Learning Ahead: December 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 24 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

Thursday, December 10, 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

Thursday, December 10, 6:30pm
The Deerfield Arts Bank invites the community to bring their menorahs and candles for an evening of lighting candles together on the 5th night of Hanukkah (they’ll have lots of extra menorahs too). All are invited to this interfaith gathering. Rabbi Ben Weiner, a Deerfield resident, will officiate and explain Hanukkah traditions and history. There will be singing and playing dreidel. 413-665-0123. 413-768-8917. Deerfield Arts Bank 3 Sugarloaf Street, South Deerfield, MA (FREE)

Friday, December 11, 3pm-10pm
Turners Falls RiverCulture presents “It’s a Wonderful Night in Turners Falls.” Participate in family activities, including crafts, live music, and performances, while enjoying dining specials and eclectic shopping. Adults and kids alike are invited to write wishes for themselves or others and place them in the Magic Mailbox, to be collected by Santa when he arrives at Spinner Park at 6:30pm. 413-835-1390. Various locations, Turners Falls, MA.

Friday, December 11, 7:30pm
Welcome Yule: A Midwinter Celebration
marks the return of the light with a family show of music, dance, song and story to drive the dark away. Join revelers in a seaside village as they celebrate the return of their fisher folk at the winter solstice. Nautical songs and a sailors’ jig add to the seasonal revelries. The Shea Theater, 71 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. ($$)

  • Here’s a glimpse of what to expect at Welcome Yule with this clip from several years ago (don’t let the dates in the clip confuse you!):

Hampshire County

Monday, December 7, 6pm
What is light? How do we see color? What is a “light-emitting diode,” and how do we make one? Evelyn L. Hu, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering at Harvard University, will answer these questions and any others you have at SciTech Cafe‘s “Better than Edison: Bringing Light to the World through LEDs.” Open to all but particularly suited to life-long learners and self-directed teens. Union Station Banquets, 125 Pleasant Street, #A, Northampton, MA (FREE-WILL DONATION)

Monday, December 7, 7pm
Do you love to sing and/or play an instrument? Make a joyful noise during this holiday season with friends and neighbors of all ages at a “Community Sing” at the Westhampton Public Library. Both young and old benefit from socializing together. Feel free to bring at least 10 copies of a song to share. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road, Westhampton, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, December 8, 5:30pm-8pm
In 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga created a new cultural holiday, Kwanzaa, based on traditional African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. Organized around seven principles (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith), Kwanzaa aims to preserve, continually revitalize, and promote African American culture. The Malcolm X Cultural Center at UMass invites everyone to its annual community Kwanzaa Celebration to engage in celebration and reflection. 413-545-3042. UMass Student Union Ballroom, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, December 8, 6pm
As Charles M. Schultz said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” What would the holidays (or life, in general, for that matter) be without the sweet stuff? Join Local Chef and Cookbook Author Bill Collins for a program on cooking with chocolate at the Pelham Library. 413-253-0657. 2 South Valley Road, Pelham, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, December 8, 6pm
Did you know that volunteering your time makes you feel as though you have more of it? Volunteering also builds empathy and strengthens social bonds. Help your neighbors in need put food on the table during the holiday season and beyond by sorting donations at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. This orientation will show you how. For ages 16 and up. Registration required. 413-247-9738. 97 North Hatfield Road, Hatfield, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, December 8, 7-9pm
What do you want for your river? Do you kayak, canoe, fish or swim. Are you ready to share a story, a feeling, an aspiration? Come and see how art and your words will make change for your river at the The Power of Water The Power of Words event. The Connecticut River Watershed Council and Art for Water are gathering your comments on paper for a monumental, community-created art installation to make an impact on State and Federal government decisions. Come and add your voice! 413-772-2020 x206 Jones Library 43 Amity St, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, December 9, 5:30pm
Enjoy festive world music as the Mount Holyoke College Klezmer Band performs its annual Klezmer Tants, directed by Andrianne Greenbaum. Klezmer music originated in Jewish villages in Eastern Europe centuries ago and was meant to emulate the voice and music of the cantor in the synagogue. 413-538-2000. The Warbeke Room, Pratt Music Hall, 50 College Street, South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, December 9, 6:30pm
The Northampton Community Music Center invites you to its 13th annual Holiday Choral Festival, featuring performances by Rock Voices, Luna, the Northamptones, High Definition, the Ku’umba Women’s Choir, the Hartsbrook Choir, and the Hilltown Cooperative Charter School Chorus. Proceeds benefit the NCMC’s scholarship fund. 413-585-0001. Helen Hills Chapel, 123 Elm Street, Northampton, MA. ($ SUGGESTED DONATION)

Thursday, December 10, 7:30pm
The holiday season offers many great opportunities to explore music from different cultural traditions. Experience a Celtic Christmas performance by Cherish the Ladies, an ensemble that creates beautiful music using flute, tin whistle, guitar, accordion, fiddle, piano, and vocals. The program will include classic carols and step dancing. 413-545-2511. UMass Fine Arts Center, 151 Presidents Drive, Amherst, MA. ($-$$)

