40 Community Highlights: StoryWalks to Marionette Shows. Salmon Fry to Coatimundi.

There are 3 series of puppet and marionette shows happening during April vacation week in the Pioneer Valley!

StoryWalks to Marionette Shows. Salmon Fry to Coatimundi. American Revolutionary War to Patriot’s 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 during April vacation week!

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!

StoryWalks ♦ Puppets & Marionettes ♦ Animal StudiesCommunity ServiceHistory ♦ Astronomy


There are several free StoryWalks scheduled this weekend and over April vacation week across the region. If you’re not familiar with StoryWalks, read our archive post where Barbara explains the idea of a StoryWalk a couple of years ago in StoryWalks debut in Northampton.

On Saturday morning, April 13th there are two free StoryWalks in the Pioneer Valley. The Hadley Playgroup will host one at the Hadley Elementary School and another will take place at Jackson Street School in Northampton as part of their Week of the Young Child Children’s Festival. There will also be a StoryWalk at the Westhampton Library on Wednesday morning, April 17th, also part of Celebrate the Week of the Young Child.

Then starting Monday morning, April 15th, there will be a string of StoryWalks in Berkshire County, where Wee Read Berkshire County brings StoryWalks to the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge on Monday morning, downtown Great Barrington on Wednesday morning, , and downtown Lenox on Thursday morning, April 18th.

In the Pioneer Valley, the Easthampton Family Center is presenting two StoryWalks in Easthampton during the Week of the Young Child. The first StoryWalk is in the Eastworks Building hanging in the first floor hallway, and the second one in the Old Town Hall.

Want to bring a StoryWalk to your neighborhood, school or community function? Read our post, Bring a StoryWalk to Your Neighborhood.

PUPPETS & MARIONETTES: The Dragon King, Pinocchio, The Firebird, Anansi the Spider

There are three series of puppet and marionette shows happening during April vacation week in the Pioneer Valley. The Academy of Music Theatre is hosting their annual Puppet Festival in Northampton, the Springfield Museums is offering a program centered around the theme, “Puppets Around the World,” and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Arts in Amherst will host CactusHead Puppets during the last three days of school vacation week.

At the Academy of Music Thteatre in Northampton, the Tanglewood Marionettes perform the traditional Chinese folktale, The Dragon King, on Sunday afternoon, April 14th. In this folktale, a grandmother journeys to the bottom of the sea to see the Dragon King, to ask why he has allowed her village to suffer a drought. Then on Monday morning, April 15th, the National Marionette Theater presents Pinocchio, the classic tale of a wooden boy who comes to life.

Starting on Monday afternoon, the Springfield Museums host as series of world puppet performances. The traditional Russian folktale, The Firebird, will be performed on Monday. Nappy’s Puppets will perform Shadows Around the World on Tuesday afternoon April 16th, a show entirely performed using shadow puppets. On Wednesday afternoon, April 17th, Robert Rogers Puppet Company will perform Professor Pennywhistle, a story about a man whose curiosity and enthusiasm take him all around the world. Crabgrass Puppet Theater will be at the museum on Thursday afternoon, April 18th, with a performance of the traditional African folktale, Anansi the Spider. And on Friday afternoon, April 19th, The traditional Chinese folktale, The Dragon King, will be performed by the Tanglewood Marionettes once again.

The last three days of April vacation week, Wednesday, April 17th through Friday, April 19th, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Arts in Amherst will host CactusHead Puppets production of The Tale of Juan Bobo for both a morning and afternoon performance. Juan Bobo is a silly character – he always tries to do things right, but somehow nearly always ends up with ridiculous results! Is it possible, then, that he could save the day when something goes wrong? See the show to find out!

ANIMAL STUDIES: Vernal Pools, Salmon, Ornithology, Bats, Coatimundi, Reptiles, Farm Animals

Vernal pools are teeming with life during the month of April. Join the Trustees of Reservations at Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield on Saturday morning, April 13th, for a visit to a large vernal pool where participants will look for signs of life and learn how to identify, and protect, these important but temporary ponds in your own community. Come prepared to get wet and muddy. You’ll leave with pointers on how to protect these important ecosystems.

Help to re-stock salmon to the Connecticut River watershed during school vacation week! The Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife invites community members to participate in salmon fry releases, helping to boost the number of salmon who call the area home. Prepare to get wet – waders are available to borrow if you don’t have your own (they’re necessary!). Releases happen in the early morning and are scheduled for Dickinson and Munn Brooks in Southwick on Saturday, Sawmill River in Montague on Monday, Mill Brook in Charlemont on Tuesday, Bear River in Conway on Wednesday, Mill Brook in Northfield on Thursday, and Mill River in Williamsburg on Friday.

There are a couple of upcoming opportunities for families interested in ornithology. On Saturday, spend the morning with the Hoffman Bird Club for an early morning BBYB (Birding Beyond Your Backyard) adventure for birders with little experience during a free exploration of Williams College’s Eph Pond in Williamstown. Families can learn to search for typical woodland birds and migrating songbirds often found in the Berkshires.

If you prefer the evening hours, visit the Emily Williston Library in Easthampton on Wednesday evening, April 17th, for a free presentation on songbirds of the Northeast. Best for older students and parents, the multimedia presentation will be given by the Easthampton Garden Club and will include information on physical features, sounds, and migratory patterns of these birds.

