28 Community Highlights: Book Trade to Toy Exchange. Victorian Age to Hindi Film.

Book Trade to Toy Exchange. Victorian Age to Hindi Film. Spanish to Museum Adventures… 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: Dickens Days is Westfield‘s annual holiday celebration, featuring tons of fun, festive activities for the whole family. The celebration, which is inspired by Charles Dickens and the Victorian Age, goes from Friday, November 28 until Wednesday December 31. Kick off the celebration on Friday, November 28, when Santa arrives by helicopter at the Amelia Park Children’s Museum. Then explore downtown Westfield and do some local holiday shopping on Small Business Saturday (November 29). Make lanterns and march in the Lanternlight Parade on the evening of the 29, which leads to the mayor’s tree-lighting ceremony in Park Square, where kids can visit with Santa. The mayor will also light the town’s menorah to kick off Hanukkah on Tuesday, December 16. The month-long event also features craft fairs, concerts, music, meals, workshops, musicals, and so much more. This annual celebration is a wonderful chance to celebrate the holidays as a community and to engage in tons of fun holiday-centric activities. See the Dickens Days website for a full schedule of these events and for more information.


Computer ScienceTransportation HistoryCollaborative ConsumptionCommunity CelebrationsFilm StudiesHoliday HistoryMuseum AdventuresLEGOsMusic Studies ExerciseCommunity ServiceAstronomyParent/Educator WorkshopPreschool Highlights


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

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

Computer Science

Is your child interested in computers and coding? Holyoke Codes is a week-long event held in conjunction with the national Computer Science Education Week. During the week of December 8-13, there will be a series of free workshops offered at the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center (100 Bigelow Street, Holyoke, MA). Kids can participate in the Hour of Code event, where you join millions of people around the world to build your own code. Other programs that the workshops will focus on include Artbotics, which combines art and computer science to create robotics that move and interact; Scratch, which you can use to create interactive stories and animations; and Made with Code, which is a Google coding party for girls ages 12-17 (a great opportunity to get girls involved in the male-dominated field of computer science!). There will also be an opportunity to come share what you have created during the workshops. Kids and teens who are interested in learning computer programming will love getting to try their hand at all these different programs! Please register in advance; a full schedule can be found on the registration page.

Transportation History

While driving along I-91, do you ever wonder about the story behind it? For many younger Valley residents, the highway has always been present. Discover its history and more with freelance writer and poet Barry Dietz and the Pioneer Valley Institute at a special, free program, “When the Highway Came Through,” on Friday, December 5 from 7pm-9pm in Sloan Theater on the Greenfield Community College campus (1 College Drive, Greenfield, MA). Learn about why it was built, how long it took, and who it affected, both negatively and positively. The road goes from Connecticut to the Canadian border and goes through many different towns, including those along what is known as the “Knowledge Corridor” between New Haven, CT, and Greenfield, MA. Dietz will discuss the highway’s impact on the physical landscape, the people who lived along what is now I-91, and the local businesses and economies. Older students interested in the history of the Connecticut River Valley can learn from this engaging and informative talk on one of our region’s most notable highways.

Collaborative Consumption

It’s Book Week at the Easthampton Family Center (43 Main Street. Easthampton, MA)! Come by during regular playgroup hours (12/1, 12/2, and 12/5 10am-12noon) and bring children’s books to share or take same home. You don’t need to bring books to take books, and any leftover books will be donated. This is a great chance to give some of your books a new home and to discover new-to-you books! 413-527-5496.

The Northampton Department of Public Works is holding their Fourth Annual Toy Exchange at Smith Vocational High School (80 Locust Street, Northampton, MA). The DPW is accepting donations of clean, gently used sports equipment, musical instruments, action figures/dolls, books, games, puzzles, stuffed animals, and MUCH more on Friday, December 12 and Saturday, December 13 from 8am-9am. If you have clean, gently used, and working toys, etc. this is a great place to drop them off so they can find a new home. Toys like these are often discarded long before they need to be – this event promotes sustainability and collaborative consumption through the exchange of toys within the community. If you’re looking for a good place to find free holiday gifts, this is it – those who donate toys can come find some to take home on Saturday, December 13 from 9am-10am, and the general public (those who did not donate) can come from 10am-12noon. Call the DPW at 413-587-1570 for more information.

