Learning Ahead: November 30th-December 4th, 2015

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

This week we are featuring 17 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.

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Berkshire County

Tuesday, December 1, 10am-4pm
Ventfort Hall, a Gilded-Age “cottage,” will be decorated for the holidays throughout the month of December. Built in 1893 for Sarah Morgan, the sister of J.P. Morgan, this Jacobean Revival-style mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 413-637-3206. 104 Walker Street, Lenox, MA. ($$)

Thursday, December 3, 4:30pm
What will you learn with your own personal guide at the Williams College Museum of Art? Walk through the galleries with a Williams student and discuss highlights of the collection during “Student Guides in the Galleries.” 413-597-2429. 15 Lawrence Hall Drive, Suite 2, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Franklin County

Tuesday, December 1, 1pm-4pm
Learn to make beautiful natural wreaths, seasonal symbols of welcome, and help decorate the doorways of Historic Deerfield. Bring your creativity, enthusiasm, and an extra pair of pruning shears. No experience required. Supplies and refreshments provided. 413-775-7179. 84B Old Main Street, Deerfield, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, December 1, 6pm-7pm
Free All-Ages Chess Club at the Sunderland Public Library starts from square one, so beginners and more advanced players are all welcome. Club leader Andy Morris-Friedman will guide you as you learn how to play the game, use different techniques and strategies, and use all of your pieces to your best advantage. The club will study famous games and will help you discover new ways to improve your play. Chess is one of the great classic games of the world. It teaches sportsmanship and cooperation, builds confidence, and exercises your brain. Children in third grade or below must be accompanied by an adult. 413-665 2642. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, December 2, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Get “Weird in Massachusetts” with author and Emmy-nominated television host and producer Jeff Belanger at the Greenfield Public Library. A leading lecturer on legends and paranormal phenomena, his multimedia presentation makes the unexplainable entertaining. 413-772-1544. LeVanway Meeting Room, 402 Main Street, Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Are you a Montague resident who would like to connect with your neighbors to discuss creative ideas? Are you a thinker, feeler, maker or do-er? The Montague Common Hall is accepting proposals for a future monthly program, called Think Tank Thursdays, during which 1 or 2 local experts talk about their passion. If you are an expert, or an amateur expert in some fascinating, strange, or esoteric field, and want to tell people all about it and answer questions in a friendly, informal setting, get in touch! Contact: hannahMCH@doktorwise.com. 34 Main St., Montague, MA (FREE)

Hampshire County

Wednesday, December 2, 12:30pm-1pm
Take the opportunity to relax and enjoy live music at Smith College’s Music in the Noon Hour event. Smith faculty artists and friends will perform half-hour recitals of classical music. Takes place at Sweeney Concert Hall. 413-585-3222. 122 Green Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, December 2, 6:30pm-8pm
Have you considered heating and cooling your home with solar energy? Come to the River Valley Co-op and get the latest on Solarize Mass and the Mass Solar Loan program, offering low-cost loans for residential solar. You will also learn about rebates and 0% loans to help pay for high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, solar hot water heating, and more. Find out how you can make your home cozier, healthier, greener, and less reliant on fossil fuels. 413-584-2665. 330 North King Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, December 2, 7pm-8pm
Do the lilting notes of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s ukulele rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” bring a smile to your face? You, too can strum this lovely song, and many more, with a bit of practice! Teens and adults are invited to participate in a series of beginner ukulele classes at the Goodwin Memorial Library, led by local uke superstar, Julie Calamine (formerly Stepanek!). This final class in the series includes a uke party and concert. Ukuleles will be provided if you do not have your own. Advance sign-up requested. 413-584-7451. 50 Middle Street, Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, December 2, 7pm-8:30pm
The “Modern Real and Surreal: Writers & Artists on Our Age” series continues at Forbes Library with “1000 Words: Telling Stories Through Photography,” a panel discussion curated and moderated by Forbes Writer-in-Residence Naila Moreira. Panelists are Paul Ickovic, photographer; Stephen Petegorsky, photographer; and Greg Saulmon, journalist, The Daily Hampshire Gazette. 413-587-1011. Coolidge Museum, 20 West Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, December 3, 3:30pm
What’s your story? Join other aspiring writers for an hour of fun writing activities at the Young Adult Creative Writing Group at Forbes Library. Do a few exercises, then share your work when you feel comfortable. This will be a safe space for exploring different writing styles, sharing, and creating! Snacks provided. 413-587-1011. 20 West Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, December 3, 7:30pm
The Smith College Department of Theatre presents the New Play Readings series this fall, which brings audiences new and developing scripts that have been honored by the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, as well as others, and those written by Smith MFA graduate playwrights. On December 3, hear a reading of Dust, by Susanna Apgar AC ’11. Older students interested in theater will enjoy these readings, which are a unique way to experience theater. Takes place in Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre. 413-585-3222. 122 Green Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Friday, December 4, 12:30pm-1pm
Are you interested in sustainability and building design? Tour the Hitchcock Center for the Environment‘s new living building. Meet at the construction site and tour the building, learning about its unique features, what makes it “living,” what materials are used, and more. These tours are open to anyone, but would be especially interesting to those who want to learn more about living buildings. 413-256-6006. West Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Friday, December 4, 5pm-9pm
What goes into making a book? After the writing, there’s illustrating, printing, binding, and more. Learn about these processes and browse books both old and new at the Northampton Book and Book Arts Fair. This celebration of the book includes exhibitions, sales, demonstrations, book signings, lectures, and much more. Exhibitors are some of the best antiquarian booksellers and respected book artists, including engravers, book designers, bookbinders, paper makers, paper marblers, and fine letterpress publishers from Western Massachusetts and beyond. 413-588-8011. Smith College Student Center, 100 Elm Street (Route 9), Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Hampden County

Thursday, December 3, 12:15pm-1:15pm
When he was commissioned to paint an altarpiece in the mid-15th century, Leonardo da Vinci produced two nearly identical works, called the Virgin of the Rocks, creating a mystery that has puzzled experts for more than 500 years. As part of the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts‘s Museums a la Carte lecture series, Andrew Linnell will present “Secrets of Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks Revealed.” Get ready for an entertaining journey where Renaissance secrets will be revealed. Dan Brown fans and art historians will enjoy this talk! Suitable for lifelong learners and self-directed teens. Bring lunch; light refreshments provided. 413-263-6488. 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, MA. (<$)

Thursday, December 3, 5:30pm
The West Springfield Park & Recreation Department’s 28th annual Caroling on the Green invites everyone to join in a community sing-along, led by local artists and a children’s choir. Singing begins at 5:45pm, but be sure to arrive by 5:30pm to get your songbooks! This is an outdoor event, so dress warmly. 413-781-3020. Elm Street Gazebo, West Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, December 3, 7:30pm
As part of their Thursday Night Jazz Series, CityStage presents a performance by the Yoko Miwa Trio. Hear exciting piano jazz music at this fun concert. Tickets available in advance. 413-788-7033. 50 Bridge Street, Springfield, MA. ($$$)

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