21 Community Highlights: Rainforests to Surface Tension. Bread Baking to Ice Harvesting.

Trains to Bread. Rainforests to Surface Tension. Swords to Furniture

These are just a few of the community 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 learning highlight this week: Have your kids ever asked you how a water strider can glide on the surface of a pond? Or why drops of water are round? The answer? Surface tension! On Monday evening, Jan 27, adults and older students can learn about the science of surface tension with professors from Yale University at SciTech Cafe hosted at the Amherst Brewing Company in Amherst. The wonders of surface tension will be illustrated with live action science demos at this free event.

ScienceHistory/FurnitureTheater/PuppetryTransportation/RailroadsEcology/RainforestsDance/CultureFilm StudiesPastry Arts/BreadArt StudiesHistoryBook GroupsParent WorkshopsEarly Literacy


Have your kids ever asked you how a water strider can glide on the surface of a pond? Or why drops of water are round? The answer? Surface tension! On Monday evening, Jan 27, adults and older students can learn about the science of surface tension with professors from Yale University at SciTech Cafe hosted at the Amherst Brewing Company in Amherst. The wonders of surface tension will be illustrated with live action science demos at this free event.


For the past 400 years, no state has had a greater impact on the craft of furniture-making than Massachusetts. Learning about this history gives a lens into the life of early Americans during a time without modern conveniences, and travels towards our current state of comforts and design ideas. To celebrate this history, eleven institutions have partnered to give us a comprehensive view of life in New England through the lens of furniture-making and represent their work online in the web site, Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture. Here you will find an interactive timeline of furniture-making from 1620-2013, see videos about this craft, and view furniture highlights through this time.

This weekend two events take place that celebrate this rich history as part of this consortium. On Saturday morning, Jan 25, Old Sturbridge Village will offer a curator’s tour of their exhibit, “Delightfully Designed: The Furniture and Life of Nathan Lombard,” (1777-1847). Lomard’s work stands out among the rich traditions of cabinetmaking found in rural Massachusetts in the early 1800s. This morning tour features Lombard’s furniture and family artifacts to offer insight and understanding into the life of this celebrated furniture maker through primary source materials.

The second event takes place at Deerfield Academy’s Garonzik Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, Jan 26, as a free lecture by Susan L. Buck, Ph.D., “Brilliance Revealed: Original Palettes of Early New England Furniture.” Buck will show how 17th- and 18th-century interiors were far more colorful than one might imagine – many had brightly painted furniture, high-contrast patterned textiles, and intensely pigmented woodwork paints. Buck is a conservator and paint analyst who will discuss these aspects of early New England homes and make connections with the furniture collections at Historic Deerfield.


Leo Lionni, a four-time Caldecott Honor Winner for his books, Inch by Inch (1961), Swimmy (1964), Frederick (1968), and Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse (1970), was one of the first children’s author/illustrators to illustrate his books with collage as a main medium. Often compared to Eric Carle, Lionni uses creatures to tell stories children can adapt to their own lives. On Sunday afternon, Jan 26, the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia will perform Leo Lionni’s Swimmy, Frederick, and Inch by Inch at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington. See these award winning children’s illustrated classics come to life through puppets, imaginative lighting techniques, and an original musical score. A performance for the entire family!


Trains have an allure to them that is celebrated widely in music, stories, toys and museums. Their rich history points to the great impact they have had on our history and the development of this country. This allure and historical appreciation leads many to collect model trains and an enthusiasm to share their history and current importance to our culture and society with others. This weekend, Jan 25 & 26, the Amherst Railway Society’s Annual Railroad Hobby Show takes place at the Big E in West Springfield. The Show attracts thousands each year and features real life and model railroads & trains, historical societies, importers, modelers, and enthusiasts. Bring your curiosity and come learn about the history of our railways through demonstrations, exhibits, and clinics.


Rainforest Adventure exhibit opens on Saturday, Jan 25, at the Springfield Museums! Rainforest Adventure is a multi-sensory exploration of one of our planet’s most precious resources. Through a variety of interactive experiences and hands-on displays, visitors will learn about the amazing diversity of life in rainforests and the many challenges they face today. Using vests, flashlights, and binoculars provided, young visitors can explore a gorilla nest, climb a kapok tree, and identify endangered species they find along the way. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Rainforest Adventure is that it is designed for both children and adults, allowing families to share in the enjoyment of learning together.


That Long Tall Sword, a local traditional dance troupe, will perform a free Mummers Play and Sword Dance at the Sunderland Public Library on Saturday morning, Jan 25. With European roots, a Mummers Play is a short seasonal play of death and rebirth, celebrating the coming Spring with slapstick and a mock battle – and a foolish Doctor, unable to accomplish the serious work of a Fool. In the middle of the play, a ring of swords dances through weaving figures and creates a star with which we mark the end of one year and the coming of the next.

Film Studies

Hayao Miyazaki holds a special place in the hearts of lovers of animated films – his hand-drawn animations combine realistic-looking landscapes with expressive imaginary creatures and human characters whose movements have an almost balletic quality to them. Miyzaki is the creator of classic films such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo and the more recent From Up on Poppy Hill, and his films have become legendary amongst film lovers both Japanese and American. Amherst Cinema celebrates Miyazaki’s storytelling genius and artistic talent this winter with a Miyazaki Festival, screening some of the original Japanese versions of some of the filmmaker’s most loved films. On Sunday afternoon, Jan 26, the Cinema is screening Castle in the Sky (1986; rated PG), a beautifully animated and imaginative film about a young girl in search of a floating island in the sky. The film is in Japanese with English subtitles.

