20 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Beavers to Biomimicry. Urban Landscape to Theater.

In the early spring, New England history and culture come alive with the arrival of newborn lambs and the shearing of sheep for the production of wool. The wool industry has strong ties to western Massachusetts, with annual events that celebrate our historical past and other events which showcase modern day shepherds and their flocks. Read more in our post, Sheep & Wool: Catalysts for Community-Based Education in Western MA.

Religion to Woolcraft. Colonial History to Art History. Beavers to Biomimicry. 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 highlight this week: Join the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee on Sunday, May 28, 12pm as they celebrate the 15th annual commemoration of the Sojourner Truth statue. The gathering will honor her legacy and recognize the next generation of young people who follow in her footsteps. This year’s celebration will include an address by Ingrid Askew, theater artist and cultural activist, and a performance by the Amherst Area Gospel Choir. To be recognized at the event are this year’s recipients of the Sojourner Truth Scholarship for Social Justice. The day’s events will start with a walking tour of “Sojourner Truth’s Footsteps in Florence.” After the celebration, the David Ruggles Center, located at 225 Nonotuck Street in Florence, will be hosting a reception and open house. All are welcome to attend. In case of rain, the celebration will be indoors at the Florence Community Center, just across Pine Street fro

Memorial DayPhilosophyFiber ArtsAnimationTheaterOrnithologyLocal HistoryUrban LandscapeEntrepreneurCulinary ArtsBiologyCommunity MealSheepArt HistoryFalconryGuided WalksBusiness

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“[This week via CrashCourse] we are introducing a new area of philosophy – philosophy of religion. We are starting this unit off with Anselm’s argument for God’s existence, while also considering objections to that argument.” – CrashCourse

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Fiber Arts

Saturday, May 27, 7am-7pm; Sunday, May 28, 6:30am-4pm
The history of sheep domestication in New England is interwoven with our past and present industries, our politics, and even the very structures of our landscape. After the first flock of domesticated sheep arrived in the colonies in 1609, landowners built stone walls to corral their flocks and colonists cleared the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket for sheep storage. The British government eventually banned colonial wool exports in order to lessen competition with their own wool markets. This act was one of several that incensed colonists and led to the Revolutionary War! Come to the 43rd annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair to learn more about the sheep and wool craft industries- shearing, spinning, raising, eating, herding, and showing- past and present. There will be workshops and demonstrations all day at the fair to entertain and educate you, whether you are a history buff, an artist or craftsperson, an animal lover, or all of the above! All ages are welcome. Visit the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair website for a full schedule of activities to take place May 27 and May 28 at the Cummington Fairgrounds. 97 Fairgrounds Road. Cummington, MA. (Parking $)

Saturday, May 27, 9:30am-5pm; Sunday, May 28, 9:30am-5pm; Monday, May 29, 9:30am-5pm
Sheep shearing is a traditional industry which connects agriculture and fiber arts. You can learn how New Englanders raised sheep for wool in the 1830s by attending a Wool Day at the Old Sturbridge Village. Come to the village on Memorial Day weekend, May 27 through 29, to see demonstrations of sheep shearing and herding. Costumed historians will teach you about the entire wool textile process, from carding the wool to spinning it, and finally knitting the hand-spun wool yarn. There will be opportunities for hands-on learning as visitors can try hand-carding the wool. 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. Sturbridge, MA. (Adult $; Children 3 and under FREE)

Take your learning to the next step and discover how wool and other fibers were made into fine textiles and garments in the Colonial Era. Compare and contrast wool textiles to silk, cotton and linen, and how these textiles change in quality as technology improves. Make a visit to see Celebrating the Fiber Arts at the Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery to see examples of clothing and textiles from as early as the 17th century. Examples include a well-tailored wool coat and a vibrant red wool quilt from the early 19th-century. How was wool dyed such a vibrant color? How was wool woven to make the cloth for fine wool coats, and what details are present that demonstrate the talent of a skilled tailor. Come curious and ready to tour Historic Deerfield to learn about the Colonial history of textiles and fashion.

