30 Community Highlights: Banned Books Week to Poetry Festival. Rosh Hashanah to Autumn Equinox.

What do rubber duckies have to do with poetry? Find out this Saturday at the Amherst Poetry Festival!

Banned Books Week to Poetry Festival. Rosh Hashanah to Autumn Equinox. Skillshare to Science Cafe… 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: Learn about the annual hawk migration with The Trustees of Reservations at “Hawks Over Holyoke” at Heritage State Park on Sunday, September 21 from 10am-3pm. Celebrate these unique birds and see live bird demonstrations like “Eyes on Owls” and “Hawks with Tom Ricardi.” This free day of family fun is a great chance for all ages to learn about these magnificent birds. 413-532-1631. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Film StudiesLocal HistoryAstronomyBanned BooksEntomologySkillshareOrnithologyNature StudiesPoetryGeologyLocal FoodMusic StudiesHistoryRosh HashanahAnimal Studies

Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

Film Studies

The “silent era” spans from 1894 to 1929 and describes the period of time in filmmaking before “talking pictures.” Silent films have no recorded sound and no dialogue – the characters often interacted through gestures, mime, and title cards. To make silent films more enjoyable, they typically had live accompaniment by a musician. You can relive the silent era at Historic Northampton’s Fast Forward Film Series, this edition of which is title “Not-So-Silent Film,” on Sunday, September 21 at 3pm. Historic Northampton will screen six different silent films, which were made between 1894 and 1926, spanning almost the entire silent era. Each film will be accompanied by live music performed by pianist Ellen Cogen. After the screening, Cogen will discuss the difficulties of playing along to a silent movie. Older students interested in film, film history, and musical scores can learn more about these topics by attending the Fast Forward Film Series and gaining a first-hand experience of what it was like to watch silent films in the silent era. Call 413-584-6011 for more information. Historic Northampton is located at 46 Bridge Street in Northampton, MA.

Local History

The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area presents Heritage Walks, which celebrate the communities, natural areas, history, and different cultures of the many places recognized as part of this National Heritage Area. Heritage Walks take place on Saturday & Sunday, September 20 & 21 at many different sites throughout the region. For example, you can tour the historic Colonial Theatre, hike to a 19th-century water-powered mill site, search for migrant hawks, tour Tanglewood, go on a ghost town hike, learn about Gilded Age history, and much more. Because the Heritage Area designation is about the intersections between nature, culture, and history, each walk offers something different and it is likely you will find one that fits your interests! A full list of Heritage Walks can be found here. 860-435-9505. Berkshire County.

Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation is hosting members of the Mass 10th Militia at their encampment on Sunday, September 21 from 9am-4pm. See what life was like for the men as they set up their camps and learn how they spent their time preparing and training for battle. 413-357-6321. 42 Water Street. Granville, MA.

The Leverett Historical Society presents, “Reflections on Roaring Brook: East Leverett’s Industrial Past” on  Sunday, September 21 at 2pm. This historical presentation focuses on the industries and mills along Roaring Brook in East Leverett and features a short documentary based on an interview some longtime East Leverett residents. Older students interested in local history and industry will benefit from attending this presentation. Takes place at the Leverett Library. 413-367-9562. 75 Montague Road. Leverett, MA.

Learn about history through fashion by tracing the lives of three brocaded silk gowns from the 18th Century and how they have changed over time. Ned Lazaro of Historic Deerfield will present “Fashion and Frugality: English Patterned Silks and Connecticut River Valley Women’s Fashion in the 18th Century” at the Wistariahurst Museum on Monday, September 22 at 6pm as part of their “Threads that Bind” lecture series. Lazaro will discuss how these garments were made, how they have been altered as popular styles changed, and how their stories can be of interest to modern-day fashion enthusiasts and professionals. Learning about these historic gowns can teach about what garments were like in the past, who wore what, and why people wore what they did. Call 413-322-5660 for more information. Wistariahurst is located at 238 Cabot Street in Holyoke, MA. ($)


Want to learn about astronomy first-hand? Join the Trustees of Reservations and the Arunah Hill Natural Science Center for an evening of stargazing and searching for moons, planets, galaxies, and more at Notchview on Saturday, September 20 at dusk! Please call to pre-register. 413-532-1631 x10. Route 9. Windsor, MA. (FREE)

Get an introduction to the New England sky at Bascom Lodge on Sunday, September 21 at 6pm. Kevin Collins of the Amherst Astronomy Association will present this guide to understanding the stars and tips on finding local astronomy groups. In addition to the talk, there will also be a brief star viewing. Rockwell Road. Lanesborough, MA. (FREE)

An equinox occurs twice a year and signals the shift from winter to spring, and the shift from summer to autumn. The autumn equinox occurs on September 22, when the Sun is located directly over the Earth’s equator and the Earth tilts neither towards or away from the Sun. It is also the day when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. Families can learn about the equinoxes, the solstices, the phases of the moon, and what causes the seasons to change at the UMass Sunwheel at sunrise (6:45am) and sunset (6pm) on Monday, September 22. Come learn about these fascinating astronomical events and see the equinox Sun rise and set through the stone portals of the Sunwheel. The Sunwheel is on Rocky Hill Road in Amherst, MA.

