23 Community Highlights: Japenese Shamisen to African Drumming. Giant Squid to Black Bears.

Bittersweet produces a beautiful deep orange fruit, and is a favorite food to birds, but it’s invasive and can pull down samplings with it’s sturdy perennial vine. Help Williamsburg Woodland Trails and Mass Audubon remove invasive bittersweet vines at Graves Farm Sanctuary in Haydenville this Saturday, learning about this invasive species through service-based learning.

Japanese Shamisen to African Drumming. Giant Squid to Black Bears. Bittersweet to Christmas Fern… 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 how to make book art at Edwards Public Library in Southampton! Ages 8 and up can join book artist Cathy Thibodeau for a free workshop on how to make book art just by folding the pages of a book on Tuesday, November 25, 5:30pm-7:30pm. Please bring a 100-150 page hardcover book that you would like to repurposes – participants will be making books with a paw print design. These folded books would make a cool gift for the holidays! Space is limited; please sign up. 413-527-9480. 30 East Street.


Food HistoryMusic StudiesMarine BiologyAnimal StudiesCommunity ServiceMYO GiftsLocal HistoryCommunity MealsNature StudiesParent WorkshopPreschool Highlights


Learn Local. Play Local. is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

Food History

Have you ever wondered what New Englanders drank during colonial times, when the water was unsafe to drink? Join the Amherst Historical Society at the Jones Library in Amherst (43 Amity Street) for “Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England,” with Corin Hirsch on Saturday, November 22 at 2:30pm. Hirsch will discuss the most popular beverages in colonial New England – ciders, ales, beers, wines, and spirits – and who drank them, when, and why. Learn about the origins and flavors of these drinks, which were derived from the New World’s abundance of apples, sugar, molasses, berries, and hops. These drinks and their popularity also led to the opening of many inns and taverns around the region. Older students and adults interested in history, especially culinary arts and how it relates to history, will enjoy this informative lecture, which is free and open to the public.

Music Studies

Hear and learn about Japanese music and instruments at a free performance at the Clark Art Institute on Saturday, November 22 at 10:30am in Williamstown. The performance will consist of music played on a shamisen, a three-stringed instrument originally from China that reached Japan in the 16th Century, where it was then adapted for use in Japanese musical styles. In this performance, Fujii Hirokazu will perform a 20-minute piece in the Kyushu regional jiuta style. This free performance is wonderful opportunity for all ages to get introduced to traditional Japanese music and this unique instrument. The Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street. 413-458-2303.

WOFA – PVPA African Drum and Dance Co. will be at the Westhampton Public Library on Saturday, November 22, 11am. They will perform West African dance and drumming and will discuss their recent trip to Guinea. All ages can learn about West African culture at this free program. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road.

The Williams College Department of Music presents a free performance by the Williams Gospel Choir in Chapin Hall on the Williams campus on Saturday, November 22, 7pm in Williamstown.  Students interested in singing and music will enjoy this free concert, which is a great chance to hear live gospel music. 413-597-3131. 62 Chapin Hall Drive.

Fall for Beethoven” with the Smith College Orchestra on Saturday, November 22, 8pm, in Sweeney Concert Hall in Northampton. This free concert features works by Beethoven, Grieg, and Gonoud, and a performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, performed by soloist Liza Stepanova. Older students interested in classical music will enjoy this performance. 413-585-2787. Green Street.

Marine Biology

The giant squid (or kraken) has been a sea monster of legend for hundreds of years. This deep-sea squid can grow up to 33 feet in length, making it one of the largest organisms in existence. Due in part to its location in the ocean, the squid has been difficult to capture on film in the wild. Learn about this fascinating creature at the Springfield Public Forum, where marine biologist Edith Widder will speak at Symphony Hall (34 Court Street, Springfield, MA) on Sunday, November 23 at 4pm. Dr. Widder’s research focuses on deep sea luminescence and she pioneered optical techniques that allow us to see deep sea creatures more clearly. Her work helped capture the first-ever video footage of the giant squid in its natural habitat. All ages will enjoy hearing Dr. Widder speak about giant squids and other marine creatures. This talk is free and open to the public.

Animal Studies

Bears have been a hot topic of discussion around parts of western Massachusetts over the past few years – their populations are increasing and they are entering more populated areas where they previously would not have ventured. Learn all about bears in Massachusetts at the Berkshire Museum with Ralph Taylor of Fish and Wildlife on Saturday, November 22 from 11am-12noon. In conjunction with the exhibition, “Lions & Tigers & Bears: Through the Lens with National Geographic,” Taylor will discuss the history of black bears in the state, as well as their behaviors, habits, and population boom – since the 1970s, the population has increased from about 100 to roughly 4,000. What has caused this increase? Why? Is there enough food for all the bears? These are just some of the questions Taylor will address at this informative talk. Older students interested in animals can learn about these fascinating mammals at this presentation, which is free with admission ($) to the Berkshire Museum (39 South Street, Pittsfield, MA). Call the museum at 413-443-7171 for more information.

Community Service

Help Williamsburg Woodland Trails and Mass Audubon remove invasive bittersweet vines at Graves Farm Sanctuary in Haydenville on Saturday, November 22, 9am-12noon. Older teens can help out with this important work, which will teach them the importance of both volunteer work and conservation. Dress warmly and bring tools if you can. 413-584-3009 x811. Adams Road.

The Berkshire Humane Society’s “Humane Hero” program in Pittsfield gives kids ages 10-14 the opportunity to volunteer at the Humane Society, learn about the responsibilities of pet ownership, learn how to be an advocate and educator, and learn how to effectively fundraise in order to create change in their community. The Humane Society is offering a Humane Hero workshop, “Home for the Holidays,” on Saturday, November 22, 11am-1pm. More information on becoming a Humane Hero can be found on the Berkshire Humane Society website. You can sign up anytime! 413-447-7878 x29. 214 Barker Road.

