31 Community Highlights: Puppetry to Robots. Jewish Pioneers to First Day Hikes.
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, which took place this year on December 21, has been celebrated around the world for many thousands of years. Discover some of the solstice traditions of the British Isles and the United States at “Wassail, Wassail, All Over the Town!” with Tom Hooker Hanford at Ventfort Hall on Saturday, December 27 at 3:30pm. He will perform the songs and rituals of apple tree wassailers, wren boys, John Canoe Revelers, and callithumpians with singalong songs, masks, and props. He will be accompanied by guitar, harmonicas, and violin, and there will be opportunities for audience role playing. All ages can attend this performance, which teaches about the solstice traditions of the past and engages audience members. Call Ventfort Hall at 413-637-3206 for more information. 104 Walker Street, Lenox, MA. ($)
Cultural Studies/American History ♦ Music Studies ♦ Literary Performances ♦ Animal Studies ♦ Outdoor Adventures ♦ Folktales ♦ Puppetry ♦ Choral ♦ STEM ♦ World History ♦ Fashion History ♦ Astronomy ♦ Museum Adventures
Learn Local. Play Local. is sponsored in part by:
James Marshall discovered gold on the American River, 120 miles east of San Francisco, in 1848, which led to tens of thousands of people heading to California to see if they could find some gold for themselves. American Jews, as well as immigrants from Central Europe, headed west to find riches and to shape lives for themselves in San Francisco, which was then a small village. By 1870, San Francisco’s population had boomed from several hundred people to 150,000 – 10% of whom were Jewish. Discover the story of these Jewish pioneers at the Yiddish Book Center on Sunday, December 28 at 2pm, when they screen Marc Shaffer’s film, “American Jerusalem: Jews and the Making of San Francisco.” Learn about why Jews were drawn to the west (for reasons other than gold), how they were received there, and how they helped to build and define the city of San Francisco at this screening. The film would appeal to older students interested in U.S. history and Jewish studies. Call the Yiddish Book Center at 413-256-4900 for more information. The Yiddish Book Center is located at 1021 West Street in Amherst, MA. ($)
The winter solstice, which took place this year on December 21, has been celebrated around the world for many thousands of years. Discover some of the solstice traditions of the British Isles and the United States at “Wassail, Wassail, All Over the Town!” with Tom Hooker Hanford at Ventfort Hall on Saturday, December 27 at 3:30pm. He will perform the songs and rituals of apple tree wassailers, wren boys, John Canoe Revelers, and callithumpians with singalong songs, masks, and props. He will be accompanied by guitar, harmonicas, and violin, and there will be opportunities for audience role playing. All ages can attend this performance, which teaches about the solstice traditions of the past and engages audience members. Call Ventfort Hall at 413-637-3206 for more information. 104 Walker Street, Lenox, MA. ($)
The Spectrum Playhouse is offering a World Music Day Winter Break Camp on Monday, December 29, 9am-12noon. Kids can explore music and instruments from around the world, get crafty making their own instruments from recycled materials, and play their newly-made instruments in a fun jam session. This camp is a great opportunity for kids to discover world music and to play music collaboratively with their peers. Call for more info and to sign up. 413-394-5045. 20 Franklin Street. Lee, MA. ($$)
Local student actors present “An Evening with Louisa Alcott and her Little Women” at the Lenox Library on Sunday, December 28, 2pm & 7pm. This performance of Louisa May Alcott’s classic story is suitable for all ages. Come see the story acted out by talented local students. Tickets available in advance at the main desk. 413-637-0197. 18 Main Street. Lenox, MA. ($$)
Berkshire Children’s Theater presents a production of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh KIDS at the Berkshire Museum on Monday, December 29, 11am & 2pm; Tuesday, December 30, 11am & 2pm. Come see all your favorite Winnie the Pooh characters played by talented local performers, who will act out the stories and sing songs. All ages will love this performance of A.A. Milne’s classic stories! Ticket cost includes museum admission. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street. Pittsfield, MA. ($$)
