31 Community Highlights: From Rabbits to Reptiles, Watershed to Caves

Solomon’s Seal (pictured here) is claimed to relieve a range of afflictions, from bruises to acne, menopause to broken bones. On Sunday, Aug. 12th, at Mt. Greylock, go on a medicine plant walk at 10am or 2pm and learn to identify plants with medicinal properties, like Solomon Seal and many others. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Rabbits in Turners Falls. Reptiles in Lenox. Barbados in Springfield. South Africa in Amherst.  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!


Local historical societies are great places to visit with the family to discover local history while giving children a better understanding of where they live.  Featured this weekend are three societies located in the towns of Buckland, Chesterfield and Shelburne Falls. On Sunday, Aug. 12th, all three historical societies will be open. The Buckland Historical Society is having an open house from 2-4pm in a former schoolhouse filled with three floors of locally relevant displays and artifacts. The Chesterfield Historical Society will be hosting an ice cream social at 4pm at the Edwards Memorial Museum, featuring a Victorian Parlor and old organ, as well as period dresses and costumes.  The Shelburne Historical Society will be open on Saturday too.  From 2-4pm stop by this former school building, home to artifacts and memorabilia pertaining to the community’s history.

Another fun way to learn about local history is by acquainting your family with our community ancestors. On both Saturday & Sunday, Aug. 11th & 12th at 1 and 2pm, at the Trustees of Reservation’s Ashley House in Sheffield, families can learn about Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman, a natural healer and midwife, who sued for her freedom in 1781 (free). On Sunday, Aug. 12th at 11am, families can visit Naumkeag in Stockbridge for an interactive tour, designed just for kids.  Discover the Choate family who once lived in this historic home, while learning about the building’s history and the stories it holds (>$).

Look Park in Florence hosts The Battle of the Seven Pines, a weekend of Civil War reenactment, on Aug. 11th & 12th. Highlights include tours of soldiers’ campsites, meeting soldiers and learning about Army life, battle reenactments, and opportunities to learn about Civil War medicine and artillery, and the role that women played in the war ($).


Animals we’re featuring this week include rabbits, reptiles, birds and bats. In addition to specific animals this week, kids can learn about animal adaptations. Much like humans, animals need their senses in order to survive, but they also have unique adaptations. Learn about interesting animal adaptations and how they use them to survive in their environment on Saturday, Aug. 11th from 10am-1pm at the Zoo in Forest Park in Springfield. ($)

On Sunday, Aug. 12th at 10:30am, hone your birding skills at Mt. Tom in Holyoke. Rangers will help visitors learn to search for birds, and visitors will get to try out their new skills around the park (free).  On Tuesday, Aug. 14th at 10:30am, kids can learn all about wild rabbits at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls, and on Thursday, Aug. 16th at 11am, the Boston Museum of Science’s Reptiles! live animal program will be at the Lenox Library (free). At the the Notch Visitors Center in Amherst, kids can learn about bats, and the role that they play in the local ecosystem on Friday, Aug. 17th at 1pm. (Free)


Discover dance, stories and music from Native American, Caribbean, South African, and Arab cultures this week. Experience Native American culture at the Rock, Rattle, and Drum Pow Wow this weekend in Lanesborough ($), or visit the Mission House in Stockbridge on Saturday, Aug. 11th at 1pm for a program on folklore and stories of Native Americans (>$).

Celestial Voices, a choir from Barbados will perform a variety of music, including traditional Caribbean music at St. Peter’s Church in  Springfield on Sunday, Aug. 12th from 4-6pm ($$), and at 7:30pm  Village Harmony’s Teen Ensemble presents a concert of South African song and dance, Italian Renaissance music, and shape-note singing on the green at Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst ($).

On Thursday, Aug 16th at 1pm, percussionist Karim Nagi will bring traditional Arab and Muslim instruments and music to the Springfield Museums for a show that features traditional costumes and dances ($).


