32 Community Highlights: Cryptography to Geocaching. Storytelling to Singing.

From the mid-15th century, when it was invented by Johannes Gutenberg, into the 20th century, the letterpress was the primary means of producing printed material. Type was locked into a bed, inked, and pressed against paper. Carl Darrow learned how to print with a letterpress in high school and has been doing it ever since. He will bring one of his small letterpresses from his shop in Conway to Historic Deerfield to demonstrate this traditional art by printing holiday cards this Saturday. Each visitor may take home one card!

Storytelling to Singing. Yuletide to Hanukkah. Cryptography to Geocaching… These are just a few of the community-based 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 community highlights this week:  Handmade gifts are special for both the crafter and the recipient. The crafter can spend time thinking about who the gift is for and why they would like to give this person a gift in the first place. Taking time to make something by hand shows care and investment in the relationship, and recipients’ hearts are warmed by the thought and effort behind the gift, reminding us all that gift-giving is less about any particular present than it is about letting someone know they are appreciated. People of all ages are invited to the Montague Common Hall‘s Make and Take Craft Day on Saturday, December 12, 9am-2pm, where you can make beeswax candles, jewelry, spin art, magnets, votives, and more. Homemade breakfast and lunch foods will be available for sale as well, and visitors can also enjoy cozying up by the outdoor fire pit. 34 Main Street, Montague, MA. (FREE admission; < $ for each craft session)


StorytellingPoetryLocal FoodUpcyclingMYO GiftsArtisan SkillsLetterpress PrintingCritical Thinking SkillsGeocachingBoard GamesCeltic FolkloreTrackingBird StudiesCivicsGuided HikesDendrologyComputersSTEMFood HistoryEngineeringSingingA CapellaColonial ChristmasHanukkahMusic Studies


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Storytelling

A favorite game, Guess Which Hand, can be used to help tell stories, promoting childhood literacy! Choose a tiny object that has a special family memory or something fun to start a story about your day as a parent…

Saturday, December 12, 1pm-4pm
READING/POETRY
Celebrate Emily Dickinson’s 185th birthday with a piece of her favorite coconut cake and a tour of her home, the Emily Dickinson Museum, including her recently restored bedroom. Contribute to a crowd-sourced commemorative poem and listen to poets read from their work in A Mighty Room, a new collection of pieces written in Dickinson’s bedroom. The book will be for sale. 413-542-8161. 280 Main Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, December 12, 1pm-4pm
READING/CHRISTMAS CLASSIC
Join actors Steve Angel and Dennis Quinn for a reading of Charles Dickens’s holiday classic A Christmas Carol at White Square Books. Listen to a little or a lot of the tale that teaches the true meaning of Christmas, while you enjoy Christmas Present (and maybe even buy one or two). 413-203-1717. 86 Cottage Street, Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, December 13, 4pm-6pm
READING/HOLIDAY CLASSICS
Join friends and neighbors at the Meekins Library for the annual reading of holiday classics that celebrate this time of wonder. First, David Adler’s Hanukkah story, One Yellow Daffodil. This sensitive and heartwarming story tells how, through the generosity of young Jonathan and Ilana’s loving family, Morris Kaplan comes again to embrace the traditional Hanukkah celebration of his Polish childhood and to remember that kindness can truly create miracles. Next, local author Patricia MacLachlan’s Christmas story, True Gift. This new classic about a small town, one lonely white cow, and the joys of family and community, tells the tale of how two children find out the meaning of a true gift. Come read or listen and enjoy holiday treats and warm drinks. Please bring a donation of food for the Williamsburg Council on Aging Pantry, a warm coat for the Northampton Survival Center, or something special for our animal friends at the Dakin Shelter. 413-268-7472. 2 Williams Street (Route 9), Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, December 13, 7pm
STORYTELLING/PERFORMANCE
Rituals, whether daily, weekly, or seasonal, bring richness and rhythm to our lives. Mark the upcoming winter solstice by letting the The Royal Frog Ballet ease you into winter’s darkness with “Light in the Night: An Evening of Stories and Songs for Winter” at Anchor House for Artists. Enjoy stories told in song, narrative, and poetry by Julia Read and Sophie Wood, in a performance called “part lullaby, part bed-time story, and part rumination on the state of being human in these times.” 413-588-4337. 518 Pleasant Street, Northampton, MA. ($)

