Learning Ahead: April 18th-22nd, 2016


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

This week we are featuring 29 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

BOTANY
Monday, April 18, 10am
The “Spring Ephemerals” are here! Throughout school vacation week, children will be able to attend the Wildflower Festival at Bartholemew’s Cobble free of charge. Spring ephemerals are wildflowers, native in the Berkshires, which appear early in Spring and are only around for a small window of time. These plants include native New England species such as white and red trilliums, spring beauty, bloodroot, toothwort, wild ginger, blue cohosh and violets. For more information about the Spring Wildflower Festival and a full list of activities, visit The Trustees website. Reservations are strongly recommended. 413-298-3239 x3013 . 117 Cooper Hill Rd, Sheffield, MA . (Trustees members <$. Non members $. Children FREE)

Have a closer look at some of the spring ephemerals that exist in the eastern US.

FORENSIC SCIENCE
Wednesday, April 20, 10am-11am
Kids who love mystery novels and detective games will enjoy this interactive program at the Bushnell Sage Library. Participants will examine a fake crime scene while learning about real scientific techniques including fingerprint examination, ink separation, and teeth impression match-up. 413-229-7004. 48 Main St. Sheffield, MA. (FREE)

WELLNESS
Wednesday, April 20, 12:30-1:30
What are your health goals? Since the mind and body are intricately connected, making one seemingly small change can have a far-reaching impact on your overall sense of well-being. Berkshire Health Systems will be holding a four week workshop series on healthy eating, exercise, stress reduction and more. Participants will receive a wellness screening. Each participant will identify his or her own personal goals and hear strategies for taking small steps in the direction of a healthier lifestyle. Join others interested in making these small changes, at the Adams Visitor Center. 3 Hoosac Street. Adams, MA. (FREE)

ORNITHOLOGY
Thursday, April 21, 8am
Having a bird feeder in your backyard can familiarize you with birds like chickadees and bluejays. If you want to witness and identify a wider range of species, however, a beginner’s guided walk can help. Experts from the Berkshire Natural Resources Council can help you spot birds around this Housatonic Flats trail. Wear long pants and shoes; bring water and a snack. Contact at 413-499-0596 with questions. Housatonic Flats is on Route 7 in Great Barrington, just north of the WSBS radio tower, right across the street from Chelsea and Company Antiques. 434 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, MA. (FREE)

Interested in learning more about backyard birding, learning bird calls, or participating in some bird-related citizen science initiatives? Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for a plethora of resources, including videos and apps, to support your birding goals.

PLANT PHYSIOLOGY
Thursday, April 21, 12pm-4pm
The “Spring Ephemerals” are here! As part of the Spring Wildflower Festival at Batholemew’s Cobble, there will be watercolor workshops on Thursdays from Thursdays, April 21 – May 11. Spring ephemerals are wildflowers, native in the Berkshires, which appear early in Spring and are only around for a small window of time. These plants include native New England species such as white and red trilliums, spring beauty, bloodroot, toothwort, wild ginger, blue cohosh and violets. One wonderful way to become acquainted with a flower is to study its anatomy and translate that to the page in the form of a piece of representational or abstract art. For more information about the Spring Wildflower Festival and a full list of activities, visit The Trustees website. Reservations are strongly recommended. 413-298-3239 x3013 . 117 Cooper Hill Rd, Sheffield, MA . (Trustees members <$. Non members $. Children FREE)

FATHERING
Thursday, April 21, 6pm-7:30pm
What do you think are the qualities, actions and behaviors of a great father? This “Nurturing Fathers” Program at The Family Place will explore the crucial role which fathers play in their children’s lives, and provide support to help dads raise happy, healthy kids. This is a 12-part workshop, to take place at various times over the course of several weeks. Please call 413-663-7588 for more information and to register. 61 Main Street, North Adams, MA. (FREE)

NEURODIVERSITY
Thursday, April 21, 7pm
The prevalence of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders has increased in recent years, though it is difficult to say whether this reflects an increase in the amount of people on the spectrum, or a higher level of diagnosis due to a more widespread knowledge of ASD. Either way, we can all benefit from having an empathetic understanding of the lives of people on the spectrum. You can learn about neurodiversity on a personal level by screening the 2015 documentary, How To Dance in Ohio, at MASS MoCA’s Club B10. This film explores the lives of three young women on the autism spectrum as they prepare for their spring formal dance. 413-662-2111. 1040 MASS MoCA WAY. North Adams, MA. (>$)