This weekend the Big E is hosting the East Coast Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show in West Springfield ($). Great chance to check out specimens and to ask collectors and experts questions.  If you’d rather get outdoors to learn about geology, take a morning guided hike at Skinner State Park in Hadley on Saturday, Aug. 11th and learn about the geology of the Holyoke Range.  Or in the afternoon in Amherst, take a guided hike from Notch Visitor’s Center to discover the Horse Caves. In the Berkshires, the Natural Bridge State Park in North Adams hosts Marvelous Marble Walks on both Saturdays and Sundays, where visitors can learn about the marble quarry that once operated nearby.


Visit the Great Falls Discovery Center  in Turners Falls on Saturday, Aug. 11th at 10:30am to participate in, “What’s Wrong in the Watershed?”  The fun family scavenger hunt takes participants through the center, exploring each of the watershed habitats to find out what’s wrong (free). In the afternoon explore the waterfalls of Mt. Greylock in Lanesborough on a guided hike from 1-4pm (free). Then on Sunday, Aug. 12th, at Mt. Greylock, go on a medicine plant walk at 10am or 2pm and learn to identify plants with medicinal properties (free). On Tuesday, Aug. 14th in Holyoke, Mt. Tom hosts Trail Kids, a morning program for kids ages 7-9 to learn about the many different plants and animals they find at the park (free).


There are two free opportunities to stargaze on Saturday, Aug 11th.  The Trustees of Reservations and representatives from Arunah Hill Natural Science Center with be stargazing at Notchview in Windsor where kids of all ages can gaze through telescopes and learn to identify planets and stars (Rain date: Aug 12.). Or visit the summit of Mt. Greylock in Lanesborough to stargaze with the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association. There will be a variety of telescopes on hand for families to become acquainted with the cosmos (Rain or clouds cancels.).

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)

Keep the math motor going this summer.  Disguised as games and play, chess and LEGOS can help! Last year we wrote about the benefits of chess and how when played from a young age, chess can be beneficial to a child’s learning and development. This week, on Sunday, Aug. 12th from 1-3pm, an informal Chess Club continues at the Lilly Library in Florence, and on Wednesday, Aug. 15th, drop-in chess for all ages and abilities takes place at the Forbes Library in Northampton from 1-3pm. Both opportunities are free and ongoing. Bringing your own chess board is welcomed.

Kids can practice the basic principles of engineering and design by building and experimenting with LEGOS. On Monday, Aug.. 13th at 3:30pm, the Chicopee Library will host a free LEGO time, and on Thursday, Aug. 16th at 10:30am, so will the Storrs Library in Longmeadow.

Another fun STEM opportunities happens at noon on Sunday, Aug. 12th at the Zoo in Forest Park in Springfield where kids can experiment with the chemistry of  different types of goo – learn about what goes into each one, and how the substance changes based on its ingredients. (>$)

Bucket ListFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events.  And don’t forget about our Bucket List of 60 recommendations of things to do and places to see in Western MA in the summer by Hilltown Families readers (and add you’re own recommendation too!)


  1. The Civil War for Kids: A History with 21 Activities (For Kids series)
  2. A Free Woman On God’s Earth: The True Story of Elizabeth Mumbet Freeman, The Slave Who Won Her Freedom
  3. A+ Books: Amazing Animal Adaptations Series
  4. Smithsonian Handbooks: Reptiles and Amphibians (Smithsonian Handbooks)
  5. Bats (Zoobooks Series)
  6. Native American Stories (Myths and Legends)
  7. The Legend of the African Bao-Bab Tree
  8. Barbados (Cultures of the World, Second)
  9. Roadside Geology of Massachusetts (Roadside Geology Series)
  10. Watersheds: A Practical Handbook for Healthy Water
  11. Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope – and How to Find Them
  12. Unbeatable Chess Lessons for Juniors: Revised Edition

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