Local Food

Saturday, December 12, 9am-1pm
PITTSFIELD WINTER FARMERS’ MARKET
While summer is a robust growing season, there are an amazing variety of hardy vegetables that continue to grow into the winter months! This is also a time to explore the cheeses, baked goods, meats, and crafts produced by those in your community. The Downtown Pittsfield Farmers’ Market will be open to help you choose locally-sourced goods for your upcoming holiday meals and celebrations. The festive atmosphere will be further enhanced by live music from 11am-1pm. Market open the second Saturday of the month, through April. The Boys and Girls Club, 16 Melville Street, PIttsfield, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, December 12, 10am-2pm
AMHERST WINTER FARMERS’ MARKET
Explore the sometimes surprising bounty of the winter harvest, and explore other wonderful, local delights such as honey, breads, pastries, cheeses, jewelry, and more at the Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market, which runs most Saturdays through April 2, 2016. This week, Amherst BagShare will give a workshop (11am-1pm) on how to make an upcycled, reusable shopping bag. All materials will be provided. When we upcycle, we take would-be waste out of the waste stream and repurpose it, thus making the most of the materials that have already been created. Upcycling is a refreshing antidote to the “disposable” culture we commonly encounter in America. SNAP accepted throughout the market. Amherst Regional Middle School, 170 Chestnut Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

MYO Gifts

Allowing for lots of creative free play and gift-giving that comes from the heart, handmade gifts get at the heart of the season! Families can engage in DIY projects at home, attend upcoming workshops, or utilize resources offered by local arts organizations to craft handmade gifts with love.

Saturday, December 12, 9am-2pm
ARTS & CRAFTS
Handmade gifts are special for both the crafter and the recipient. The crafter can spend time thinking about who the gift is for and why they would like to give this person a gift in the first place. Taking time to make something by hand shows care and investment in the relationship, and recipients’ hearts are warmed by the thought and effort behind the gift, reminding us all that gift-giving is less about any particular present than it is about letting someone know they are appreciated. People of all ages are invited to the Montague Common Hall‘s Make and Take Craft Day, where you can make beeswax candles, jewelry, spin art, magnets, votives, and more. Homemade breakfast and lunch foods will be available for sale as well, and visitors can also enjoy cozying up by the outdoor fire pit. 34 Main Street, Montague, MA. (FREE admission; < $ for each craft session)

Saturday, December 12, 12pm-3pm
BIRD FEEDERS
Help our feathered friends survive the winter by making bird feeders at the Great Falls Discovery Center. Which ones like sunflower seeds? Which prefer thistle seed? And who likes those little round millet seeds? All good questions to ask while you create. Part of “It’s a Wonderful Night in Turners Falls” — a town-wide RiverCulture event. All ages welcome. A handmade bird feeder makes a great holiday gift for the bird lover in your life! 413-863-3221. Great Hall, 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Artisan Skills

Saturday, December 12, 10:30am-4pm
LETTERPRESS PRINTING
From the mid-15th century, when it was invented by Johannes Gutenberg, into the 20th century, the letterpress was the primary means of producing printed material. Type was locked into a bed, inked, and pressed against paper. Carl Darrow learned how to print with a letterpress in high school and has been doing it ever since. He will bring one of his small letterpresses from his shop in Conway to Historic Deerfield to demonstrate this traditional art by printing holiday cards. Each visitor may take home one card. Envelopes, pens, and other supplies will be for sale. 413-774-5581. 84B Old Main Street, Deerfield, MA. (FREE Members and Deerfield Residents, $ Non-members)

Teamwork/Critical Thinking Skills

Have your kids ever fantasized about finding buried treasures? Adventure-loving kids’ fantasies can become realized by participating in geocaching and/or letterboxing, activities that lead explorers to a hidden treasures, supports mapping skills, and is time well spent together outdoors as a family, discovering new places around where you live.

Saturday, December 12, 9:30am-11:30am
GEOCACHING/OUTDOOR ADVENTURE
Have you caught the caching bug? Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game that uses Global Positioning System, or GPS, coordinates to find a container (often containing tiny treasures you can swap) that someone has hidden. You can play the game on your phone with the free Geocaching: Intro” app. It’s a great family activity that involves technology, teamwork, and stick-to-it-tiveness. Explore Downtown North Adams in search of three geocaches, then return to The Family Place for hot chocolate. Please download the app ahead of time, if possible. Dress warmly. Sponsored by the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition. 413-663-7588. 61 Main Street, Suite 218, North Adams, MA. (FREE)

“According to research, Test scores improved by 17.3% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.6% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities,” states 4-time World Champion Susan Polgar in a recent interview.