ORNITHOLOGY
Friday, April 22, 8am-10am
Celebrate the coming of Spring by welcoming some of nature’s new visitors: migrating birds. On this guided walk at Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary participants will look and listen for all kinds of migrating species, especially the colorful wood-warblers. No previous knowledge necessary, beginners are welcome. Please bring binoculars. This program is recommended for adults and self-directed teens. 413-637-0320. Holmes Rd, Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

Franklin County

FOOD CHEMISTRY
Tuesday, April 19, 11am
This month’s STEM programming at the Tilton Library will focus on things that grow! There will be hands-on, interactive activities for learning about plants and food chemistry. This event can get your culinary-focused children interested in science, and your scientists interested in food! 413-665-4683. 75 North Main Street. South Deerfield, MA. (FREE)

Love food and chemistry? Dive into the world of molecular gastronomy, where chefs create unique foods using unconventional materials and methods.

MEMOIR
Tuesday, April 19, 2pm-4pm
Writers of all genres often give the advice: “write what you know.” This advice is perhaps most applicable to the genre of memoir. You don’t have to be famous or have led a spectacular or unusual life to write memoir. In fact, this genre shows readers that every life is spectacular and everyone has a message to share through the recounting of their experiences. This process can be emotionally challenging, however, and it’s great to have a support system of other writers. The Sunderland Public Library is holding a memoir writing workshop, for four weeks on Tuesdays, April 5-26. Participants are welcome to drop in at any particular week as the group will cover four different topics: Getting Started, Writing Through Fear, Excavating Memories, and Memoir Writing Strategies. To register for this class, please call Ruth Flohr at 413-367 0127. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. ($$)

FORAGING/EDIBLE PLANTS
Tuesday, April 19, 6:30pm
Why bring snacks for your hikes when you can pick them as you go! Come to the Northfield Public Library and local author Russ Cohen will teach you foraging techniques. Learning how to identify edible plants around you will add another layer of fun, understanding and discovery to your nature walks. Challenge your friends and family to learn too! You can make a game out of who spots edible plants first. 413-665-2170. 202 Chestnut Plain Rd, Whately, MA. (FREE)

Hampshire County

FILM STUDIES
Monday, April 18-Friday, April 22, 2pm
Watching films from another era can teach us about the cultural context in which they were produced. This is as true of classic films as it is of cartoons! Looney Tunes originally aired between 1930 and 1969, yet many of the show’s characters are recognizable to children today. You can screen Looney Tunes Revue, a selection of episodes including One Froggy Evening, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century, at Amherst Cinema, while watching for clues about attitudes regarding diversity, politics, gender, and more. These films are open to everyone, all ages, at a special, family-friendly price during April school vacation week. 413-253-2547. 28 Amity St, Amherst, MA. (<$)

MEMOIR
Tuesday, April 19, 10am-11:30am
Being a grandparent is fodder for tons of creative material. There are all the beautiful stories, whether funny, insightful, heartwarming, or even sad. Join other grandparents at the Amherst Senior Center for the first session of a four part memoir workshop for grandparents. Document and share your experience as a parent, grandparent and unique individual. 413-256-1145. 70 Boltwood Walk, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

WEST AFRICAN MUSIC
Tuesday, April 19, 7:30pm
Lots of interesting instruments, many of which are percussive, originate in Africa. The Shekere, Balafon, and Akuba come from West Africa.The percussive nature of many African instruments lends itself easily to collaborative, improvisational music making. You can explore music from the southern Togo, Ghana and Benin at the 5-College West African Music Ensemble Concert to take place in the McCulloch Auditorium in Pratt Hall at Mount Holyoke College. 50 College St, South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Consider the ways in which traditional West African instruments and music intersect with cultural shifts in the Gambia. As one narrator states, “it is through music that you can send a positive message throughout the whole world.”

