27 Community Highlights: Thumb Piano to A Cappella. Telescopes to Time Travel.

Ice was once an important “cash crop” in New England. Learn about the history and science behind ice harvesting this Saturday, Feb 1st at the NCCHP Museum annual Ice Harvest in Granville, and next Saturday, Feb 8th at the Easthampton Winterfest!

Thumb Piano to A Cappella. Telescopes to Time Travel. Sleigh Rally to Ice Harvest

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: The Noble and Cooley Center for Historic Preservation (NCCHP) Museum is holding their 6th Annual Ice Harvest on Saturday afternoon, Feb 1 in Granville! Dennis Picard will organize the harvest and teach about the history of ice harvesting in New England – visitors will even get to try using an ice saw! Ice was once an important “cash crop” in New England, and you can learn about the history and science behind ice harvesting. The NCCHP museum will be open for tours, a video on ice harvesting, and information about drum-making. There will also be rescue horses from Blue Star Farm on site in order to help teach about the many roles of horses in New England’s history, live music, and refreshments at this free event.

SportsMusic StudiesLiteracyImmigrationAstronomyNature StudiesOutdoor AdventuresNew England HistoryCommunity ServiceValentine’s DayOrnithologySTEM/Physics


Title IX, the law that made sex-based discrimination in school sports illegal, turns 42 this year!  Young women can celebrate their equality by participating in National Girls and Women in Sports Day at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Saturday, Feb 1st in North Adams. The Athletics Department is holding a day full of a variety of sports activities for women and girls to sample, such as basketball, swimming, zumba, lacrosse, volleyball, and more. There will also be lunch, an MCLA women’s basketball game, and a chance to meet the team afterwards. Taking part can be an empowering experience for young female athletes.  Learning from women who have mastered a sport will show girls an attainable level of skill in a sport, and will provide a realistic picture of where playing a sport can get them in life.

Members of the Longmeadow High School Ski Team will be at the Storrs Library in Longmeadow on Monday afternoon, Feb 3, to hang out with younger kids and read stories, conduct team exercises, make snowpeople, and create an Olympic-style race course. This is a fun way for young kids to spend time together while meeting teen role models in their community

Music Studies

Italian for “in the manner of the church/chapel,” the origins of a cappella are rooted in religious music which began to develop in the late 15th century. Four hundred years later, collegiate a cappella got it’s footing with the Whiffenpoofs of Yale University in 1909, the longest continuously-singing group. On Sunday afternoon, Feb 2, a gathering of some of the best college a cappella groups will be performing as the Northampton Arts Council presents the annual Silver Chord Bowl, performing at Smith College’s John M. Greene Hall. Come hear what these talented groups have to offer as they carry on the tradition of collegiate a cappella, and learn a few things about this musical genre.

The thumb piano, also known as a kalimba, is a musical instrument from Africa. The national instrument of Zimbabwe, the thumb piano (mbira dzavadzimu – “voice of the ancestors”), has been around for thousands of years and was historically played while tribes traveled, keeping the history of their village alive with songs and stories. On Friday evening, Feb 7, the Mount Holyoke College Music Department presents Jennifer Kyker with Tendai Muparutsa who will perform music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe on the thumb piano. This free concert takes place in McCulloch Auditorium in South Hadley.


Kids are invited to Agawam High School in Feeding Hill to see Jan Brett’s picture book The Mitten come alive as a StoryWalk on Saturday morning, Feb 1. Pages from the book will be displayed throughout the school for parents and children to read together and follow along at this free event. StoryWalks are an interactive way to explore books and practice reading  while spending time with family and friends.

Saturday, Feb 1 is Take Your Child to the Library Day at the Chicopee Public Library. Explore the library, make bookmarks in the Children’s Room, and take home a library bag. Get your child excited about their library and explore all of the many wonderful resources they have to offer that support reading, literacy and community engagement.


