32 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Owls to Rabbits. O’Keeffe to Guggenheim.

Berkshire Now: Peter Gordon at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, now through Feb 21, 2016

Owls to Rabbits. O’Keeffe to Guggenheim. LEGOs to Yo-Yos. Swimming to Tracking. Cooking to Sewing… 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:  With winter truly upon us here in western Massachusetts, families are gearing up for ski season! Take advantage of the many properties and trail systems catering to crosscountry skiing during the winter months. Families can find lessons, equipment rentals, and opportunities to explore the wintry landscape by tapping into local resources for crosscountry skiing! You can learn more about Nordic skiing at our post, Western MA Cross-Country Ski Resources. Make this the year your family enjoys winter outdoors!

Film StudiesOrnithologyVisual ArtArt StudiesSTEMOutdoor AdventuresNordic SkiingPerforming ArtSwimmingAnimal StudiesCulinary ArtsLanguage StudiesSpanishMindfulnessSewingMusic StudiesUS HistoryWritingParent Workshop

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Film Studies

Saturday, January 9, 10am-11am
See award-winning and audience-favorite short films from the annual New York International Children’s Film Festival as Amherst Cinema presents KID FLIX 1, a program whose goal is to foster a more dynamic film culture for children ages 3-8. The twelve films shown are from eight different countries and share universal truths, supporting the festival’s mission of providing thoughtful, provocative, and intelligent film for children. KID FLIX 2, for ages 9 and up, screens 2/13. 413-253-2547. 28 Amity Street, Amherst, MA. (<$)

Preview Cookie-tin Banjo, one of the films included in this festival’s lineup!

The Northampton Arts Council is accepting entries from young filmmakers (age 18 and under) for YouthFilm 2016, part of an international film festival which will screen at the Academy of Music Theatre this February 15-19. Creating a film engages many skills including storytelling, script writing, casting, direction, and editing, and allows children an opportunity to share their unique perspective with others. Films should be submitted in digital format to the Northampton Arts Council by January 30. 413-587-1069. 240 Main Street, Room 1, Northampton, MA. (CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS)


Sunday, January 10, 3pm-5pm
Have you ever chatted with an owl? You may get the chance during the Owl Prowl at Bartholomew’s Cobble. First learn about these nocturnal predators during an owl-y storytime with snack at the visitor center, then venture into the woods to call to them. If you’re lucky, one or more will answer. Dress warmly, and bring snowshoes, if you have them. Snowshoe rentals available. 413-229-8600. 105 Weatogue Road, Sheffield, MA. (<$)

Intrigued by birds? Follow up your owl expedition with a search for various nests, perched low and high throughout the landscape. Read more about searching for nests in winter at our post, Western Mass Winter Brings Tracking Opportunities. And get your youngest excited about owls too with this video, the title song “Owl Singalong” from Raffi’s newest family album:

Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp Contest. The Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) program links the study of wetlands and waterfowl conservation with the creation of original artwork. Students from kindergarten through grade 12, regardless of whether they attend public, private, or home-school, can submit original artwork for this contest. After learning about the habitat requirements of various kinds of ducks and geese, students then express their knowledge of the beauty, diversity, and interdependence of these species artistically, through painting or drawing. The contest offers a unique opportunity for young nature enthusiasts and artists to participate in a statewide competition. All entries must be received by February 15, 2016. The Junior Duck Stamp Contest is presented by The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. 508-389-6310. OPEN TO ALL K-12 STUDENTS. (FREE)

Visual Art

Saturday, January 9, 10am-12pm
Art gives preschoolers the chance to express their feelings and practice their fine motor skills. The Clark Art Institute‘s Start with Art program offers themed talks, gallery guides, and art-making activities for three-to-six-year-olds and their parents. Art project-appropriate clothing recommended. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, January 9, 2pm-4pm
Georgia O’Keeffe was one of America’s most important painters and a significant contributor to American Modernism. Her large-scale, simple flowers and dry desert bones, along with dramatic cityscapes and western landscapes, are easily recognizable. Adults wishing to emulate her style can learn from award-winning pastel artist Gregory John Maichack at his workshop, “Scarlet Poppies: How to Pastel Paint Like Georgia O’Keeffe.” Hosted by the Grace Hall Memorial Library. All levels of experience welcome; pre-registration suggested. 413-862-3894. Town Hall, 161 Main Road, Montgomery, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, January 9, 7pm
Sunday, January 10, 7pm
Monday, January 11, 1:30pm and 7pm
Heiress Peggy Guggenheim was a central figure in the Modern Art movement, and her personal life was as colorful as the works she collected. Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (Not Rated, 2015) examines her personal life, including family tragedy and relationships with the likes of Samuel Beckett, Max Ernst, and Jackson Pollock, and her relentless drive to create one of the world’s greatest collections of modern art. Showing at the Little Cinema at the Berkshire Museum. Visit Hilltown Families’ new Visual Arts Bulletin Board to gather and share information about local exhibits and calls for art. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street (Route 7), Pittsfield, MA. (<$ Members, $ Non-members)