Community Celebrations

Dickens Days is Westfield‘s annual holiday celebration, featuring tons of fun, festive activities for the whole family. The celebration, which is inspired by Charles Dickens and the Victorian Age, goes from Friday, November 28 until Wednesday December 31. Kick off the celebration on Friday, November 28, when Santa arrives by helicopter at the Amelia Park Children’s Museum. Then explore downtown Westfield and do some local holiday shopping on Small Business Saturday (November 29). Make lanterns and march in the Lanternlight Parade on the evening of the 29, which leads to the mayor’s tree-lighting ceremony in Park Square, where kids can visit with Santa. The mayor will also light the town’s menorah to kick off Hanukkah on Tuesday, December 16. The month-long event also features craft fairs, concerts, music, meals, workshops, musicals, and so much more. This annual celebration is a wonderful chance to celebrate the holidays as a community and to engage in tons of fun holiday-centric activities. See the Dickens Days website for a full schedule of these events and for more information.

Kick off the holiday season at Easthampton’s Holiday Stroll 2014 Friday, December 5, 7pm. Leave from Maple Street School and stroll down Cottage Street to light two trees, then sing your way up Union and Main Street to Pulaski Park, where Santa will arrive to light the park and meet with children. There will be hot chocolate and cookies as well. Get excited for the holiday season at this fun community event! 413-527-9414.

Film Studies

Are you interested in film studies and in learning about Indian culture? Williams College presents the South Asian Film Series: Highlights of Indian Cinema 1955-2013, which goes from December through April. The series continues on Monday, December 1 at 7pm with a screening of Deewar (1975), which is considered a landmark Hindi film. Older students who are interested in film studies can expand their knowledge of the subject by learning about film outside of the United States and Hollywood by attending the series. Students can look for similarities between Indian and American films and see if and how they have inspired one another over time. What are some key differences you notice in Indian vs. American films? Are characters portrayed in a similar way? Do films from both countries rely on classic plots? These are some questions to ponder while enjoying these classic Indian films. The free screening takes place in Paresky Center Auditorium on the Williams College campus (39 Chapin Hall Drive, Williamstown, MA).

Holiday History

Spend Thanksgiving weekend at Old Sturbridge Village (1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. Sturbridge, MA) and learn about Thanksgiving customs of the 19th Century. See a re-created early New England wedding – meet the bride and groom and learn about how wedding were carried out in the past. There will also be musket firing demonstrations and an opportunity to learn about the history of Thanksgiving. 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road.

Take a step back in time this holiday season at Sturbridge Village (1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. Sturbridge, MA), where you can celebrate “Christmas by Candlelight” on Friday, December 5, 4pm-9pm. This exciting event happens every weekend leading up to Christmas, and features sleigh rides, a recreation of Mrs. Cratchit’s Christmas dinner, a gingerbread house contest, Christmas traditions, carolers, Father Christmas, Santa Claus, a puppet show, music, dancing, and much more. This event allows visitors to experience the Christmas holiday as it was in the past in colonial New England. Tickets can be purchased in advance. 800-733-1830. 

Museum Adventures

Celebrate the art of adventure at the Norman Rockwell Museum’s Family Day (9 Route 183. Stockbridge, MA)! On Saturday, November 29, 1pm-4pm, see the art of Mort Kunstler, get books and prints signed, hear music by Wind of the Wilderness, see a fly-tying demonstration, hear adventure tales with storyteller Tony Toledo, and build an action-adventure diorama. Families can have a blast together exploring the museum and its new exhibition. Free with museum admission. 413-298-4100.

Join the Berkshire Museum (39 South Street. Pittsfield, MA) on a wildlife expedition through the galleries with this year’s “Festival of Trees 2014 On Safari” on Sunday, November 30, 12noon-5pm. This annual holiday event will feature more than 100 twinkling, tantalizing holiday trees decorated to evoke an exotic safari adventure. Visitors can expect to see lots of wonderful trees with animals incorporated into the designs – from cuddly stuffed animals to themes focused on the out-of-doors and wildlife. The Festival of Trees is an annual fundraiser for the Museum’s educational programs, and it is open every day through Sunday, January 4. Free with museum admission. 413-443-7171.

Have fun with Songs, Shopping, and S’mores at the Clark Art Institute (225 South Street. Williamstown, MA) on Friday, December 5, 5pm-7pm. All ages can visit the Clark to roast s’mores, see ice carving demonstrations, do some caroling with Williams College a cappella groups, and check out the Museum store for unique gifts for the holidays. 413-458-2303.

LEGOs

Explore engineering & design with LEGOs at “Santa’s Workshop” at the South Deerfield Congregational Church (71 North Main Street. South Deerfield, MA) on Saturday, November 29, 1pm-4pm. Kids can come play games and get creative using LEGOs to build sleighs, presents, and trees for the holiday season. Go to the Bricks 4 Kidz for more information and to register. 413-345-8035.

Ages 6 and up can attend the Westfield Athenaeum‘s new Building Blocks Club (6 Elm Street. Westfield, MA) on Monday, December 1, 3:30pm. Have hands-on STEM exposure and get creative building LEGO masterpieces at the free. Call or stop by the library to register. 413-568-7833.

