25 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Potatoes to Apples. Bridges to Kites.

Autumn is a time for festivals, bringing people together in celebration of beautiful weather and a bountiful fall harvest. Festival of the Hills on Sunday, October 2, 10am-4pm is an annual family-friendly celebration. Rain or shine. Historic Conway Center, Route 116. Conway, MA. (FREE admission and parking)

Kites to Bridges. Symphony to En Plein Air Painting. 3D Printing to Robotics.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:  War reenactments are a highly engaging form of living history. For families interested in history, learning about the role citizens of your town played in various wars is one way of engaging with national history on a local level. You and your family can learn about the Civil War by attending a reenactment in Look Park on Saturday, October 1, 11am-5pm. You can also hear from Shades of Gray, a civil war era camp band. 413-584-5457. 300 North Main Street. Florence, MA. (FREE)

Guided WalksMakerspaceRoboticsKitesBridgesPotato FestivalApple HistoryCivil War6  ♦ Revolutionary WarLiving HistoryThe ArtsFall FestivalsShaker HistoryHaunted HistoryCemetery WalksAstronomyArchaeology

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Guided Walks

We’re rich in walking tours here in western Massachusetts, an excellent community-based educational learning activity families can do together. Unlike scheduled tours guided by interpreters, self-guided walking tours offer lots of flexibility. Families can use walking tours as a way to expand on a subject that children learn about in school. Alternately, families can utilize available tours as a means of answering questions that they’ve stumbled upon together. Find out more about these local resources in our post, Over 25 Walking Tours Support Community-Based Education in Western MA.

Saturday, October 1, 10am-11:30am
Western Massachusetts’ landscape is filled with rivers. Through explorations of local rivers, families can discover local ecology, connect with local history, and deepen their sense of place. Florence’s inaugural RiverWalk will teach participants about industrial activity and the abolitionist movement. The walk will be a mile and a half long, but participants are welcome to attend just for the first half mile and then return to their car. The RiverWalk will also mark the reveal of the new Florence Self-Guided Tour Brochure. The tour is limited to 20 participants. Email The Mill River Greenway Initiative at info@millrivergreenway.org to register. Florence, MA. (FREE)

In Western MA we are so fortunate to have easy access to nature in our communities through local trails, nature preserves, and forests. This diversity of options inspires naturalists and conservation-minded enthusiasts to lead guided walks, hikes, and river paddling trips, teaching the richness of our local landscapes and biodiversity. Find our about guided & self-guided hikes and Vistas in our Sept/Oct Season edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA.


3D printing, a type of industrial robot which can synthesize three dimensional objects for a variety of purposes, is one of the most exciting technological, scientific, and creative innovations of recent years. Local libraries and other learning centers have begun to support an interest in engineering, technology, and creativity by housing 3D printers and providing demonstrations of the technology. There are several upcoming opportunities for families to learn about and utilize this new technology their your own projects. Read more in our post, 3D Printing Resources at Local Libraries Supporting STE(A)M.

Saturday, October 1, 10am-12pm
3D printing, a type of industrial robot which can synthesize three dimensional objects for a variety of purposes, is one of the most exciting technological, scientific, and creative innovations of recent years. Learning how to use a 3D printer is one way to support interests in engineering, technology, and even artistic creativity. This makerspace workshop at the Greenfield Public Library will feature a 3D Printer, a CNC Router, and opportunities to use many materials. This program is designed for ages 8-12. Registration is required. 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Monday, October 3, 5:30pm-7:30pm
Robotics is a fascinating branch of engineering and computer science. Robots can be made purely for fun, for some practical purpose, and even for artistic purposes. This Holyoke Codes Robotics Lab, offers participants the opportunity to create robots with LEGO EV3 MINDSTORMS kits. Learn about cause and effect, computer science, and engineering while practicing your creativity. Novices are invited to come learn all about robotics, while experts are equally welcome to come and share their knowledge. Ages seven and up. 413- 552-4900. Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. 100 Bigelow Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)


Sunday, October 2, 11am-2pm
The Clark Art Institute Family Day invites people of all ages to come appreciate artwork on display, as well as making artwork of their own. Family Day offers tons of free activities in addition to touring the collection and current exhibit, Sensing Place: Reflecting on Stone Hill. There will also be poetry readings, eco art-making projects, dancing, and music. The event also marks the return of Kite Day, a Williamstown tradition. Inherently educational, kites are filled with lessons in aerodynamics, math, physics, culture, history and earth sciences. Read more over at EducationWorld.com then bring a kite to fly on Stone Hill. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Kites are intrinsically educational, including how they have shared history. In this video, get the story behind the legend of Benjamin Franklin and his “discover” of electricity with an experiment that involved the kite:


A handful of local paths and trails provide access to the natural and human history contained on the banks of western Massachusetts rivers. From short, interpretive paths to remnants of ancient trail systems, these paths and trails bring families closer to the waters that sustain the landscape. Read more in our post, Urban And Rural River Walks and Trails Highlight Natural and Human History.

