Peruse our list below and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!
Featured community highlight this week: When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. At the Berkshire Museum’s Instrument Petting Zoo on Thursday, February 23, 2pm-3pm, participants will be able to see, listen to, and play lots of different instruments! Picking the right instrument is an important factor for sustaining a lifelong hobby of musicianship. Explore risk-free as part of Ten Days of Play 2017. Included with regular museum admission. Check out a museum pass from your library for free admission. To find out which local library has free museum passes for borrowing, check our Educational Support & Local Resources page. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street. Route 7. Pittsfield, MA. ($; children under 18 <$; members, ages three and under FREE)
Archery ♦ Philosophy ♦ Ornithology ♦ Guided Hike ♦ Film Studies ♦ Paleontology ♦ Nature Photography ♦ Art Studies ♦ Ice Harvesting ♦ Astronomy ♦ Poetry ♦ Winter Sports ♦ Critical Thinking ♦ Dance Studies ♦ Zoology ♦ Citizen Science ♦ African American History ♦ Music Studies ♦ Figure Drawing ♦ Nature Center ♦ Intergenerational ♦ Aviation
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What does it mean to live a good life? In this episode of Crash Course, consider what it means to live a good life via the myth of Sisyphus, Robert Nozick’s experience machine, Aristotle’s eudaimonistic picture of a good human life, and existentialism.
School vacation week is for the birds! For learning about them, that is. Opportunities for exploring the local landscape through a feather-centric lens abound! Kick off school vacation week by participating in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, an event that engages communities all over the world as citizen scientists. Families can easily participate by spending at least fifteen minutes watching their backyard and keeping track of the different bird species who visit them. The Great Backyard Bird Count takes place all weekend, so familiesSi can collect data anytime between Friday, February 17, through Monday, February 20, 2017.
BIRDS OF PREY
Saturday, February 18, 9am-5pm
Springfield Armory National Historic Site will host raptor rehabilitator Tom Ricardi and his Birds of Prey presentation. At this live, interactive bird show you can learn about species of raptors who make their home in the Pioneer Valley. See live raptors up close, learn about their adaptations and the importance of local habitat preservation for their survival. Birds of prey shows are an engaging way to learn about biology, habitat, and wildlife preservation. This exciting live show will be great for the whole family and will give kids a chance to get up close to these incredible birds. 413-734-8551. One Armory Square. Springfield, MA. (FREE)
BIRDS OF PREY
Saturday, February 18, 1pm
Raptor rehabilitation is a veterinary field focused on nursing sick birds of prey with the hope of returning them to the wild. Julie Ann Collier is a raptor rehabilitator, and one half of the partnership, Wingmasters. She will be running a live, educational bird show with owls, falcons and more at Grace Hall Memorial Library. Learn about the role of birds as predators as well as how humans have interacted with them in her program: Ancient Civilizations. 413-862-3894. 161 Main Road. Montgomery, MA. (FREE)
FALCONRY/CULTURE & GENDER STUDIES
Monday, February 20, 1:30pm
Films are an integral part of modern culture, with family films teaching kids about life through access to all kinds of narratives. KidsBestFest, an annual, free film festival at the Academy of Music Theatre, will be screening The Eagle Huntress (Rated G). This 2016 documentary features breathtaking views of the Mongolian landscape, while telling the inspiring story of a young girl who becomes the first female in her family to become an eagle hunter. Great film to support studies in gender equality, the Kazakh people, history of falconry, and Mongolia. Click here to download a study guide to pair with a screening of this film. 413-584-9032. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)
Wednesday, February 22, 12:30pm
In the spring and summer months you undoubtedly notice the increase in bird populations. Where do these migratory birds go in the winter? How far do they travel and what is their journey like? You and your family can find out by viewing the visually stunning 2001 film Winged Migration (Rated G) at Amherst Cinema. These filmmakers used state-of-the-art technology to capture flocks of birds in flight. This film is being screened as part of Amherst Cinema’s “Science on Screen” series. Bird expert and nursery manager at the Hadley Garden Center, Dan Ziomek, will introduce the film, adding to the educational experience of the screening by teaching audience members even more about migratory birds. 413- 253-2547. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (<$)
In addition to field guides and birding apps, families can learn more about birds by reading some of these informative children’s books:
- Birdsong by Audrey Wood
- She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head! By Kathryn Lasky
- Birds, Nests & Eggs by Mel Boring
- Flute’s Journey: The Life of a Wood Thrush by Lynne Cherry
- Luck: The Story of a Sandhill Crane by Jean Craighead George
Saturday, February 18, 10am-12pm
With a careful eye you can find evidence of coyote, fox, porcupine, beaver, and the fierce fisher in our local habitat. Your nature hikes will soon be opportunities to track local wildlife and learn about ecology. Expert naturalist John Body will be teaching a workshop at Marble Brook to teach participants the skills of animal tracking. This workshop is limited to 20 participants. Heavy snow or rain cancels. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register and for directions. Northampton, MA. (FREE)
Saturday, February 18 through Sunday, February 26, 10am-4pm
This February school vacation week, keep the learning going by visiting a nature center!
