22 Community Highlights: Victorian Valentines to Mardi Gras. Winterfest to Fire & Ice.

Having a snow day? Here’s a fun papercraft to make with your kids for Valentine’s Day : Swedish Heart Baskets. Click on the image for directions.

Chocolate History to Guitar History. Victorian Valentines to Mardi Gras. Winterfest to Fire & Ice… These are just a few of the learning & community highlights we’re featuring this week. Get out into your community and learn while you play!

History | Valentine Celebrations | Animals | Community Events | Outdoor Adventures | Mardi Gras | Fiber Arts | Science | Theater Studies


Chocolate and Valentine’s Day go together like peanut butter and jelly! Learn about the history of chocolate – bean to bar – and Valentine’s Day traditions at Old Sturbridge Village on Sunday, February 10th. Families can make their own valentines and meet the local women responsible for the tradition of sharing cards on Valentine’s Day. The tradition began with handmade cards, and grew into an entire company! There will also be demonstrations of chocolate processing and the making of a hot, spiced chocolate drink. Families can also learn a 19th century recipe for chocolate cake! There will, of course, be the usual opportunities to learn about life in early New England that Old Sturbridge Village offers. Families can supplement studies of American history and culture by visiting the village, and make their visit fun and holiday-related by learning about Valentine’s Day traditions! Read our featured post, Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines.

The Springfield Museums will host a lecture titled, “Les Paul’s New Sound: Re-Imagining the Electric Guitar in 1950’s America,” featuring Smith College professor Steve Waksman on Sunday afternoon. The talk will teach visitors about the role that Les Paul’s music played in the changing sound of American music during the mid-20th century. Also featured will be Quinnipiac University professor John Thomas, who will share his process of x-raying vintage guitars to examine their craftsmanship. Great for older students interested in music, music history, and cultural studies and ties into the current exhibit, GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World.

Hold your pinky high – it’s time for a fancy tea at Ventfort Hall on Thursday afternoon, February 14th in Lenox! In honor of Valentine’s Day, the museum is hosting a special tea-tasting event, where visitors can learn about the history of specific tea blends, as well as the origins of teas and recent changes in the tea market. Special emphasis will be placed on the history of the JP Morgan blend, a special tea commissioned by JP Morgan himself – it was his favorite! Best for older students with some background in world history and basic economics, the event will help students learn about world trade, and the changes in food sourcing and sales throughout American history. BYO teacup! Victorian high tea to follow the tasting.


Use antique valentines for inspiration at a valentine-making workshop at the Wistariahurst Museum on Sunday afternoon, February 10th in Holyoke! There will be plenty of materials on hand, along with Victorian poetry and sayings to embellish your artwork with. Read our featured post, Victorian Valentines Workshop & Era Days at Wistariahurst Museum.

On Tuesday afternoon, February 12th, visit the Sixteen Acres Library in Springfield for a special Valentine tea! Kids ages 5-8 and their parents can learn about different kinds of tea and have some treats (including chocolate milk in place of tea, if they prefer!) – and there will be a special edible craft, too! Wear a fancy hat or don one borrowed from the library. (FREE)

Still need to make some last-minute valentines? The Williston Library children’s department in Easthampton is hosting a pre-Valentine’s Day celebration that will include card and craft making, and a performance of “Little Bear’s Valentine” by Emily’s Players on Tuesday afternoon. (FREE)

Looking for a date night on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, February 14th? Spend Valentine’s evening at MASS MoCA in North Adams – there will be tours, gift-making, romantic games, and couples yoga. End the evening with dinner at Lickety Split! The Kidspace will offer kids’ programming, and parents can drop off kids for their own special Valentine’s evening, including crafts, dinner, and lots of other fun activities.

Another way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is seeing a screening of Casablanca at the Amherst Cinema for a cozy date night on Thursday! Well known as one of the greatest love stories from the golden age of film, the movie stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as lovers forced to choose between love and virtue in Africa during World War II.

Parents and their kids 10 and under can enjoy an evening out at a special parent/child Sweetheart Dance on Friday evening, February 15th in Florence! Hosted by Northampton Recreation, the dance will have live (family-friendly) DJ music, crafts, games, and treats.


Pooches of all shapes and sizes strut their stuff on Sunday, February 10th at Berkshire Community College in the 12th annual Not Your Average Dog Show in Pittsfield! There are lots of non-traditional categories for pups to compete in, including mystery mutt, best trick, most beautiful eyes, “earresistable” ears, and more. Dog lovers of all ages will love spectating at this event.