Join Historic Deerfield for some thoughtful gift giving this holiday season – handcraft a special gift at the museum (free with museum admission – $$) and participate in the Community Action Holiday Gift Program on Friday, November 28, 9:30am-4:30pm. This is an opportunity for museum visitors to donate gifts to teens and kids ages 18 and under who might not otherwise receive any presents. Please donate toys, books, gift cards, and helpful items like tape and wrapping paper. The gift drive runs from November 28 through December 14 and is an opportunity to help young community members have a more joyous holiday season. 413-774-5581. 84B Old Main Street.

MYO Gifts

The Friends of the Westfield Athenaeum are offering a holiday card workshop for all skill levels on Saturday, November 22, 9am-4pm. Learn the basics of card making and simple, elegant techniques so you can make your own holiday cards this year. This is a great opportunity to learn a new skill and give out handmade cards/gifts for the holidays. Pre-registration is required. 413-262-4934. 6 Elm Street.

The Hartsbrook School’s Holiday Fair is Saturday, November 22, 10am-4pm in Hadley! Come by for live music, demonstrations, a puppet show, activities, a marketplace full of handmade Waldorf crafts, and hands-on opportunities to make your own holiday gifts. Get unique, handmade holidays gifts at this event while spending time with family and friends. 413-584-3198. 193 Bay Road.

Learn how to make book art at Edwards Public Library in Southampton! Ages 8 and up can join book artist Cathy Thibodeau for a free workshop on how to make book art just by folding the pages of a book on Tuesday, November 25, 5:30pm-7:30pm. Please bring a 100-150 page hardcover book that you would like to repurposes – participants will be making books with a paw print design. These folded books would make a cool gift for the holidays! Space is limited; please sign up. 413-527-9480. 30 East Street.

Local History

Learn about an early Dutch settlement in Peru, MA with Mass Audubon on Saturday, November 22, 10am-3pm. Older students and adults can learn about the colonial land grant of Partridgefield, which was settled primarily by Dutch pioneers. They created a self-reliant farming community and made their home in western Massachusetts. Learn about these families and some oddball characters who lived on the land for more than four generations. The hike is four miles off-trail. Registration is required. 413-584-3009.

Spend Thanksgiving at Old Sturbridge Village and learn about Thanksgiving customs of the 19th Century on Thursday, November 27, 9:30am-4pm. See turkeys roasting, watch the costumed interpreters enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with 19th-century dining customs, and learn about Native American foodways with the Indian Doctress. If you’re looking to do something a little different this Thanksgiving, this is a unique and educational way to spend the holiday! 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road.

Community Meals

The Amherst Survival Center is hosting a free community Thanksgiving meal at Immanuel Lutheran Church on Wednesday, November 26, 1pm-2:30pm. There will even be apple pies made by North Star teens during their annual bake-a-thon the day before. Celebrate the holiday with community members, family, and friends of all ages. All are welcome and you do not need to bring anything, but if you would like to make a large Thanksgiving dish, please email tracey@amherstsurvival.org to find out what to make. 413-549-3968. 867 North Pleasant Street.

Celebrate Thanksgiving and support The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts at The People’s Pint’s second annual Thanksgiving for the People in Greenfield. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner will be served at 2pm on Thursday, November 27, is open to anyone and is free of charge. Donations will be collected for The Food Bank. 413-773-0333. 24 Federal Street.

Nature Studies

Saturday, November 22, 10am-1pm in Windsor. This forest, at 2,000-feet elevation, features interesting evergreen trees and plants, including balsam fir, red spruce, Christmas fern, and others. In addition to discovering these unique boreal forest characteristics, you will get to see cellar holes from the 1800s! This is a moderate, three-mile hike that is best for older teens and adults. Please register in advance. 413-584-3009. Savoy Hollow Road.

DAR State Forest in Goshen with Aimee Gelinas of Tamarack Hollow Nature and Cultural Center on Sunday, November 23, 10am-1pm. This moderate hike will have you searching for plants and trees to identify and will teach about the State Forest’s ecology. Best for older students and adults. Email aimee@gaiaroots.com for more info or to register.

Parent Workshop

The Agawam Public Schools are hosting a free parent cafe about “Parent Holiday Survival Tips” on Tuesday, November 25, 9:30am-11am & 6:30pm-8pm.  Childcare is available at the morning session only. Morning session takes place at Agawam Congregational Church (745 Main Street) and evening session takes place at Agawam Senior Center (954 Main Street). 413-821-0552.

Preschool Highlights

It’s never too early to get your child interested in nature and the outdoors – parents/caregivers of children toddler-aged and younger can join Mass Audubon for their “First Child in the Wood” infant/toddler walk at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton on Saturday, November 22, 10am-11am. Come prepared to have fun outdoors, learn about nature, and meet other kids and caregivers. This is a great way to get your young child introduced to nature! Call to register. 413-584-3009. 127 Combs Road.

Kids ages 3-6 and their families are invited to Great Falls Discovery Center for their Winter Preschool Series on Saturday, November 22, 10:30am-11:30am in Turners Falls. Enjoy stories, crafts, and nature-related activities. Kids will learn about different types of animals each meeting. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A.

Preschool-aged children can have fun with LEGO and Duplo at the Erving Public Library as part of a series of free programs focusing on science, technology, engineering, art, and math on Saturday, November 22, 11am. This is a great chance to introduce young kids to STEAM topics! 413-423-3348. 17 Moore Street.


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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Hilltown Families is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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