Looking at art and material culture gives parents and children an opportunity to make discoveries together and create shared experiences. Museums allow us to engage with distant cultures, imagine times long past, and reinterpret our own experiences. Professional museum educators at Mount Holyoke College Art Museum have developed a series of tips that will help you get the most out of your next museum visit! Find out more in our post, Museum Adventures: Mount Holyoke College Art Museum.


Saturday, January 9, 10:30-11:30am
Come to the Sunderland Public Library for LEGO Club! The program allows children to explore the wonderful world of LEGOs with other interested children. A different theme is picked each session, and kids can build on that theme or build a creation of their own. After each club meeting, kids can put their LEGO creations on display at the Library for all to see until the next club. This program is geared for elementary school children (with an adult) but is open to kids of all ages. The LEGO Club will continue to meet every other Saturday. 413-665 2642. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, January 9, 4:30pm
Not many toys can boast over 2,500 years of use worldwide, but the yo-yo has enjoyed consistent use in hundreds of cultures for nearly three millennia. Yo-yos draw people in with their amazing demonstrations of the laws of physics. How does a tug on the string bring the yo-yo back up? How do modern and traditional yo-yos differ in their construction, and how does this difference affect the way they work and the tricks they can do? The popular Northampton education-based store A to Z hosts Yo-Yo School three times a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays) inside their store, and their teachers are true masters. Open to all ages, although older elementary children often have the motor skills and coordination needed for it to be a bit easier to learn. Read more about Yo-Yo school on Hilltown Families. Call 413-586-1611. 57 King St., Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, January 14, 10am-11am
During Little Explorers Storytime at the Westfield Athenaeum, kids ages 4-6 can enjoy a story, music, STEM activities, and a craft. Registration required. 413-562-6158, ext. 5. Boys and Girls Activity Room, 6 Elm Street, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Friday, January 15, 12:45pm-1:45pm
Make something awesome with LEGO bricks at the Westfield Athenaeum. Building with LEGOs fosters creativity, fine motor skills, and cooperation. Finished projects will be displayed at the library. Ages 6 and up. Registration required. 413-562-6158. Boys and Girls Activity Room, 6 Elm Street, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Outdoor Adventures

Saturday, January 9, 1pm-3pm
Hiking is good for the body, brain, and spirit! Get moving and enjoy a moderate walk from the Great Falls Discovery Center to Cabot Woods and back (2.5-3 miles round-trip). For adults and sturdy young hikers with caregivers. Meet at main entrance. Dress for the weather, with warm boots. Inclement weather cancels the walk. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, January 9, 1pm-4pm
Learn about the fun, health benefits, and social opportunities of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Winter Trails Day at Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center. Free 45-minute clinics for first-time skiers at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm. Twenty-minute snowshoeing lessons at 1:30pm, 2:30pm, and 3:30pm. Arrive 30 minutes before lesson start-time to sign in and get equipment. Pre-registration requested. For ages 8 to adult. 800-859-2960. 99 Millers Falls Road, Northfield, MA. (FREE)

With winter truly upon us here in western Massachusetts, families are gearing up for ski season! Take advantage of the many properties and trail systems catering to crosscountry skiing during the winter months. Families can find lessons, equipment rentals, and opportunities to explore the wintry landscape by tapping into local resources for crosscountry skiing! You can learn more about Nordic skiing at our post, Western MA Cross-Country Ski Resources. Make this the year your family enjoys winter outdoors!

Performing Arts

Saturday, January 9, 3pm-3:45pm
Watch three children’s tales come to life when Sparky’s Puppets perform “Stories from Snowy Lands” at the Westfield Athenaeum. A magical snowman, an ice-fishing bear, and a mysterious visitor all make appearances, with lots of humor and audience participation. For ages 3-10. Registration required. 413-562-6158, ext. 5. Boy and Girls Activity Room, 6 Elm Street, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, January 14 & Friday, January 15. 7:30pm
Saturday, January 16 & Sunday, January 17. 1pm
Mary Poppins. The magical story of the world’s favorite nanny arriving on Cherry Tree Lane has been triumphantly and spectacularly brought to the stage with dazzling choreography, incredible effects and unforgettable songs. This stage version is brilliantly adapted from the wonderful stories by PL Travers and the beloved Walt Disney film. Created over a half a decade ago, this family-friendly tale will delight audiences of all ages as they experience the timeless lessons of Mary Poppins span across generations. The production is being presented by the Amherst Leisure Services Community Theater and performances will be held in the Bowker Auditorium (Southbridge Hall), UMass Amherst Campus, 100 Holdsworth Way, Amherst, MA. ($$)

