Learning Ahead: September 7th-11th, 2015

Weekday community-based educational opportunities can be found throughout the four counties of Western MA all week long!

This week we are featuring 14 community-based educational opportunities that can be selected to support the interests and education of self-directed teens, homeschoolers and life-long learners:

Check our list of Weekly Suggested Events for our comprehensive list, including ongoing learning and play opportunities for younger children and intergenerational community events.

Learning Ahead is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

Berkshire County

Tuesday, September 8. 11:30am-1pm — ART STUDIES/OUTDOOR SCULPTURE
Are you looking for ways to help your kids connect with art, or to learn more about the artistic process? Chesterwood‘s family-friendly art programs provide strategies (in the form of fun activities like scavenger hunts) to help children connect with art. As part of their Tour and Talk program, visitors can tour the current outdoor sculpture exhibit with two of the featured sculptors, Niho Kozuru and Leslie Wilcox, and converse with the artists about their process, materials, inspirations, and more! 413-298-3579 x 2034. 4 Williamsville Road, Stockbridge, MA. ($)

Wednesday, September 9. 6pm-7:30pm — NATURE-BASED LEARNING/BEAVERS
From afar, a beaver dam looks like a big pile of sticks, but a closer examination reveals careful construction and cool inner architecture! Through the creation of dams, beavers have had profound effects on plant, animal, and microbial communities across the country. Learn more about our country’s largest rodent at the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, a Mass Audubon property. Wear long pants, long sleeves, and a hat, and bring binoculars if you have them. Suitable for children 3-12 years old. 413-637-0320. 472 W Mountain Road, Lenox, MA. (< $)

Wednesday, September 9. 6:30pm-8:30pm — LGBTQ STUDIES/SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
When you think of a farmer, who do you picture? A man or a woman? What details underlie this farmer’s life story and experience? Is s/he straight or gay? The Queer Farmer Film Project asks us to confront the question: How do gender and sexuality intersect with our nation’s food system? The Project’s new documentary film, Out Here, (NR, 2015, and directed by Jonah Mossberg, a Smith grad) looks at the experiences of queer farmers across the U.S. in an effort to delve deeper into this relatively unexamined topic. The Mason Library is screening the film. 413-528-2403. 231 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, September 10. 12:30pm — FOOD HISTORY
While we all know we should eat a healthy breakfast, sometimes we just have time to grab a piece of toast and run out the door! If you were a part of high society in the 1700s, your breakfast experience would have been an incredibly different undertaking! This week’s “Looking at Lunchtime” gallery talk at the Clark Art Institute focuses on breakfast rituals, with a special focus on breakfast sets (which include expected items like tea cups and cutlery, as well as extraordinary items like chocolate beakers!). 413-458-2303. 225 South Street, Williamstown, MA. ($; FREE for members, children 18 and under, and students).

Thursday, September 10. 3:30pm-5pm – CHESS
Every second and fourth Thursday, kids are invited to the Mason Library for chess. There will be no instruction provided, so this event is best for kids who already have an understanding of the game. This is a great place to come play with peers, make new friends, and improve your chess skills in a relaxed and supportive environment. — Research shows that, when played from a young age, chess can be beneficial to a child’s learning and development. The game requires the use of high-order thinking skills, such as weighing actions and consequences, and helps players practice decision making. The Susan Polgar Foundation offers a page of information on this topic. 413-528-2403. 231 Main Street. Great Barrington, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, September 10. 4:30pm-6:30pm — MUSIC STUDIES/BAGPIPES
The bagpipes have an unmistakable sound, and music created on and for bagpipes carries with it many stories from long ago. Bring a picnic dinner and enjoy a bagpipe performance at Project Native‘s Bagpipes at Sundown event. In addition to listening to beautiful music, audience members will be treated to a detailed history of the instrument and the historical context and significance of a variety of bagpipe tunes. 413-274-3433. 342 North Plain Road, Housatonic, MA. (< $)

Franklin County

Friday, September 11. 7:30pm — RADIO THEATRE/HISTORY
Let a theatrical experience give you and your children the opportunity to understand a bygone era in a way you just can’t get from a book. Set in a 1940s-era general store in rural Massachusetts, Country Store: A Radio Play for the Stage celebrates the simple pleasures of life in a post-Depression, pre-war, small town America. Local actors and singers bring this radio play to life with radio jingles, popular songs of the era, and a strikingly spare stage. Presented by the 1794 Meetinghouse, a group of people dedicated to performing arts and to celebrating culture in north central Massachusetts. 413-335-3489. 26 South Main Street, New Salem, MA. ($; FREE for children 12 and under)

