22 Community Highlights: Winter Solstice to Holiday Classics. Ballet to Chemistry.

The 115th Christmas Bird Count runs through Monday, January 5th, 2015. Great annual event for families to participate as citizen scientists!

Winter Solstice to Holiday Classics. Mushrooms to Papercutting. Ballet to Chemistry…. 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 Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, but it is also a day on which to celebrate the longer days to come. Join Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary for their annual winter solstice celebration on Sunday, December 21 from 6pm-8:30pm. There are many different traditions from all around the world to celebrate the solstice, including this one at Arcadia! Each year, community members of all ages gather at the sanctuary for music, a bonfire, hot drinks, and fun activities. Celebrate the solstice and community at this fun annual event! The event is free, but please bring a nonperishable food item to donate to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary is located at 127 Combs Road in Easthampton, MA. (FREE)


Winter SolsticeArt HistoryMycologyFolk ArtOrnithologyEcologyLiteracyTheaterBalletTeensChemistryFilmService-Based LearningChorus


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

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

Winter Solstice

“The solstice celebration at The Roundhouse in Colrain is at the top of my list of things to do during the holiday season. The space is spectacular and becomes filled with wonderful, warm and cheerful people all cozied up together listening to stories and music and enjoying a potluck of delicious treats. They also ask that guests bring canned goods to be donated to the Franklin County Survival Center…” Robin S. of Greenfield, MA

Bring the family to a community winter solstice storytelling and songfest at the Roundhouse in Colrain on Saturday, December 20, 6:30pm. There will be many talented storytellers present, as well as special performers who will perform puppet shows, songs and stories from all over the world, cello music, and clowning. Please bring a canned good to donate to the Franklin Survival Center and a food item to share during the intermission banquet. Donations will be accepted to benefit the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and Partners in Health. All ages welcome. Reservations are recommended. 413-624-5140. 68 Van Nuys Road. Colrain, MA. (DONATION – $-$$)

Why do the days get shorter and the nights get longer this time of year? And want did ancient culture make of this annual event? The public is invited to witness the passing of the seasons by joining Dr. Judith Young of the UMass Dept. of Astronomy to watch the Sun rise & set over the tall standing stones in the UMass Sunwheel on Sunday, December 21st, 7am & 3:30pm. For those interested in learning about the sky, the Sunwheel gatherings at sunrise and sunset will include presentations which describe the significance of the solstices & equinoxes, the cause of the seasons and phases of the Moon, the story of building the Sunwheel, and other calendar sites around the world such as Stonehenge & Callanish in the UK and Chichen Itza in Mexico. Additionally, there will be an explanation of the Moon’s 18.6-year cycle, also called the Major Lunar Standstill. Come gather in community and connect with the sky — bring your questions, your curiosity, and be prepared for freezing temperatures including waterproof footwear. The gatherings typically last 1 hour, and are held in all weather except rain and blizzards. Rocky Hill Road. Amherst, MA (DONATION-$)

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, but it is also a day on which to celebrate the longer days to come. Join Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary for their annual winter solstice celebration on Sunday, December 21 from 6pm-8:30pm. There are many different traditions from all around the world to celebrate the solstice, including this one at Arcadia! Each year, community members of all ages gather at the sanctuary for music, a bonfire, hot drinks, and fun activities. Celebrate the solstice and community at this fun annual event! The event is free, but please bring a nonperishable food item to donate to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary is located at 127 Combs Road in Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Art History

Explore London’s National Gallery this December – without ever leaving western Massachusetts! The Berkshire Museum is screening National Gallery (2014), a documentary that takes you inside in the National Gallery in London, on December 19, 20, and 21 at 7pm, and on December 22 at 1:30pm and 7pm. Tour the museum with docents, see museum restorers use a variety of tools to repair art works, and attend administrative meetings to learn about the inner workings of the museum. Art history fans can see the works of Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Turner, Vermeer, Caravaggio, and many others. This documentary offers a unique opportunity for those who are interested in museums and art to see this prestigious institution, from the works on display to the way it is run. Call the Berkshire Museum at 413-443-7171 for more information. The museum is located at 39 South Street in Pittsfield, MA. ($)

Mycology/Skillsharing

Discover the fascinating world of medicinal mushrooms with Willie Crosby of Fungi Ally at Grow Food Amherst‘s sustainability workshop at All Things Local Cooperative Market on Sunday, December 21 from 2pm-4pm. Crosby will discuss medicinal mushrooms like reishi, shiitake, and chaga, as well as their uses, and how to prepare them. He will also talk about different mushroom growing methods for home and garden, and participants can take home a mushroom growing kit. Older students interested in learning more about medicinal mushrooms and their uses would learn from this free skillshare program. Call 413-259-3149 for more information. 104 North Pleasant Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Folk Art

Discover the traditional Polish folk art of papercutting with the Deerfield Arts Bank on Sunday, December 21 from 12noon-3pm. Papercutting, or wycinanki, is a popular craft from the mid-1800s that originated with shepherds cutting designs out of tree bark and leather. The paper cuts typically depict features of Polish peasant life, such as roosters, flower pots, trees, birds, and others. Students ages 8 and up (accompanied by an adult) can learn about art and traditional crafts from Poland at this program, which uses simple materials and techniques to teach participants to make their own Polish-style paper cuts. Call the Deerfield Arts Bank at 413-665-0123 for more information or to sign up. It is located at 3 Sugarloaf Street in South Deerfield, MA. ($$$)

