31 Community Highlights: Shaker Inventions to Turkish Coffee. Telescopes to Architecture.

On Saturday afternoon, Feb. 22, families are invited to Mt. Tom State Reservation in Holyoke for a free guided family program – “Signs of the Season.”

Shaker Inventions to Turkish Coffee. Smith Splash to Kitchen Kaboom. Telescopes to Rainforest

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: Students in grades 6 through 12 (ages 11 through 18) are invited to come to Smith Splash in Northampton on the Smith College campus for a day of workshops for middle and high school students taught by college students. Write a parody song, learn about energy and mathematical proofs, create a zine, and learn American Sign Language. Takes place on Saturday, Mar 1. Registration deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 26!

HistoryBirds of PreyFilm StudiesNature StudiesSTEMEntomologyCultureFood StudiesArchitectureBlack History MonthParent Workshops


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. 22. 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.

Did the Shakers really invent the circular saw?  The seed packet?  What else did they invent? Hancock Shaker Village presents “10 Shaker Inventions: Fact or Fiction” at the Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 22. Learn about what Shakers did and didn’t invent.

Discover what life was like for an Irish immigrant family living in Civil War-era Holyoke on Monday evening, Feb. 24, at the Wistariahurst Museum‘s “Life of a Mill Hand” lecture, part of the Made in the Happy Valley series.  This lecture will focus on an Irish family living in Holyoke during the Civil War.  Information shared in the presentation will draw upon genealogical records and other primary sources to paint an accurate portrait of the family, whose lives were centered around (and dependent upon) jobs within Holyoke’s mills. Once New England’s paper manufacturing hub, Holyoke’s many mills employed large numbers of immigrants – many of them Irish – under poor working conditions and even worse living conditions. The city’s industrial history is an important part of the history of the Pioneer Valley as a whole, as the paper industry drew thousands of immigrants to the area.

Birds of Prey

Learn about raptors at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton on Saturday morning, Feb. 22. Teens and older students interested in ornithology can learn how to best spot raptors in winter, when they are more easily seen flying over fields searching for prey. Dan Russell, a professor at Springfield College, will lead this program. Then on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 23, continue your exploration of raptors with the Kestrel Land Trust, also taking place at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. “Birds of Prey: Their Lives and Challenges” will be presented by Julie Anne Collier of Wingmasters. Families can come learn about hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls and how they are affected by our rapidly changing world. Collier will bring some of these fascinating birds with her to the presentation.

Focus on Bald Eagles on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 23 at the Quabbin Visitor Center in Belchertown with Andrew Vitz, State Ornithologist with Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Open to all ages, Vitz will discuss the vital role played the Quabbin Reservoir in the reintroduction of the Bald Eagle to Massachusetts. Can’t make it but very interested in Bald Eagles? Check out this Bald Eagle Nest Cam. An egg was produced on January 14, 2014, followed by a second egg on January 17… getting ready to hatch any day!

Film Studies

Images Cinema in Williamstown is screening Oscar-nominated animated and documentary shorts on Saturday, Feb. 22. Don’t miss your chance to see these great short films before the Oscars! Best for older students and adults interested in film studies. If you can’t make a day screening, in the evening on Saturday, Feb. 22 through Monday, Feb. 24, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield will be screening five Oscar-nominees, including Feral, Get a Horse!, Mr. Hublot, Possessions, and Room on the Broom.  Here’s the trailer of Feral, an animated story about a wild boy who has grown up in the woods is found by a hunter and returned to civilization:

Want to see academy award winning films from yesteryears?  Your local library has many of these classics for borrowing and screening at home.  On Saturday afternoon, Feb. 22, the Jones Library in Amherst will be screening the film from 1973 that won the best picture… can you guess which one? Come by the library, view the film, and check other Oscar winners to view at home.  Make it a study of film and compare winners from different years, observing the evolution of film production and acting styles.

Nature Studies

With all of the recent snow you might be wondering if spring will ever come! On Saturday afternoon, Feb. 22, families are invited to Mt. Tom State Reservation in Holyoke for a free guided family program – “Signs of the Season.” This program includes indoor activities as well as outdoor exploration, and kids will learn all about the different seasons.

The Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation is holding a Winter Open House pm Saturday afternoon, Feb. 22 at Sheep Hill! The whole family is invited to come explore the property and enjoy an animal tracking and winter ecology hike, sledding, snowshoeing, maple treats, and more. This open house is an opportunity for community members to learn more about the WRLF, its conservation efforts, and its nature and cultural education programs.