The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield has a few events to support animal studies this week. On Saturday morning, families can test out their BatBot, an Bat echolocation simulator built using the same technology used in new cars’ back-up cameras. It’s not exactly the same as true bat-sense, but navigatingf through the maze of obstacles nevertheless remains challenging. On Tuesday afternoon, April 16th, WILD Center and Zoological Park presents Animals Up Close, a unique opportunity for kids to learn about wildlife. Meet a coatimundi, along with other fascinating creatures from all over the globe. And every Friday morning the museum invites you children to explore their aquarium to learn all about the many different aquatic creatures who call the museum their home. There will be lots of ways to learn, including a scavenger hunt, an animal meet-and-greet, songs, and stories – including a special reading of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax in celebration of Earth Day.

Older students can learn about the world’s fastest animals on Monday evening in Hadley at the OEB Science Cafe. These animals are not the ones you’d expect – we all know that cheetahs are fast, but there are lots of other speedy creatures, too. This free talk will be lead by UMass’ Sheila Patek at Esselon Cafe.

Search for salamanders at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary at sunset in Lenox on Wednesday evening April 17th. Woodland salamanders spend their days under logs, stones, and other objects, venturing out only in the cool of the evening. Search the woodlands for these newtlike amphibians and learn about their habitat, the importance of preserving it and the interesting lives of salamanders.

On Thursday afternoon, April 18th, the Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield will host a free reptile event for families to come and visit with live a Green Iguana, Albino Burmese Python, Bearded Dragon, and an American Alligator! Learn about their habitats, defense mechanisms and how they live.

Springtime brings new things – new leaves, new flowers, and of course – new farm babies! Visit Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield all week to see the newly born farm animals – families will be able to get up close and personal on a Behind-the-Scenes Farm Tour! There will be piglets, chicks, lambs, calves, and more to watch and learn about, and families can tour the village and learn about Shaker history and culture after they’ve met the creatures.


Look Park in Florence is open for the season, but the grounds need some attention! There are leaves & down branches galore from the October blizzard that need to be cleaned up. Bring your family on Saturday morning, April 13th and come to the park ready to work (BYO rake and gloves). Your help ensures that the park remains a valued community resource!

Another way you can give back to your community by volunteering with your family is by helping out with the spring clean-up of Greenfield Energy Park on Sunday afternoon, April 14th. Greenthumbers invites families with children of all ages to come and join the fun. Some tools will be provided, but please bring your favorite clippers, rake, shovel, tarp or bucket.

Families with older children can train with the Housatonic Valley Association to be part of their Stream Team Project volunteer crew on Wednesday evening, April 17th. Walk or paddle a stretch of the river and report your findings. Interest meeting at the Mason Library in Great Barrington.

Find out about these community service opportunities and many other ways to volunteer with your family this spring in our post, 20 Community Service Opportunities in Western MA for Families this Spring.


Immerse yourself in pre-revolutionary New England on Saturday, April 13th at Historic Deerfield! The annual Patriot’s Day Revolutionary Muster and Parade takes and features all sorts of ways to learn about the beginnings of the Revolutionary War. Families can meet historical reenactors, who will set up camps filled with American and British soldiers, and a small skirmish will be recreated between the two. It’s a great opportunity for students to learn not only about the events that lead up to the war, but to learn about the culture and customs of the people who made the war happen.

All week long, beginning Monday, April 15th, Historic Deerfield will host Three Bags Full: All About Wool, a special museum presentation on sheep shearing and processing wool for use at home. Families can drop in anytime to see the wool being processed, and to learn about the many uses for wool in early New England life. Families can even try their hand at a few of the processing steps.

Old Sturbridge Village is celebrating Patriot’s Day on Monday with music, demonstrations, and reenactments! Families can visit the village to immerse themselves in the culture of early New England, and to learn about how the Revolutionary War affected small communities across the area. There will be fife and drum music, musket shooting demonstrations, and lots of hands-on activities where kids can learn about everything from butter to livestock.

Denis Cormier, Commander – 7th Mass Regiment presents: “Hands-on-History of the American Revolutionary War” at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield on Thursday afternoon, April 18th. Participants can examine many original and reproduction artifacts and soldier uniforms and ask questions about their design and function during this free event.


Stargaze in style at Notchview on Saturday evening April 13th in Windsor. Members of Arunah Hill Natural Science Center, along with the Trustees of Reservations, are offering an opportunity for community members to try out powerful telescopes. Families can look at – and learn to identify – stars, planets, galaxies, meteors, and more.

Students from Williams College’s astronomy program present a free planetarium show on Friday evening, April 19th. Held at the Milham Planetarium in Williamstown, the show will teach families about the many shiny things they see in the sky at night – they’re not all stars and planets! Depending on weather conditions, observing may take place after the show.

The Lenox Library will host Astronomer, Rick Costell for a free evening on the stars & planets on Friday. In the Welles Gallery, families can learn the basics of astronomy before venturing outside after dark to view the night sky through telescopes on the lawn. A great way to introduce your kids to astronomy.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 130 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Edgar Barany C]

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