Saturday, May 27, 3pm-4:30pm
Whether you’re an expert at knitting and crocheting, you want to get started, or you want conversation while you stitch, you can stop by the West Springfield Public Library for their Knit and Crochet session. Experienced fiber artists Lynn and Steven will be present to lend their expertise. Sessions will take place on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. No registration is required; just drop by! For more information, visit the Adult Reference Desk or call 413-736-4561 ex 3. 200 Park Street. West Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Mass production of woolen textiles increased with technological advancements. Hand carders, spinning wheels, and looms were replaced with textile machinery in mills. For example, see how socks were knitted in the early 1800s at Old Sturbridge Village during their Wool Days, and compare it to this Gearhart Sock Knitting Machine from the early 1900s:

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Friday, May 26, 7:30pm; Saturday, May 27, 3pm & 7:30pm
One day, on the shore of somewhere else, a girl tells her friend that she is a mermaid, and it is true. From the Sea, To Somewhere Else, by Monica Giordano, takes us on a journey with the friend (Jack) and the mermaid (Morissa) as they both search for who and what it is they want to be and try to return Morissa to the sea. The North Star Players present this fantastic journey, driven by belief and honesty rather than by gimmicks or special effects, and invite you to join us for the adventure. This troupe is made up of teenage homeschoolers who have been training this year in ensemble theater. Shea Theater. Turners Falls, MA ($)

Saturday, May 27, 4pm and 7:30pm; Sunday, May 28, 3pm
The Drama Studio offers a conservatory-style acting training program for local youth. In operation since 1987, the studio has expanded their vision and now also offers outreach in the form of field trips, touring productions, literacy workshops, and residency programs. Come see the fruits of their labor at COWFest, a theater festival for Drama Studio students. On May 27, you can see young actors perform in shows including The Beginning of the End, The Trial of Our Generation, Skyline, and Sisters’ Stories. To reserve tickets call 413-739-1983 or email lisa@dramastudio.org. 41 Oakland Street. Springfield, MA. ($$; Students <$; Drama Studio students FREE)

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Sunday, May 28, 10am-12pm
Falconry is an ancient hunting technique dating back to at least 2,000 BC. Falconers use hawks or eagles to catch prey. You can learn about the art of falconry, and about the spectacular birds of prey used in falconry, through a series of demonstrations at Bartholomew’s Cobble. 413-229-8600. 117 Cooper Hill Road. Sheffield, MA. (Members <$; Non-members $; Kids FREE)

Wednesday, May 31, 7am-9am
Spring and fall are the best times of year for birdwatching if you want to learn about migratory birds. Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary’s caretaker Jonathan Pierce will be offering a spring birdwatching walk for adults on Wednesdays in May. Participants will walk past beaver wetlands and through the woods to identify warblers, tanagers, orioles, and other species. Beginners are welcome. Bring binoculars. 413-637-0320. 472 West Mountain Road. Lenox, MA. (FREE)

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Art History

Saturday, May 27, 10am-5pm
Chesterwood, the summer home, studio, and gardens of American monument sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), offers visitors the opportunity to learn about American history and art history through sculpture and architecture. Chesterwood is recognized as both a National Historic Landmark and a Massachusetts Historic Landmark. French is best known for his sculptures of the Minute Man (1871-75) and the figure of Abraham Lincoln (1911-22) for the Lincoln Memorial. On May 27 Chesterwood opens for the season, which will last until October 9. Plan a trip with friends or family. 413-298-3579. 4 Williamsville Road. Stockbridge, MA. ($; military, and children ages 13 to 17 <$; Children under 13 and Friends of Chesterwood FREE)

Saturday, May 27, 1pm-4pm
Most parents would rather their children do something more active and educational than watching Saturday morning cartoons. At the Norman Rockwell Museum, however, you can learn about cartoons as an art form, and encourage your children to draw inspiration from their cartoon watching. Cartoon television shows are works of visual art, made up of sequential drawings and stemming from the same principle as physical flip books. At Hanna-Barbera Family Day, families will take part in animation-inspired activities including character design and flip book creation. 413-298-4100. 9 Glendale Road. Stockbridge, MA. ($. College students with ID <$. Ages 6-18 <$. Under 5 and museum members FREE)

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Local History

Sunday, May 28, 12pm
Join the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee as they celebrate the 15th annual commemoration of the Sojourner Truth statue. The gathering will honor her legacy and recognize the next generation of young people who follow in her footsteps. This year’s celebration will include an address by Ingrid Askew, theater artist and cultural activist, and a performance by the Amherst Area Gospel Choir. To be recognized at the event are this year’s recipients of the Sojourner Truth Scholarship for Social Justice. The day’s events will start with a walking tour of “Sojourner Truth’s Footsteps in Florence.” After the celebration, the David Ruggles Center, located at 225 Nonotuck Street in Florence, will be hosting a reception and open house. All are welcome to attend. In case of rain, the celebration will be indoors at the Florence Community Center, just across Pine Street from the statue. Meet at the Sojourner Truth Statue, at the corner of Park and Pine Streets. Florence, MA (FREE)

