10 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Language Arts to Technology. MYO Gifts to Pastry Gifts.

Zines to 3D Printers. Cookies to Hand-Knitted Scaves. Current Affairs to Placemaking. 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 seasonal highlight this week:

During the holiday season, gift-giving is considered a traditional aspect of our seasonal celebrations.  Instead of purchasing a gift, gift givers can also look to the domestic arts, crafts, and visual arts for inspiration in making handmade gifts that encourage originality and thought. There are ways to give gifts that are value-base (non-commerical & creative-free play), support learning, and are accessible through community-based events, resources and opportunities! Resources include Craft Fairs & Open Studios, Makerspaces and Bakeries.  Interests include Language Arts, STE(A)M, Fiber Arts, Math, Mindfulness, and Pastry & Culinary Arts. And opportunities include Glassblowing, Zines, Journal Making, and Knitting.


According to Wikipedia, “2018 is the most destructive wildfire season on record in California, with a total of 7,579 fires burning an area of 1,667,855 acres…the largest amount of burned acreage recorded in a fire season.” Wondering how to talk with your kids about these fires. Check out this post, How to talk to kids about tragedy and natural disaster: Helpful tips and resources. You can also get involved by supporting the families and animals of California impacted by recent fires with these organizations that need immediate support for the victims, evacuees, and first responders.

(Supported interests: Current Affairs, Natural Disasters, Community Service, Service Organizations)

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Human nature is often portrayed as selfish and power hungry, but research by Dacher Keltner finds that we are hard-wired to be kind.

Sunday, November 25, 12-2pm
Teach children about kindness by interacting with other children and community members. Community events like the  Children’s Holiday Extravaganza celebrate the winter holidays with children and families and offer a plethora of opportunities to express kindness and compassion towards others. Hosted by the Berkshire Theatre Group, the event will feature face painting, pizza, and visits with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The first 400 visitors will also receive gift bags! This event is free, but tickets are required. The Colonial Theatre. 111 South Street, Pittsfield, MA (FREE)

(Supported interests: Psychology, Community Development)

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Interest: STEM

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.

Saturday, November 24, 2-4pm
3D printing technology has grown at an incredible rate. The implications of this technology are very intriguing, as it can even be used to produce food. With 3D printing, if you can imagine it, you can create it! This 3D printing workshop is an excellent opportunity to learn how to work with this fascinating technology. Participants will learn how to design and execute a 3D printed project. This event is free, but participants must bring their own computer. Make-It Springfield. 168 Worthington Street, Springfield, MA (FREE)

By exploring number systems, families can help children to solidify their own understanding of the numerals and place value of our own familiar base ten number system. From binary code and Roman numerals to a lost 13th-century cipher and a zero-less system from 300 BC, number systems from around the world can lead to fascinating explorations of numerical representations and place value. Read more in our post, Explorations of Number Systems Support Strong Mathematical Skills.

(Supported interests: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)

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Interest: 17th CENTURY HISTORY

British historian Eric Hobsbawm, renowned for his scholarship on the rise of industrial capital, coined the term ‘the General Crisis‘ to refer to the 17th century. This period was marked by a huge number of massive social upheavals in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the New World. In Europe, the Thirty Years War caused a 30 percent reduction in the population of Germany, as over 8 million people died in the conflict. Poland lost a third of its population. In China, as the Ming dynasty collapsed, over 50 million people died in 40 years. Revolts and civil wars led to the destabilization of many of the world’s largest nations. Also during this period, enormous amounts of material wealth began arriving in Europe and China from the New World, as settlers and conquistadors extracted vast quantities of silver from Mexico and Bolivia. Amidst all this chaos and suffering, scientific and industrial developments surged forward. The 17th century was the century of Galileo, Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes, John Locke, and Thomas Hobbes. During this time, life for the colonists in New England may have felt relatively untouched by these massive events occurring elsewhere.