Great Falls Discovery Center invites visitors engage in self-directed learning through the beautiful and realistic interpretive displays detailing the natural, cultural, and industrial history of the Connecticut River watershed. Saturday, February 18 through Sunday, February 26 the center will be expanding their hours and providing investigation stations on various topics. Saturday, February 18 through Monday, February 20, come learn about mammal adaptations! 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)
Tuesday, February 21, 1pm
Does your child like observing animals? This natural interest in animal studies can potentially grow into a study of biology, nature studies, veterinary studies and much more. Children ages seven and up, and their caregivers, are invited to the live animal show “Jungle Encounters: Prey or Predator?” at Grace Hall Memorial Library to see small, live, wild cats! Attendees will learn how wild cats, like Bobcats, Savannah Cats and Bengal cats survive in nature. 413-862-3894. 161 Main Road. Montgomery, MA. (FREE)
Friday, February 24, 1:30pm
Films are an integral part of modern culture, with family films teaching kids about life through access to all kinds of narratives. KidsBestFest, an annual, free film festival at the Academy of Music Theatre, celebrates the best in films created for and by youth! The 2017 festival will run daily from February 20 through February 24. Attend the final day and get a taste of the next generation of filmmakers! The festival will culminate with YouthFilm, a screening of movies created by young filmmakers. Filmmaking is often a collaborative art form, incorporating writing, music, acting, directing, editing and much more. Filmmaking can connect young people to each other and to make other artistic art forms. Kids and teens are bound to be inspired by YouthFilm! 413-584-9032. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)
Making Democracy Work in My Community is a video contest for Massachusetts teens. The contest asks young people to create a two-minute video about a person who is “making democracy work.” This challenges teens to think about leaders who foster dialogues, organize action, and encourage civic participation from other community members. The contest will amplify young voices as teens have the chance to articulate what they admire about their chosen community leaders. Finally, the contest will have the broader impact of shining a spotlight on politically active people in our neighborhoods, thus encouraging everyone to get more involved in the democratic process. Find out more in our post, Teen Video Contest Highlights Activist Leaders.
Saturday, February 18, 1pm-4pm
Extinct species tell us a lot about evolution and the history of the Earth. Dinosaurs are particularly interesting because of their, in some cases, massive size. Holyoke Heritage State Park has a new family learning exhibit, Reading The Rocky Book of the Past: Dinosaur Footprints in the Connecticut River Valley. People of all ages can expand their knowledge of dinosaurs and their connection to our area. There will be hands-on aspects to this exhibition including a “make your own” takeaway activity and dinosaur track reproductions. Using dinosaurs as an entry-point, you can make science fun while offering youth opportunities for learning about evolutionary biology, ancient history, geology and archaeology. 413-534-1723. 221 Appleton Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Did you know that the world’s largest collection of dinosaur tracks is housed at Amherst College in the Beneski Museum of Natural History? The Museum offers opportunities for families and students to learn about the natural history of the Pioneer Valley and many other parts of the world. There are over 1,700 specimens (including skeletons of a mammoth, cave bear, and saber-tooth cat, and skulls of a tyrannosaurus rex and a triceratops!), some from as far away as Patagonia, housed at the Museum, along with several collections, including anthropology, ichthyology, meteorites, mineralogy, osteology, paleobotany and taxidermy. Read more in our post, Museum Adventures: Beneski Museum.