Saturday, October 1, 10am-1:30pm
The Keystone Arches, part of a railroad bridge over the Westfield River, are not only a beautiful structure but in fact changed the landscape and transportation far beyond Western Massachusetts. Without this bridge we would not have what is currently the longest and highest railroad in the world, the Western Pacific Railroad. To learn more about the history of the structure, you can participate in a guided hike led by David Pierce. Call 413-354-7752 to register. Chester Railway Museum. 10 Prospect Street. Chester, MA. (FREE)

But why are bridges so sturdy? Take a look at how bridges work and the different shapes used to make a strong bridge…

Harvest Celebration

“Baked or fried, boiled or roasted, as chips or fries; at some point in your life you’ve probably eaten a potato. But potatoes have played a much more significant role in our history than just that of the dietary staple we have come to know and love today. Leo Bear-McGuinness shares how without the potato, our modern civilization might not exist at all.” – TED-Ed

View full lesson: History through the eyes of the potato – Leo Bear-McGuinness

Saturday, October 1, 10am-6pm
As the weather gets colder, it’s time to start thinking about warm recipes which provide comfort in fall and winter. The 2nd annual Potato Festival in Sunderland is an opportunity to support local farms and purchase fresh ingredients for your fall cooking. Meet other community members and exchange recipes as you celebrate a beloved local crop. Smiarowski Farmstand And Creamery. 413-665-3830. 320 River Road. Sunderland, MA. (MARKET/SALE)

“Have you ever walked into a grocery store and wondered where all the varieties of apples came from? You might find SnapDragon, Pixie Crunch, Cosmic Crisp, Jazz, or Ambrosia next to the more familiar Red Delicious and Granny Smith. So why are there so many types? Theresa Doud describes the ins and outs of breeding apples. ” – TED-Ed

View full lesson: Why are there so many types of apples? – Theresa Doud

Saturday, October 1, 9:30am-5pm; Sunday, October 2, 9:30am-5pm
Attending an “Apple Day” at Old Sturbridge Village can teach you about local and New England history through food culture. Participants will be able to make cider and see the ox-powered Cider Mill in operation. You can learn about how varieties of apples are created, taste some nearly forgotten heirloom apple varieties, and pick your own! 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. Sturbridge, MA. (Adult $$; 3-17 $; children age 2 and under FREE )

War History

Saturday, October 1, 11am-5pm
War reenactments are a highly engaging form of living history. For families interested in history, learning about the role citizens of your town played in various wars is one way of engaging with national history on a local level. You and your family can learn about the Civil War by attending a reenactment in Look Park. You can also hear from Shades of Gray, a civil war era camp band. 413-584-5457. 300 North Main Street. Florence, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, October 1, 2pm
Opened as an arsenal to support George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War, the Springfield Armory served as a major arms manufacturing center for over two centuries. The Armory closed in 1968, becoming a National Historic Site which now provides opportunities to explore the intersection of local and national history. You are invited to the Springfield Armory National Historic Site to learn about the Vietnam War from a local perspective, discovering what kinds of weapons were used and seeing weapons produced by the armory. Some weapons highlighted will include: the M79 grenade launcher, the M60 machine gun, the “minigun” as well as the Eugene Stoner designed Stoner 63 (in both belt and magazine fed configurations). 413-734-8551. One Armory Square. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

