Learning Ahead: May 16th-20th, 2016


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

This week we are featuring 30 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

VISUAL ART: EUROPEAN & AMERICAN
Monday May 16, 2pm
The Clark Art Institute invites persons with dimentia and their caregivers to a free gallery talk! Groups are welcome as well as pairs. The Clark, which is both an art museum and a center for research and education, is closed on Mondays, providing a safe and private atmosphere for this tour. Specially trained docents will guide participants in an open-ended conversation about art. Through this program, docents seek to encourage self-expression and a positive social experience for people with dementia and the people who love and care for them. 413-458-2303. 225 South St., Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

FIBER ARTS
Tuesday, May 17, 1pm-3pm
Do you enjoy fiber arts such as knitting or felting? Come to the Lenox Community Center and learn to make decorative spheres or bowls out of yarn, twine, and paper. These can be used as table centerpieces, hung from ceilings, given as gifts, you name it! This relatively simple craft should make for a relaxing learning experience. 413-637-5530. 65 Walker Street, Lenox, MA. (FREE)

VISUAL ART: REALISM
Wednesday, May 18, 10am-5pm
Norman Rockwell was an American painter and illustrator, best known for his Saturday Evening Post covers and his series of paintings, the Four Freedoms. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge hosts the world’s largest collection of original Norman Rockwell artwork, providing local residents with a resource for learning about art and American histroy. In celebration of International Art Museum Day, you can visit the museum for free! 413-298-4100. 9 Glendale Road, Stockbridge, MA. (FREE)

WRITING
Wednesday, May 18, 6:30pm-8pm
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 Ramsdell 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 Street, Housatonic, MA. (FREE)

FILM STUDIES/HISTORY
Wednesday, May 18, 7pm-8pm
The creation of art, whether it be music, visual art, writing, or something else, helps artists add meaning and purpose to their lives. At the end of World War II, thousands of secretly created artworks were found in concentration camps. These artworks provide historians with a new perspective and understanding of life in the camps. The 2015 film Because I Was a Painter (Not Rated) explores these artworks through interviews with surviving artists. You can attend a free screening of the film at the Ramsdell library 413- 274-3738. 1087 Main Street, Housatonic, MA. (FREE)

View the film’s trailer here:

ART STUDIES/PARTICIPATORY THEATER
Thursday, May 19, 4pm-8:45pm
Friday, May 20, 4pm-8:45pm
Technological innovations are constantly opening up new opportunities for experimental artwork. This participatory art and sound installation at MASS MoCA will take gallery visitors on a choreographed journey through the museum. Each visitor will receive a cell phone and a pair of earbuds. Participants will feel like they are on their own private, guided tour, while at the same time experiencing the event as a group through movement. This installation was created by French duo Projet In Situ. Departures take place every 15 minutes and the performance will last approximately 70 minutes. You can purchase tickets by calling 413-662-2111. 1040 MASS MoCA WAY. North Adams, MA. (Members <$. Non Members $)

FILM STUDIES
Thursday, May 19, 7pm
Comparing books with their film adaptations is one way of analyzing the advantages of either medium. Books give the reader ample opportunity to explore the internal thoughts of a character or many characters, whereas most films can only achieve this through narration. Films, on the other hand, can pair visual elements with dialogue and music. It isn’t fair to expect a film to exactly mirror the book it is based on, or elicit the same reactions and emotions in the audience. The Stockbridge Public Library is encouraging people to think about film adaptations with this screening of the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Rated G). Copies of the Truman Capote novella this film is based on will be available to check out through the library. The screening will take place in the Austen Riggs Center’s Medical Office Building. 413- 298-5501. 25 Main Street, Stockbridge, MA. (FREE)