Come to Amherst Brewing Company for this month’s Sci.Tech.Café on Monday, September 22 at 6pm. The topic this month is “Explore Alien Worlds.” Professor Nick Cowan will discuss how astronomers are able to determine the climates of distant planets and whether or not they are habitable. Those interested in astronomy will enjoy this talk, which is designed for community members without science backgrounds. 10 University Drive. Amherst, MA.

Banned Books

The Storrs Library and the Hatch Library at Bay Path University are hosting a Read Out event to celebrate Banned Books Week on Tuesday, September 23 at 6pm. Pick a favorite banned or challenged book and come read it aloud for up to five minutes at the library. Following the readings, the library will screen The Outsiders (1983; PG-13), based on the controversial coming-of-age novel of the same name by S.E. Hinton. Please register in advance. 413-565-4181. 693 Longmeadow Street. Longmeadow, MA.

Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and brings awareness to the issue of banned and challenged books. Why are books banned or challenged? Who has the authority to “ban” books? Many classics and modern, popular books can be found on the lists of banned or challenged books. Readers who are interested in this topic can attend “From ‘Banned in Boston’ to Ethnic Studies in Arizona – Intellectual Freedom in America Today,” a talk by librarian and information policy lawyer Laura Quilter at the Jones Library on Thursday, September 25 at 7pm. Quilter’s talk focuses on the law and politics of banning books, from historic banned books to the modern-day removal of identity studies materials in Arizona and LGBT-themed children’s books in public schools and libraries. This free talk brings to light some of the intellectual freedom issues that are tangled up in the banning of books and encourages students to think critically about what they are reading – check out a list of frequently challenged books and see how many you’ve read. Why do you think those books were/are challenged? Do you think the practice of banning books is acceptable? Think about these questions and learn more about banned and challenged books at Quilter’s presentation. Call 413-259-3090 for more information. The Jones Library is located at 43 Amity Street in Amherst, MA.


You can get an up-close look at butterflies at the Berkshire Museum‘s screening of Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly, 45-minute narrated film about this particular butterfly species, on Saturday, September 20 from 11:30am-12:30pm. All ages can come to the screening and gain a deeper understanding of butterfly life cycles, the relationship between wildflowers and pollinators, and the importance of pollinators to our ecosystem. There will be a Q&A with the filmmaker after the showing. Then from 2-3pm, study the caterpillars in the Berkshire Museum‘s “Butterflies” exhibition and learn about their life stages at a “Caterpillar Chat.” Discover some of their amazing adaptations at this program. Free with museum admission. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street. Pittsfield, MA. $

Search for, identify, and document butterflies at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary and the Northampton Community Gardens with Mass Audubon on Tuesday, September 23 from 11am-1pm. Learn about migrating butterflies like monarchs, skippers, and others. This program is geared towards adults but may be appropriate for older students. Call to register. 413-584-3009. 127 Combs Road. Easthampton, MA. >$

Monarch butterflies are known for their distinctive orange and black coloring, as well as their long migration each fall. Those who live east of the Rocky Mountains travel thousands of miles each fall to Mexico, where they spend the winter in roosts to escape the cold. We can learn more about these amazing insects by tagging them with small stickers. These tags can help us determine how they travel, whether or not migration is influenced by weather, whether or not the migrations differ from year to year, and many other unanswered questions. All ages can help with this national citizen science project by helping the Hitchcock Center for the Environment tag monarch butterflies on Thursday, September 25 at 4pm. This is a great chance for families to learn about these insects and gain hands-on experience working with them and volunteering for a national citizen science project. Please call the Hitchcock Center at 413-256-6006 to register. The Center is located at 525 South Pleasant Street in Amherst, MA.


Wondering what to do with your child’s broken remote control that’s been laying around the house? Or those ripped pair of jeans from your child’s playground adventures? Don’t waste money replacing them! Keep them out of the landfill and repair them instead at the Repair Café in Pittsfield on Saturday, September 20 from 1-5pm. Your children can learn about how those damaged items work while restoring them with the help of specialists who will on hand to help you and your family master the art of DIY! The repair specialists will include electricians, seamstresses, carpenters, and bicycle mechanics! Tools and materials will also be provided to help you with your repairs. Even if you don’t have anything to repair right now, come join the fun by having tea and coffee. You can also help out friends and neighbors with their repairs, be inspired to start that DIY project at the reading table, or watch and learn more about different trades from the specialists. For more information about repair cafe, please click on the link below. Saint Stephen’s Church, 67 East Street. Pittsfield, MA. (Free to attend).

Grow Food Amherst is hosting a handmade soap workshop with UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Student Xochiquetzal Salazar at All Things Local Cooperative Market on Sunday, September 21 at 2pm. Participants will learn how to make soap using Native American medicines and the Kalpulli Olmeca tradition and will learn the history and science behind these methods. Best for older students and adults. 413-259-3149. 104 North Pleasant Street. Amherst, MA.