The Arts

Saturday, October 1, 11:30am-12:30pm
Tanglewood is an historic music venue, as well as the location for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer academy for advanced musical study. As such, it has a rich musical history. You can join a BSO guide for a tour of the Tanglewood campus, the Koussevitzky Music Shed, and Ozawa Hall. This half mile tour will take approximately one hour. Call 617-638-9390 to register. 297 West Street. Lenox, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, October 1, 12am-11pm
You can celebrate diversity through dance, performance, art, cuisine and more at the Harvest of Hope festival and dance party! One goal of this event is to create a greater sense of unity through the catalyst of creativity. Community members will come together to share and enjoy storytelling, collective art creation, theater arts, spoken and musical performances, a planetary puppet procession, live civic workshops, and tables held by partnering organizations and sponsors on social, economic, and environmental topics. Events will take place on The Common and at The Whitney Center for the Arts.. 413-841-0298. Pittsfield, MA. (DONATION)

Saturday, October 1, 1pm
Sculptor Nancy Schön, is known for her sculptures inspired by children’s literature. You may have seen her sculpted depiction of Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings in the Boston Public Garden or characters from A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh at Newton Free Library (Newton, MA). You can meet Nancy and learn about her various public art projects, which includes Boston’s first public skate park, at this lecture at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. This program is free with museum admission. 413-658-1100. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. (<$)

En plein air is a French expression meaning “in the open air.” It’s used in English to describe a painting style that occurs outdoors. Made possible historically by the manufacturing of paint into tubes, artists no longer had to mix their paints in the studio from chemical compounds, freeing them to travel outdoors for inspiration. When participating in plein air painting, artists become fully engaged with the fall landscape through perspective, composition and, most importantly, color! Watercolors are the most portable and easiest to clean up, but plein air painting can be done in any medium – oil paint, acrylic, pastels, etc. – and by any age. Read more in our Sept/Oct Season edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA.

Saturday, October 1, 1pm-3:30pm and 6pm-8pm
Celebrate local landscapes through brand new artwork! Plein air painters are invited to depict outdoor scenes, painting from 1pm-3:30pm at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead (Cummington), Notchview (Windsor), and The Chesterfield Gorge (Chesterfield). Then, from 6pm-8pm, all artwork created will be displayed in an art show at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead. All are welcome to paint, watch the painting, or witness the final product displayed in the evening art show. A hike will also be offered for those who do not wish to paint. For more information, call the Trustees at 413-628-4485 x3. 207 Bryant Road. Cummington, MA. (<$)

Thursday, October 6, 12:15pm-1pm
Even if you are not an art scholar, you have most likely seen the iconic paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-1593), a European artist who used images of fruits, vegetables, and flowers to create allegorical portraits of emperors. Art historians and those interested in learning about art history are invited to the Springfield Museums to view a documentary film about this artist’s life and work.The audience is invited to bring a lunch to enjoy during the program. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (<$)

Fall Festivals

Saturday, October 1, 12am-3pm
Fall festivals are a local tradition which can connect you to your town as well as New England history. The Williamstown Fall Festival will feature educational, hands-on activities including traditional shake-splitting and a cross-cut saw competition. The event, held at the 2600 acre Hopkins Forest, will also have music, apple butter and cider production, refreshments, a canopy walkway, an active honey bee hive, and children’s activities including a crafts table. For more information call 413-597-4353. Hopkins Forest. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, October 2, 10am-4pm
Autumn is a time for festivals, bringing people together in celebration of beautiful weather and a bountiful fall harvest. Festival of the Hills is a family-friendly gathering featuring live music, the famed “skillet toss,” craft fair, parade, log splitting contest, art, blacksmithing, weaving, local products and food. Kids’ activities include hay maze, hill slide, children’s book signing, and more. The event will take place rain or shine. Historic Conway Center, Route 116. Conway, MA. (FREE admission and parking)

Sunday, October 2, 1pm
The Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Parade is a celebration of changing seasons, fall harvest, and community. Attending the parade is a chance to appreciate the natural beauty of New England and the Berkshires. The parade is entering its 61st year. All past grand marshals are welcome to join in the parade. The parade will commence at the Ocean State Job Lots parking lot, and conclude on Ashland Street after passing through downtown via Main Street. North Adams, MA. (FREE)

Shaker History

Saturday, October 1, 1pm-3pm
The Shaker Trail in Hancock Massachusetts is a spiritual “feast ground” for the Shaker community, and a resource for historical learning about both the town and the Shakers. You can participate in a moderately difficult hike of significant sites including remains of mill sites, the North Family dwelling site (active from 1821-1867), and the summit of the mountain, where the Shakers held special celebratory services in the mid-19th century. Call 413-443-0188 x-0 to register. Meet at the Hancock Shaker Village Visitor Center/ticket desk. 413-443-0188. 1843 West Housatonic Street. Pittsfield MA. (FREE)

Haunted History

Towns across Western Massachusetts have tales of haunted historic buildings, ghost sightings, and supernatural suspicions that lead people to wonder whether a place is haunted or not. Haunted tales are sometimes rooted in actual events or historical accounts from people of the past, and can add to the lore of a place. Find out about Cemetery Tours and Local Hauntings in our Sept/Oct Season edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA.

