29 Community Highlights: Bottle Rockets to Binoculars. Meadowlands to Beavers.

Interested in rockets? There are several events happening this week that allows kids to explore the physics of rockets through hands-on experience!

Bottle Rockets to Blacksmithing. Meadowlands to Beavers. Binoculars Tour to Walking Tour… 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 Museum of Science and the M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury present “Rockets: There and Back Again!” Youth participants can create an air rocket that launches across the room, exploring the science behind rockets and space exploration in this free hands-on workshop taking place at the Town Hall. Through experiential learning, kids can plan, build, and test their very own designs!

RocketsBlacksmithing/ToolsService Based Learning/Food SecurityInsect StudiesCultural Studies/Native AmericanSports HistorySTEMAnimal ScienceAstronomyLocal HistoryOutdoor AdventuresAbolitionism

Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens


Alka-Seltzer can be used for much more than just an upset tummy… it can be the energy behind a DIY physics experiment at home making film canister rockets! On Monday afternoon, August 4, the Westhampton Library invites kids ages 8yrs and older to come make not only Alka-Seltzer rockets but also marshmallow catapults. Come have fun with science and make rockets and catapults at this fun free STEM program! Can’t make it? Check out this video to find out how you can make a Alka-Seltzer rocket at home, then search online to find out the science behind gives these rockets the energy behind their lift off!

The Museum of Science and the M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury present “Rockets: There and Back Again!” Youth participants can create an air rocket that launches across the room, exploring the science behind rockets and space exploration in this free hands-on workshop taking place at the Town Hall. Through experiential learning, kids can plan, build, and test their very own designs!

The New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT, is offering fun, educational activities for kids every day this summer! This Monday, August 4, museum visitors can build their own bottle rockets! Design and build a rocket using an inverted water bottle and see how high it can go! This is a great way to get involved in a fun and creative engineering/physics project. Rocket experiments will beheld throughout the week.


Blacksmithing has been around for many centuries, dating back to the Iron Age, and is the practice of forging metal for practical or decorative purposes. Families can learn about blacksmithing at Hancock Shaker Village’s “Age of Iron Blacksmithing Weekend,”  August 2-3 in Pittsfield. Blacksmiths from the Berkshire, Connecticut, Capital District, and New England Blacksmith Guilds will be at the Village to showcase their work and demonstrate historical and contemporary blacksmithing techniques. Visitors can learn about ironwork from the 17th to the 21st Century, Japanese hardware, tool making, engraving, Viking and Shaker forging, and more. There will also be an ironwork scavenger hunt for children. This is a great opportunity for families to learn about this historic trade and how it has evolved over time and across cultures.

This summer, the Sheffield Historical Society hosts the Milt Barnum All American Tool Exhibit, an extensive show of tools used by workers of all kinds throughout the past few centuries. Families can learn about material culture and changes in technology by examining pieces from the exhibit and comparing them to modern tools at this free event open this weekend, August 2-3. 

The Westhampton Historical Society’s museum has an entire room dedicated to the trade of blacksmithing! Set up to mimic a 19th-century blacksmith shop, the room offers visitors a chance to learn experientially about the skills specific to this once-essential trade. Additionally, the museum contains an exhibit on the Loudville Lead Mine, an operation that ran in the hilltowns for over three centuries. Open Sunday afternoon, August 3.

Service Based Learning/Food Security

During the school year, over 294,400 children receive lunch assistance. Unfortunately, this number drops significantly during the summer – only 16% of those 294,400 receive summer meal assistance, leaving 47,400 kids food insecure during the summer months. Families can help close the summer meal gap at a special Summer Family Volunteer Event at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts on Saturday, August 2 in Hatfield. Kids and adults can come to the Food Bank warehouse to assist with the sorting of food donations and preparing food for distribution to local families in need of assistance.

The Franklin County Remote Control Club is hosting “Flying for Food” in Turners Falls on Saturday, August 2. This fundraising event to benefit the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will include model airplanes from many eras, static displays, simulators and trainers, flight demonstrations, raffle prizes, food vendors, and more. This is a great chance for family members of all ages to learn about aviation and aerodynamics while fighting hunger in our communities at a fun family event.