The Lenox Library is holding a community-wide reading event during the month of February, which includes relevant programs at the library each week. The book being read is The Celestials by Berkshire author Karen Shepard. To kick off the reading program, Shepard will be at the library on Thursday evening, Feb 6 to read from and discuss her book. Shepard’s lecture is a great introduction to the community reads program and the book itself, which is about the hiring of Chinese immigrants in North Adams in the 1870s. This book and the discussions held at the library will help teach about immigration, assimilation, and acceptance in America. Community reading events help encourage reading and discussion among all community members.


Scientist Galileo Galilei invented the first telescope over 400 years ago!  The progress of this invention has helped us expand our knowledge of the heavens in leaps & bounds!  Join the Springfield Museums for “Stars Over Springfield,” an introductory astronomy talk and star viewing at the Science Museum’s observatory. On Friday evening, Feb 7, Springfield Stars Club President Alan Rifkin will present a talk titled, “A Beginner’s Guide to the Telescope.” The event is recommended for kids 8 and up, but younger children are welcome. If it is cloudy or rainy, a planetarium show will be presented in place of the live star viewing.

Nature Studies

The West Springfield Environmental Committee is offering a winter nature walk in the Bear Hole Watershed in West Springfield on Saturday morning, Feb 1. Winter time is a great time of the year to access parts of our landscape that otherwise might be too dense in vegetation to explore.  Bring the kids and come learn about and search for animal tracks and signs to discover who lives in the watershed and why. This is a slow-paced walk and is appropriate for all ages.

Outdoor Adventures

Join Mass Audubon at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary for a Lenox Mountain Snowshoe Hike on Saturday morning, Feb 1! This hike follows the Overbrook Trail and takes you on a moderately strenuous trek to the summit of Mt. Lenox on snowshoes. Explore the trail’s hardwood forests, track wildlife, identify trees, and take in the mountain’s beautiful views. Due to the nature of the hike, this program is best for adults or older teens.

Get outdoors and explore the winter world with Great Barrington Trails and Greenways at Project Native in Housatonic on Saturday morning, Feb 1! This snowshoe exploration will give you a chance to get out into the field and learn about animal tracking. Discover the various winter survival strategies employed by animals in the wintertime.

As part of the “Winter Feels Good” campaign, Notchview is holding a Winter Trails Day for families in Windsor on Saturday, Feb 1. Get outdoors and enjoy winter with cross-country ski lessons, a waxing and ski care clinic, a snowshoe hike, a ski fit testing station, half price trail fees, and more.

Join the Trustees of Reservations and naturalists Pam Weatherbee and Leslie Reed-Evans for a free guided trek at Field Farm in Williamstown on Sunday afternoon, Feb 2. Explore Field Farm’s winter habitats, warm up by a bonfire, and enjoy toasted marshmallows. This is a great chance to get outdoors and explore during the cold winter months in the Berkshires.

New England History

Can you imagine a time when people welcomed roads covered with snow rather than well plowed and salted pavement? Instead of plowing roads after a storm as we do today, in the 1800s teams of horses and oxen were driven out to trample the snow down, leaving a hard packed surface for sleighs.  Horse drawn sleighs dashed along over this slippery surface much more quickly and comfortably than was possible over rutted or muddy dirt roads the rest of the year.  Winter was the best season for traveling here in New England!  Celebrate the era of the sleigh at the annual Antique Sleigh Rally at Old Sturbridge Village on Saturday, Feb 1. Over twenty horse-drawn sleighs will be at the Village for sleigh rides, sleigh rally competitions, a sleigh procession, and more. Visitors can also learn about sleighing parties, sleigh horses, traditional dances, and more. Discover what winter life was like in 19th-century New England.