A LOOK AHEAD… Tuesday, September 15. 5:30pm-8pm – FILM MAKING
The Red Gate Farm Film Club meets on the third Tuesday of every month to watch and discuss films in the farm’s program building. A homemade dinner is served, with an optional small donation to cover food costs. All ages welcome, but parents should know that PG and PG-13 movies are shown. Anyone in 3rd grade or younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and participants under 17 must have a signed parental/guardian consent form in order to attend. 413-625-9503. 4 Norman Road, Buckland, MA. (FREE)


Hampshire County

Tuesday, September 8. 8:30am-4pm — FOLK GARDENS/AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES
Some of the earliest African American religious and cultural traditions were captured in and echoed through folk gardens in early America’s deep south. Photographer Vaughn Sills spent 20 years photographing these gardens in an effort to share their beauty and significance with a larger audience lest the tradition, which shows rapid decline, disappear entirely without documentation. Thirty photographs will be included in this exhibit, Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens at the Botanic Garden of Smith College. 413-585-2740. Lyman Plant House, 16 College Lane, Northampton, MA. (SUGGESTED DONATION)

Tuesday, September 8. 6pm — SERVICE-BASED LEARNING
Would you and your children like to make a big difference in the lives of your community members through simple, fun, engaging volunteer work? Attend a volunteer orientation at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to learn all you need to know to get involved with helping feed folks in need and to be eligible for future volunteer opportunities. The orientation will include a tour of The Food Bank’s facility and detailed information about all of the roles volunteers play in ensuring the organization’s successful operation. Registration required. 413-247-9738. 97 North Hatfield Road, Hatfield, MA. (VOLUNTEERING)

Thursday, September 10. 6:30pm-7:30pm — WILD EDIBLES/NUTRITION
Are you interested in learning to forage in local environments? Foraging can introduce interesting flavors as well as micro- and macronutrients into your diet. Under the guidance of a trained adult, children can learn how to use their sense of sight, smell, and touch to identify edible plant species, too. Brittany Nickerson, founder of Thyme Herbal and local herbalist/ edible plant enthusiast, will lead a wild food walk focused on “Herbs for Vibrant Immunity.” Participants may register by visiting the Northampton/Amherst Herbal Meetup Group‘s website. 413-549-1415. Sawmill Farm, 140 Meadow Street, Florence, MA. (< $)

Friday, September 11. 9am-5pm — STEM/CODING
Want to learn CSS or HTML? Ready to turn your app idea into a real app? Perhaps you’ve been wanting to make 3D drawings using SketchUp or itching to learn about LEGO EV3 Robotics? Look no further than the NERD (New England Regional Developers) Summit, a 3-day learning camp focused on helping people build coding, web design, and related skills, and to welcome everyone into this interesting industry. Many sessions are intended for older students and adults; several sessions are good fits for younger children who have an adult accompanying them. Pre-register online for the sessions that interest you! 413-387-4540. UMass Hotel & Conference Center, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Friday, September 11. 5:30pm-6:30pm — MOUNTAIN BIKING
Enjoy nature, exercise, and, perhaps, a touch of adrenaline on a mountain bike ride along the new trails at the Trustees of Reservations‘ Mount Warner property. Riders of all abilities will find paths on which to take an evening ride while getting to know other mountain bikers. 413-532-1631 x 10. Mount Warner Road, Hadley, MA. (FREE for members; < $ nonmembers)

Hampden County

Wednesday, September 9. 7:30pm — GOVERNMENT & LAW
A chance to converse with a member of the Supreme Court is not to be missed! Attend this public forum with Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, to hear her talk about her personal and professional lives, the challenges she has faced, as well as her notable triumphs. Justice Sotomayor’s story is one of grit and perseverance, qualities that listeners may be inspired to espouse in their own lives as they pursue their unique goals.This event is co-sponsored by The Odyssey Bookshop. 413-534-7307. Mass Mutual Center, 1277 Main Street, Springfield, MA. (FREE)

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