August is a difficult time for many families in our community – those who rely on food assistance often struggle during the month since there is a gap in summer meal programs and the start of the school year. You can help out these community members at the Franklin County Hunger Task Force’s 10th Annual Fill the Belly Bus Food Drive on the Greenfield Town Common on Friday afternoon, August 8. Businesses, organizations, workplaces, and individuals are welcome to donate by bringing non-perishable food and personal care items to the bus, which will benefit five emergency food programs in Franklin County. This is a great chance for families to help out their fellow community members and an excellent opportunity to teach kids about food security in our communities.

Looking for a way to broach the subject with younger children? Check out our list of children’s books about food security/scarcity.

Insect Studies

What is the difference between and dragonfly and a damselfly? What types of butterflies call the Pioneer Valley meadows home? Learn about dragonflies, butterflies, and damselflies with Kestrel Land Trust and naturalist Josh Rose in the meadowlands of Hadley on Saturday morning, August 2. Kids and adults can attend this outing to learn about and search for these unique and beautiful insects while discovering what types of habitats they need and the importance of preservation.

Have you ever wondered what insects make the night come alive with sound? There are many different bugs here in western Massachusetts that make being outside at night a fun and interesting experience! Join the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation for a free Sounds of the Summer Night program on Thursday evening, August 7. Learn about amazing insects like katydids, grasshoppers, crickets, and more. All ages can have fun exploring Sheep Hill in search of these interesting creatures. This is a great educational family outing for kids and adults!

Cultural Studies/Native American

Discover and celebrate Native American art, music, and culture at the Nolumbeka Project’s Pocumtuck Homelands Festival at Unity Park in Turners Falls on Saturday afternoon & evening, August 2. This free celebration features live music by Hawk Henries, Medicine Mammal Singers, Urban Thunder Singers, and Visioning B.E.A.R. Singers; Native American arts and crafts; storytelling; primitive skills demonstrations by Wolf Tree Programs; and crafts for children (>$). Pocumtuck Homelands Festival will introduce community members of all ages to some of the unique Native American cultures in the Northeast, and is a great spot for educational and entertaining activities for the whole family.

Lenox youth, adults, and seniors are invited to “I Walk in Beauty,” a workshop on Navajo culture, arts, and history on Wednesday, August 6 at the Lenox Community Center. In the morning, participants will design and construct a talking or prayer stick, and then in the afternoon, participants can design a prayer and protection feather. All materials will be provided and each workshop will be led by Patrick Scott, who is Dine ( Navajo ), a traditional medicine man. Participants are also welcome to stay for lunch which includes Navajo Mutton Stew with Indian corn and cornbread while inspecting a 24 ft Northern Plains Tipi erected behind the Community Center.

Sports History

The Yiddish Book Center is screening The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998; rated PG) on Sunday afternoon, August 3 in Amherst. This documentary is a humorous and nostalgic documentary about an extraordinary baseball player who transcended religious prejudice to become an American icon. The film examines how America’s first Jewish baseball star was a beacon of hope to American Jews who faced bigotry during the Depression and World War II. Older students interested in baseball, Jewish studies, and American history will enjoy this screening.

Old Sturbridge Village offers rounds of 18th-century baseball this weekend during Redcoats & Rebels. Take your child’s interest in baseball to support learning in history too! Redcoats & Rebels is the largest Revolutionary War reenactment in New England, transforming the Village into a military camp and offers loads of fun activities that help teach about the war. In addition to 18th-century baseball, there will also be mock battles, tours of the British and American camps, cannon demonstrations, musket drilling, martial music, 18th-century dances, a chance to see an American soldier’s daily life, and much more. Kids get free admission in August.


On Tuesday afternoon, August 5, Mad Science will be at the Forbes Library in Northampton conducting physics and chemistry experiments Come see this free show and maybe even participate in some silly science while learning about the scientific principals behind the experiments.

Most kids LOVE bubbles, and on Thursday afternoon, August 7 they can have a ton of fun at the Lenox Library who will host “BubbleMania: Science, Art & Comedy” with bubble-ologist, Casey Carle! Casey brings his audience age appropriate science that is both artistic and comical at this free event. Through bubbles, participants will learn about physical laws, like molecular bonding and surface tension, while being entertained with humor and amazing skills. — The science of bubbles can also be done at home and in the classroom. Check out BubbleMania’s Study Guide and Step-by-Step Online Video Series to support further learning through the science of bubbles!

