27 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Ice Skating to Cross-Country Skiing. West African Textiles to Silk History.

Cross-country skiing opportunities in our area abound! Here’s a starter list, but there are many more, including, perhaps, some of the fields near your own home!

Ice Skating to Cross-Country Skiing. American Art to Storytelling Arts. West African Textiles to Silk History… These are just a few of the community-based 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 community highlights this week:  People have been skating on ice for many hundreds of years, although this “early” skating was pragmatic rather than recreational. “Skate” is derived from the Dutch word “schaats,” which means leg bone, as the first skates were simply lengths of animal bone strapped to the bottom of boots. When wood, and then iron, blades were introduced as a replacement to bone, skaters gained more control and speed, and skating for sport and fun began to rise. Our local skating culture traces its roots to Scottish immigrants, who brought skates with them when they resettled in the U.S.  Whether you like to skate slow or fast, practice turns or hold onto the wall as you go, there’s fun to be had on an ice skating rink for all.

Local FoodIce SkatingNordic SkiingWinter SportsArt StudiesEarly LiteracyStorytelling ArtsTextile ArtsCultural TraditionsSTEAMFamily Films

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Winter Farmers’ Markets

Saturday, January 2, 10am-1pm
What crops store well in Western Massachusetts in the winter months? How is this El Niño year affecting the growing season? Find answers to your questions while supporting your local farmers and your health, by shopping at the Greenfield Winter Farmers’ Market at Greenfield Middle School. You’ll find wonderful produce, meat, and prepared food, not to mention one-of-a-kind artisan crafts. Come curious and learn where the food was grown, and how, from the growers themselves. 195 Federal Street, Greenfield, MA. (MARKET/SALE)

Saturday, January 2, 10am-2pm
Explore the sometimes surprising bounty of the winter harvest, and explore other wonderful, local delights such as honey, breads, pastries, cheeses, jewelry, and more at the Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market, which runs most Saturdays through April 2, 2016. SNAP accepted throughout the market. Sample different foods to learn the taste of ingredients such as wheat vs. spelt, or goat milk cheese vs. cow milk cheese. Amherst Regional Middle School, 170 Chestnut Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Ice Skating

People have been skating on ice for many hundreds of years, although this “early” skating was pragmatic rather than recreational. “Skate” is derived from the Dutch word “schaats,” which means leg bone, as the first skates were simply lengths of animal bone strapped to the bottom of boots. When wood, and then iron, blades were introduced as a replacement to bone, skaters gained more control and speed, and skating for sport and fun began to rise. Our local skating culture traces its roots to Scottish immigrants, who brought skates with them when they resettled in the U.S.

Whether you like to skate slow or fast, practice turns or hold onto the wall as you go, there’s fun to be had on a skating rink for all. Local opportunities include:

FMC Ice Sports

  • Saturday, January 2, 12:40pm-2:40pm at Fitzpatrick Arena. Skate rentals available for $5. 413-532-2929. 575 Maple Street, Holyoke, MA. (<$)
  • Saturday, January 2, 1pm-3pm & Sunday, January 3, 1pm-3pm at Collins-Moylan Arena. Skate rentals available for $5. 413-772-6891. 41 Barr Avenue, Greenfield, MA. (<$)
  • Sunday, January 3, 3pm-5pm at Smead Arena. Skate rentals available for $5. 413-781-2599. 1780 Roosevelt Avenue, Springfield, MA. (<$)

Mullins Center at UMass Amherst
Saturday, January 2, 4pm-5:50pm & Sunday, January 3, 2:30pm-4:20pm. (Plus four days a week through the end of January 2016.) Skate rentals available for $5. Cash or check only. 413-545-2791. 200 Commonwealth Ave, Amherst, MA. (< $)

Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink
Saturday, January 2, 2pm-3:50pm; Sunday, January 3, 2pm-3:50pm; Monday, January 4, 11:30am-3:20pm; Tuesday, January 5, 1:30pm-3:20pm. 413-664-8185. 1267 South Church Street, North Adams, MA.

Amelia Park Arena
Thursday, January 7, 11am-12pm, and every Thursday morning in January, with walkers available to help new skaters stay on their feet. 413-568-2503. 21 South Broad Street, Westfield, MA. (<$)

Nordic Skiing

In Nordic, or cross-country, skiing, the heel of the boot is not fixed to the ski as it is in alpine skiing, and the skis themselves are longer and narrower than downhill skis. A Nordic skiing outing can range from a relaxing glide through the woods to a fast-paced, heart-thumping race on a groomed course. Western MA is full of cross country skiing terrain, and people of all ages and abilities can give it a try. Adaptive cross country ski equipment includes “sit-skis,” and young children and others can also be towed on a ski-sled by their fellow skiers.