Saturday, February 18, 2pm-4:15pm
Want to improve your photography skills? Before you buy an expensive camera, see what you can do with what you already have. Bring your smartphone and a seasoned photographer will show you the best settings, techniques, and apps to capture the beautiful winter scenes at Notchview. Photography can be a great metaphor for attitude and personality. Two people can capture the same image with a completely different focus, even creating different moods from the same scene. See what your creative lens reveals. Registration is required required. For more information call The Trustees at 413-628-4485 ex 3. 83 Old Route 9. Windsor, MA. (<$)
Saturday, February 18, 6pm-7:30pm
Artists, circus performers and interested audience members are invited to the SHOW Circus Studio for a unique performance of physical and one-dimensional art. Show Circus students will perform their act and artists are invited to gather inspiration from their movements, recreating the performance in sketches on the page. Using the tools available, trained circus performers will serve as models for an audience of artists, exploring the form and figure unique to the motions of circus performance. During Circus Sketch Lab’s community events, performers will serve as models while also working to create a new performance – thus exposing vulnerabilities and allowing the audience to witness (and create from) their own creative process. For more information, visit the SHOW Circus Studio Facebook page. 150 Pleasant Street, Suite 313. Easthampton MA. (<$)
Historically, living without refrigerators in New England required strategies for prolonged food storage and preservation. In the November/December Seasons edition of Learning Ahead, we looked at different forms of food preservation such as curing, salting, and canning. Early New Englanders didn’t have the luxury of refrigerators, but they did harvest ice from frozen lakes and ponds in order to keep food stored without spoiling. The frozen chunks of ice harvested were kept insulated by materials such as sawdust in a dark, cool place so that the ice would last beyond the winter months. The ice harvesting industry in Massachusetts even sent frozen chunks of ice all over the world. Ice would be shipped across the Atlantic to London and was one of America’s biggest cash crop commodities, measured by weight. Given New England’s ice harvesting traditions, many local historical societies and museums demonstrate the tools and methods used when harvesting ice from frozen lakes and ponds. Witness firsthand how ice harvesting was done in New England through living history demonstrations.
LIVING HISTORY/ICE HARVESTING
Monday, February 20, 11am-2pm
Dennis Picard, director of Storrowton Village Museum, will be presenting an ice harvesting demonstration at Eastern States Exposition to illustrate ice harvesting in New England History. In the 19th century, ice harvesting was the ninth largest trade in the United States! This event will take place on the lagoon, located inside Gate 9 of the exposition grounds. For more information, call the Storrowton Village museum at 413-205-5051. 1305 Memorial Avenue. West Springfield, MA. (DONATION)
Further your learning about the local ice harvesting industry by utilizing an online resource made available by the Southwick Historical Society: Southwick’s Harvested Ice Empire. Filled with photographs and informative materials, the web page chronicles the rise and fall of the booming ice harvesting industry in Southwick where, thanks to a nearby railroad, it was possible to harvest and transport ice straight to New York City.