Saturday, October 1, 4pm
Accompanying fall’s spook-filled Halloween celebrations come opportunities to explore and learn about cemeteries and graveyards across western Massachusetts. Filled with stone markers that chronicle a community’s history, local cemeteries can provide visitors with a look deep into the past. The Stockbridge Library will be leading this cemetery walk, “Stories of Church Street: Home to Both Famous and Memorable.” Learn about local history through a personal lens of known and unknown local figures. 413-298-5501. 46 Main Street. Stockbridge, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, October 2, 2pm
Have you ever wondered what the gravestone art in the Palmer’s cemeteries mean? This program at the Palmer Historical and Cultural Center will take you on a virtual tour of Palmer’s cemeteries through a photography exhibition by artist Terry McMaster and an illustrated lecture by popular cemetery educators The Gravestone Girls. Learn the stories behind some of the cemetery’s oldest graves. 413-289-9295. 2072 Main Street. Three Rivers, MA. (FREE)

Monday, October 3, 6:30pm-8pm
Studying cemeteries provides insight into local history, as well as broader cultural trends. The subject even intersects with an interest in art, through the practice of gravestone rubbing. The Gravestone Girls are cemetery educators, who will be presenting a virtual tour, called “Welcome to the Graveyard”, centered on Agawam’s seven local cemeteries. The presentation at the Agawam Public Library will display photographs recently taken in the burying places around Agawam, and chart the evolution of cemeteries and gravestones from the colonial era into the 21 st century. 413-789-1550. 750 Cooper Street. Agawam, MA. (FREE)


Being accessible to everyone, everywhere, at all times, the sky is the ultimate community-based educational resource! Using a wealth of resources from books to apps, citizen science to local planetariums, families can explore outer space together and learn experientially about the sky above us. Read more in our post, Astronomy Resources for Budding Scientists.

Saturday, October 1, 7pm-9pm
One great thing about the earlier sunsets of fall and winter is that those longer nights means more time for exploring the night sky. Amateur astronomer Rick Costello will be at the Lenox Library with his 16 inch reflecting telescope. Attendees are invited to an informative lecture, “Our place in the stars,” in the Welles Gallery, followed by an outdoor participatory viewing. Check for planets, stars, and the Orion Nebula. All ages are welcome. 413-637-0197. 18 Main Street. Lenox, MA. (FREE)

Friday, October 7, 7:30pm-9:30pm
An interest in studying astronomy can develop from an interest in mathematical calculation, or a simple appreciation for the beauty of the sky. Families can share their interest in astronomy with one another by attending a Stars Over Springfield night at the Springfield Museums. These programs are are best suited for families with children ages 8 and older, however younger children are also welcome. If it is cloudy, a planetarium show will be presented in place of telescope viewing. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (<$)

Friday, October 7, 8pm
While some people lament the shorter days of fall and winter, longer nights provide more chances to learn about astronomy through observations of the night sky! The Old Hopkins Observatory and planetarium at Williams College are rich resources for learning about astronomy, as well as the history of the topic. The Hopkins Observatory, built in 1836-38 by the first professor of astronomy at Williams College, Albert Hopkins, is the oldest extant observatory in the United States. Astronomy students at the College will host this free show, open to the public. Attendees will learn about topics such as retrograde motions of the planets, phases of the moon, the varying temperatures/colors of stars, locations of neighboring galaxies, and more. 413-597-2188. Main Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)


Sunday, October 2, 10am
It’s Massachusetts Archaeology Month! The Emily Dickinson Museum invites you to learn about archaeology, local history, and poetry through a presentation and walking tour at the museum. Learn about the work the University of Massachusetts Amherst archaeological field school has done and what they have uncovered on the grounds of the museum. No registration is required. 413-542-2947. 280 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (Members FREE; Non members <$)

Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Amherst, Blandford, Bernardston, Chesterfield, Erving, Holyoke, Montague, Montgomery, Pelham, Shutesbury, South Hadley, Springfield, Warwick and Williamsburg Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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