Notchview Reservation
Sunday, January 3, 10am-1pm
Those interested in racing or watching Nordic ski racing can attend the Nordic Race Series: Kick Off Classic at Notchview Reservation, with 2, 5, and 10K citizens tour, race, and party on Sunday, January 3, 10am-1pm. This informal race series is sponsored by the Berkshire Trail Nordic Ski Club. Throughout the season, there will be a mix of both classical and freestyle races, at both 5K and 10K distances. Participants will get a great workout and spectators can learn about Nordic race strategies and skiing techniques. 413-684-0148. Route 9, Windsor, MA. (<$ Members, $ Non-members)

Watch these kids do cross-country skiing and talk about their love of the sport!

Cross-country skiing opportunities in our area abound! Here’s a starter list, but there are many more, including, perhaps, some of the fields near your own home.

  • Bartholomew’s Cobble. Bring your own skis. 413-229-8600. 105 Weatogue Road, Ashley Falls, Sheffield, MA.
  • Field Farm. Bring your own skis. 413-298-3239, 554 Sloan Road, Williamstown, MA.
  • Lime Kiln Farm. Bring your own skis. 413-637-0320. Silver Street, Sheffield, MA.
  • Northfield Mountain. Rental skis and lessons available. 800-859-2960. 99 Millers Falls Rd, Northfield, MA.
  • Stump Sprouts. Rental skis and lessons available. 413-339-4265. West Hill Road, Hawley, MA.

Art Studies

Saturday, January 2, 10am-5pm
Harvey Dunn was an illustrator best known for depicting the harsh realities of World War I combat, as well as portraying the healing comfort of life on the prairie. Dunn is also credited for instructing and inspiring a number of successful artists, such as Dean Cornwell, Mead Schaeffer, Harold von Schmidt, and Lyman Anderson, among others. This exhibit, Masters of the Golden Age: Harvey Dunn and His Students at the Norman Rockwell Museum, will feature over 85 paintings by Dunn and his prodigious students. Displays will also include illustrations from prominent periodicals, including Harper’s and The Saturday Evening Post. Harvey Dunn was an influential and vital part of our visual history. His work captivates viewers as it documents the adventure and mystery of the World War I era, while also providing an intimate and historic glimpse of homestead life on the prairies of South Dakota. This exhibit will be on display now through March 13, 2016 at the Norman Rockwell Museum. 413-298-4100. Route 183, Stockbridge, MA. ($$)

Sunday, January 3, 10am-5pm
Every first Sunday of the month, The Clark Art Institute offers free admission! Plan a family visit to explore part of the museum’s permanent collection of European and American paintings, sculpture, drawings, English silver, and early photography. The Clark library, open to the public with more than 240,000 volumes, is one of the nation’s premier art history libraries. The Institute’s 140 acre campus also includes a number of walking trails, including one that leads up Stone Hill for a stunning view of Williamstown and the Green Mountains of Vermont. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street, Williamstown, MA (FREE)

Monday, January 4, 11am-5pm
North Adams residents: One of the world’s premier centers for making and showing the best modern art is right in your backyard, and today it’s free. See something new in one of the temporary exhibitions or revisit your favorite permanent works at MASS MoCA on the 4th of the month, when it’s free for 01247 residents. Bring an official ID or utility bill with your address on it. 413-662-2111. 1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA. (FREE)

Interested in checking out other great Western MA museums during this vacation week or later this season for some indoor winter fun? Read our post, “Museum Adventures: 10 Learning Adventures with Museums10 this Holiday Season” for inspiration!

Early Literacy

Saturday, January 2, 1:30pm
The Springfield Central Library is offering a story, song, and craft time for ages 3-10, every Saturday! Integrating themes from a story with related songs and artistic endeavors help children make sense of new characters and ideas, and stimulate creative expression. Siblings are welcome, too. 413-263-6828 x471. 220 State Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, January 5, 10am
Come to the Greenfield Public Library for Mother Goose on the Loose, with Kay Lyons. This lap-sit storytime is for ages 0-3, with a caregiver. In addition to reading a book, Kay teaches animal sounds using puppets, leads the group In hand rhymes, and introduces other concepts to the very young. Rhymes start children on the path to reading and strengthen bonds between children and caregivers. Rhymes with movement also promote coordination. The program is about 30 minutes long and followed by visiting time. 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street, Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Storytelling Arts

Thursday, January 7, 5pm-6:30pm
Dancing offers its participants many benefits including improved cardiovascular health, stronger bones, decreased stress, and positive self esteem. At The Center, students enjoy a holistic approach to expressive movement comprised of reading, writing, and dancing. Sister duo Ashley and Caddy Carlisle draw from their years of experience in classical and modern dance to help kids connect, collaborate, and create. Come learn more about what they offer for toddlers to seniors in high school at this open house. Winter/Spring enrollment is open. 413-687-7953. 321 Main Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Textile Arts