ORNITHOLOGY
Friday, May 20, 7am-9am
You can bird watch year-round, but Spring and Fall are the best times to learn about migrating birds. Jonathan Pierce, Pleasant Valley Caretaker and Hoffman Bird Club Leader, will help participants identify newly arrived wood-warblers. These birds are small, but many of them are bright and colorful, making them relatively easy to spot. Learn about local ecology while enjoying a walk around the Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary. Please bring binoculars. Beginners are welcome, no registration needed. 413-637-0320. Holmes Road, Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT/DANCE LESSONS
Friday, May 20, 7pm-11pm
Want to learn how to swing dance without committing to a series of expensive lessons? The Shire City Sanctuary Rhythm Club will provide lessons from 7-8. Advanced dancers are welcome to arrive at 8pm to dance along to live jazz music by The Lucky 5. All ages welcome! 413-236-9600. 40 Melville Street, Pittsfield, MA. ($)

Franklin County

FILM STUDIES
Tuesday, May 17, 3pm and 6pm
The 2015 film The Lady in the Van (PG-13) draws from the true story of an elderly woman who lived in a van for 15 years. This British comedy-drama was highly well-received from critics and audiences. In a culture of films which focus on young people, viewers may find it refreshing to see an elderly protagonist in a popular film. You can see this movie for yourself at the Whately Library. Audience members can use the film to stimulate discussion about social norms, aging, and British customs. 413-665-2170. 202 Chestnut Plain Rd. Whately, MA.
(FREE)

View the trailer here:

NUTRITIONAL ANTHROPOLOGY
Tuesday, May 17, 5pm
Did you know that the majority of people on Earth eat bugs? Most Americans, unaccustomed to eating insects, may find this difficult to imagine. Insects are packed with tons of protein and are prevalent everywhere.The foods eaten by people of a particular region are partially determined by what is available; however, in an increasingly global economy, Americans often eat foods from all over the world. You can expand your culinary horizons (without eating insects) by trying some Chinese and Japanese foods at this food tasting event. Sunderland Public Library. 413-665 2642. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Learn more about edible insects in this documentary piece by KQED:

FILM STUDIES
Tuesday, May 17, 5:30pm-8pm
Would you like to join an all ages Film Club of movie fans and filmmakers? Meet at the Program Building at Red Gate Farm for this month’s meeting. Participants will work together on small challenges with cameras. No experience is necessary and all equipment will be provided. The group will also screen some short films which were nominated for Academy Awards. No commitment or membership fee is required to join the RGF film club. Please note that this group shows PG and PG-13 movies. If you are in third-grade or younger, you must be accompanied by a parent. All participants under 17 must have parental consent to attend programs. Please RSVP by calling 413-625-9503. 4 Norman Road. Ashfield, MA. (DONATION)

NEW ENGLAND HISTORY
Tuesday, May 17, 6:30pm
Captivity narratives allow for interesting historical learning since captive taking involves conflict and a clash of cultures. The capture of Mary Rowlandson by Native Americans during King Philip’s War is a fascinating incident which teaches historians about colonial life through first person accounts, as well as war tactics and religious beliefs of the time. The Northfield Historical Society will present a dramatic re-enactment of these events at the Northfield Public Library. 413-498-2455. 115 Main Street, Northfield, MA. (FREE)

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION
Thursday, May 19, 8am-9am
Meditation has many emotional and physiological benefits including increased concentration, regulation and awareness of emotions, and even improvement of cardiovascular and immune systems. All are invited to participate in a secular meditation practice, every week on Thursday mornings at Tsegyalgar. Participating with a group in a guided practice can help you get started incorporating meditation into your routine. Cushions are provided. 413-369-4153. 18 Schoolhouse Road, Conway, MA. (FREE)

CULINARY ARTS/HISTORY
Friday, May 20, 6pm-8pm
Marshmallows are made from the plant Althaea, which also has medicinal uses. How did this plant go from being used medicinally to becoming the central ingredient in s’mores? Susan Benjamin is the author of Sweet As Sin: The Unwrapped Story of How Candy Became America’s Favorite Pleasure, and the owner of a research-based, historic candy company. She will be giving a talk at the Buckland Public Library on the history of sweets such as marshmallows, chewing gum, and candy bars. Samples will be available and copies of Benjamin’s book will also be available for sale. 413-625-9412. Buckland, MA. (DONATION)