Have you ever walked, biked, or driven through downtown Holyoke and wondered about the history of the city’s numerous old buildings? Each empty mill, towering church, and brick rowhouse tell a story of the city’s past. An exploration of Holyoke’s history reveals a rich, diverse, and complicated history. Visitors to Holyoke can now learn about the city’s history themselves – from home or while exploring the city’s streets thanks to the Wistariahurst Museum! Read more in our post, The Holyoke History Walk: A Virtual Tour of the City.

Thursday, June 1, 10:30am-11:30am
Teach your children about local history, and meet other families, by participating in a guided walk in Holyoke. Adults and families with children ages six and older are invited to tour Holyoke’s upper and second-level canals on an easy 0.75-mile walk. Participants will learn about how the canals were built and used to harness power for Holyoke’s historic paper and textile mills. Meet at the Holyoke Heritage State Park Visitor’s Center. Rain cancels. 413-534-1723. 221 Appleton Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Friday, June 2, 7pm
Join Kathy Lytle, of Buckland, to learn about the fascinating life of Josiah Spaulding Jr. He was the son of Rev. Josiah Spaulding, the first minister at Buckland’s Congregational Church. Through family letters, Ms. Lytle illuminates the religious and social mores of that period, bringing to life Josiah Jr. and his time. Her presentation gives us a glimpse into this early history of Buckland and draws parallels to today’s society. The program will be followed by a pie social. For more information, contact Polly Anderson at 413-625-9763. Buckland Historical Society. 413-625-9763. 32 Upper Street. Buckland, MA. (<$)

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Tuesday, May 30, 8am-10am
Entrepreneurs are often fiercely independent, yet even the most independent among us can benefit from collaboration. Creative business people have the chance to meet up, swap ideas, learn, and network at a 1Berkshire Entrepreneurial Meetup series. The series is returning for the third year, gathering together small business owners and those interested in starting a business for a chance to chat and trade information. Register on the 1Berkshire website. Call 413-499-1600 for more information. Dottie’s Coffee Lounge. 444 North Street. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

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Culinary Arts

Tuesday, May 30, 6:30pm-8pm
Cutting out cheese can be a difficult aspect of going vegan. You can learn how to make vegan cheese and yogurt in a free workshop at River Valley Co-Op. Trevor Ring will be teaching participants how to use live cultures as starters for nut-based cheese and yogurt- a simple process you can do in your own home. Registration is required. 413-584-2665. 330 North King Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

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Wednesday, May 31, 7pm-8:30pm
Beavers have a remarkable impact on their habitat, as other animals are attracted to the ponds beavers create. Beavers help keep drinking water safe and increase biodiversity. Come to Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary to learn more about beavers’ habits and the history of beavers in North America. Beavers have spent 7 million years in this region, and many reintroduction efforts have taken place to improve declining beaver populations. The program leader will help attendees look for beavers as well as other wildlife who live in the ponds. This event is suitable for children ages three and up, and their caregivers. 413-637-0320. 472 West Mountain Road. Lenox, MA. (<$)

Wednesday, May 31, 7pm
If our planet were not home to volant animals- animals that fly or glide- would humans ever have thought to invent the airplane? Without burs would we have velcro? Velcro and airplanes are examples of biomimetic inventions: technology which imitates elements found in nature. The concept of biomimicry can also be used in efforts towards sustainability. Learn more by attending a screening of the film, What is Biomimicry? followed by a tour of the Hitchcock Center’s “living building.” 413-256-6006. 845 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

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Community Meal

Thursday, June 1, 4pm
The Northampton Parents Center provides support and education to young children, as well as their parents, grandparents, and caregivers. NPC families, alumni, siblings, neighbors, and friends are all welcome to attend their annual End of the Year Potluck Picnic. Bring a dish to share if you are able. Look for the NPC sandwich board at the playground behind the Jackson Street School. The rain date will be Friday, June 2. Jackson Street Playground. 120 Jackson Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

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Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Belchertown, Buckland, Chicopee, Colrain, Cummington, Gill, Hadley, New Salem, Plainfield, Shelburne, Westhampton, and Worthington Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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