Friday, January 8, 4pm-8pm
Ponder Powerful Patterns at this month’s Free Second Friday at the Smith College Museum of Art. From 4pm-6pm, learn about the art of bògòlanfini, cloth dyed with clay, and create your own patterned textile like Djotene Diarra’s Women’s Skirt. Sometimes referred to as “mud cloth” in the U.S., bògòlanfini is a traditional Malian fabric that is used in traditional Malian culture for camouflage, in rituals and festivities, and, more recently, in high fashion. Different motifs and patterns are incorporated into the cloth to tell unique stories–usually ones that can only be understood by a small group of people within a given village or community. After dying your cloth, join a guided gallery talk to explore one of the museum’s art objects. 413-585-2760. 20 Elm Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Explore more of the cultural history and aesthetic beauty of bògòlanfini in the Smithsonian’s “Discovering Mudcloth” virtual exhibit!

For those interested in exploring more textile arts, you are in luck! Western Massachusetts’ ties to textile history run deep. Try a self guided tour of the Northampton Silk Route. Composed of ten stops, the Northampton Silk Route is an expedition of portions of Leeds, Florence, and downtown Northampton that includes stops at historic homes, former mills, and other places of import. Basic information offered by the Northampton Silk Project will help families in learning the history of the silk industry in the Pioneer Valley.

Next, head over to Historic Deerfield, where a special fiber arts exhibition awaits. At Celebrating the Fiber Arts: The Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery, visitors can examine and enjoy everything from costumes to needlework dating back as far as the 1600’s. The collection displayed is considered one of the best in the country, and includes beautiful and fascinating pieces – each of which spotlights an interesting element of textile-related history.

Cultural Traditions

Saturday, January 2, 7pm
The Puerto Rican Cultural Project and the Holyoke Public Library present Puerto Rico Canta on Main Street, their 4th annual holiday concert with Los Gigantes e la Plena & Charlie Berrios. Folkloric dancer Brenda Cepeda and the children’s folkloric group El Coqui will perform. Children will receive books from Los Tres Reyes Magos (the Three Kings) from El Oriente. Kids’ activities. Tickets available in advance at the Holyoke Public Library and at the door. 413-420-8101. War Memorial Building, 310 Appleton Street, Holyoke, MA. (<$)

Wednesday, January 6
Celebrated in Spanish-speaking cultures around the world (and in many communities in western Massachusetts), Three King’s Day celebrates the biblical arrival of the kings in Jerusalem, bearing gifts for the baby Jesus.  Learn about the extended holiday season and the traditions and celebrations that accompany Three King’s Day through reading, baking, crafting, and celebrating! Read more in our post, Three King’s Day Offers Multi-Cultural Learning.

Friday, January 8, 5:15pm-6:15pm
Join other families with kids ages 0-6 to welcome the Sabbath at Tot Shabbat, offered by Beit Ahavah Reform Synagogue. The kids enjoy music and activities led by Marlene Rachelle and Rabbi Riqi Kosovske, then a veggie potluck dinner. Adults socialize and relax. Interfaith and GLBTQ families, nursing moms, babies and siblings of all ages, grandparents and special people, new members, first-timers, and friends all welcome! 413-587-3770. 130 Pine Street, Florence, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, January 2, 11am
Create your own watercolors and “snow dough” at WeeMuse: Art Lab at the Berkshire Museum. What is the science behind your creations? Is it science of art or is it the art of science? 413-443-7171. 39 South Street (Route 7), Pittsfield, MA. ($ Members, $$ Non-members)

Family Films

Saturday, January 2, 1pm
Having evolved to serve, the yellow begoggled creatures in blue overalls called Minions (PG, 2015) struggle to find a sufficiently cruel master to work for, until they discover Scarlet Overkill, the world’s first super-villainess. This animated comedy will be shown at East Longmeadow Public Library and may not be suitable for younger children. Afterward, families can talk about how the main characters in the film are bad guys, yet the audience still roots for them. Is that okay? If so, why? Why not? 413-525-5400, ext. 1511. 60 Center Square, East Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Friday, January 8, 6pm
Wear your pajamas and bring your sleeping bag to see Paddington (PG, 2015) at the Cummington Family Center. After an earthquake destroys his home in Peru and kills his uncle, Paddington hides away on a ship by himself to cross the ocean to London. Once there, he is taken in by the kindly Brown family and gets into assorted mischief. His life is at risk, however, when a cold-hearted taxidermist decides he would make a good specimen. Families can talk about how Paddington had to take care of himself and find a new home in a strange country all on his own. Is that happening to real kids anywhere in the world today? Are there any ways to help them? 2 Main Street, Cummington, MA. (FREE)

[Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield]

Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Bernardston, Erving, Pelham and Williamsburg Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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