The film, Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013; rated PG-13), a historical fiction drama loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen (1919-2010), will be screened at the Whately Library on Monday afternoon, Jan 27. For 34 years, Allen worked for the White House as a waiter and butler, retiring in 1986 as head butler of the While House. Allen served eight presidents, and the film examines many of the different events and changes the country went through during that time, such as the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.

Pastry Arts/Bread

There’s only one thing more delicious than fresh baked bread, and that’s fresh baked bread that you made yourself! Learn how to bake bread with Micah Roberts of Green Fields Market Bakery at the Northfield Trinitarian Church on Saturday afternoon, Jan 25. Participants will learn how wheat flour is grown along the banks of the Connecticut River in Northfield and then ground on a local family farm. This hands-on workshop explores the history and basics of baking whole wheat bread. Make and take home two loaves of bread… keep and eat one and think about giving the other to another to brighten their day! Nothing says “I care” better than fresh baked bread you’ve made yourself!

Art Studies

The American Revolutionary War and the movement west known as Manifest Destiny both had an influence on art from these historic periods in time. At the Springfield Museums’ Michele & Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, the bronze works of art by Daniel Chester French and Frederic Remington will the be focus of a Sunday afternoon docent-led mini-tour on Jan 26, titled “Shaping America in Bronze: French and Remington.” The works of both artists reflect the cultural climate of the time, but in two very distinctly different ways. Peg Berthold will led and interpret some of the important events in America’s history that have been “captured in bronze” by these two artists. Discover both art history and American history in this guided tour.


Knights in shining armor…battles in the fields…. swords through the ages have much to tell us about our history and societies of yesteryears. Jeff Goodhind and Jeff Lord from the Association for Renaissance and Medieval Swordsmanship will be at the Mason Library in Great Barrington on Saturday afternoon, Jan 25, for a free presentation, “Swords Through the Ages.” Goodhind and Lord will demonstrate the art of Western European swordsmanship and how it has changed over the centuries.

In January, 1787, Daniel Shays and 1,000 men stormed the Springfield Arsenal, as part of Shays’ Rebellion. Author Gary Shattuck will be at the Springfield Armory on Saturday afternoon, Jan 25, to discuss this his local event. Find out the history of this armed insurrection of western Massachusetts residents and learn what caused rural farmers to rise up against their government.

If your home were to loose power this winter, what would you do to keep your refrigerated foods cold? It’s likely that you put it outside or bury it in the snow. Before we had electric refrigeration here in New England, that used to be the only way to keep foods cold! Ice was once an important “cash crop” in New England, and you can learn about the history and science behind ice harvesting with Dennis Picard at the Chicopee Public Library on Tuesday evening, Jan 28. Picard will discuss ice harvesting in 19th-century New England and speak about the history and importance of this trade to local economies at the free event. He will also demonstrate how to use many of the traditional tools used for harvesting ice.

Performance artist Kandie Carle will be at the Storrs Library in Longmeadow on Wednesday evening, Jan 29, to perform her free one-woman show, “Victorian Lady.” Carle will use authentic Victorian and Edwardian clothing to interact with the audience and to take them on a journey into the past through fashion. She will discuss the history and significance of each item of clothing in order to give audience members an idea of what fashion, etiquette, and lifestyles were like during the Victorian and Edwardian era, including interesting anecdotes and ‘myth busting’.

Book Groups

  • Teens (6-12 grades) are invited to discuss Celia Rees’ Witch Child at the Westfield Athenaeum on Monday afternoon, Jan 27.
  • First and second graders can come to the East Longmeadow Public Library for Book Buddies. to discuss Ant and Honey Bee: A Pair of Friends in Winter, on Monday afternoon, Jan 27.
  • Third and fourth graders can read Andrew Clements’ We the Children and then come discuss it with their peers at the East Longmeadow Public Library on Thursday afternoon, Jan 30.

Parent Workshops

Active Parenting of Children 1-4 Years takes place on Monday afternoon, Jan 27 in North Adams at Childcare of the Berkshires. The free workshop is a three-part series on developmental stages, positive discipline methods, preventing tantrums, good routines, and how to take care of yourself so you can better take care of your family.

Women’s Health workshop on Thursday evening, Jan 30 in Northampton at River Valley Market Co-op. Every stage of a woman’s life—starting in her mother’s womb, through puberty and continuing after menopause—involves an intricate dance between her hormones and her health. When this relationship is in balance, it builds the foundation for good health. Dr. Laila Tomsovic will explore this relationship, the health effects of individual hormones, as well as strategies for bringing them back into balance during this free workshop.


You and your child can work together to develop pre-reading skills at the Westfield Athenaeum’s “Every Child Ready to Readfree workshop on Tuesday morning, Jan 28. The workshop is for preschoolers and their parents/caregivers and will focus on the five early literacy practices – talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing along with activities.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and many 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.

[Photo credit: (cc) Martin LaBar]

Hilltown Families’ list of Weekly Suggested Events is supported in part by a grant from the Amherst, Ashfield, Charlemont/Hawley, Chesterfield,  Conway, Heath, Leyden, Montague, South Hadley and Shutesbury Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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