding an open house day for their homeschool programs on Thursday afternoon, May 29. Current homeschooling families, and families considering homeschooling, are invited to come enjoy a pond walk on the property and learn about some of the classes for homeschool students ages 6-12 that the Center offers. This event is great for parents looking to learn more about homeschool programs for their children, and kids will love getting to explore the Center and participate in the pond exploration!

Travel/Transportation

U.S. 20 is the longest federal highway, traveling 3,365 miles from Boston to Newport, Oregon. Traveling right through Westfield too, the Westfield Athenaeum will host authors, Bill and Mary Lewis, who will present their book entitled, Through the Heartland on U.S. 20, with a lecture and slideshow depicting other towns on Route 20. Through the Heartland on U.S. 20 relates the development of the road, each town’s historic events, people of renown who lived there, even the infamous, things to do and see, and the towns’ best restaurants. One of the purposes of Lewis’ books is to encourage travelers to depart from the interstates and enjoy a less traveled route. Join them on Wednesday evening, May 28, at this free community event and discover how a federal highway can be a catalyst to discovering where you live and place you travel through.  If you can’t make the event this evening, this same talk will be given at the Lenox Library on Thursday, June 12 at 7pm

History/Martial Arts

Long swords, daggers, and lances, oh my! Phoenix Swords will demonstrate the history of swordsmanship using real weaponry this Saturday, May 24, at the Indian Orchard Branch Library and then at the East Springfield Branch Library in Springfield. They will describe stage fighting and will focus on historical sword techniques in Europe from 1300-1700. Bring your questions and learn about history through the blade of the sword! Free.

Activism/Performance Artgmo

“Just say NO to GMO! Just say NO to GMO!” Hartsbrook High School students are leading a march from Whole Foods in Hadley to Kendrick Park in Amherst on Saturday, May 24, as part of the March Against Monsanto, a worldwide protest against the corporation and their GMO products. At the end of the march, there will be a rally and performance by the Hartsbrook students titled, “Who’s Afraid of the Corn Worm?” The free performance, in collaboration with PachaMama Puppet Productions, is about the ways fields, plants, and insects are affected by people and corporations. Those who are interested in theater, puppets, agriculture, local food, and activism will enjoy both the march and the performance. Three more performances of “Who’s Afraid of the Corn Worm?” are schedule during the week as well. Locations include: First Churches in Northampton on Wednesday, May 28; Solar Park in Greenfield on Thursday, May 29; and Hartsbrook School in Hadley on Friday, May 30.

Architecture

The Springfield Museums are offering a docent-led “mini-tour” by Dave Carlson titled, “Architecture in and Around the Quadrangle” on Sunday afternoon, May 25. Older students interested in architecture design and history can learn about the architectural details of the Springfield Museums complex as Carlson interprets the significance and importance of various highlights.

Plant Studies

Discover wild plants and their uses as food, medicine, handicrafts, and more on a plant walk in Amethyst Brook Conservation Area in Amherst on Sunday afternoon, May 25. Participants will learn how to ethically harvest these plants and prepare them for use. Kids and adults alike will enjoy learning about the practical uses of many common plants at this intergenerational plant walk. Read more about sustainable wild harvesting in the April edition of our month column, Oak & Acorn: Forage, Farm and Feast with the Family.

Don’t mow your lawn, eat it! Find out what edible weeds are growing in and around your lawn during a free talk at the Westhampton Public Library on Tuesday, May 27! Discover which common weeds can be eaten and how to transform your yard or garden into an edible landscape. Older students interested in gardening, local food, sustainability and plants will benefit from attending this talk.

STEM

Kids ages 2-4 can explore science, technology, engineering, and math at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield on Wednesday morning, May 28! “Who Will Huff and Puff and Blow My House Down?” is a free parent-child STEM event where parents and their kids can build houses and see if they can stand up to the Big Bad Wolf wind test!

Kids ages 3-5 can explore science, technology, engineering, and math at the free STEM Sprouts Playgroup at Amelia Park Children’s Museum in Westfield on Thursday morning, May 29! There will be fun, hands-on activities to get kids engaged in these topics.

Crafts & Culture

La Noche de San Juan is an annual celebration of Puerto Rican arts, culture, dance, and food that takes place each year in Holyoke Heritage State Park on June 21. Beautiful paper lanterns are an important part of this celebration, and you can learn to make them at a workshop hosted by the Holyoke Winter Carnival, the South Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative, and the Care Center on Friday afternoon, May 30. Families and community members can create handmade illuminated lanterns to carry in the La Noche de San Juan Lantern Parade.


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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