Saturday, November 24, 10am-4pm
Come to learn all about what daily life would have looked like for the 17th-century colonists at Historic Deerfield. Meet the Society of the 17th Century, a group of re-enactors who will bring their historical Hall Tavern building to life with an incredible array of period arts, crafts, and trades. Historic Deerfield. 80 Old Main Street, Deerfield, MA (Visit your local library for free museum passes)

(Supported interests: 17th Century History, Local History)

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Saturday, November 24, 4-9pm
It’s time for the annual Winter Wonderland Light Display at Look Park. The entire park will be transformed into a magical holiday celebration of light. And don’t forget to wave to the dragon! Sharing traditions like this with the community creates a deeper sense of place and belonging. Look Park. 300 North Main Street, Florence, MA (FREE)

“Deck the halls and grab the ladder because on this festive episode of History of Stuff we are looking at those twinkling little bulbs that make every December a little brighter. This is the history of Christmas Lights…”

(Supported interests: History, Placemaking)

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Sunday, November 25, 9:30am-1pm
For the past 14 years, families have gathered together at the Chesterfield Gorge on the Sunday after Thanksgiving to walk or run alongside the beautiful east branch of the Westfield River, followed by an outdoor community potluck social. The Gorge Après Gorge Family Fun Walk and 5k Run was started by organizers Hilltown mothers, Leslie Charles and Tanya Rapinchuk, as a way to escape from the stress that can accompany the holidays and to get outside and appreciate nature with friends, family, and neighbors. It began with just a few dozen people in 2005, and has grown over the years as word has spread about this wonderful family-oriented event.“I have attended every Gorge Aprés Gorge every year,” says Hilltown Families Founding Director and West Chesterfield resident, Sienna Wildfield. “The Chesterfield Gorge, the Westfield River, and families from around the region make this event a special part of our community tradition. It offers a way we can support a sense of place through engagement with these amazing community resources!” The free family fun walk begins at 11am. A portion of the proceeds from the 5K benefit the Hilltown Land Trust. Come prepared for ice, snow, and mud. Chesterfield Gorge. West Chesterfield, MA (FREE/$)

“Exercise is good for the heart and makes you look good. However, there are much more compelling reasons to exercise regularly…”

(Supported interests: Community Development, Health, Wellness)

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Take the challenge this year by shopping local and non-commercial during the holiday season. The abundance of craft fairs and open studios happening in the area featuring handmade products by local artists and artisans make it easy to find that special something when looking for a gift of any kind. Handmade wood or glass ornaments, hand-knitted scarves, upcycled accessories, one-of-a-kind prints and stationary… our region is filled with a robust creative economy filled with amazing artisans! Traditional Crafts & Artisan Skills: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea.

From handmade soap to mason jar lanterns to gardening kits, here are nine simple homemade gift ideas you and your kids can make to give to the spa enthusiasts, home decorators, and gardeners in your life this holiday season.

(Supported interests: Arts & Crafts)

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Making a zine is a rewarding, creative process and can undoubtedly be a part of your gift-giving plans for the holidays. Need some inspiration for your zine-making adventures? We have a great local resource and documentary to share with you! Read more in our post, Language Arts & Creativity: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea.

(Supported interests: Publishing, Language Arts, Literary Art)

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Interest: KNITTING

An age-old skill, knitting provides us with some of our most treasured warm clothes. Learning the art of knitting can not only help to provide warmth, but can lead to explorations of local history, local agriculture, and complex math – and families can even engage in service-based learning by donating hand-knitted goods to help support people in need! Read more in our post, Fiber Arts, Math & Mindfulness: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea.

Knitting also has a spot within the creative placemaking movement as Magda Sayeg shares here in her TED Talk, How yarn bombing grew into a worldwide movement.

(Supported interests: Fiber Arts, Service-Based Learning, Math, Placemaking)

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Tis the season we pay particular attention to spreading kindness to those around us! Families can spread kindness by sharing homemade foods with neighbors, and can expand this activity to include studies of world cultures by baking foods enjoyed internationally! Read more in our post, Culinary and Pastry Arts: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea.

(Supported interests: Culinary Arts, Non-commercial Gift Giving, Kindness, World Cultures)

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Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Ashfield, Bernardston, Chester, Chesterfield, Conway, Erving, Heath, Holyoke, Montgomery, Pelham, Rowe, Russell, Shutesbury, South Hadley, and Springfield Cultural Councils, local agencies that are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

[Photo credit: (cc) Marco Verch]

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