Learn about animals and see some cool ones up close at the Storrs Library for “Animal Show on the Go” on Saturday, December 27, 11am. All ages can learn about animal behavior and anatomy, and can even meet and touch some animals! Call to sign up. 413-565-4182. 693 Longmeadow Street. Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)
Join the Trustees of Reservations at Bartholomew’s Cobble for a snowshoe trek on Saturday, December 27, 10am-12noon. Explore the reservation’s forests, fields, hills, and river, as well as wildlife tracks and signs, on this easy-to-moderate trek. Snowshoes available in kid and adult sizes. Please RSVP. 413-229-8600. 105 Weatogue Road. Sheffield, MA. ($)
Families can join the Berkshire Natural Resources Council for a fun, easy hike at Hollow Fields on Saturday, December 27, 10am-1pm. Walk through open fields and enjoy great views of Yokun Ridge. 413-499-0596. Perry’s Peak Road. Richmond, MA. (FREE)
Hiking is a great way to explore the outdoors, get some fresh air, exercise, learn about the natural world, and develop a sense of place in nature. Start 2015 off by promoting these healthy habits and going on a First Day Hike with family and friends! There are a handful of free First Day Hikes happening around western Massachusetts (and beyond!) on January 1, and they are a fun chance to explore some of our state parks and natural areas. Learn about natural history and explore evidence of ecological succession with Williamsburg Woodland Trails on a hike along the Petticoat Hill Reservation/Locke’s Loop Trail (Petticoat Hill Road, Williamsburg, MA) at 10am and at Mt. Greylock (30 Rockwell Road, Lanesborough, MA) with the Department of Conservation and Recreation at 1pm. You can also check out the beautiful DAR State Forest (78 Cape Street, Goshen, MA) with the Department of Conservation and Recreation at 11am, and explore the natural, cultural, and historical sights around Turners Falls with the Department of Conservation and Recreation along the canal (2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA). Get the whole family outside and have fun learning together in nature on the first day of the new year!
CactusHead Puppets present a performance of “The Bremen Town Musicians” at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art on Saturday, December 27, 11am & 1pm and Sunday, December 28, 1pm. This classic tale tells of a donkey, cat, dog, and rooster who go on a journey to start new lives as musicians. Kids will love seeing this classic story come to life! Tickets can be purchased in advance. 413-658-1100. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. (>$)
Puppeteer Carl Sprague will present a marionette production of “Sleeping Beauty” at Ventfort Hall on Sunday, December 28, 3:30pm-5:30pm. Learn about antique puppets at this exciting show. 413-637-3206. 104 Walker Street. Lenox, MA. ($)
The Berkshire Athenaeum presents a performance of “The Firebird” by the Puppet People on Tuesday, December 30, 1pm. All ages will enjoy this puppet performance inspired by the classic Russian folktale and popular ballet. 413-499-9480. 1 Wendell Avenue. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)
The Berkshire Lyric Chorus presents a Handel’s Messiah Community Sing at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Saturday, December 27, 2pm. Come sing along to a professional orchestra with community members. Bring your own vocal score or buy one at the door. 413-499-0258. 67 East Street. Pittsfield, MA.
The Cummington Village Church is holding their 50th Annual Messiah Sing on Sunday, December 28, 4pm! Come sing the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah with conductor Gregory Hayes, selected soloists, and community members. 413-634-5320. Cummington, MA.
Be a mad scientist at the Berkshire Museum on Saturday, December 27, 11am-12noon. 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. Free with museum admission. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street. Pittsfield, MA. ($)
Discover the role of robots in the future at Western Gateway Heritage State Park on Saturday, December 27, 3pm. Suitable for older students interested in technology. 413-663-6312. 115 State Street. North Adams, MA.