FIBER ARTS/SKILLSHARING
Friday, May 20, 6:30pm
You might think of lace as an inherently delicate fabric pattern or form. But lace patterns made through needle-tatting can be comparatively durable. Tatting is a technique used to make traditional lace items such as doilies, linings and collars, as well as jewelry items like pendants and earrings. You can learn needle-tatting or practice your needle-tatting skills with beginners at the Northfield Public Library. 413-498-2455. 115 Main Street, Northfield, MA. (FREE)

Totally new to needle tatting? Watch this introductory video for beginners to get a sense of the art and techniques.

Hampshire County

LITERACY/WRITING
Monday, May 16, 5pm
Middle grade books, those written for readers roughly ages eight to twelve, are a wonderful resource for kids. Authors who write these books written specifically for children must appeal to their interests, their vocabulary level, and their maturity level. Middle grade books are typically safe worlds where the characters may encounter some danger, but they will come out of it okay. National Book Award-winning author Jeanne Birdsall and Bank Street Best Book Award-winning Susan Hill Long will be discussing their latest middle grade books, The Magic Mirror, and The Penderwicks respectively. Come to the Odyssey Bookshop for a discussion of these books. This all ages event may interest middle grade readers as well as their parents. Children’s book writers are also welcome to come learn from two experienced writers. 413-534-7307. 9 College Street, South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

POETRY
Monday, May 16, 7pm
Meet Maria Luisa Arroyo, Poet Laureate of Springfield, and Janet Aalfs, emeritus Poet Laureate of Northampton, as the share poems of hope, transformation, and cultural exchange at White Square Books.  413-203-1717.Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

CHORAL MUSIC
Monday, May 16, 7pm
Northern Harmony, a shifting group of musicians which was established in 1993, combines traditional choral sounds with world music for a stunning result. Members of the group have studied music from South Africa, Bulgaria, Corsica and Caucasus Georgia. This group of local musicians will be performing in the West Cummington Church.27 West Main Street, Cummington, MA. (DONATION)

AROMACHOLOGY/BOTANY
Wednesday, May 18, 8:30am-4pm
What are perfumes made of? It depends on the scent the perfume creators want. Flowers and other plants will create an Earthy, floral fragrance. Other natural ingredients could include spices, fruits, wood, roots, or resins. Alcohol often serves as a base. You can learn about the use of plant scents in this Smith College exhibit in the Lyman Conservatory. You will be able to sample a French fragrance, Datura Noir. This exhibit will be open daily from 8:30am-4pm until May 31st. College Lane, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

PERMACULTURE
Wednesday, May 18, 6:30pm-8pm
Permaculture, a form of agriculture which focuses on reflecting natural ecosystems, can be executed on a large or small scale. Ecological designers sometimes implement large-scale permaculture projects which are integrated into food systems. You can also execute small-scale permaculture projects in the form of backyard gardens. Lisa DePiano will be giving this workshop on permaculture basics at River Valley Co Op. Call 413-584-2665 or sign up at Customer Service330 North King Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

FILM STUDIES/RELIGIOUS STUDIES
Wednesday, May 18, 7pm
The 2006 documentary, Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama features a conversational interview with Tenzin Gyasto, the 14th Dalai Lama. Director Rick Ray poses questions such as: “Why do the poor seem happier than the rich?” and “Should countries be dedicated to preserving their traditions or embrace modern culture?” This film provides a great introduction to the concepts of Tibetan Buddhism and Eastern philosophy, as well as some modern political issues occurring in China and Tibet. Amherst Cinema</b 413-253-2547. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (<$)

