Learning Ahead: December 21st-27th, 2015

Weekday community-based educational opportunities can be found throughout the four counties of Western MA all week long!

This week we are featuring 9 community-based educational opportunities that can be selected to support the interests and education of self-directed teens, homeschoolers and life-long learners:

Check our list of Weekly Suggested Events for our comprehensive list, including ongoing learning and play opportunities for younger children and intergenerational community events.


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Berkshire County

LOCAL HISTORY/VICTORIAN ARCHITECTURE
Thursday, December 24, 10am-4pm
Ventfort Hall, a Gilded-Age “cottage,” will be decorated for the holidays throughout the month of December. Built in 1893 for Sarah Morgan, the sister of J.P. Morgan, this Jacobean Revival-style mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 413-637-3206. 104 Walker Street, Lenox, MA. ($$)

CLASSICAL CONCERT/TEA
Sunday, December 27, 3:30pm
Franz Schubert, the great German composer, wrote more than 600 pieces for solo voices and piano, using the imagery of 19th century romantic poets as inspiration. Though a young man (he died in his early 30s), his work reflected every human emotion, from love to hatred, happiness to sadness, along with appreciation of nature and religiousness. Tenor Doug Schmolze and Pianist Larry Wallach present “Songs of the Flow of Life and Love: Schubert’s Romantic ‘Water Music,’” at Ventfort Hall. The mansion will be decorated for the holidays in Victorian style. 413-637-3206. 104 Walker Street, Lenox, MA. ($$$)

Franklin County

BOARD GAMES/INTERGENERATIONAL
Tuesday, December 22, 6pm-7pm
The 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)

CITIZEN SCIENCE/BIRD STUDIES
Sunday, December 27
Participate in the longest-running citizen science bird project in the country by joining a local team for the 116th Christmas Bird Count. In early winter, volunteers count every bird they see or hear during a 24-hour period within a designated 15-mile radius. Beginners are matched with experienced counters to learn and help at the same time. Data from the count, which occurs throughout the Western Hemisphere, are used to monitor bird populations and identify species in decline. This is a rewarding activity for all ages, and you can join a team for whatever period of time you like. Call local coordinator for more information. 413-367-2695. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Hampshire County

PHENOLOGY/ASTRONOMY
Monday, December 21, 7am and 3:30pm
As long ago as 4,800BC, people used sunwheels to track the change of seasons and solar cycles. Stonehenge is the most famous sunwheel. On the shortest day of the year, experience the winter solstice directly as you watch the sun rise and/or set straight over the tall standing stones of the UMass Sunwheel. Learn about solstices and equinoxes, seasons, and the phases of the moon. Honoring seasonal cycles connects us with other cultures throughout space and time. 413-545-4311. Rocky Hill Road, Amherst, MA. (DONATIONS APPRECIATED)

MUSIC STUDIES/UKULELES
Monday, December 21, 7pm
The ukulele, once found in most American homes, is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. It’s easy to learn, but can be taken to virtuoso levels. Come hear some masters, as The Well Tempered Ukes play in the Calvin Coolidge Library at Forbes Library. The group specializes in early music and parlor and art songs and performs monthly as artists-in-residence at the library. They will sing and play selected old and new songs, share cultural and historical background about the songs and their instruments, and offer tips for playing the ukulele. 413-587-1011. 20 West Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

WINTER SOLSTICE CELEBRATION
Tuesday, December 22, 5:30pm-8:30pm
Since mid-June, our minutes of daily sunlight have been steadily decreasing, leading us towards the winter solstice, the “shortest” day of the year. The winter solstice marks an important seasonal transition, when we begin to add minutes of daylight back into our lives and offers an opportunity to reflect on embracing inevitable changes. Celebrate this year’s solstice at Arcadia, a Mass Audubon sanctuary, with songs, warm drinks, and a crackling bonfire. 413-584-3009. 127 Combs Road, Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Hampden County

MUSIC STUDIES/ORCHESTRA
Monday, December 21, 7pm
Join the String City Orchestra for seasonal music at Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing. 413-732-8428. 807 Wilbraham Road, Springfield, MA. (FREE))

CITIZEN SCIENCE/ORNITHOLOGY
Saturday, December 26
Participate in the longest-running citizen science bird project in the country by joining a local team for the 116th Christmas Bird Count. In early winter, volunteers count every bird they see or hear during a 24-hour period within a designated 15-mile radius. Beginners are matched with experienced counters to learn and help at the same time. Data from the count, which occurs throughout the Western Hemisphere, are used to monitor bird populations and identify species in decline. This is a rewarding activity for all ages, and you can join a team for whatever period of time you like. Call local coordinator for more information. 413-569-3335. Russell and Blandford, MA. (FREE)

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