30 Community Highlights: Straw Rockets to Shakespeare. Easter to Earth Day.

Easter is Sunday and there are many Easter activities happening this weekend throughout the region. Dying eggs and Easter candy are perfect opportunities for incorporating a little science into your family traditions. Check out these featured Spring & Easter Science pins over on Pinterest and put a little STEA(rt)M into your celebration!

Straw Rockets to Bug Collages. Arctic Tern to American Alligator. Shakespeare to Aldo Leopold… 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:  Did you know that dinosaurs lived right here in the Pioneer Valley millions of years ago? They are an important piece of the natural history of this area, and more can be learned about them and where they lived at the Dinosaur Footprints in Holyoke (Route 5). On Saturday morning April 19, The Trustees of Reservations are holding a free event for families that gives visitors a chance to “Walk Where Dinosaurs Roamed” and learn about their history in the area, what species might have lived here, how their footprints have been preserved over time, and what the local habitat was like.

Citizen ScientistPaleontologyCollaborative ConsumptionCultural StudiesFilm StudiesSTEMMuseum AdventuresHistoryCommunity ServiceAnimal StudiesLiterary AdventuresHikingEntomologyMusic StudiesPastry ArtsEnvironmentalism

Citizen Scientist

Henry Street in Amherst is known for its spotted salamander population, which makes the journey across the road to the breeding grounds each Spring via the Henry Street tunnel. Naturalists from the Hitchcock Center for the Environment are curious about the salamander population in the vernal pools near Henry Street, and they need help counting egg masses that female salamanders have laid in the vernal pools. Teens and adults interested in animals and nature can take part in this unique and exciting citizen science opportunity, under the supervision of the Hitchcock Center. Participating in a study like this can help students learn if they are interested in ecology, animals, or nature, while learning more about local habitats, vernal pools and some of the species that need them for survival. This event will take place on a sunny afternoon in April, date to be determined by weather. To get updates on the egg mass count or to join the call list, please call the Hitchcock Center at 413-256-6006.


Did you know that dinosaurs lived right here in the Pioneer Valley millions of years ago? They are an important piece of the natural history of this area, and more can be learned about them and where they lived at the Dinosaur Footprints in Holyoke (Route 5). On Saturday morning April 19, The Trustees of Reservations are holding a free event for families that gives visitors a chance to “Walk Where Dinosaurs Roamed” and learn about their history in the area, what species might have lived here, how their footprints have been preserved over time, and what the local habitat was like.

Collaborative Consumption

Do you want to learn more about fixing things? Or do you have a broken item that you would like someone else to fix? Then come to the Pittsfield Repair Cafe, on Saturday afternoon, April 19, in Pittsfield. Repair Cafes encourage people to repair what they already own, instead of tossing it in the trash and buying a new one, therefore supporting sustainability. They also encourage collaborative consumption, in which people share their skills and services with one another to teach, help, etc. Free.

Cultural Studies

UMass Amherst’s Pow-wow takes place on Saturday, April 19 in Amherst. This free annual event celebrates Native American culture through food, dancing, drumming, arts and crafts, and more… a great opportunity for kids to sample to Native American culture.

Film Studies

See Up (2009; rated PG), the award-winning and heartwarming Pixar movie at the Academy of Music in Northampton on Saturday afternoon, April 19, and then enjoy a conversation between Ed Asner (voice of Carl) and Bob Peterson (co-writer, director, voice of Dug). Students who are fans of the movie and who want to learn more about the making-of process will enjoy this event, seeing characters in real-life and hearing about the behind-the-scenes making of the film.


Kids ages 5 and up can make their own straw rockets and paper airplanes at the Amelia Park Children’s Museum in Westfield on Monday afternoon, April 21. Get kids interested in aviation and engineering through hands-on activity. Later in the week on Thursday afternoon, April 24, they can experiment with chemistry!

LEGO events happen on Friday, April 25, at two different libraries. In the morning, the Chicopee Public Library hosts a free LEGO Block Party for kids ages 6-12. In the afternoon, East Longmeadow Public Library‘s Children’s Department hosts a free drop-in LEGO event! Get creative and learn about engineering & design by using LEGOs.

Museum Adventures

Saturday, April 19 is free Family Fun Day at Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum! The theme for this event is “Animals, Nature, and Landscapes,” and kids will have the chance to make flower and bug collages, participate in a scavenger hunt for animals and nature in art, and go on a kid-friendly tour of the Museum’s collection of works by the Hudson River School and American Realists. Discover this great local museum and learn all about nature in art at this fun family-oriented event


Mass Audubon is holding a hike at Constitution Hill in Lanesboro with historian Mike Whalen, who will discuss the town of Lanesboro’s lively history from colonial times to the present. On Saturday, April 19, discover how Constitution Hill got its name and visit the famous Constitution Oak, planted in 1921 when the property was part of a town forest. Learn about land use practices, the impact of local industry, and the influence of the town’s residents over time. This hike would be best for older students and adults.

Learn about the 19th-century Brewer Road neighborhood at the Pelham Historical Society on Monday evening, April 21. Linda Campbell Hanscom will present the neighborhood, as perceived by the late Robert Lord Keyes, and its history. Older students interested in local history will enjoy this talk, which is followed by a walk in the Brewer Road neighborhood on Saturday afternoon, April 26.

Community  Service

The Trustees of Reservations are offering free volunteer workdays for older teens and adults who would like to experience working outdoors to help their local natural areas and the communities that visit them. Teens and adults can volunteer with The Trustees to maintain trails and properties at Chapel Brook (Williamsburg Road, Ashfield, MA) on Saturday, April 19 from 9am-1pm, and at Little Tom Mountain (125 Reservation Road, Holyoke, MA) on Sunday, April 27 from 9am-12noon. Work together with family, friends, or other volunteers to gain experience helping their communities and the local environment in a hands-on way. Please visit the Trustees volunteer webpage or call 413-532-1631 for more information. Volunteer registration is required.

Help Mt. Grace Land Conservation Trust remove invasive plants from the Mill Brook area on Saturday morning, April 19. This event is part of Dickinson Memorial Library‘s “Northfield’s Woodlands” series of programs. Removing invasive species is a great community-service opportunity for teens and older students who are interested in ecology and the environment.

Be a “blanketeer” at Wilbraham Public Library by making blankets for Project Linus. on Saturday morning, April 19. The organization provides new, handmade blankets to children who are ill or who have experienced trauma. Teens can gain hands-on experience in quilting, knitting, crocheting, sewing, etc. and learn about the importance of helping others at this free community-service event.

Animal Studies

As migrating birds return to the region after a long cold winter, have you ever stopped to think about how far they traveled in their journey back home? Some birds migrate thousands of miles each year! The Arctic Tern, for instance, flies from the Arctic to Antarctica and back each year, which covers about 12,000 miles. Over 1,000 bird species are considered migratory, and some of these fly short distances each year, while others, like the Arctic Tern, fly much longer distances. You can see these migrations and learn about the birds during a screening of Winged Migration (2001; rated G) at Images Cinema in Williamstown on Monday evening April 21. This documentary follows migratory birds on their journeys around the world and takes viewers to all seven continents. Kids and adults alike will love this beautifully filmed documentary.

Did you know that skunks help keep insects away? Or that the American alligator was once close to extinction? Discover the unique characteristics and habitats of several different animals at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield on Tuesday afternoon, April 22 for a special Earth Day installment of “Animals Up Close” with Creature Teachers. Museum visitors can learn about a variety of animals, including a green tree python, a kinkajou, a skunk, an American alligator, and others. Learning about these animals can help influence kids to be more interested in conservation efforts and the risks faced by endangered animals all over the world.

Come to the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield for “Eyes on Owls” with Mark and Marcia Wilson on Tuesday afternoon, April 22. At this free event, you can learn about the lives of New England’s owls and how to protect them, and get to see some owls up close!

Explore the Beaver Ponds at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox on Wednesday evening, April 23! Sanctuary volunteer Butch Ptak will lead the expedition, and visitors will learn not only about the habits of beavers, but about the various types of wildlife who congregate at beaver ponds and the long-lasting effects that beaver ponds have upon habitats.

Meet friendly zoo animals at the Forest Park Zoo’s “Zoo on the Go” at the Sixteen Acres Branch Library in Springfield on Thursday afternoon, April 24! Kids can learn all about unique animals from the zoo and then get a chance to meet them.

Learn about salamanders at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox on Friday evening, April 25. In the daytime, woodland salamanders can be found under logs, rocks, and in other damp areas, but at night, they venture out. Come look for salamanders and learn about their interesting lives at this fun, outdoor event for families with children of all ages.

Literary Adventures

Kids can learn about Shakespeare at the Ramsdell Library during a special presentation by Shakespeare and Company on Wednesday afternoon, April 23, in Housatonic. This free presentation is about the life and times of William Shakespeare, and there will also be sword-fighting and other entertainment.


Enjoy Northfield in the springtime on a hike with Sam and Barbara Richardson as part of Dickinson Memorial Library‘s “Northfield’s Woodlands” series of programming on Sunday afternoon, April 20. The hike is moderately paced and would be best for older students.

Join Berkshire Natural Resources Council for a moderate 2.5 mile hike at Basin Pond in Lee on Wednesday morning, April 23. This hike features historic stonework, dam ruins, and a view of the pond. Best for older students and adults.


As part of Pioneer Valley Bee Weeks, UMass Extension Center for Agriculture is holding “Hives, Honeybees, Habitats, and Hope” at UMass in Amherst on Wednesday afternoon, April 23. There will be several types of hives on display, as well as local beekeepers to talk to, information on plants to attract bees, and information on bee research taking place on campus. Older students interested in honey and/or insects will enjoy this event.

Music Studies

The Westfield Athenaeum is holding a free Musical Petting Zoo for kids, where they can come try out and explore different instruments on Friday afternoon, April 25. This is a great opportunity for kids who are interested in music to experience a variety of instruments and how to play them.

Pastry Arts

What better way to bring community members of all ages and backgrounds together than baking bread together? Regardless of your prior baking experience, community bread baking events can teach you the skill of bread baking and provide you with an intergenerational hands-on activity to do with members of your community. The Pioneer Valley Bread House is holding a special, free Earth Day event on Monday afternoon, April 21, “Mixing Stories, Kneading the Future.” Families can come learn to bake bread, share stories, engage in puppetry and theater, and spend time with community members of all ages. The “Theater of Crumbs” is a staple activity in bread houses all over the world – bakers will make bread puppets and then improvise collective plays using the puppets, encouraging creativity and cooperation among participants. Takes place at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley.


An ecovillage is an intentional community that uses participatory processes to integrate ecological, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of sustainability in order to regenerate social and natural environments. Older students who hold these values and are interested in both living more sustainably and teaching others to do so would be interested in NextGEN’s Youth Ecovillage Summit at Sirius Community in Shutesbury, April 24-April 27. Students can learn principles of sustainability, first-hand work that can be done to live more sustainably, and living communally. Activities include panel discussions, meditation, drum circles, workdays, hands-on activities, games, movie night, communal meals, and more. Registration is required by April 19.

The Hitchcock Center for the Environment and the US Fish and Wildlife Service at Hadley Regional Headquarters presents a free screening of Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time on Tuesday evening, April 22, in Hadley. This documentary is about legendary American environmentalist Aldo Leopold, his career, and how he has shaped the modern environmental movement. Older students interested in environmental studies and conservation will enjoy this film.

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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