27 Community Highlights: Accordion Books to Togas. Vernal Equinox to Maple Syrup.

Happy Spring!

Accordion Books to Togas. Purim to St. Patrick’s Day. Vernal Equinox to Maple Syrup

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: Saturday, March 15, is Family Fun Day at Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum! The theme for this free event is “Portraits and Costume,” and there will be drop-in craft activities, a gallery talk that includes a picture book related to the museum’s collection, and much more. Not only will the educational potential of the museum be unlocked by museum guides and interpreters, but children will be able to learn in a collaborative, multi-age environment where they share their thoughts and observations with others and gain insight from information shared by other visitors.

Maple SyrupSTEMImmigrationSt. Patrick’s DayPurimCultural StudiesOutdoor AdventuresAnimal StudiesSpring EquinoxLiteracyTheater/MusicalsParent WorkshopsCrafts

Maple Syrup

The sap is flowing and spring is (almost) here!  For nearly 20 years, Chester Hill Association has hosted a Maple Fest to celebrate the first harvest of the year and this Saturday, March 15, is their 29th Annual Maple Fest. This annual Chester celebration features a traditional country breakfast at the First Congregational Church, and then you can visit with local artists and artisans at the old schoolhouse, hear a live performance by the Pioneer Valley Fiddlers, meet farm animals, explore a working fire truck, and take a wagon to High Meadow Sugar House to see how maple syrup is made. Kids and adults will love learning all about maple syrup at this fun community-oriented event that celebrates rural life in Western MA.

Storrowtown Village’s 9th Annual Maple Harvest Day take place the following day on Sunday afternoon, March 16 in West Springfield. Learn about the history and lore of maple sugaring in the front yard of the Gilbert Homestead, where there will be Sugar Maple tree tapping, sumac spile making, and sap boiling over an open fire. Learn about the origin of maple sugaring and other traditional New England activities, like open hearth cooking, quilting, and spinning wool at this annual event.


LEGOs are much more than small pieces of plastic that clutter up your living room floor and smart something awful when stepped upon with your bare feet… they are a great creative medium for kids interested in design and architecture, and can help them develop their own creative stories based on characters and structures that they build.  The Lenox Library is holding a LEGO Build-a-Thon for kids ages 5-14 on Saturday morning, March 15th. Construction goes from 9:30 to 10:15, followed by a demonstration.


In honor of St. Patrick’s Day this Saturday & Sunday, March 15 & 16, Old Sturbridge Village will have Irish-themed activities for all ages as part of their Celtic Celebration. Live Irish music, talks on Irish immigration, and demonstrations that show what life was like for Irish immigrants in America are just some of the activities offered. Also this weekend is OSV’s Maple Days. Learn maple syrup was gathered and rendered in the Colonial Era.

Learn about Irish immigration to America at the Holyoke Public Library with Christopher Daley on Monday evening, March 17th. Daley will discuss Irish immigration to the country through time, from the 1600s, when they were brought here as indentured servants, up until the 1800s, when large groups emigrated from Ireland because of the Great Potato Famine. Older students and adults interested in the history of the Irish in America will enjoy this talk.

Saint Patrick’s Day

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Ventfort Hall’sIrish Music and Shamrock Tea” event on Sunday afternoon, March 16th in Lenox. Ted Soulos and Paul Crook will play Irish tunes, primarily on the whistle and flute. There will also be Irish-themed foods like a special shamrock tea, Irish soda bread, cookies, and more. Older students and adults will enjoy this lively and educational musical event.


  • Families are invited to Congregation B’nai Israel for a Purim Celebration on Saturday afternoon, March 15th in Northampton.
  • Hear the Megillah, walk in a Purim parade, and enjoy refreshments and kids’ activities at Temple Beth El on Saturday evening, March 15th in Springfield.
  • Temple Israel of Greenfield is holding a Megillah reading and party for Purim on Sunday morning, March 16th. All ages are welcome.
  • Families can have fun at the Jewish Community of Amherst‘s Purim Carnival on Sunday, March 16thl!
  • Celebrate Purim at the Springfield Jewish Community Center’s Purim Carnival on Sunday afternoon, March 16th.
  • Join Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy for Purim a la Peking, a Chinese-style Purim feast, complete with dancing and music on Sunday afternoon, March 16th in Longmeadow.

Cultural Studies

March 15 is Bread Euphoria’s Annual Ides of March Toga Contest in Haydenville!  In Ancient Rome, men wore togas and women wore stolas and there were many variations of both. Come by in the afternoon in your best, most creative (and most authentic) toga to compete for prizes! The contest will be judged by a high school Latin teacher, so do some background research on the history and importance of togas, so you can dress in a historically accurate and creative garment. This fun event can inspire learning of ancient cultures and fashion history, and a great way to get community members of all ages to come together.