The Noble and Cooley Center for Historic Preservation is holding their 6th Annual Ice Harvest on Saturday afternoon, Feb 1 in Granville! Dennis Picard will organize the harvest and teach about the history of ice harvesting in New England – visitors will even get to try using an ice saw! Ice was once an important “cash crop” in New England, and you can learn about the history and science behind ice harvesting. The NCCHP museum will be open for tours, a video on ice harvesting, and information about drum-making. There will also be rescue horses from Blue Star Farm on site in order to help teach about the many roles of horses in New England’s history, live music, and refreshments at this free event.

Learn about the history of the Quabbin Reservoir, the largest inland body of water in all of Massachusetts! The Reservoir has a fascinating history that includes the destruction and flooding of the Swift River Valley, which included four towns prior to the flooding of the Valley. Come to the Quabbin Visitor Center in Belchertown on Sunday afternoon, Feb 2, to learn about this interesting history through photographs of the region taken shortly before the Reservoir was made, and compare those with photos from today. This is an exciting opportunity to see these rare photographs and learn about the Quabbin.

The Stockbridge Library’s Museum and Archives is offering a local history program on the first Tuesday of each month, entitled “Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Stockbridge.” Each program focuses on the town’s historic homes, their history, and the people who lived in them. Current Stockbridge homeowners will present this information about their homes and the previous residents. This month’s program on Tuesday evening, Feb 4, is entitled, “Two Homey Estates.

Friday, Feb 7, is Home School Day at Old Sturbridge Village! The theme is “Winter Pleasures: Chocolate and Valentines,” and visitors will learn about the winter activities that were enjoyed by people in the early 19th Century, like ice skating, sledding, live music, and more. There will be hands-on studies and activities throughout the day. Visiting Old Sturbridge Village is a fun and engaging way for kids to learn more about what life was like in the past in New England.

Easthampton’s Winterfest kicks off on Friday night, Feb 7, at Easthampton High School with a premier screening of “The Screening of Nashawannuck Pond.” The film, produced by Easthampton Community Access Television, tells the story of this Easthampton landmark. After the movie, you can enjoy tango, fire dance, Indian dance, and more, all around Easthampton.

Community Service

The First Parish of Northfield is assembling Valentine Gift Bags to be distributed at the Northfield Food Pantry. Donations of personal care items for either male, female or child are being gathered. Items can be dropped off at Dala Bird Gift Shot on Main Street in Northfield on Wed-Sat, any time between 10am-4pm, through Feb 13. Items they are welcoming include: bar soap, shaving cream, razors, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, nail files, shampoo, conditioner, lip balm and lotion. — Want to make care bags for families in need in your community? Check out our post, Community Service: Creating Care Bags for Giving.

Valentine’s Day


The Center School in Greenfield is hosting a free Birds of Prey Open House with raptor rehabilitator Tom Ricardi on Sunday afternoon, Feb 2. See live raptors upclose, learn about their adaptations and the importance of local habitat preservation for their survival! This exciting live show will be great for the whole family and will give kids a chance to get up close to these incredible birds. Bird-related activities will be facilitated too, including dissecting owl pellets, making masks, and constructing bird nests.


Amherst Cinema presents Science on Screen, a film series featuring current, cult, and documentary films accompanied by introductions by experts in science, medicine, and technology. The first film in the series will be screened on Monday evening, Feb 3.  The film is Groundhog Day (1993; rated PG), a comedy about a self-centered TV weatherman who is assigned to cover Groundhog Day festivities who gets stuck in time on that day and is forced to relive it. Along with the film, the event will feature a discussion with Amherst College physics professor Dr. Kannan Jagannathan. Using the film as a reference, Jagannathan will discuss time travel’s presence in fiction and the roots of such stories in physics principles (or not!). While there is a place in science for examining the potential for time travel, there is much more space for examining the rules of physics broken within plots that include time traveling adventures. Jagannathan will point out instances of such rule breaking in the film, and will help viewers to understand Einstein’s theory of relativity and the ways in which it applies to the instances from the film.

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.

[Image credit: (cc) Cliff1066]

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

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: