26 Community Highlights: Park Clean-Ups to Hawley Bog. Sheep Shearing to Beekeeping.

Families can experience life in an 18th Century encampment on Saturday, April 26 at the Historic Deerfield’s Revolutionary Muster and Parade.

Park Clean-Ups to Hawley Bog. Yo-Yos to Polka. Sheep Shearing to Beekeeping…. 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 Amherst Farmers’ Market and Amherst Sustainability Festival takes place this Saturday, April 26, on the Town Common. Pick up your starter plants and locally grown foods from the Market, and then head to the Common for a fabulous family-friendly festival featuring all things sustainable… including Hilltown Families! Stop by our tent where kids can plant seeds to take home with them while parents can learn about the mission of Hilltown Families.

DendrologyBiologyNew England HistoryBike TourIndustry & Transportation HistoryHabitatCommunity ServiceSustainabilityPhysicsAnimal Studies ♦ Culture/Dance ♦  Artisanal TradeMusic StudiesEntomologyWomen & Media StudiesMay Day


In New England, trees remain leafless for roughly half the year, making them a little more difficult to identify. However, leaves are not the only way to identify a tree – looking at a tree’s bark or habitat can be just as helpful. You can learn how to identify trees based on bark and habitat clues with The Trustees of Reservations at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington on Saturday, April 26th. This Hilltown property features several unique habitats, including an old-growth forest containing some of the tallest trees in the Northeast, making it an excellent place to learn about a variety of different tree species. Families will learn about the bark of several tree species, and how this might look in varying stages of development and in different habitats. Older students interested in plants and local ecology will enjoy this intergenerational educational program.


Did you catch the common cold this past winter? With no known cure, the common cold is a discomfort and inconvenience for the many people that catch it. Scott Garman, a Professor at the UMass Amherst Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has devoted his work to searching for a cure the common cold, as well as the science behind this virus. Why do so many people catch it? Why are some people barely affected, while others experience days of discomfort? Professor Garman will delve into the molecular biology of the virus, examining how we can see things at the atomic level and how this can help with research into the common cold. He will be speaking at this month’s Sci.Tech.Café at the Amherst Brewing Company on Monday evening, April 28, at 6pm. Students interested in biology and wellness will benefit from this talk, which is designed for community members without science backgrounds

New England History

Patriots’ Day is celebrated every year in Massachusetts to commemorate the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which took place on April 19, 1775 and began the Revolutionary War. Family members of all ages can discover the history of Patriots’ Day at Historic Deerfield’s Revolutionary Muster and Parade on Saturday, April 26. Families can experience life in an 18th Century encampment with period crafts, fife and drum music, and a parade and muster. Reenactors will be dressed up in authentic historic clothing with accessories and weapons characteristic of the time period. Terrific opportunity for experiential learning with historic interpreters!

Bike Tour

Are you interested in learning more about the rich history of Holyoke? The city, once known for its mills and mansions, was the first planned industrial community in the country. It can be explored by bicycle on the Wistariahurst Museum’s Bicycle Tours with Craig Della Penna, which take place on Saturday morning on April 26 and May 3. Teens and adults can bring their bikes, helmets, enthusiasm, and sense of adventure to discover the city on two wheels. On April 26, explore the city’s mills and waterways, and then on May 3, discover the Fairfield Avenue Historic District. This is an interactive opportunity for older students and their parents to spend quality time together while learning local history and developing a greater sense of place.

Industry & Transportation History

Did you know that there used to be a railroad that ran from East Springfield to Palmer? Between 1911 and 1913, the Hampden Railroad was built to connect these two towns, but was never actually used. You can learn about the history, planning, and construction of this railroad, as well as why it was built and then never used, at the Holyoke Public Library on Saturday afternoon, April 26. Phillip Johnson, author of a book commemorating the railroad, will speak on these topics as well as the popularity of rail travel in the early 20th Century. Come with questions! Why was rail travel so common in the 1900s? What are the main types of transportation now and how do they compare to travel in the 20th Century? Why and how do you think these changes occurred?  Older students interested in local history will learn about this little-known railway and the history of transportation!

Pioneer Valley Institute offers families a chance to learn about the history of an important local industry, and the settlement of a once bustling tiny hilltown. On Saturday, April 26th, families can attend A History of Logging Tools in Our Valley at the Shutesbury Town Hall. Historian Harry Proudy and local logger Steve Puffer will teach families with older children about the logging industry between 1920 and 1950, focusing in particular on the tools used during that time period. Included in the presentation will be a short video clip of loggers utilizing the tools discussed, and Proudy will share his own experiences with the tools. Additionally, families will be lead on a guided hike of a section of the Paul C. Jones working forest, a conserved section of forested land, in order to add an experiential element to the learning taking place during the event.


The Pioneer Valley Institute offers families an opportunity to learn about the natural history and cultural heritage of the town of Hawley on Sunday afternoon, April 27th and the fascinating Hawley Bog. “Discovering Hawley History & Its Natural Surroundings” is a guided walking tour, lead by local geologist Ed Gregory. Families will be able to enjoy exploration and interpretation of a charcoal kiln (built in 1870!) and the Old Hawley Town Common, which dates back to 1798 and was once home to a church, a tavern, and a few dwellings. The second portion of the hike will take families across 700 feet of boardwalk in the Hawley Bog for observation of some local flora and (perhaps) fauna.

Explore one of The Trustees of Reservations‘ newest properties – Mount Warner – on a vernal pool hike in North Hadley on Sunday morning, April 27. Search for salamanders, frogs and egg masses in the forest’s ephemeral pools. Older students interested in vernal pools, ecology, and local habitats will enjoy this guided hike to a vernal pool.

Community Service

Families can work with Whately Land Preservation and the Franklin Land Trust to do some volunteer cleanup work during the Whately Roadside Cleanup on Saturday morning, April 26! This annual event gives students and community members a chance to make a difference in their town by cleaning up public areas and reinforcing the importance recycling and not littering.

Older teens and adults can help Mass Audubon prepare their Canoe Meadows property in Lenox for the upcoming busy seasons. Come help out on Saturday morning, April 26, with projects and enjoy a pizza lunch while engaging in and intergenerational service-based learning community event.

Do you have old bikes you or your kids have outgrown, or bike parts laying around? On Saturday morning, April 26, Greenfield Community College is having a bike drive for Bikes Not Bombs, an organization that uses reclaimed bicycles as vehicles for social change

The Friends of Springside Park are holding their 25th Annual Springside Park Clean Up for Earth Day all day on Saturday, April 26 in Pittsfield. All ages can stop by any time to help clean up the park. This is a great way to get your hands dirty and help out your community.  Youth who help keep their parks clean grow to care about their local natural resources!

Spend time giving back to your local school community as a family on Saturday, April 26. Berkshire Trail Elementary School in Cummington is holding their annual Community Spruce-Up Day, an event that brings together students, parents, teachers, and community members to help with maintenance and beautification of the school’s grounds. Projects at this year’s event include painting, cleaning out garden beds, and clearing the woods for a nature playspace. Come work and stay for lunch.

Support cats and dogs that have cancer at an event at Stanley Park in Westfield to raise money for Paws 4 A Cure, on Sunday, April 27. Organized by Westfield State University students, events include a color run, animal run, music, face painting, and more. Bring the whole family (even dogs!) to this fun event to raise money for a good cause.

Families can help The Trustees of Reservations maintain trails and property at Little Tom Mountain in Holyoke on Sunday morning, April 27, as part of the David Sigelman Memorial Workday. Volunteers will work to upgrade the trail, install signs, and remove/control invasive species.


The Amherst Farmers’ Market and Amherst Sustainability Festival takes place this Saturday, April 26, on the Town Common. Pick up your starter plants and locally grown foods from the Market, and then head to the Common for a fabulous family-friendly festival featuring all things sustainable… including Hilltown Families! Stop by our tent where kids can plant seeds to take home with them while parents can learn about the mission of Hilltown Families.

Learn about sustainability and green living in Franklin County at the 33rd little e in Greenfield at the Franklin County Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 26. There will be vendors, workshops, and more, on topics like raising poultry, gardening, DIY, sustainable energy, medicinal herbs, composting, green businesses, green living, and much more. Older students and adults who are interested green living and learning how they can live more sustainably would benefit from this event.


The Massachusetts State Yo-Yo Contest is on Saturday, April 26 at Eastworks in Easthampton! Come to compete, watch, or learn and enjoy all the talented yo-yoers in the state. The competition is split up into divisions, and beginners are welcome to compete. The contest is not only fun to watch, but is a great place to see how cool yo-yoing is – see the physics behind it and all the amazing tricks that are possible!

Animal Studies

Families can learn about bats at “Swoop Into Spring: Learn About and Celebrate Bats” on Saturday afternoon, April 26, at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls. There will be bat-related activities for all ages, including songs, skits, displays, and a showing of a film about the natural history of bats and conservation efforts.


Celebrate Polish culture, food, and Polka dance at the Ashfield Polka Fest on Saturday evening, April 26! Come to the Ashfield Town Hall for music by the Eddie Forman Orchestra, Polish dinner, dancing, and more. This is an all-ages event and a fun way for kids to experience Polish culture via music and food!

Artisanal Trade

Learn about sheep and the shearing process at Hancock Shaker Village on Sunday, April 27 in Pittsfield! Master Shearer Fred DePaul will demonstrate shearing using both traditional and modern methods. Visitors can see the differences between traditional and modern shearing and learn about how and why these changes came about and what the benefits of each are.

Music Studies

The Jones Library in Amherst presents, “North Indian Classical Music: The Tabla,” with Anna Sobel on Sunday afternoon, April 27. Sobel will introduce the tabla, a percussion instrument, and its role in North Indian classical music. This free event would be interesting to children who like music or who would like to learn more about India’s music and culture.

Join Amherst Cinema on Monday evening, April 29, for a screening of Tradition is a Temple (2013; not rated), a documentary about contemporary New Orleans jazz musicians. In this film, these musicians discuss their upbringings and what influenced them to become musicians, as well as the history of jazz and the course it has taken over time. How has modernization affected the genre? How can young people be influenced to play traditional jazz music? This screening will have a live jazz music introduction and commentary by NEPR “Jazz a la Mode” host Tom Reney.


Local beekeeping group, Community Hive, will be at the Westhampton Public Library on Tuesday evening, April 29, sharing stories, talents, and tools relating to backyard beekeeping. This event would be good for a beginner or experienced beekeeper – anyone who is interested in learning more is welcome to attend.

Women & Media Studies

The Zonta Club of Northampton is screening Miss Representation (2011; not rated), a documentary about the media’s treatment of and influence on women and the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. This documentary would be interesting to older students who would like to learn more about how the media impacts women’s lives and how this can be changed. Takes place at Unitarian Society Social Room in Northampton on Wednesday evening, April 30. See the trailer.

May Day

Celebrate the start of Spring at Florence Night Out on May Day, Thursday evening, May 1. This free community event kicks off with a May Day Maypole Dance by the Marlboro Morris Men and clog dance by the Guided Star Clog Morris Troupe at the Trinity Row Triangle Green. The night continues with artist open studios, exhibits, and demonstrations, dances, live music, and more.


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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