The Haberdashery holds a Chat ‘n Do every Thursday at 5:30pm. Bring a project you are working on and chat with others, hash out ideas, ask advice, offer tips, and more. This is a good opportunity for intergenerational skill sharing! 413-527-1638. 52 Union Street. Easthampton, MA. (FREE)


Learn about the annual hawk migration with The Trustees of Reservations at “Hawks Over Holyoke” at Heritage State Park on Sunday, September 21 from 10am-3pm. Celebrate these unique birds and see live bird demonstrations like “Eyes on Owls” and “Hawks with Tom Ricardi.” This free day of family fun is a great chance for all ages to learn about these magnificent birds. 413-532-1631. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Nature Studies

Learn about fall migrants with Mass Audubon at Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary on Saturday, September 20 from 10am-11:30am. Many species of hawks and songbirds, as well as monarch butterflies, migrate south for winter due to lack of food and shelter during the colder months. Kids ages 3 and up and their families can come hike at Laughing Brook and learn about these unique animals and search the skies for them. Registration is required. 413-584-3009. Hampden, MA. $


The Amherst Poetry Festival has some great activities for kids on Saturday, September 20. From 10am-5pm, come to Sweetser Park to see over 150 rubber ducks floating in the fountain, each with a piece of poetry attached. And from 10am-3pm, there will be a poetry zine making workshop by poet Karen Skolfield, also in Sweetser Park. These activities can get kids of all ages interested and engaged in poetry. Lessey Street. Amherst, MA.


Learn about the fascinating geology of Natural Bridge State Park at their Marvelous Marble Tour on Saturday, September 20 at 10am & 2pm. Join a park interpreter for an easy walk around the park exploring its geologic history and the remains of the 19th- and 20th-century marble quarry that once operated on the grounds. All ages will enjoy exploring the park and learning some interesting local geology. 413-663-6392. McCauley Road. North Adams, MA. (FREE)

Local Food

Celebrate bread and local food with Hungry Ghost Bread at their 11th Annual Wonder Not! Bread Festival on Sunday, September 21 from 11am-5pm. There will be vendors, live music, a puppet parade, wheat planting, and more. This is a fun celebration for the whole family, with a puppet parade beginning at 11am! 413-582-9009. 62 State Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Music Studies

The Pelham Historical Society is holding their 12th annual shape note singing demonstration at Historic Town Hall on Sunday, September 21 from 2pm-4pm. Community members of all ages and singing abilities can come listen to shape note singing or participate. Books will be provided. Amherst Road & Route 202. Pelham, MA. (FREE)

The UMass Fine Arts Center presents a performance of Japanese Shomyo Buddhist Chants and Shirabyoshi Songs by Makiko Sakurai in the Bowker Auditorium on Tuesday, September 23 at 7:30pm. She will perform these ancient chants and songs, some dating back to 701-1192 AD. This is a unique musical experience that you don’t want to miss! 413-545-2511. 151 Presidents Drive. Amherst, MA. $$


The Yiddish Book Center is screening The Sturgeon Queens (2014), a documentary about Russ and Daughters, a lox and herring emporium on New York City’s Lower East Side, on Sunday, September 21 at 2pm. The store is celebrating their 100th anniversary, and the documentary is about its history and the Jewish immigrant family who founded it. The film features interviews with two of the daughters who the store is named after, as well as prominent Russ and Daughters enthusiasts like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 413-256-4900. 1021 West Street. Amherst, MA. $

Rosh Hashanah

Sound the shofar, dip apples in honey! It’s time for Rosh Hashanah. Family service will be held at Beit Ahavah (130 Pine St.), led by puppeteer and Jewish educator, Anna Sobel on Thursday, September 25 at 9:15am. Then an afternoon river “Tashlich” service with shofar, breadcrumbs and singing led by Rabbi Riqi Kosovske at the Mill River (60 Federal St. entrance) at 3pm. Florence/Northampton. (FREE)

Animal Studies

Learn about service dogs and the important work they do at a presentation by American Poodles at Work founder Jillian Gartner at the Forbes Library on Monday, September 22 from 4:30pm-6:30pm. Gartner will discuss the work done by APAW, how dogs become service dogs, what the training is like, and more. There may even be some service poodles at the library to meet! 413-587-1011. 20 West Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

The Community Network for Children is offering an Amazing Animal Adventures program at the Erving Public Library, run by Helen Ann Sephton of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment on Wednesday, September 24 from 1:30pm-2:30pm. Kids will receive a free book to take home and can see Speedy the box turtle crawl around and can hold Thailand stick insects! This is a great chance to introduce younger kids to unique animals. 978-544-5157. 17 Moore Street. Erving, MA. (FREE)

Kids can learn about different animals that live in the area at Natural Bridge State Park‘s Forest Friends program on Friday, September 26 at 3:30pm. There will be a craft or game based on this animal. 413-663-6392. McCauley Road. North Adams, MA. (FREE)

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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