Friday, January 8. 7-9pm
Saturday, January 9. 12-2pm
Sunday, January 10. 12-2pm
We’re Happy About the Whole Thing. Drama, music, and dance are a part of this historic script that will showcase life in Ware during the Industrial Revolution and The Great Depression era. Auditions are open to male actors age 30+ and female actors age 16+. The performance is being presented by the Ware Community Theater/Ware Historical Society and auditions will be held at the Ware Senior Center, 1 Robbins Road, Ware, MA. (FREE)

Indoor Exercise

Sunday, January 10, 12noon-1:15pm
Getting kids enough physical activity in the cold winter months can sometimes be a challenge, but everyone in the family needs to keep moving each day for physical and emotional health! Trade your snowsuit for a swimsuit and stretch those muscles at the new Sady Pool at West Springfield High School. Swimming provides a near-total body workout, and it’s fun for the whole family! Sponsored by West Springfield Parks and Recreation. 413-263-3284. 425 Piper Road, West Springfield, MA. (FREE Residents, <$ Non-residents)

Animal Studies

Saturday, January 9, 10am-11:30am
Watching wildlife is great fun, but animals aren’t always easy to find. We can still enjoy and learn about them, though, by looking for their “signs,” such as tracks in the mud or snow. Learn to identify common wildlife species by their tracks at an “Animal Tracks” program at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. Start with playing a track game and making a track craft indoors, then head outdoors to search for tracks and use your new-found knowledge.For ages 5-12. Registration required. 413-584-3009. 127 Combs Road, Easthampton, MA. ($)

Friday, January 15, 10:30am-11:30am
Meet some of the wildlife that share the Connecticut River watershed with us during the Great Falls Discovery Center‘s Kidleidoscope programs on Four Fridays in January. Each program includes a story, interactive games, and a craft. This week’s animals are rabbits and hares. Do you know the difference between a rabbit and a hare? Meet in the Great Hall. Recommended for ages 3-6 with a caregiver. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Culinary Arts

Monday, January 11, 3:30pm-5pm
Cooking is a great family activity that promotes bonding, good nutrition, and self-reliance. Bring the whole family to “Cooking with Parents and Grandparents,” an interactive workshop at LYA. This session focuses on winter foods, such as stuffed potatoes, hot pretzels, edible snowmen, oatmeal, and hot cocoa. Copies of recipes will be available. There will be winter crafts, also. Reservations requested. 413-567-8665. 1148 Converse Street, Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, January 10, 2pm
Dance to the music of James Kitchen and Friends and enjoy an international food potluck at the Chesterfield Community Center. Bring your favorite international dish. This event encourages families to share an international potluck dish, maybe from your own heritage (your grandfather’s Polish kielbasa, your mother’s Irish stew, your aunt’s Greek melomakarona), or a favorite international dish. Get inspired to connect with others families in your community (and even different generations in your own family) by reading “Our Growing Roots: Connecting Across Generations Through Food Traditions.” Benefit for the Goshen Food Pantry and Northampton Survival Center. All ages welcome. 413-586-6564. 400 Main Road, Chesterfield, MA. (FUNDRAISER)

Monday, January 11, 4pm-9pm
Treat the family to an authentic Mexican meal at Mi Tierra while you demonstrate the importance of helping others and gathering together as a community. Exploring cultures through food offers children new flavors to taste, smells to savor, and connections to make between the ingredients and the lands and histories from which the recipes originate. You can start the fun and learning before your meal, or continue it afterwards when you listen to the episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show, “The Sound of Mexican Music Made in the USA.” All proceeds from the evening will go to Whole Children, a grassroots organization that provides after-school, weekend, and vacation enrichment programs for children of all ages and abilities. Reservations encouraged, especially for large groups. 413-587-9820. 48 Russell Street, Hadley, MA. (FUNDRAISER)

Thursday, January 14, 6:30pm-8pm
Bone broth is made by boiling the bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments of animals to create a gelatin-rich stock that purportedly supports bone, joint, and digestive health. Learn more at Bone Broth 101, a workshop led by local Nutritional Therapist Craig Fear, at River Valley Co-op. Recipes and homemade samples will be available. You can read about the health claims of bone broth, and which are supported by science, here. Pre-registration required. 413-584-2665. 330 North King Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Language Studies