Preschoolers can become track-finding nature detectives this morning at the Hitchcock Center in Amherst on Friday morning, February 15th! The Winter Wonderland Detectives program will teach young children to look for tracks in winter, and will include a track-themed storytime and a track-finder guide making activity.


Shovel out your car and visit MASS MoCA in North Adams on Saturday, February 9th – for Free Family Day!  Along with the usual opportunities to learn about (and make) modern art by visiting the museum’s galleries, there will be special performances, tours, and workshops today, too!  Families can learn all about the many works of art housed at MASS MoCA  by taking tours which will be held throughout the day.  Visitors ages 16 and older can take part in a dance workshop with Batsheva Emsemble (bring water and a towel!).  The day ends with a family-friendly psychedelic Latin dance party featuring the sounds of Brooklyn’s Chicha Libre!  Tickets to the show cost extra for those over 12.   (FREE)

Easthampton’s 5th annual Fire and Ice Art Walk takes place on Saturday evening, February 9th, FEBRUARY 16TH! The event features, of course, beautiful and interesting artwork by local artists and locations throughout town, and will also offer exciting wintery activities for families. There will be a bonfire at Nashawannuck Pond (but ice harvest has been cancelled), luminaries, live music, poetry readings from 6:30-7:30 at participating Art Walk locations, and a collaborative community art project titled, “For the Love of Easthampton, Valentines for the City,” will be taking place at city hall for families to participate in! Read our feature post, Warm Up this Winter with Easthampton Fire & Ice Art Walk!

Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride, race down a hill in a cardboard box, play some frisbee (winter style!), watch fireworks, taste chilis entered in the chili cook-off, a marvel at ice sculptures, and practice your cross-country ski skills on Sunday, February 10th at Winterfest Amherst (rescheduled from Saturday, Feb. 9th)! The annual event takes place at the Cherry Hill Golf Course, and features tons of exciting winter-themed family activities. Beat cabin fever and spend the day outdoors!


Snowshoe with the Trustees of Reservations at Peaked Mountain in Monson on Sunday afternoon, February 10th! Snowshoes available for rent with registration.

Explore Chapel Brook in Ashfield with the Trustees of Reservations on Thursday morning, February 14th and learn to identify moss and lichen species! The 1-2 hour hike will include lots of stops for observation and identification practice, so bring any interesting field guides or other resources if you’d like!

Look for tracks and other signs of wildlife on Wednesday morning, February 13th at Mt. Greylock with the Berkshire Natural Resources Council in Adams! The 2-4 mile expedition will take about 2 hours, but is relatively easy. Hikers can see a new beaver lodge, and can wander through some of the many game trails created by the wildlife who call the mountain home. An excellent supplement to studies of local biodiversity and natural resources! (FREE)


On Saturday, February 9th from 9-10am and Sunday, February 10th from 7-8am, tune in on your FM dial, or listen live via streaming audio at www.valleyfreeradio.org, to the Hilltown Family Variety Show! Children’s book author and musician Johnette Downing and Grammy Award winning producer Scott Billington offer a carnival of Louisiana roots music; a showcase of Cajun, New Orleans Rhythm and Blues, Zydeco, Brass Band and Jazz music by Louisiana artists. (FREE)

Celebrate Mardi Gras and Carnival together at Mardival on Sunday afternoon in Nothampton! The Academy of Music hosts this special performance, featuring the Expandable Brass Band, Samba SA, and the Jaimoe Jasssz Band with special guests Samirah Evans and Duke Robillard. The event will share New Orleans-style jazz and Brazilian music to celebrate the annual celebration of Carnival in New Orleans and Rio de Janero.

With Mardi Gras is coming up, prepare for the celebration by making a mask at the Forest Park Library in Springfield on Tuesday afternoon, February 12th! There will be feathers, beads, glitter, and more to make beautiful, unique masks with – express yourself, cajun-style! (FREE)


On Sunday afternoon, February 10th, see a display of needlework in the Springfield Central Library’s Wellman Hall, and then work on your own crochet and hand-weaving skills! All skill levels are welcome, but young weavers/crocheters/knitters should be mature and able to interact with adults easily. Guidance will be offered for beginners. BYO materials. (FREE)


Students from Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School present their projects for the Science and Innovation Fair at the Berkshire Museum on Tuesday, February 12th in Pittsfield! Approximately 170 students have participated in preparation for the event, and 80 collaborative projects will be displayed. Visitors can learn about the projects and ask questions about the young scientists’ methods and processes, and will also get free admission to see the museum’s exhibits. Students can be inspired by the projects that they see, and the high schoolers can serve as role models for independent work and scientific inquiry. (FREE)