POETRY
Wednesday, April 20, 4pm-5pm
Emily Dickinson’s life in Amherst is an integral part of local history and her legacy continues to inspire a strong literary culture in the town. Celebrate the life of Emily Dickinson, in honor of National Poetry Month, at the Jones Library in Amherst. Two local authors, Jane Yolen and Burleigh Muten, will be reading from their historical books about Emily Dickinson. Honor past and present literary figures of the Pioneer Valley. 413-259-3091. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

EDIBLE PLANTS
Wednesday, April 20, 6:30pm-8pm
Learning about wild edible plants opens up new possibilities for learning and lifestyle. Once you’ve begun recognizing local edible plants, your nature walks will be filled with discovery. This is a fun skill to teach to your family or friends. Once you’ve identified an edible plant such as black locust flowers, cattail buds, or stinging nettles leaves, you can try cleaning and eating them, and possibly even incorporating them into cooking. Come to theMeekins Library for this talk to get you started identifying wild edible plants. Meekins Library 413-268-7472. Route 9. Williamsburg, MA (FREE)

SUSTAINABILITY/FILM STUDIES
Wednesday, April 20, 7pm
Oscar-nominated director Josh Fox’s 2016 film, How To Let Go of the World and Love all the Things Climate Can’t Change, acknowledges from the outset that it may be too late to prevent tragic consequences of climate change. Through this film, Fox seeks to spark discussion and a movement towards renewable resources, while also posing the question: “What is it that climate change can’t destroy?” This screening at Amherst Cinema. will be introduced by Jonathan Lash, President of Hampshire College. He will talk about sustainable building practices and how sustainable building has been implemented at Hampshire College. Celebrate Earth Day by screening a film which takes a broad view of climate change, providing insight that is at once personal, emotional, theoretical, and practical. 413-253-2547. 28 Amity St, Amherst, MA. ($)

View this powerful film’s trailer here:

FIBER ARTS
Wednesday, April 20, 7pm-9pm
The architectural landscape of the pioneer valley features many converted mills, some of which used to serve as textile producers. Our community still fosters a rich textile culture with farmers raising sheep for locally sourced wool. In an effort to further foster this aspect of our community, the Southern Hilltowns Adult Education Center is sponsoring a free class about a Massachusetts fibershed start up. Lisa Westervelt of Cranberry Moon Farm in Cummington, will define what a fibershed is and explain its impact. Fiber producers are invited to bring their locally grown fibers and discuss the plant materials they use to dye fibers. Classes will take place at the Middlefield Senior Center, 169 Skyline Trail, Middlefield, MA. (FREE)

POETRY
Thursday, April 21, 11am-4pm
Celebrate National Poetry Month by learning about the life and work of local, historical figure, Emily Dickinson. Today, “Poem in Your Pocket Day,” you can visit the Emily Dickinson Museum, admission is free for anyone who can recite a Dickinson poem from memory at our tour center. Be a part of the ancient history of verse recitation, connect to local history, and pick an excellent poem to carry in your pocket and share with others! This is a great way to meet new people with a shared interest and hear new poems and authors. 413-542-8161. 280 Main St, Amherst, MA. (Adult $. Youth 6-17 <$. Five college students, children under six, anyone who recites a Dickinson poem, FREE)

HORTICULTURE
Friday, April 22, 4pm-5:30pm
Learning to garden can seem daunting at first. What if you put in the time, effort, and money and your plants don’t grow? Come to the Food for All Garden in the UMass Agricultural Learning Center and find out about relatively easy-to-grow Spring vegetables. Those running the Food For All Amherst project work in conjunction with the Amherst Survival Center to provide fresh vegetables and herbs for the community. 911 North Pleasant Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Hampden County

LOCAL HISTORY
Tuesday, April 19, 10am-5pm
Irish heritage is often associated with Boston, but Western Massachusetts also boasts strong ties to Ireland. The Springfield Museums are hosting a new exhibit titled Easter Rising: Springfield’s Response to the Irish Rebellion of 1916 at the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising, this exhibit will allow you to explore the history of the event through newspaper headlines and memorabilia from Springfield residents. You can learn about this important historical event through a highly localized lens, allowing you to broaden your understanding of both Irish history, and the history of Springfield. This exhibition will be on view until Sunday, May 22. 413.263.6800 ext. 459. 21 Edwards St. Springfield, MA. (Adults $. Ages 3-17 <$. Children 2 and under FREE)