Saturday, January 9, 3pm-4:30pm
Research indicates that children who begin learning a second language at a very young age benefit from enhanced cognitive development. These young learners are also better able than their older counterparts to produce the different sounds intrinsic to each language. Furthermore, exposure to a new language allows children to practice their developing literacy skills. For children who live in bilingual households or who speak one language at home and another outside of the home, participating in a native-language storytime encourages the continued development of positive self-esteem, pride in one’s culture, and a sense of community inclusion. When language learners are present, native speakers can enjoy taking a teaching role, too. The Jones Library is offering a Spanish Story Hour the second Saturday of each month. 3-6 year olds can come hear stories in Spanish – great for Spanish speakers or for kids who want to learn! 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Did you know you can view Hilltown Families en Español?


Monday, January 11, 6pm
Coloring is catching on as a relaxing activity that allows the mind to rest while still expressing itself. Choosing colors and concentrating on creating works of art can act as a form of mindfulness, giving the brain a rest from all of the input it handles each day. People of all ages are invited to the Coloring Club at the Sunderland Public Library. High-quality colored pencils and a variety of detailed drawings will be provided.  413-665 2642. Community Room, 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness, read our post, “Setting Intentions for a Mindful New Year.” and listen to our mindfulness-inspired “New Year’s Peace” podcast of beautiful music for the whole family.


No longer as much of a necessity as it once was, sewing is still a useful skill that children can learn to master! Learning to sew allows for a new creative medium, and can lead to studies of local history and local culture! Read more in our post, “Sewing Skills Connect Local Culture, Local History, and Self-Sufficiency,” and check out these upcoming sewing events.

Saturday, January 9, 12noon-1:30pm
Do you know what to do if you lose a button or split a seam? Come to Sewing Survival Skills for Teens and Tweens at the East Forest Park Branch of the Springfield City Library to learn. Members of the East Forest Park Seniors Group will teach you how to handle basic wardrobe repairs. An excellent opportunity to benefit from elders’ wisdom! For ages 10-19. All supplies provided. Registration required. 413-263-6836. 122 Island Pond Road, Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, January 9, 2pm-3:30pm
Are you a budding fashion designer? Do you have ideas for clothes that you’d like to make reality? Carole Ann Camp, local seamstress and author of sewing and clothing construction books, can show you how at the Sunderland Public Library. You’ll learn to design and construct your own circle skirt. Sewing is a great way to channel your creativity and express yourself. All fabric, sewing equipment, and other materials provided. For ages 11-18. Pre-registration requested. 413-665 2642. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Music Studies

Saturday, January 9, 2pm-3pm
The Clark Art Institute presents “Out of the Box,” a performance by the I/O Ensemble of Williams College. Featuring works by Steve Reich, Ryan Ross Smith, James Tenney, Jacob Walls, and David Lang, the program includes percussion, voices, strings, and winds. The concert is part of the Williams College Department of Music‘s I/O Fest ’16, an annual celebration of new music that immerses audiences in the full spectrum of today’s most vital compositional trends. 413-458-2303. Lower Level, 225 South Street, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, January 9, 2pm-3pm
The museum at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site was established just after the Civil War ended and holds arms and equipment that came back from the battlefields. In conjunction with the special exhibit “At Camp in the Field,” Curator Alex Mackenzie will highlight selected objects from the collection and share stories about each. Learn more about the Springfield Armory as an educational resource here. The museum’s Facebook page is an excellent resource for Civil War history, with daily posts about items in the museum’s collection and the war in general. 413-734-8551. 1 Armory Street #2, Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Language Arts

Sunday, January 10, 12noon-2pm
Punch up your writing skills at “Sketching Portraits with Words,” a workshop led by author and writing coach Jane Roy Brown at the Deerfield Arts Bank. Using works on display in the gallery as inspiration, participants will compose short “verbal sketches.” No writing experience necessary. Bring a notebook and pen or a laptop. Appropriate for self-directed teens and life-long learners. 413-665-0123. 3 Sugarloaf Street, South Deerfield, MA. (FREE)

Parent Workshop

Sunday, January 10, 4pm-5:30pm
Our lives are awash with digital media and other technology influences. How do these affect our children and how can we raise responsible, safe digital citizens? Join pediatrician Jonathan Schwab and clinical psychologist Sharon Saline at “Raising Digital Citizens in the 21st Century,” a short presentation followed by a Q and A, for in-depth information on this topic. This event is hosted by Northampton Area Pediatrics. Reservations requested. 413-517-2226. 193 Locust Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

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

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