  • Read more in our post, The Benefits of Chess. and check out this intergenerational community event to help get your kids interested in chess and other team board games.

Tuesday, December 15, 6pm-7pm
BOARD GAMES/INTERGENERATIONAL
Free All-Ages Chess Club at the Sunderland Public Library starts from square one, so beginners and more advanced players are all welcome. Club leader Andy Morris-Friedman will guide you as you learn how to play the game, use different techniques and strategies, and use all of your pieces to your best advantage. The club will study famous games and will help you discover new ways to improve your play. Chess is one of the great classic games of the world. It teaches sportsmanship and cooperation, builds confidence, and exercises your brain. Children in third grade or below must be accompanied by an adult. 413-665 2642. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Culture Studies

Saturday, December 12, 10am
CELTIC FOLKLORE/FAMILY MOVIE
Join Amherst Cinema for Song of the Sea (PG, 2014), an Oscar-nominated animated film based on the Irish legend of the Selkies, mythical creatures who live as seals in the water but become human on land. This is the story of the last seal-child, Saoirse, and her brother Ben, who go on an epic journey to save the world of magic and discover the secrets of their past. Pursued by the owl witch Macha and a host of ancient and mythical creatures, Saoirse and Ben race against time to awaken Saoirse’s powers and keep the spirit world from disappearing forever. Part of the Family Film Series, which runs every Saturday. 413-253-2547. 28 Amity Street, Amherst, MA. (<$)

Animal Behavior

Sunday, December 13, 9am-2pm
TRACKING
Wildlife tell their stories in their tracks. What was that deer searching for along the shore? What happened here, where tiny footprints end and large wings marks etch the ground? Learn to identify animal tracks and decipher the drama behind them with Professional Wildlife Tracker George Leoniak and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment at the Quabbin Reservoir. With luck, there will be fresh snow to provide a clean slate, but tracks will be evident regardless. Dress for the weather, with warm, sturdy boots, and bring a lunch and drink. The class will be outside the whole time. Appropriate for self-directed learners. Call to register. 413-256-6006. Quabbin Reservation, MA. ($$)

Thursday, December 17, 10:30am-11:30am
ORNITHOLOGY/ANIMAL STUDIES
I waddle, I quack, water runs off my back. What am I? A duck, of course! Come to the Great Falls Discovery Center for Kidleidoscope to learn about these birds that share the Connecticut River Watershed with all of us. Kids ages 3-6 and their caregivers can enjoy a story, interactive games, and a craft. 413-863-3221. Great Hall, 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Civics

Sunday, December 13, 9:30am
ACTIVISM/FILM
Teach your kids to exercise their constitutional right to free assembly by participating in a silent solidarity march opposing the proposed Kinder-Morgan pipe yard in Cummington. The march will start at the Cummington Village Church and proceed five miles uphill to the Waryjasz Farm field where the pipe yard is planned. People can join the march at the junction of Route 116 and Plainfield Road at approximately noon to walk the last half-mile to the field. Parking is available at the Mr. Tire lot on the corner. Marchers are asked to walk silently, or chanting quietly, offering prayers for the people, land, and animals affected by the pipeline. A march like this isn’t allowed in all countries and offers an opportunity to discuss other forms of government throughout the world. Comparing and contrasting freedom of assembly in the US with the lack of freedom in other countries can lead to learning about the formation of our constitution and our civic rights. Following the march, at 2pm, there will be a showing of the 70-minute documentary Groundswell Rising: Protecting Our Children’s Air and Water. 32 Main Street, Cummington, MA. (FREE)

Guided Hikes

Saturday, December 12, 10am-12pm
SANTA STROLL
Sometimes colder winter temperatures and blustery weather cause us to retreat into our homes. It is worth fighting this urge, and to get out and breathe some fresh, crisp air while exploring the natural world in its wintry state! Why not go for a child-friendly, half-mile walk along the nature trail at Bartholomew’s Cobble? This “Stroll with Santa,” hosted by the Trustees of Reservations, will include stories and snacks after the hike. Pre-registration recommended. 413-298-3239 x 3013. 105 Weatogue Road, Sheffield, MA. ($) [cancelled]