Come build architectural masterpieces with LEGOs at the East Longmeadow Public Library on Monday, December 29, 1pm-3pm. This LEGO build is based on theme. Drop-in to build and engage in a small-scale engineering project. 413-525-5400 x1506. 60 Center Square. East Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)
Bring out your inner scientist at the East Longmeadow Public Library on Tuesday, December 30, 1pm-4pm. Explore science, art, and engineering activities at this fun program. 413-525-5400 x1506. 60 Center Square. East Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)
Get creative with gumdrops and toothpicks at the Sixteen Acres Branch Library on Tuesday, December 30, 3pm-5pm. What can you build using just these two things? Come see what you can with these – bridges, cars, castles, etc. – whatever you can imagine! 413-263-6858. 1187 Parker Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)
Ages 6 and up can attend the Westfield Athenaeum‘s new Building Blocks Club on Friday, January 2, 10am. Have fun and get creative building LEGO masterpieces. Call or stop by the library to register. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street. Westfield, MA. (FREE)
Berkshire Museum‘s Little Cinema is screening Diplomacy (2014; not rated) a French and German historical drama film about World War II. Specifically, it is about Hitler’s order to destroy Paris, and Swedish diplomat Raoul Nordling, who tries to persuade the Germans not to destroy the city. The film would appeal to older students with an interest in history. Screenings take place Saturday, December 27-Monday, December 29, from 7pm-8:30pm. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street. Pittsfield, MA. ($)
Discover how the writings of Charles Dickens inspired the artwork of Norman Rockwell at “Victorian Holiday: Fashion in the Dickensian Era” at the Norman Rockwell Museum on Saturday, December 27, 5:30pm-7pm. View Rockwell’s holiday paintings and learn about Dickensian fashions from Linda Meyer of Lynda’s Antique Clothing Loft in Adams, MA. Older students interested in art, literature, and fashion will enjoy seeing how the three are related at this program, which is free with museum admission or $ for just the program. 413-298-4100. 9 Route 183. Stockbridge, MA. ($$)
Discover the wonders of the night sky and winter at “Stars Over Springfield” at the Springfield Science Museum’s observatory on Friday, January 2 at 7:30pm. Planetarium educator Jack Megas will present an introductory astronomy talk titled, “Winter Wonderland: A Tour of the Winter Night Sky” for all ages. Learn about the stars, planets, galaxies, and more at this program, and ask questions about the night sky – how does it differ from the summer sky? What can we see in winter that we can’t see in the summer? Why? This presentation and live star viewing will get both kids and adults interested in astronomy and wanting to observe the night sky. Recommended for ages 8 and up, but all are welcome. The Springfield Museums are at 21 Edwards Street in Springfield, MA and can be reached at 800-625-7738. (>$)
School vacation week is the perfect time to take a trip down to Connecticut to visit the New England Air Museum! The Museum is a great place to visit if you’re an aviation nut or just someone who wants to learn more. In addition to their regular exhibits, NEAM is offering a series of activities for families during school vacation week. Their Flight Sim Spot, which allows museum visitors to virtually fly any aircraft using real cockpit controls, is open December 26-31 from 12noon-4pm. They will have tons of fun, hands-on aviation activities for kids and adults throughout the week, including a LEGO flying machine contest (12/26 and 12/27, 10am-3pm), an aircraft drawing/collage contest (12/28, 10am-3pm), an aero modeling workshop (12/29, 10am-2pm, >$), open cockpit tours (12/30), and a recyclable glider competition for families (12/31). Each of these hands-on activities teaches museum visitors about aviation, as well as STEM concepts, through engaging engineering projects, tours, and art activities. Call NEAM at 860-623-3305 for more information. They are located at 36 Perimeter Road in Windsor Locks, CT. ($)
Have fun learning about Madeline at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art‘s “A Very Merry Madeline Weekend” event this Saturday and Sunday, December 27 & 28. Visit the special exhibition, Madeline at 75: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans, and participate in activities like gallery searches, watch films, enjoy storytime, and do hands-on art projects. You can even meet Madeline herself at 1pm and 3pm! Free with museum admission. 413-658-1100. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. ($)
The Springfield Museums is a terrific destination this weekend and during school vacation week! They will have art activities (11am-4pm), family science adventures (11am-2pm), planetarium shows (11:15am, 12noon, 1pm, & 2pm; >$), and hands-on activities at the Art Discovery Center (12noon-4pm). There will also be a hula hooping performance by HOOPiVERSE on Saturday, a magic performance by Matt Roberts on Sunday, “Hoopoe’s Illusion Show” by Chris Yerlig on Monday and stunt comedian Wacky Chad on Tuesday. Most activities are free with museum admission. 1-800-625-7738. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($$)
Learn about art at the Norman Rockwell Museum during school vacation week! The museum is offering a series of programs for the whole family during their “Rockwell and Dickens: A Victorian Holiday Celebration” event. There will be art making activities, tours, readings, and music performed by the Berkshire Community Music School. Free with museum admission. 413-298-4100. 9 Route 183. Stockbridge, MA. ($$)
Looking for something museum adventures with the family on the first day of the new year? MASS MoCA will be open! Come check out their awesome exhibits and have fun exploring the galleries and doing hands-on activities at the Art Bar. 413-662-2111. 1040 MASS MoCA Way. North Adams, MA. ($$)
[Photo credit: (cc) Dimitar Denev]
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.