Learn about the cultural traditions of the Shakers with historian and author of Shaker Style, Sharon Koomler, at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge on Saturday afternoon, March 15th. She will discuss Shaker form and function from the 1700s to the present day. Those interested in learning more about the Shakers and their minimalist style will enjoy this talk.

Outdoor Adventures

Enjoy some end-of-winter outdoor fun with the whole family at Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center on Saturday afternoon, March 15th! This family hike will take you through wooded wetlands, rocky outcrops, and streams as you search for animal tracks. Enjoy other winter fun like building a fire, making hot cocoa, building snow creatures, and more.

Animal Studies

The Hitchcock Center for the Environment will screen The Fox and the Child (2007) at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst for kids and families on Sunday afternoon, March 16. The film is about a young girl who befriends a wild fox and the beauty and drama that follow. This program is part of the Hitchcock Center’s Environmental Film and Speaker Series, and will feature an introduction and discussion session. The Center’s box turtle Speedy and corn snake Maizie will also be at the Carle for families to meet!

What would it look like if western Massachusetts had feral horse that roamed the flat lands of the Pioneer Valley, much like the feral Chincoteague ponies on Assateague Island in Virginia or the Mustangs of the American west? Hard to imagine, isn’t it! Mary A. Koncel of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University will present a talk titled “Controversy and Consensus: Managing Our Wild Horses” on Sunday afternoon, March 16th at the Berkshire Humane Society in Pittsfield. Those who would like to learn about some of the issues surrounding wild horses and their management would enjoy this free talk. Weather permitting, there will even be a chance to meet a locally adopted mustang!

Cougars, or Pumas, were presumed to be gone from this region decades ago, but if that’s true, how can we explain the new field evidence and reports of sightings? Are other animals being mistaken for a cougar, are they being release into the wild, or is there a self sustaining population amongst us? On Tuesday evening,  March 18th at the S. White Dickinson Memorial Library in Whatley, Robert Tougias,  author of The Quest for the Eastern Cougar, will lead a lively discussion on the topic and present a slideshow about the cougar’s presence in the area. Older students and adults who want to learn more about this fascinating predator will enjoy this talk.

Spring Equinox

Witness the passing of the seasons on the Vernal Equinox at the UMass Sunwheel on Thursday sunrise and sunset, March 20th, in Amherst. A presentation will be given which will describe the significance of the equinoxes and solstices, the cause of the seasons and phases of the Moon, the story of building the Sunwheel, and other calendar sites around the world such as Stonehenge and Callanish in the UK and Chichen Itza in Mexico. There will also be an explanation of the Moon’s 18.6-year cycle, also called the Major Lunar Standstill. The sunrise event will be more ceremonial and participatory in nature, including elements of ritual, personal reflection, poetry, song, and meditation, along with teachings on the astronomy of the seasons.


The Collaborative for Educational Services is offering a free evening workshop series for children from birth to age five and their parents/guardians, titled “First Steps to Reading.” The workshops focus on five simple practices to help kids not only start reading, but enjoy it as well; the practices are sharing books, playing, exploring, singing, and writing. The workshop runs for five weeks (March 20-April 17) and it recommended that you and your child attend all five sessions. Takes place at the Palmer Monson Family Network in Three Rivers.


  • Saturday, March 15Northampton High School Theater presents a production of The Music Man.
  • Saturday, March 15: Hartsbrook High School presents a production of Macbeth in Hadley, MA.
  • Saturday, March 15 & Sunday, March 16: Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School’s production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice will be performed at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA.
  • Friday, March 21: Ja’Duke Center for the Performing Arts presents a production of Tarzan at the Turners Falls High School auditorium.

Parent Workshops

Learn how to keep your children safe online at an internet safety and sexting forum held at the Agawam Junior High School Auditorium on Wednesday evening, March 19th in Feeding Hills. Representatives from Agawam Police Department, Agawam Schools, Hampden County District Attorney’s Office, and the Massachusetts State Police will be discussing the dangers of the internet, social media, and sexting and how you can educate and protect your children. This event is free and open to the public.


Join Lori Gordon at the Greenfield Public Library on the first day of Spring, Thursday afternoon, March 20, to make accordion books. These handcrafted books make great garden journals, perfect for spring time! Recommended for ages 7 and up, although younger children with adult help can do the cutting, folding, taping, and decorating of the cloth and paper for these little books. These books can be made with pockets to hold seed packets that will be given to the crafters, to help remember which seeds they planted and write down when they start to show above the soil. Free.

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) Michael Head]

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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