RENEWABLE ENERGY
Wednesday, May 18, 7pm-9pm
One way to explore sustainable energy options and conduct research on the topic is to look at what different countries and communities are doing. Heather Smith has conducted research on community energy systems in Adelaide South Australia, where 40% of its electricity from wind and solar energy and 25% of households have rooftop solar systems. Heather will be discussing her findings, and comparing to local systems in the Pioneer Valley. Come join in the discussion at the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence. 413- 584-1390. 220 Main Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Solar energy is a promising renewable energy source. Learn how solar panels convert solar energy into usable electricity in this brief video by NOVA/PBS:

WOODWORKING
Thursday, May 19, 5pm-7pm
Friday, May 20, 5pm-7pm
Woodworking can be a hobby or a full-fledged business. This is a practical art form which requires patience, spatial reasoning, and creativity. Vermont woodworker and artist Scott Nehring taught himself these skills and has applied them to his business, making custom furniture, architecture, and violins. An exhibit of his work will run from May 19-May 27th at Stamell Stringed Instruments. Come to the opening reception to learn about woodworking as well as stringed instruments. 413-256-0936. 18 Kellogg Avenue, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

PSYCHOLOGY/HEALTH
Friday, May 20, 12:30pm-5pm
Parents, educators, and others who regularly interacts with teens, need to know how to identify a mental health crisis and act accordingly. This Youth Mental Health First Aid training will identify common mental health challenges for young people and outlines steps to take in a crisis, or non crisis situation. This course will covers topics such as anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders and eating disorders. 413-582-0471 Ext. 5559. 8 Atwood Drive, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

SKILLSHARING/TOYS
Friday, May 20, 7pm-9pm
The classically popular toy Yo-Yo, is an example of a skill toy, an object designed for dexterity play and manipulation for theatrical effect. Jump ropes, hoola hoops, and boomerangs are other examples. If you’re an expert or just interested in skill toys, come to a casual meet up of skill toy users, hosted by A2Z Science and Learning Store. This Skill Toy Night will take place in Eastworks. 116 Pleasant Street, Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Be inspired and amazed by this yo-yo performance by Akitoshi Tokubuchi, the 2013 Japan National Yo-Yo Champion.

Hampden County

STEM/COMPUTER BASICS
Monday, May 16, 6:30pm
The Storrs Library has been supporting community members who wish to boost their technological skills, with tech workshops on Monday evenings. On May 16th, the workshop leader will go over the basics for using Twitter, a social media platform used by businesses, organizations, and politicians to spread important news, events, and information. Call the reference desk at 413-565-4181 ext. 1620 to register. 413-565-4181. Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

MUSIC STUDIES/CULTURAL STUDIES
Wednesday, May 18, 6:30pm-8pm
Many stringed instruments, including the oud, the harp, and the saz, originated in Middle Eastern regions. In the Middle East, traditional music remains popular, while Western-influenced, new genres are also emerging. Edward J. Hines has conducted extensive research covering the composition, performance and theory of Middle Eastern music. He will be discussing Middle Eastern folk and classical music traditions at the Westfield Athenaeum. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

STEM/CODING
Thursday, May 19, 5:30pm-7:30pm
HTML, HyperText Markup Language, provides basic structures of web pages. CSS, Cascading Style Sheets, is another coding language which can be used in conjunction with HTML to determine visual elements of a web page. This Holyoke Codes will get you started on your own web page using basic HTML and CSS. This workshop is best suited for ages ten and up. Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. 100 Bigelow Street, Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

POETRY
Thursday, May 19, 6pm-7:30pm
During National Poetry Month, in April, readers and writers across the nation celebrated the influence poetry has had in their lives. April is also a popular month for writing new poems,, and now it’s time to share! Participants in the Westfield Athenaeum’s adult poetry contest will be showcasing their work in the Jasper Rand Art Gallery. Come hear modern poetry from local writers and enjoy refreshments. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

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