By special arrangement with Hilltown Families, Shakespeare & Company in Lenox is pleased to offer our readers a rare opportunity to take in a classic Shakespearean performance paired with a guided tour backstage. On Friday, Feb. 15th at 10am, schools and homeschooling families are invited to a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Tina Packer Playhouse, followed by a backstage guided tour where participants can learn how the process of theatre is crafted in the costume shop, prop studio, and production workshop. Tickets for this package are only $8/person and a Study Guide for educators is available to download before attending. To reserve discounted tickets, contact Alexandra Lincoln, and let her know you are a Hilltown Families reader: 413-637-1199 x131. Shakespeare & Company is located at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox. www.Shakespeare.org.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events. All of our listed events are “suggested.” Please take a moment to confirm that these events are happening as scheduled, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before heading out.


26 Community Highlights: Glass Blowing to Handmade Valentines. Ice Harvest to Hobby Railroad.

February is Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month. From the archives, we have a few episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show that would make excellent listening anytime, including the Underground Railroad Episode, Martin Luther King, Jr. Episode and Black History Month Episode— great shows for introducing American history and heroes to younger children through song and story. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield) 

Spelling Bee to Cosmology.  Glass Blowing to Handmade Valentines. Ice Harvest to Hobby Railroad. African-American History Month to Groundhogs Day… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week.  Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

Animals & Nature MYO Valentines
Black History Month
HistoryMusic & Art
Science & SpellingParents’ Night Out


Saturday, February 2nd is Groundhog Day! Families with young children can celebrate in the morning at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls by learning about the winter habits of the shadow-searching creatures, and make a guess about whether or not winter will last for six more weeks

Learn about raptors at the Greenfield Center School on Sunday afternoon, February 3rd at their annual free Birds of Prey Open House with Tom Ricardi, Raptor Rehabilitator. Bird-related activities and projects, like owl pellet dissecting, will be lead by Center School teachers.

In Williamstown in the afternoon on Sunday, explore Field Farm for their free Winter Wildlife Day at Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation. Dress warmly to trek around the farm, searching for signs of wildlife and learning about how the many creatures who call the farmlands home survive during the winter months. Bring snowshoes or skis if you wish. Warm up after your adventure by toasting marshmallows over a campfire! 4

In the morning on Wednesday, February 7th in Williamsburg, start out your day with some fresh air with a free guided hike at Petticoat Hill with the Trustees of Reservations. The theme of the hike is edible plant identification, and the hike will stop a few times along the way for observations. Bring a field guide and a camera if you want.


Did you sign up for the Hilltown Families 5th annual Handmade Valentine Swap? Whether you did or not, making handmade valentines is a great way to push against the commercialization of yet another holiday, while being creative with your family and friends. There are a few opportunities to get out in your community to make valentines with others this weekend!

On Saturday morning, February 2nd, sign up to take part in the Eric Carle Museum’s Valentine-making party, which will take place in the museum’s art studio in Amherst or make your own valentines at the Mason Library in Great Barrington. In the afternoon on Saturday, families can also make their own handmade valentines at Art Party in Easthampton. If you can’t make any of those, on Sunday evening, February 3rd, kids ages 8-14 can learn basic drawing and print-making techniques with local artists at the Shutesburny Town Hall to use to create unique and beautiful handmade valentines.


There are also a few upcoming events happening at area museum that support the study of American history for older students. On Saturday morning, February 2nd the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield presents, “Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery,” the first in a two-part lecture series featuring author Barbara Krauthamer. The presentation will use historic images (including the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, Sojourner Truth, abolitionist conventions, and more) to examine what the freedom granted by the Emancipation Proclamation really looked like in the years just after its implementation. Older students can pair the event with studies of American history and civil rights – gaining a critical understanding of the implications of the historic proclamation can help students better understand the roots of race-related conflicts and inequalities. The second lecture will take place at the same time on Saturday, February 9th.

Learn about the history of slavery in the Connecticut River Valley on Thursday at noon, February 7th at the Springfield Museums’ Museums a la Carte lecture, featuring Amherst College Professor Robert Romer. During the 1700’s, it was commonplace for important, prominent people to own slaves – even ministers. Older students can learn how the practice of slave-holding affected the history of their community.

Learn about the powerful images that Norman Rockwell created during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s on Friday afternoon, February 8th in Stockbridge. Norman Rockwell Museum’s Curator of Education Tom Daly will share the stories behind the creation of such paintings as “The Problem We All Live With,” “Murder in Mississippi,” and “New Kids in the Neighborhood,” and Rockwell’s dedication to civil rights throughout his career.