Do your kids have an interest in criminal justice? Let an interest in solving crimes connect them to STEM opportunities through forensic science!  Kids 10yrs and older up can learn all about forensics at Forbes Library in Northampton on Friday afternoon, August 8. They can learn about the science behind crime scene investigation at this free program and gain a better understanding of the science behind criminal investigation!

Animal Science

When you think of rodents in our region you probably think about rats, mice,  chipmunks and squirrels. But other rodents native to our area include the porcupine and the beaver too! Explore the Beaver Ponds at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary on Wednesday evening, August 6 in Lenox and learn more about the behavior of the beaver, a large semi-aquatic rodent! Sanctuary volunteer Butch Ptak will lead the intergenerational expedition, and visitors will learn not only about the habits of beavers, but also about the various types of wildlife who congregate at beaver ponds and the long-lasting effects that beaver ponds have upon habitats.

Explore Buckley-Dunton Lake in October Mountain State Forest with Mass Audubon on Sunday morning, August 3 in Becket! Families with kids ages 10yrs and older can come learn about the beavers and herons that live there, see the pond’s coves and inlets, discover boreal plant communities, and look for animals like moose and porcupines!

Join wildlife rehabilitator Tom Ricardi at the Berkshire Botanical Garden for a birds of prey program on Friday morning, August 8 in Stockbridge. Ricardi will teach about the natural history, behaviors, habitats, and more of these unique birds, and audience members will have a chance to see them up close during this intergenerational event. Come with your questions and see live raptors up close!


Alan Rifkin, President of the Springfield Stars Club, will present “Touring the Universe Through Binoculars” at the Storrs Library in Longmeadow on Wednesday evening, August 6. This free talk is great for beginning and amateur astronomers – it teaches how to explore the night sky using only a pair of binoculars! Best for older students interested in astronomy.

Local History

Explore over 300 years of hilltown history at The Ashfield Historical Society Museum! Though it’s a small town, Ashfield has been at the forefront of many movements (including abolition and prohibition), and was home to the first Shaker meeting house. One of the earliest pioneers of contraception even lived in Ashfield! Open on Saturday mornings.

Filling one of the many rooms at the Cummington Historical Society’s Kingman Tavern is a replica of a 1900 general store, filled with goods that shoppers over a century ago would have sought. The tavern itself is an early 1800’s house, complete with a two-story barn, carriage house, and cider mill. In addition to the store, the museum houses miniature replicas of scenes from life in Cummington – offering visitors a small-scale look at life in the past. Open  Saturday afternoons.

The Hatfield Historical Society offers a wide array of resources for learning about Hatfield and Pioneer Valley history. Made up of Hatfield Historical Museum and the Hatfield Farm Museum, the society’s offerings include artifacts, documents, photographs, and special exhibits. Currently, the Hatfield Historical Society is featuring The Things They Left Us: A Glimpse into Civil War Life for Hatfield Men and Boys, an exhibit that puts Civil War life into a local context. Historical Museum open Saturday & Tuesday mornings. Farm Museum open Saturday afternoons.

The Hadley Farm Museum chronicles the history of farming in the Pioneer Valley. Home to tools and machinery used on Hadley farms as long ago as the 1780’s, the museum is located in an 18th-century barn – showing artifacts just as they would be found on a farm. Visitors can see everything from the first broom-making machine to toys enjoyed by farm family children! Open Saturday & Sunday afternoons.

Outdoor Adventures

Join the Berkshire Historical Society and The Trustees of Reservations for the Annual Monument Mountain Hike on Sunday morning, August 3 in Great Barrington. This free guided hike recreates one taken by Herman Melville on August 5, 1850, during which he met Nathaniel Hawthorne. Best for adults or older students interested in hiking, literature and/or history.

Join Hilltown Land Trust for an evening waterfall hike at Taproot Commons Farm in Cummington on Friday, August 8. Explore the property and its unique flora and fauna on this easy hike in the heart of the Hilltowns!


Join Historic Northampton and the David Ruggles Center for a walking tour of abolition era sites in eastern downtown Northampton with Steve Strimer on Saturday morning, August 2. This guided walking tour will take you from the First Churches all the way to Cherry Street and will show you many of Northampton’s interesting historic sites that are somehow connected to the abolitionist movement. Older students interested in local history, social justice and African American studies would benefit from this interpretive tour of Northampton.

[Photo credit: (cc) Matt Biddulph]

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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