Preschool-aged children can learn to do some creative construction with LEGOs and Duplos at the Leverett Library (75 Montague Road. Leverett, MA) as part of a series of free programs focusing on science, technology, engineering, art, and math on Thursday, December 4, 3:15pm. This is a great chance to introduce young kids to STEAM topics! Call to register. 413-548-9220.

Music Studies

The Berkshire Bach Players are holding a Handel’s Messiah Sing-In at the First Congregational Church (251 Main Street. Great Barrington, MA) on Saturday, November 29, 4pm. All are welcome to come usher in the holidays and sign in this informal chorus. You are welcome to bring your own score or borrow one at the Church. This event would be best for older students interested in classical choral music. 413-528-9277.

Join the Palmer Historical Society for a concert by Taste of Honey: A Tijuana Brass Tribute Band at Harmony Hall (2072 Main Street. Three Rivers, MA) on Saturday, November 29, 7:30pm. Advance reservations available. 413-289-9295.

Exercise

Learn to Skate with the Springfield Police Department every Saturday at 3pm through January 3! This free program is a great chance for kids of all ages to learn how to ice skate – they will be taught by off-duty Springfield Police officers. Bring a well-fitting helmet (a bicycle helmet will do) and gloves/mittens and arrive early to rent skates (free). Takes place at Cyr Arena in Forest Park (200 Trafton Road. Springfield, MA). 413-787-6341. 

Are you looking to spend time outdoors with your family?  The 11th annual Gorge aprés Gorge takes place on Sunday, November 30, 11am, at the Chesterfield Gorge (River Road. West Chesterfield, MA)!  This free three-mile run/walk is intended to get families to come together for exercise and fun in the great outdoors.  If there is snow, feel free to bring skis, snowshoes, sleds, etc.  There will be hot drinks served in the parking lot.  This is a fun community event and a great way to spend time with other families during the holiday season. [Cancelled]

Join the Hilltown Land Trust for an early winter hike at Bradley Sanctuary (Old Goshen Road. Williamsburg, MA) on Wednesday, December 3, 10am-11:30am. All ages can explore the trails and beautiful forests on this short, 2-mile hike along Nichols Brook. Email hltlandsteward@ttor.org or call to RSVP. 413-628-4485 x4.

Community Service

The East Longmeadow Public Library Junior Advisory Council is holding a food drive to benefit Rachel’s Table and the Holyoke School Backpack Program. Come by the library (60 Center Square. East Longmeadow, MA) from December 1-13 to donate individually packaged items to be taken to school for lunch – think things like canned tuna, chili, mac and cheese cups, fruit cups, cheese and cracker packs, etc. This drive is a good way to do your part in helping to fight childhood hunger. 413-525-5400 x4.

Astronomy

Join the Springfield Museums (21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA) for “Stars Over Springfield” on Friday, December 5, 7:30pm an introductory astronomy talk and star viewing at the Science Museum’s observatory. The event is recommended for kids 8 and up, but younger children are welcome. If it is cloudy or rainy, a planetarium show will be presented in place of the live star viewing. 800-625-7738.

Parent/Educator Workshop

Parents and teachers of young children can learn about toys and activities for creative play at the Gorse Children’s Center (27 Morgan Street. South Hadley, MA) on Wednesday, December 3, 5:30-6:30pm. Limited childcare is available. Call to sign up. 413-533-9819.

Preschool Highlights

Preschoolers can come learn Spanish at the East Longmeadow Public Library (60 Center Square. East Longmeadow, MA) on Tuesday, December 2, 9:30am-10:30am. Clifford the Big Red Dog will help ages 3-6 learn some basic Spanish, including the colors. Please sign up. 413-525-5400 x1506. 

Attend a free sample class by Music Together for Valley Families on Wednesday, December 3 at the Amherst Family Center (41 Campus Center Way. 428 Student Union Building. Amherst, MA). They will offer a free sample of their parent/child music and movement program. Call to sign up and to find out time. 413-259-9400.

Join South Berkshire Kids at CHP (444 Old Stockbridge Road. Great Barrington, MA) for a STEM program on Thursday, December 4, 9:30am. Everyone is invited to come engage in science, technology, engineering, and math through hands-on activities. 413-464-5095.

Kids ages 2-6 and a caregiver can attend Musical Moments on Thursday, December 4, 10:30am-11:30am, at the East Longmeadow Public Library (60 Center Square. East Longmeadow, MA).  Come sing, create, dance, move, and explore at this free program. 413-525-5400 x1506.

The Clark Art Institute (225 South Street. Williamstown, MA) is holding a New Parents Gallery Talk on Friday, December 5, 10:15am. New parents and their infants are welcome to visit the museum for an informal guided talk. 413-458-2303.


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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