Monday, February 20, 6:30pm
Winter, with its longer nights and shorter days, is a great time to explore the subject of astronomy through observation. Before the days lengthen considerably in the coming months, take advantage by exploring this topic of study which intersects with mathematics and physics. StarLab of Springfield Museums will be giving people of all ages an introduction to astronomy with their portable planetarium, at Grace Hall Memorial Library. Registration is required. Space is limited. 413-862-3894. 161 Main Road. Montgomery, MA. (FREE)
Friday, February 24, 8pm
Astronomy is a natural science which applies mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Astronomers use various mathematical and scientific methods to answer questions such as the distance between celestial bodies, their physical movements, and even their origins. Studying astronomy formally can appeal to people with strong mathematical and scientific inclinations. At the same time, nearly anyone can appreciate the beauty and wonder of the night sky. Whether your interest is scientific, artistic, or spiritual in nature, you can learn about astronomy by attending free shows for the public held at the Milham Planetarium, located inside the Old Hopkins Observatory at Williams College. Astronomy students will use the Zeiss Skymaster to demonstrate phenomena such as retrograde motions of planets, phases of the moon, and locations of neighboring galaxies. They will teach audiences about mythological figures and zodiacal signs ascribed to constellations, artificial satellites, and much more. Shows run Fridays through through May 12, with the exception of March 17, 24, and 31. Call 413-597-2188 for reservations. 829 Main Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)
Did you know that poetry may actually predate the written word? Today, in a world full of written prose, this can be hard to imagine. In a time of strictly oral communication, however, poetic forms had not only aesthetic but highly practical purposes. Due to the often rhythmic and rhyming nature of poems, poetry can be easier to remember than prose, and poetry can be used as a mnemonic device. Metered (rhythmic) and rhyming phrases were once recited, or sung, in order to remember and convey oral history, genealogy, and even law! Do you or someone you know like to write poetry? Why not participate in the Greenfield Public Library’s 26th Annual Poet’s Seat Poetry Contest, open to all Franklin County teen and adult poets.
Monday, February 20, 7:30pm
Many authors are drawn to more than one genre of literature, writing and reading across broad categories of subject matter and form. Laura Kasischke is author of both poetry and prose, having written ten poetry collections as well as ten novels and a collection of short stories. She will be reading some of her poetry at Smith College. Expand your literary network by meeting other poets and fans of poetry, and asking questions of this accomplished author. Neilson Library Browsing Room. 7 Neilson Drive. Northampton, MA. (FREE)
Saturday, February 18, 10am
The 1926 film The General (not rated) provides is an interesting case-study in how critical reception changes over time. This action-comedy, created in the silent era of film-making, was not well-received upon its initial release. Today, however, it is a highly respected work often ranking among the best American films of all time. The film tells the story of character Johnnie Gray, a train engineer who tries and fails to enlist in the army during the Civil War. The plot is a comedy of errors and misunderstandings. You can see it at Amherst Cinema as part of their Family Films Series. 413- 253-2547. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (<$)
For some, winter is greeted with a sense of reluctance – gone are the bright sunny days of summer filled with lush deciduous trees, rushing streams, colorful wildflowers, and easy temperatures. Instead, the natural landscape changes completely as do our routines and recreational activities. Whereas summer is boisterous and full, winter is quiet and still – similar to how snow quietly builds on the ground during a storm – it’s a part of what makes wintertime feel so magical. How do we experience the outdoors during a time of year when we are often so inclined to stay indoors, looking at the outside world from the window? There are many ways to remain active and engaged with the outdoors during the winter season. Nordic skiing, alpine skiing, ice skating, and snowshoeing are a few examples of different activities that encourage New Englanders to get outside, stay fit, and maintain a healthy lifestyle while connecting them to local places during the cold winter months.
Tuesday, February 21, 8:45am-3:30pm
Tuesday, February 21, to Friday, February 24, 8:45am-3:30pm: Kids ski and chill out during school vacation week at Notchview! In the morning, kids learn to ski or fine tune their skiing skills with knowledgeable ski instructors. After a full morning of cross-country skiing on the trails, everyone heads back to the lodge for lunch followed by an afternoon of choice activities including more outdoor exploration of the woods or indoor arts and crafts. Lunch included! Ages 7-12. There are still spots available! Members: $288; Nonmembers: $360. To register email email@example.com or call 413-628-4485 x3. Windsor, MA ($$$)
From classics to original creations, board games have much to offer in terms of learning. Almost any game will encourage the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills, and specific games help players to hone in on specific skills or topics. By exploring local resources for game play, creating new games, and digging into the history of games, families can maximize the educational potential of a great family pastime! Read more in our post, Board Games Spark Play-Based Learning and Inspire Critical Thinking and Problem Solving.