Thursday, December 10, 7:30pm
A beautifully written story about human connection, Stop Kiss was chosen as part of a new series of intimate, minimalist shows directed by Smith College students. Director Jennifer Sturley describes the show as taking on numerous social issues such as sexual identity, hate crimes, acceptance, and discrimination. At the heart of its message, this play is truly about the vulnerability, intimacy, and a blossoming relationship between two people. Audience members will have the opportunity to see young theater artists showcase their talents in this moving performance about the transformative power of love. The production is being presented by the Smith College Department of Theater. Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts at Smith College, 122 Green Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, December 10, 8pm
Ng Tian Hui conducts the Mount Holyoke College Symphony Orchestra as it presents “Razzle Dazzle.” Hear the masterful work of the winners of the college’s Concerto Competition — Whitney Gao ’16 (piano) and Yiwen Li ’17 (flute) — juxtaposed with Nyman’s post minimalist music for dance. 413-538-2000. 50 College Street, South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Friday, December 11, 4pm-6pm
Who says a painting has to be square or rectangular? In this month’s Free Second Friday at the Smith College Museum of Art, adults and kids alike can “Paint Outside the Box” using Frank Stella’s Damascus Gate (Variation III) as inspiration. Non-rectangular canvases and colorful paints will be provided. A guided gallery conversation follows at 6pm. 413-585-2760. 20 Elm Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Friday, December 11, 7:30pm
When a Caucasian man is accidentally cast in the role of an Asian man in a play, an elaborate and expensive attempt to save face results in Yellow Face, a semi-autobiographical exploration of race and the interactions between media and politics. This play was chosen as part of a new series of intimate, minimalist shows directed by Smith College students. Director Megumi Lee describes the story as a smart and funny look into the idea of public “face” while highlighting the struggles of being an Asian American. Come experience this powerfully unapologetic look into cultural identity in America. The production is being presented by the Smith College Department of Theater. Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts at Smith College, 122 Green Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Friday, December 11. 8:00pm
Performance Project. As part of their Performance Studio work, Five College students invite you to experience an evening of dance and theater, as they present their original works for the first time. This show will feature a variety of artistic pieces in various mediums, exploring topics such as body shaming, addiction, identity, and relationships. Parts of the performance will be experimented with, explained, and put into practice on stage, allowing audience members to witness the experimental process and the weaving of new ideas. Performances are presented by The Amherst College School of Theater and Dance and will be held in The Holden Theater (Webster Hall), 200 South Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE W/RESERVATION)

Hampden County

Monday, December 7, 2pm
Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of rededication, also known as the festival of lights, is an eight-day celebration which begins this year on Sunday, December 6th and ends Monday, December 14th. Join with other community members in a celebration of Hanukkah sponsored by West Springfield Park & Recreation. 413-263-3284. Elm Street Common, Elm Street, West Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Monday, December 7. 7:00pm
Tuesday, December 8. 7:00pm
Exit 7 Short Play Contest. Have you ever dreamed of starring in a play? Do you enjoy local theater and interacting with others who share this passion? With 16 plays in two categories (drama and comedy), and 47 roles to fill, now is your chance to be part of the action! Since there is no experience required, this is a wonderful opportunity for aspiring actors to learn the ropes and be a part of this exciting show! Auditions will be held at The Exit 7 Players Theater, 37 Chestnut Street, Ludlow, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, December 8, 6pm-7pm
The term “doula” comes from ancient Greece and means “a woman who serves.” A doula is a trained professional who assists a woman through pregnancy and childbirth. Studies show that labors attended by doulas are shorter and have fewer complications. Learn about the role of a doula from certified-doula Anne Wagner at the East Longmeadow Public Library. No registration required. 413-525-5400, ext. 1511. 60 Center Square, East Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, December 9, 6pm-8pm
What was Christmas like before electricity? Find out during “Yuletide by Lantern Light” at historic Storrowton Village. Guests can tour the buildings and watch live 19th-century demonstrations of fireplace cooking in the Gilbert Farmstead and blacksmithing in the stone Blacksmith Shop, all by the light of lanterns and candles. The Village will be adorned with festive décor by several area garden clubs, florists, and designers who have donated their time, expertise, and materials to create a winter wonderland. 413-205-5051. 1305 Memorial Avenue, West Springfield, MA. (<$)

Thursday, December 10, 12:15pm-1:15pm
In the 17th and 18th centuries, first scientists, then royalty and members of the elite, kept their most treasured collections in “Cabinets of Curiosity.” During the Victorian era, the practice spread to the middle class, and “curio cabinets” became popular. In this month’s Museums a la Carte lecture, Heather Haskell, Director of the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts and the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, will discuss the current display of such “mini museums” at the GWVS Art Museum. 413-263-6488. 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, MA. (<$)

Thursday, December 10, 5pm-8pm
Enjoy a bit of festive, holiday magic at Springfield Museums‘ Culture & Cocktails: Merry & Bright celebration! Explore the whimsical gingerbread exhibition, enjoy holiday music, take in a planetarium show, gaze at the lights of the Quadrangle Green, design an edible holiday treat, and connect with others in your community at this special event. Ages 21 and up. Reservations strongly recommended. 413-314-6479. 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, MA. (< $ for members; $ for non-members)

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