Learning Ahead: February 22nd-28th, 2016


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

This week we are featuring 28 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.


See your banner here! Sponsor Learning Ahead!

Berkshire County

FILM STUDIES/FRENCH/GENDER ROLES
Monday, February 22, 7pm
As part of the Williams College film series “In / dependence: Capturing Women in (New) French Cinema,” you can attend a free screening of the French film Abus de faiblesse / Abuse of Weakness. All films screened in this series will be in French with English subtitles. Each film explores traditional gender roles in France, with portraits of women who preserve and subvert these roles. If you are able to attend multiple screenings in February and March, you will be able to compare a broad spectrum of French female experiences, from the eighteenth century to present day. 413-458-5612. Images Cinema. 50 Spring Street, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

 SHAKESPEARE
Wednesday, February 24, 10am-11:45am; Thursday, February 25, 10am-11:45am
Shakespeare has had one of the longest lasting impacts of any author. His plays from the 16th and 17th century are still performed regularly and are often required reading in high school. Even if his plays fell out of popularity he would still have made his mark on the English language, since he invented hundreds of words we use every day including “amazement,” “hint,” “mimic,” “lonely,” “generous,” and “secure.” Hear some of Shakespeare’s words in action at the Tina Packer Playhouse performance of Twelfth Night. A post-show discussion will follow. 413-637-1199 x131. 70 Kemble Street. Lenox, MA. ($)

WOMEN & WRITING
Wednesday, February 24, 6:30pm-7:30pm
Muriel Rukeyser once posed this challenge: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” The Powder Keg Sessions is a women’s writing workshop at the Ramsell library, where women come together to share their truths. The workshops are run by Suzi Banks Baum, an author, artist, and mother who teaches classes on nurturing the habit of daily writing. Come see what writing can do for you, and what your writing can do for others. 413- 274-3738. 1087 Main St, Housatonic, MA. (FREE)

FARMING/SUSTAINABILITY
Wednesday, February 24, 7pm
Pesticide exposure has been linked to a host of public health concerns including cancer. For this reason, pesticides affect everyone. Farmers in particular need to be informed about their options for safe and sustainable growing. Michelle Mart, author of Pesticides, A Love Story: America’s Enduring Embrace of Dangerous Chemicals will be running a panel discussion on pesticides and permaculture at Bard’s College at Simon’s Rock. Open to the public. Lecture Center. Great Barrington, MA. (FREE).

NEUROSCIENCE
Thursday, February 25, 4:15pm
Associate Professor of Psychology Amie A. Hane studies behavioral stress responses in children and infants. In her own words, her research shows that: “High quality maternal caregiving behavior is associated with reduced biological and behavioral stress.” To learn more about her research, you can attend her lecture, “From the Tide Pool to the Stars…and Back Again: Early Caregiving and Human Neurobehavioral Development,” at Williams College. A reception will follow the lecture. 413-597-4277. Wege Auditorium, Thompson Chemistry, Williams College. 880 Main Street, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

VISUAL ART/ARTIST’S TALK
Thursday, February 25, 6pm
Visit Julie Heffernan’s exhibition, World Without End, at the Hillman-Jackson Gallery and follow up your visit by attending her artist’s talk. Heffernan paints with oil on canvas, and her works center around the themes of environmental catastrophe, society, and cycles of life. Fans of art and environmentalism should take this unique opportunity to see Heffernan’s work and hear her speak about her process, her inspiration, and herself. This talk will take place at the Daniel Arts Center at Bard’s College at Simon’s Rock. Open to the public. A reception will follow the talk. Great Barrington, MA. (FREE).

CULTURAL AWARENESS
Friday, February 26, 1pm-4pm
When people want to learn about a topic, they often turn to the library and find a book. But there’s one problem with books– as information-filled as they are, they can’t always answer your questions! Williams College presents a unique opportunity to not only learn from books, but to have them answer your questions, too! The 2016 Human Library is, as its name implies, made up not of actual books but of human books – human beings whose unique life experiences make up volumes and volumes of information. The Human Library offers nearly forty different human books who can be checked out for periods of up to half an hour.The participants in the Human Library have been selected based upon their life experiences and/or the context in which their lives take place, and the purpose of the event is to support the community in building a greater understanding of one another, and of what it means to identify as something (“woman of color,” “graduate student,” or “gay man,” for example). Broaden your perspective by chatting with some books! 413-597-4277. Paresky Student Center. 39 Chapin Hall Drive Williamstown, MA.