The annual Amherst Railroad Society Railroad Hobby Show takes place this weekend (Feb. 2nd & 3rd) at the Big E in West Springfield, and contains everything related to rail travel, from real life railroad pieces to scale models and extensive hobby train set-ups. There will be displays from railroad historical societies, hobby builders, suppliers, and more – the event has something for everyone, whether you’re new to studying railroads and model trains of a seasoned enthusiast! Families can learn about the history of rail travel, and the numerous types of trains and their uses. Kids can also learn about the history of railroad use in the area, and will learn about how their community has changed over the years.

Attend an old-fashioned ice harvest at the Old Shop Pond at the Noble and Cooley Center for Historic Preservation in Granville on Saturday afternoon, February 2nd. Dennis Picard, director of Storrowton Village, will teach visitors about the historic practice of cutting ice from the pond to store for the year. The museum will show a short video about the history of ice harvesting in New England on loop, so that visitors throughout the day can learn even more about winter life in early New England.

Local author Sarah Kilborne will read from American Phoenix: The Remarkable Story of William Skinner, the Man Who Turned Disaster into Destiny. on Sunday afternoon, February 3rd. The book tells the story of Skinner’s life, and offers much information about the history of local silk production, and Haydenville’s recovery from the 1874 flood. Takes place at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg.

Families can do hands-on activities to learn about early New England life at Old Sturbridge Village! The village’s winter homeschool day takes place on on Friday, February 8th and will feature a variety of special workshops for all ages, in addition to the daily opportunities to explore the village, meet historical re-enactors, and learn all about 1830’s culture and practices. Some of the workshops offered today include learning to make a kitchen grater using tin-working techniques, open hearth cooking, and studying the language of fans and dance etiquette.


Celebrate the opening of glass artist Noah Rockland’s new glassblowing studio on Sunday, February 3rd in Montague. Families can learn about the art of glassblowing and watch demonstrations.

Smith College’s John M. Greene Hall will be filled with the sounds of a capella on Sunday afternoon, February 3rd in Northampton. The Northampton Arts Council’s annual Silver Chord Bowl will feature groups from Smith College, Northeastern, the University of Connecticut, Yale, Tufts, NYU, Berklee College of Music, and the Northamptones. Families will love the unique sound that each group has, and can learn to better understand a capella music by listening to a sampling of well-performed pieces.

The Mt. Holyoke College Music Department presents flutist Andrea Kapell Loewy, principal in the Acadania Symphony, in concert on Wednesday afternoon, February 6th in Hadley. Students with audience skills can learn about the unique sound of this beautiful wind instrument at this free performance.


Older students can learn about the science behind the human sense of smell at the OEB Science Cafe on Monday evening, February 4th in Hadley. This free event will take place at Esselon Cafe, and will be lead by UMass graduate student Tom Eiting will explain his work researching how nasal passages work and how smell is perceived in the brain.

Where did the universe come from? Learn about its origins on Tuesday evening, February 5th with cosmologist Lawrence Krauss at Williams College in Williamstown. Best for older students, the talk will cover recent developments in the field of particle physics, as well as ideas behind why there is something in the universe instead of nothing at this free talk.

The second annual Westfield city-wide spelling bee, Words With Friends, takes place on Thursday evening, February 7th. Students from all of the city’s fifth grade classrooms have participated in preliminary bees, and this final event will include two top spellers from each school! Takes place at Westfield State University.


Saturday night, February 2nd: Enjoy an evening of classic jazz at the Gateways Inn Restaurant in Lenox. The event is a fundraiser for the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School’s high school, and will feature local musicians.

Thursday, afternoon February 7th: Enjoy an indulgent night of wine and chocolate at the Springfield Museums! There will be wines to taste, chocolates to try, and delicious chocolate hors d’ouevres, as well as guest speaker Donald Williams, a professional wine buyer.

Friday, evening February 8th: New Orleans’ own legends the Preservation Hall Jazz Band are playing The Clark in Williamstown! Playing both Dixieland and traditional jazz, the group represents the historic Preservation Hall’s decades-long musical tradition.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events. All of our listed events are “suggested.” Please take a moment to confirm that these events are happening as scheduled, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before heading out.


Shadows Between Winter and Spring


The mid-point of winter in the United States is marked by Groundhog Day, a day with rich European history, “clouded in the mists of time with ethnic cultures and animals awakening in specific dates,” writes Bill Anderson in his book Groundhog Day: 1886 to 1992.

Anderson also writes, “The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important.

Recommended Links for Exploring Groundhog Day and Candlemas:

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