Citizen Scientist/Ornithology

Search for birds this December at the annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count in northern Berkshire County. This citizen science project takes place around the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation on Saturday, December 20. The Bird Count is 24 hours, midnight to midnight, and is open to volunteer bird watchers of all ages and experience levels. This is a hands-on opportunity for anyone to participate in a citizen science project, learn about birds, and meet community members who are also interested in birds and birding. There will be a potluck dinner at Sheep Hill (671 Cold Spring Road, Williamstown, MA) at 6:30pm. Email lre@wrlf.org or call for more information and to sign up. 413-458-5150. Northern Berkshire County. (VOLUNTEER)

Ecology

Take a closer look at one of our local watersheds at the Great Falls Discovery Center’s, “Watershed Investigators,” a special family program on Saturday, December 20, 10am-4pm, where kids can learn new ways to look at and understand the world around them using games, crafts, exploration, etc. Designed to best fit students in grades 2-5, but all ages are welcome. Drop in. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Literacy

Is your child an animal lover? Do you have a reluctant reader? Did you know that reading aloud to animals has been proven to improve reading skills in children? The Westfield Athenaeum is hosting a Read to Rover event for kids ages 3-9 on Saturday, December 20, 1:30pm. Young readers can practice reading stories aloud to specially-trained dogs, who offer non-judgmental, non-threatening attention. This is a wonderful opportunity for kids to improve their reading skills and their confidence in reading aloud. Please register in advance. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Holiday Theater Classics

Berkshire Theatre Group presents its annual community production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Colonial Theatre on Saturday, December 20 & Sunday, December 21, 2pm & 7pm; Monday, December 22, 7pm. All ages will enjoy seeing Dickens’ classic Christmas tale come to life onstage! 413-997-4444. 111 South Street, Pittsfield, MA. ($$$)

Shakespeare and Company presents a special production of It’s a Wonderful Life – a live radio play! The performance is a funny and unique play-within-a-play that tells the classic Christmas Eve tale of It’s a Wonderful Life, complete with live radio commercials, sound effects, and more. This unique performance is a fun way to celebrate Christmas! Runs every Friday (7:30pm), Saturday (2pm & 7:30pm), and Sunday (7:30pm) through December 28. 413-637-3353. 70 Kemble Street. Lenox, MA. ($$-$$$)

Old Deerfield Productions presents A Christmas Carol at the Academy of Music Theatre this holiday season. Family members of all ages will enjoy seeing Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas story come to life with comedy, drama, music, and dance. Performances take place Saturday, December 20, 2pm & 8pm; Sunday, December 21, 2pm. Tickets can be purchased in advance. 413-584-9032 x105. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. ($$)

The Majestic Theater’s annual holiday production Home for the Holidays is back this year! The performance is inspired by the holiday television specials of the past, and features great songs and a whole group of wonderful local performers. The whole family will enjoy this holiday production. Saturday, December 20, 2pm & 8pm; Sunday, December 21, 2pm & 7pm; Monday, December 22, 7pm. Tickets can be purchased in advance. 413-747-7797. 131 Elm Street. West Springfield, MA. ($$)

Ballet

Amherst Ballet presents a production of Cinderella at the UMass Bowker Auditorium on Saturday, December 20, 1pm. All ages will enjoy this classic performance! 100 Holdsworth Way. Amherst, MA. ($)

See the world-renowned Russian ballet company Bolshoi Ballet perform The Nutcracker on the big screen at Amherst Cinema on Sunday, December 21, 12:55pm. The performance was filmed live and will be screened at the Cinema for dance lovers of all ages. Tickets available in advance. 413-253-2547. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. ($$)

Teens

The Jones Library Teen Advisory Board is holding a White Elephant Gift Exchange and Holiday Party on Saturday, December 20, 3pm-5pm. Bring a wrapped gift (that cost $5 or less) and exchange presents and have holiday fun with friends! There will be refreshments. 413-259-3091. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA.

Teens can hang out at the Springfield Central Library‘s Teen Time, which gives teens a chance to talk about their interests with their peers and do activities. There will also be a chance for teens to make some festive solstice snacks. Monday, December 22, 4pm-5pm. 413-263-6828 x471. 220 State Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Chemistry

Be a mad scientist at the Berkshire Museum, Tuesday, December 23, 11am-12noon & 1pm-2pm. Along with the help of the museum’s very own crazy chemist, kids can learn how to do exciting and surprising (and safe!) experiments with regular household materials. Kitchen Kaboom! is totally kid-safe, but adults must accompany participating scientists. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE with museum admission)

Holiday Film Classic

Watching Frank Capra’s classic Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is a tradition for many during the holiday season. Contrary to what viewers may think due to its popularity today, when the film was first released it got mostly negative reviews. This timeless black-and-white classic highlights the importance of friendship, family, and virtue, and features a talented cast. Film fans can see it on the big screen this holiday season in several places around western Massachusetts – Amherst Cinema will screen the film on Saturday, December 20 and Tuesday, December 23 at 2pm ($), and the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center will screen it on Sunday, December 21 at 7pm (FREE). Amherst Cinema is located at 28 Amity Street in Amherst, MA, and the Mahaiwe is at 14 Castle Street in Great Barrington, MA.

Service-Based Learning/Animal Welfare

The Berkshire Humane Society’s “Humane Hero” program 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 in the form of a Pet Food Drive at the Super Stop and Shop in Pittsfield on Saturday, December 20, 10am-2pm. 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. Dan Fox Drive. Pittsfield, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

Choral Music

The Berkshire Lyric Chorus and the Blafield Children’s Chorus come together on Saturday, December 20, 7:30pm, for “Called by Angels,” a Christmas concert at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. The concert features classic Christmas songs and is a great holiday event for the whole family. 413-499-0258. 67 East Street. Pittsfield, MA. ($$)

[Photo credit: (cc) J. Michael Raby]


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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