Thursday, February 23, 1pm-3pm
Family game sessions are one way to get both parents and kids to put aside their work, and their screen-based entertainment, to spend time together. Simple games can challenge young kids to think critically, while harder games can challenge older children through friendly competition. Spice up your family game experience by joining other families at the Meekins Library Game Afternoon. All ages are welcome and there will be snacks! Drop in anytime. Ages five and under must be accompanied by an adult. 413-268-7472. 2 Williams Street. Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)
Wednesday, February 22, 1:30pm
A screening of Trash Dance will take place at KidsBestFest, an annual, free film festival at the Academy of Music Theatre. In this documentary, choreographer Allison Orr finds beauty and grace in garbage trucks, and in the unseen men and women who pick up our trash. Filmmaker Andrew Garrison follows Orr as she rides along with Austin sanitation workers on their daily routes to observe and later convince them to perform a most unlikely spectacle. On an abandoned airport runway, two dozen trash collectors and their trucks deliver — for one night only — a stunningly beautiful and moving performance, in front of an audience of thousands, who are awed to discover how in the world a garbage truck can “dance.” This film may get you thinking about ways to find beauty in unexpected places. 413-584-9032. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)
AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH
February is National African American History Month in the United States. It is a time to honor the work, achievements and contributions of African Americans. It is also a time to remember the struggle for civil rights and the importance of equality, civic action, social justice and solidarity. In our Jan/Feb edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts we discussed the power of voice and words as illustrated by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Continuing this exploration of the inspirational power of words, let’s take a closer look at two poems by African Americans that illustrate the power of voice and words: Langston Hughes and Audre Lorde. Read more here.
AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES
Sunday, February 19, 5pm
Studying black history helps to connect past atrocities such as slavery to the current injustices of racism. Christina Sharpe is Associate Professor of English, Africana and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Tufts University, and author of In the Wake. She will be discussing the current state of violence and neglect toward black lives in the wake of slavery. Since 1976, Americans have been celebrating Black History Month as a way to highlight issues of racism and honor African Americans who have shaped our society. These stories are often neglected and overlooked. Take advantage of many opportunities this month to build your understanding of black history. Smith College. Neilson Library Browsing Room. 7 Neilson Drive. Northampton, MA. (FREE)
Sunday, February 19, 2pm
Ludwig Van Beethoven is a figure often discussed in music classes from elementary school up to college and beyond. In addition to the impact Beethoven had on Classical music, he also led a difficult life and lost his hearing in his late twenties. Due to his talent, historical impact, and fascinating personal life, he has been a prominent figure in both musical and historical studies. Beethoven composed, among many other works, five sonatas for cello and piano. You can hear each one performed by cellist Edward Arron and pianist Jeewon Park, at the Clark Art Institute. The sonatas span Beethoven’s career; hearing them will provide insight into his growth as a composer. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. ($$; Students with valid ID FREE)
Wednesday, February 22, 12:30pm
Philip Glass is a contemporary composer whose minimal, repetitive scores have strongly influenced music from the late 20th century to the present. Felix Mendelssohn, was a musical prodigy who played piano, composed, and conducted music in the early 1800s. Hear compositions from both Glass and Mendelssohn performed by pianist Judith Glass at Smith College. Sweeney Concert Hall. Sage Hall. 144 Green Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)
INSTRUMENT PETTING ZOO
Thursday, February 23, 2pm-3pm
When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. At the Berkshire Museum’s Instrument Petting Zoo, participants will be able to see, listen to, and play lots of different instruments! Picking the right instrument is an important factor for sustaining a lifelong hobby of musicianship. Explore risk-free as part of Ten Days of Play 2017. Included with regular museum admission. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street. Route 7. Pittsfield, MA. ($; children under 18 <$; members, ages three and under FREE)
[Photo credit: (cc) JanetandPhil]
Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Agawam, Belchertown, Buckland, Chicopee, Colrain, Cummington, Gill, Hadley, New Salem, Plainfield, Shelburne, Worthington, and Westhampton Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.