Sunday, December 13, 10am-12:30pm
US HISTORY
Join the Berkshire Natural Resources Council for an easy hike at Constitution Hill. The hill got its name because of a bonfire that was lit at its summit to notify nearby residents of Massachusetts’ ratification of the Constitution in 1788. The trail is a loop through an historic farm, with moderate elevation changes, and offers a visit to the Constitution Oak. Wear blaze orange and sturdy footwear; bring water and a snack. 413-499-0596. From Pittsfield, go north on Route 7. In Lanesboro, take a left onto Bridge Street, which is immediately before Town Hall. Park at the end of Bridge Street near the kiosk. Lanesboro, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, December 13, 10am-1pm
DENDROLOGY
Join Naturalist Aimee Gelinas, Director of the Tamarack Hollow Nature and Cultural Center, for an early-winter hike at Petticoat Hill Reservation. With their leaves shed, trees become much more challenging to identify. Learn how to tell a beech from a birch by buds and bark alone. Visit a stately stand of beeches and learn about a disease threatening this type of tree in the Northeast. Petticoat Hill Road, Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

STEM/Computers

Saturday, December 12, 10am-12pm
CRYPTOGRAPHY
Are you intrigued by codes? Is your computer password secure? Can you hack your friend’s password? At Hacking: A Cyber Security Workshop, offered by Holyoke Codes, you’ll learn all about codes and passwords, then compete for prizes in a Capture the Flag hacking contest. For ages 12+. Come with a caregiver or teacher. Lunch provided. Laptops supplied for kids, but adults should bring their own. 100 Bigelow Street, Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, December 15, 4-5pm
CIRCUITRY
Come to the Jones Library to assemble color-coded circuit boards and create sophisticated electronics in the littleBits™ Building Club. Ages 8 and up. 413-259-3090. Crafts Room, 43 Amity Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Food History

Saturday, December 12 – Sunday, December 13, 10am-4pm
COLONIAL HISTORY/CULINARY ARTS
To make the holidays special, we often splurge on things we wouldn’t buy at other times of the year. In the time before easy international transportation, that included cooking ingredients such as chocolate, citrus, cinnamon, ginger, and sugar. In the open-hearth cooking demonstration “Sugar and Spice – Holiday Baking,” the cooks at Historic Deerfield will prepare traditional holiday recipes. 413-774-5581. 84B Old Main Street, Deerfield, MA. (FREE Members and Deerfield Residents, $ Non-members)

Engineering

Saturday, December 12, 10:30am-11:30am
CREATIVE FREE PLAY/LEGOs
Come to the Sunderland Public Library for LEGO Club! The program allows children to explore the wonderful world of LEGOs with other interested children. A different theme is picked each session, and kids can build on that theme or build a creation of their own. After each club meeting, kids can put their LEGO creations on display at the Library for all to see until the next club. This program is geared for elementary school children (with an adult) but is open to kids of all ages. The LEGO Club will continue to meet every other Saturday. 413-665 2642. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, December 12, 3pm-4:30pm
CREATIVE FREE PLAY/LEGOs
Come for LEGO Club at the Jones Library. Imagine, build, and create using the library’s LEGO bricks. 413-259-3090. Woodbury Room, 43 Amity Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Singing

Singing together with family, neighbors and friends is one way of enhancing children’s language learning.  Christmas carols are an obvious choice today of what to sing today!

Saturday, December 12, 4pm — CHRISTMAS CAROLS/INTERGENERATIONAL
Enjoy Christmas carols and holiday cheer with your neighbors at Williamsburg Congregational Church’s Caroling on the Green, outside Florence Savings Bank. Come for carols, cocoa, and horse-drawn wagon rides. A great way to celebrate the holidays with your community! 413-268-7557. 85 Main Street. Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, December 13, 2pm
INCLUSIVE HOLIDAY CONCERT
Enjoy holiday favorites performed by singers of all ages and abilities as Whole Children‘s Joyful Chorus, appears with the Florence Community Band. 413-585-8010. Northampton High School, 380 Elm Street, Northampton, MA.