This week’s Springfield Museums a la Carte lecture at the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield is, “Introduction to the Tropical Rainforest,” presented by Frances Ryan. On Thursday at noon, Feb. 27, older students and self-directed teens can come learn all about the rainforests of the world and why they are such interesting and diverse ecosystems. While there be sure to check out Rainforest Adventure. 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. For homeschoolers, the Springfield Science Museum is hosting a Home School Day on Tuesday, Feb. 25.


Astronomer Rick Costello will be at the Lenox Library on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 22 to present an astronomy program for all ages – “Telescopes Are Time Machines.” Costello will discuss recent astronomical events and how long it takes them to reach our eyes here on Earth. There will also be a chance to view the night sky if weather conditions allow.  Get your kids excited about the night sky!

Come to Amherst Brewing Company for this month’s Sci.Tech.Café on Monday evening, Feb. 24! The topic this month is “Bits and Bytes: The future of data storage.” Learn how your hard drive works, how and why data is stored in binary, what is binary, and if there are better ways to store information, and more. Older students and self-directed teens interested in computers and technology will enjoy this talk, which is designed for community members without science backgrounds.

Students in grades 6 through 12 (ages 11 through 18) are invited to come to Smith Splash in Northampton on the Smith College campus for a day of workshops for middle and high school students taught by college students. Write a parody song, learn about energy and mathematical proofs, create a zine, and learn American Sign Language. Takes place on Saturday, Mar 1. Registration deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 26!

Girls ages 8-13 living in Hampshire, Hampden, and Franklin counties can participate in the Girls Connect First LEGO League event taking place at UMass Amherst on March 29. Teams of 4-6 girls learn how to build and program LEGO robots and then take part in a friendly competition. This event is a great introduction to First LEGO League; it is only open to girls who have not participated in one of these events before. First LEGO League gets kids interested in science, technology, and engineering and gives them a chance to do hands-on activities that utilize these skills. If you are interested in participating, you must take part in an informational conference call on February 26 or February 27. Registration details and more information are available on the UMass STEM Education website.

Other STEM highlights include Kitchen Kaboom on Saturday morning, Feb 22 in Pittsfield at the Berkshire Museum, and a chess club at the Pelham Library on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 26.


Do your children know where their sweet sticky honey comes from? Have they heard about the struggle honey bees now face? Honey bees around the world are in trouble due to a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and honey bee sanctuaries are being formed. “Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?“, a film by Taggart Siegel, explores this devastating problem in the beehive, interviewing beekeepers, scientists, and philosophers from around the world. There will be a screening on Wednesday evening, Feb. 26 at Saint James Church in Greenfield. Find out what might be causing CCD and why bees are so important to our sustainable way of life. A discussion after the film will be led by Dan Conlon of Warm Colors Apiary (South Deerfield), a full-time beekeeper dedicated to preserving genetic lines of Russian honeybees.


The Turkish Cultural Center of Western Massachusetts is holding a Turkish Coffee Night at the Agawam Public Library on Friday evening, Feb. 28. Come learn about Turkish culture while enjoying Turkish dance, music, and food. This event is open to the public and would be best for older students and adults.

Food Studies

Louder Than Moms: A Parent-Friendly Ideas Exchange” is a free monthly program at Grow in Northampton that allows stay-at-home parents and caregivers to share their intellectual and professional experiences in a baby/toddler-friendly setting. This month’s topic is “Coffee Culture: The Art and Politics of the Coffee Bean,” with Jenna Gotthelf of Northampton Coffee and Professor Nola Reinhardt of Smith College. On Friday, Feb. 28, bring your baby/toddler and come enjoy this coffee talk and a discussion to go along with it.

In Williamstown, Images Cinema’sFresh Fest” kicks off on Friday afternoon, Feb. 28 with a screening of A Place at the Table, a documentary that investigates hunger in the United States. Fifty million Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from. The film follows three Americans of those 50 million and also discusses how the country’s issues of food insecurity can be fixed. The film is recommended for ages 8 and up.


Older students interested in architecture and the history of local landmarks can take a tour of the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton on Wednesday evening, Feb 26. Architect Tom Douglas and Academy Technical Director Hugh Hall will teach about the building’s architectural features, its Renaissance style, the use of gas and electric lamps, full-fly hemp system, and more. Feed that interest architecture during this free tour while learning about the history behind one of Northampton’s most well-known buildings!

Black History Month

Events in honor of Black History Month are taking place around the region, including:

Parent Workshops

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: (c) Sienna Wildfield]

Learn Local. Play Local. 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.

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