THEATER
Friday, February 26, 7pm; Saturday, February 27, 7pm
Witness the final result of Bard College student Naida West’s thesis project while learning about an ethically charged political issue: solitary confinement. West’s entirely student-run play, Nowhere Land, explores the pervasive use of solitary confinement in the US legal system. West pays particular attention to the damaging impact this practice has on LGBT people and prisoners with a pre-existing mental illness. This performance is bound to challenge beliefs through the presentation of multiple perspectives. The performance will take place in the Daniels Art Center at Bard’s College at Simon’s Rock. Open to the public. Great Barrington, MA. (FREE).

Franklin County

FIBER ARTS/NEEDLE-FELTING
Thursday, February 25, 4pm-6pm
Practice your needle-felting skills, or try needle-felting for the first time, and come home with an adorable felted owl. Needle felting is creative yet relaxing, and in this case, social too! This needle-felt class will take place at Sheep and Shawl. Ages 8 and up and their caregivers. Call 413-397-3680 to register. 265 Greenfield Road. South Deerfield, MA ($)

ORNITHOLOGY/CARPENTRY
Saturday, February 27, 10:30am
Birdhouses of all shapes make nice decorations, but if you want to attract specific birds, you need to consider what they are looking for in a home! Bluebird houses are relatively simple and easy to make. They are rectangular with a large roof, and involve protective measures for keeping snakes and other creatures out. Learn more, and build your own bluebird house at Great Falls discovery center. Registration is required. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

BLACK HISTORY/VISUAL & LITERARY ART
Saturday, February 27, 4pm-6pm
Celebrate black history through art, poetry, essays, stories, music and quotes. Poet and artist Bob McNeil draws influence from the Beat poets and Dadaists in his writing. He also draws influence from the Negritude movement, a literary and philosophical movement initiated by francophone African thinkers in the 1930s. The political edge of McNeil’s writing is sure to spark ideas and discussion. Great Falls discovery center. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

BLACK HISTORY/MUSIC STUDIES
Saturday, February 27, 9pm
What is your favorite musical genre? Has it been impacted by jazz or blues musicians? Musical genres tend to blend together as musicians draw influence from other groups; thus it is difficult if not impossible to talk about a single musical genre without recognizing how it fits into a broader historical context. Whether you are an avid listener of jazz already, or you are more familiar with the genres jazz has spun, celebrate black history at the Rendevous with a jazz performance and reception. Witness vocal talent in action as Kim Kalestri, who has been singing since the age of five, performs. 413-863-2866. 78 3rd Street.Turners Falls, MA. (DONATION)

FILM SCREENING/CURRENT AFFAIRS/RACE ISSUES
Sunday, February 28, 4pm
The shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent lack of charges against police officer Darren Wilson has fueled national and international controversy, debate, and political protests. Amnesty International, a group which typically provides assistance outside of the United States, sent a team to Ferguson, Missouri, to investigate. This film’s footage of demonstrations and interviews with protesters provides a more in-depth account than shorter news segments. For that reason, screening this film at the Rendezvous is a great opportunity to start a conversation within our community about the impact of community organizing. The film will also help viewers form their own opinions on policing, militarization, and effective resistance methods. 413-863-2866. 78 Third Street, Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Hampshire County

COSMOLOGY
Monday, February 22, 6pm
How much do you know about the big bang? The idea that the universe originated from the big bang stems from another concept: the discovery that the universe is expanding. In 1927, Georges Lemaître first proposed that in an expanding universe, perhaps everything originates from a single point. But what does this mean? Why do distant parts of the universe look similar when they are so far away from each other? Professor Gary Felder will address these, and other questions, at this installment of the SciTech Cafe. Union Station. 125 Pleasant St, Northampton, MA (DONATION)

LITERACY/DYSTOPIAN LITERATURE
Monday, February 22, 6:30pm
Although dystopian novels have exploded in popularity recently, they have been around since the sixteenth century. Through their terrifying visions of the future, dystopian novels often also provide insight into the past, highlighting the political fears of the time when they were written. Margaret Atwood’s 1985 feminist dystopia, The Handmaid’s Tale, can show readers what has and has not changed in this country since the time when Atwood wrote it. This controversial and powerful text has been adapted into a film, play, opera, and even a concept album. Pick up a copy now and be ready to discuss with your community members at the Emily Williston Memorial Library. 413-527-1031. 9 Park St, Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

READING
Tuesday, February 23, 7pm-9pm
Bailly Shannon Morse first wrote her novel Fortune’s Flight, set in 19th century France, when she was fourteen years old. Morse grew up in Haydenville and went on to attend Mount Holyoke College. She has since re-imagined her adventure novel and will be reading portions of this new version at the Meekins Library. Come to this reading to learn about one young writer’s artistic process and how it has changed over the years. 413-268-7472. 2 Williams St, Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

PLAYREADING SERIES/CONTEMPORARY
Tuesday, February 23. 7:30pm
Wade in Da WaTer . Tired of being blamed for the aftermath of natural disasters, the United States Federal Government attempts to play the blame game by suing the most catastrophic storm of the 21st Century: Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina agrees to be tried, but only if it will allow humanity to progress toward healing, awareness, forgiveness, and requiem for the dead. Audiences can expect the unexpected from Wade in Da WaTer as gods, politicians, news anchors, as well as regular people are summoned to testify in the greatest trial in history. This contemporary work allows us to reflect on the impact of natural disasters and how they can challenge and test the threads of human connection. The performance will be held in Acting Studio 1 at Smith College, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

ARCHITECTURE/LOCAL THEATER HISTORY
Wednesday, February 24, 5:15:pm-6:00pm
The physical space of a theater can have an effect on performances, and performances sometimes dictate changes to be made in the space. Did you know that the Academy of Music Theatre once had a hole cut in the stage floor for a Houdini disappearing act? You can see this part of the stage firsthand along with other historically significant objects on a historic tour of the theatre. The tour guide will show visitors Cole Porter’s grandfather clock, and dressing rooms used by actors such as Sarah Bernhard, Boris Karloff and Ethel Barrymore. Learn about 125 of theater history through the lens of space. Attendees should meet in the main lobby. This event is open to the public. Reserve your spot by calling 413-584-9032, x105 or emailing boxoffice@aomtheatre.com. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA (FREE)

COLLABORATIVE CONSUMPTION/SEED SAVING
Wednesday, February 24, 7pm-8pm
Seed catalogs are fun to look through, but wouldn’t it be great to plant your own seeds, from last year’s crop? Grow Food Amherst is a group of local gardeners who are learning to do just that. They’re reading Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener’s Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving and will meet in the first floor conference room at the Amherst Town Hall to discuss it. Reading the book is not required for attendance, however; come listen and learn about harvesting, processing, and storing seed (Chapter 22)! You can learn more about seed saving from this Hilltown Families post about self-sufficiency and nature based education through the act of saving seeds. 978-895-1781. 4 Boltwood Avenue, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

SPORTS HISTORY/WOMEN’S STUDIES
Wednesday, February 24, 7pm
For this screening of the 2015 documentary T REX, producer Sue Jaye Johnson will be present. In T REX you will learn about Claressa Shields, and her journey to the 2012 Olympics, the first year that women’s boxing was included. At just seventeen years old, by far the youngest woman competing, her abilities are particularly remarkable. This movie’s themes reach beyond one individual, allowing for discussion of subversive gender roles and the positive impact sports can have on an individual’s life. Amherst Cinema. 413-253-2547. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. ($)

MUSIC STUDIES/BEATLES TRIBUTE
Wednesday, February 24, 8pm
Hear Beatles classics such as “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Hard Day’s Night,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Let It Be,” “Come Together” and “Hey Jude,” while learning about the band’s journey to fame. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell used The Beatles as a prime example of his theory that extremely successful people have spent at least 10,000 hours practicing in their field. In the 1960s, The Beatles played several hours a night, often seven nights a week, in Germany. The clubs in Germany were open late and The Beatles performed many hours more than most emerging bands typically do. So as you’re listening to music you love, you can be thinking about all the hard work and thousands of hours The Beatles put into becoming one of the greatest loved bands of all time. Calvin Theatre. 19 King Street. Northampton, MA ($$ – $$$)

CULINARY ARTS/SKILLSHARING
Thursday, February 25, 5pm-8pm
Since the existence of cheese predates recorded history, humans will probably never know who invented it. The emergence of cheese could have resulted from an accident involving milk left in the sun. Cheese has influenced New England history in surprising ways. Colonists in Rhode Island exchanged cheese for molasses from the West Indies, and used the molasses to make rum. Whether you want to trade, share, sell or just eat your homemade cheese, you can learn how to make mozzarella and colby at a free class in Russell. Participants will also learn how to make yogurt. This event is sponsored by the Southern Hilltowns Adult Education Center. Ron and Sandra are offering this class at their home, 655 Huntington Road (Rt 20) in Russell. (Next to Countryside Woodcraft).Please bring an apron. Huntington, MA (FREE)

NEUROSCIENCE/PUBLIC HEALTH/PARENTING
Thursday, February 25, 6pm-7:30pm
The entire community is invited to a meeting of the Easthampton Healthy Youth Coalition, with a presentation by local physician Dr. Ruth Potee. She earned her medical degree from Yale University and has served as a co-chair for the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and North Quabbin. In her presentation, “The Teenage Brain: Under Construction,” she will discuss the impact of drugs on the adolescent brain. There are striking neurological changes which emerge in the period of adolescence. These changes have a profound effect on emotions and decision making. Although individual development varies, the brain is typically not fully finished developing until around age twenty-five. During this period when connections between brain regions are forming, it is crucial to encourage healthy behaviors to aid, rather than hinder, growth. Parents, teens, business leaders, community members, faith leaders, and anyone invested in teenage development is encouraged to attend. Easthampton High School Auditorium, 70 Williston Ave, Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

SKILLSHARING/ICE FISHING
Thursday, February 26, 6:30pm
How thick does ice have to be for you to walk on it safely? How can you cut a hole in ice for fishing? These are a few of the questions Allen Butler will address in his “Basic Ice Fishing” class at the Pelham Library. He will outline all the important tips for safety, including what to wear, and tell you about what kinds of fish you can catch while ice fishing. 413-253-0657. 2 South Valley Road. Pelham MA. (FREE)

ART HISTORY
Saturday, February 27, 2 pm
The Folly Cove Designers came together in 1941, emerging “out of the granite of Cape Ann,” as one designer put it. Members of the collective carved designs into linoleum, then printed the designs on fabric to sell as table linens, draperies, and clothing, acquiring a national reputation for excellence in block printing and for depicting their local environments with passion and humor. Join Folly Cove Designers expert and Bowdoin College professor Jennifer Scanlon, for her discussion on The Folly Cove Designers of Gloucester, Massachusetts. For more information, check out Historic Northampton . 413-584-6011. Damon Education Center, Historic Northampton, 46 Bridge Street, Northampton (FREE)

Hampden County

BLACK HISTORY/FILM STUDIES
February 22, 8pm
How do our families shape us? How can we carve our own paths? Explore these themes as you view the 2015 sports drama Creed, which received very positive reviews from both audiences and professional film critics. Several actors in the film were honored by the African-American Film Critics Association, an organization seeking to raise awareness of films produced, written, directed and starring people of African descent. A free screening of Creed, followed by a discussion, will be held at the Owl’s Nest. Westfield State University. 577 Western Ave, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

BLACK HISTORY/INTERSECTIONALITY
Wednesday, February 24, 4pm
In recent decades, growing awareness has been drawn to the need for an “intersectional” approach towards issues of race, gender, and sexuality. Intersectionality requires people to consider the fact that each individual has several overlapping identities. In this panel discussion, Westfield State University men of color faculty and staff will discuss both race and gender, exploring current issues faced by black men in the United States. This will undoubtedly bring to light different issues than the upcoming ceremony, “Black Girls Rock,” which will celebrate women of color who engage in their communities. 577 Western Ave, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

BABYSITTING COURSE
Thursday, February 25, 3pm-5pm
How do you get a fussy baby to stop crying? As a babysitter, when should you call the parents and when should you try to solve conflicts yourself? Babysitting for the first time, kids run into tons of questions, some of which they can’t anticipate ahead of time. New and experienced babysitters between the ages of nine and sixteen are invited to discuss these and other questions at the Westfield Athenaeum. This two part course (on the 25th and 26th) will teach babysitters how to communicate with parents, and what to do in emergency situations. Child care is all about safety, not only of young children but also of the babysitter. Come with stories, questions, tips and ideas. Registration is required. Boys and Girls Activity Room. 6 Elm St, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

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