BIRDS OF PREY
Tuesday, April 19, 11am & 1pm
Often, in this area, you can glance up at the sky and find a red-tailed hawk soaring above. Hawks and other raptors live throughout the Pioneer Valley, but face threats due to human activities. Come to the Springfield Museum to learn more about these amazing animals, and how to help protect them and their habitats, at this presentation by internationally renowned raptor rehabilitator Tom Ricardi. 413.263.6800. 21 Edwards St. Springfield, MA. (Adults $. Ages 3-17 <$. Children 2 and under FREE)

PSYCHOLOGY
Tuesday, April 19, 2pm & 7pm
Magicians often ask audience members to choose a playing card “at random.” Researchers from McGill University, however, have found patterns in these choices. Much like a computer cannot generate a truly random number, humans do not pick cards entirely at random. The researchers found that of their 667 participants, women were more likely to name the King of Hearts, and men the Queen of Hearts. Understanding the role of human behavior and psychology in the phenomenon of magic can make magic shows that much more interesting and entertaining. You can witness this phenomenon in action at a magic show combining illusions, humor at CityStage. Young magician Adam Trent will be performing his show, “The Futurist.” Trent has won multiple awards at Pro Magic Challenge and was named one of the 10 most influential youth in the nation by US News & World Report Magazine. Read more about magic at our post, Magic Shows: The Psychology Behind Magic Tricks & Illusions150 Bridge Street. Springfield, MA. ($-$$)

U.S. HISTORY
Wednesday, April 20, 10am-11:30am
The museum at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site was established just after the Civil War ended and holds arms and equipment that came back from the battlefields. Over April school vacation week, visit the museum free of charge. On Wednesday, you can also learn about levers and build a tiny catapult to take home!413-734-8551. 1 Armory Street #2, Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Interested in making a different style of catapult to compare with those used in the Civil War? Watch this tutorial on building a da Vinci catapult.

POETRY SLAM
Wednesday, April 20, 3pm
Most poems are short, making them a great literary art form for reading aloud. Poetry shares a lot of qualities with musical lyrics and lends itself towards performance. Teen poets are invited to the Southwick Public Library to participate in a long tradition of poem sharing at this Teen Poetry Slam! Participants should choose a poem no longer than 3 minutes read aloud and it must contain no inappropriate content. Boost your literary confidence by sharing your work in this positive environment. Refreshments will be served. Call 413-569-1221 ex.3 to sign up. 95 413-569-1221. Feeding Hills Rd, Southwick, MA. (FREE)

PARENTING
Wednesday, April 20, 4pm
Dr. Kelly Lambert, Professor and Chair of Psychology at Randolph Macon College, studied parenting behaviors in rats in order to approach a social question from a scientific standpoint. She asks difficult, complex questions about the roles of mothers and fathers, and what their natural inclinations and abilities may be on a biological level. Hear her discuss her findings as well as her career in general at Bay Path University. This is part of a Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) speaker series. For more information contact acantin@baypath.edu.. 588 Longmeadow St. Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

COMPUTER SCIENCE
Wednesday, April 20, 5:30-7:30pm
Do you like to play video games? You should make your own! Learning how to code teaches attention to detail and logic skills. It can be extremely satisfying when things work as planned, and you learn patience and persistence when they don’t. Computer science experts at Holyoke Codes can get you started creating your first game, or improving one you already have, using Scratch. Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center.100 Bigelow St. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

LAUGHTER THERAPY
Wednesday, April 20, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Laughter provides instantaneous relaxation by reducing levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress response, and increasing levels of endorphins. In addition to holding a Master’s Degree in Psychology, Mark Sherry is Certified as a Therapeutic Laughter Leader by Laughter Yoga International. He will be bringing his knowledge and his jokes to the Westfield Athenaeum for his performance, “Rejuvenate Your Life Through Laughter!” 413-568-7833. 6 Elm St, Westfield, MA. (Various >$-$$)

Learn more about laughter yoga in Ida Abdalkhani’s TEDx talk.

Other Counties

STEM
Monday, April 18, 10am-3pm
Tuesday, April 19-Friday, April 22, 10am-4pm
Explore aircraft, experience flight simulators, and create a LEGO flying machine at the New England Air Museum. Throughout April school vacation week, NEAM is offering additional activities for junior scientists interesting in learning basic principles of physics and engineering through fun projects! Build and explore flying machines, study historic aircraft, design and test a parachute, or experience a flight simulation! 36 Perimeter Rd. Windsor Locks CT. (Adults $. Children 4-11<$. Members and children under three FREE)

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