Sunday, December 13, 4pm & 7:30pm
CAROLING
Mount Holyoke‘s annual Christmas Vespers is a time-honored musical tradition and a popular event, drawing many community members of all ages and faiths. This year’s performance will include a candlelight processional and community carol singing. The college’s Chamber Singers, Chorale, Glee Club, Vocal & Chamber Jazz ensembles, and the English Handbell Ensemble will all contribute their talents to this beautiful musical event. 413-538-2000. Abbey Chapel, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, December 13, 5:30-8pm
MULTICULTURAL/A CAPPELLA
Join Earthdance co-founder Penny Schultz for an intergenerational a cappella SING in the Dance Barn. Songs, including gospel, English country, African, and Israeli, will be taught by rote, so you don’t need to be able to read music to participate. A SING is an emotionally, physically, and musically connected celebration of the earth, love, and community. All ages/levels welcome. Potluck supper to follow. The SING will be a benefit to raise money to replace Earthdance’s toolshed and contents that were lost in a fire in November. 413-634-5678. 252 Prospect Street, Plainfield, MA. (<$ DONATION)

In addition to the learning-based benefits of singing in a chorus, being a part of a singing group helps to ward off chemicals that can cause depression and loneliness. Whether your family is made up of chorus participants or not, the holiday season presents a myriad of opportunities to explore choral music in many forms.

Holiday Cultural Traditions

Saturday, December 12-Sunday, December 13, 4pm-9pm
YULETIDE/COLONIAL HISTORY
Old Sturbridge Village invites you to return to a simpler time, when Christmas meant carols and community, not catalogs and chaos, at their annual Christmas by Candlelight event. Enjoy sleigh rides, carols, model railroads, holiday magic shows, dances, and story readings. Watch demonstrations of gingerbread baking and cider making, and learn about the history of holiday traditions such as roasted chestnuts, yule logs, mistletoe, and more! Visitors will also have an opportunity to make a Christmas keepsake to take home. This event runs December 4-6, 11-13, and 18-20, and advance ticket purchase is recommended. 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge, MA. ($)

Sunday, December 13, 9:30am-11am
HANUKKAH/COMMUNITY MEAL
Do you love delicious, homemade foods and sharing conversation with new friends while you dine? The Katz Family Chanukah Breakfast, a treasured local holiday tradition, invites everyone to Congregation B’nai Torah to enjoy latkes, sufganiyot, music by a children’s choir, and an opportunity to paint and glaze your own Judaica. Those feeling adventurous can add on a ride on the Maccabee midwinter zipline! 413-567-0036. 2 Eunice Drive, Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, December 13, 5pm-7pm
HANUKKAH/FOOD TRADITIONS
Which traditional food will reign supreme when the merits of each are presented at the Latke vs. Hamantashen Debate/Throw-Down? Enjoy the humorous exchange and celebrate Chanukah with Congregation B’nai Israel. Activities include a communal menorah lighting, singing, and songs and stories for young children.
413-584-3593. 253 Prospect Street, Northampton, MA. (SUGGESTED DONATION <$)

Music Studies

Monday, December 14, 8am-8pm — MUSIC INSTRUCTION
Do you know a child interested in playing the piccolo, oboe, or clarinet? He or she can try these and more wind instruments for free at the Community Music School during the whole month of December. Music lessons improve academic, physical, and social skills and develop discipline and self-esteem. Call to schedule a free trial lesson. 413-732-8428. 127 State Street, Springfield, MA, (FREE)

Tuesday, December 15, 4-5pm — MUSIC INSTRUCTION/CREATIVE FREE PLAY
Learning an instrument promotes whole-brain engagement, self-discipline, and academic achievement…plus it’s a fun way to express oneself! Kids can learn bucket drumming during “Rock the Stacks” sessions at the
Mason Square Branch of Springfield City Library. Community Music School Instructor Rick Marshall will lead the class in using five-gallon pails as instruments, an inexpensive and creative way to make music. Participants will have an opportunity to be part of the bucket-drumming ensemble performing in the community-wide Dr. King Day celebration at the MassMutual Center on January 18, 2016. Ages 6-14. Sessions continue on 12/22, 1/5, and 1/12. 413-263-6853. 765 State Street, Springfield, MA. (FREE)


Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Buckland, Colrain, Cummington, Deerfield, Hadley, Longmeadow, Montgomery, New Salem, Plainfield, Shelburne, Sunderland, Westhampton, and Worthington Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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