Learning Ahead: February 1st-7th, 2016

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

Wednesday, February 3, 6:30pm
The streets of Stockbridge are home to numerous interesting houses, each with a story to tell. During “Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Stockbridge,” presented by the Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives, current homeowners will share stories of the families who preceded them. The program will include tales of two existing homes, as well as one that no longer stands. In the Jonathan Edwards Room of the First Congregational Church of Stockbridge. 413-298-5501. 4 Main Street, Stockbridge, MA. (<$ SUGGESTED DONATION)

Saturday, February 6, 7pm-9pm
Once considered impossible, cougar sightings have now been confirmed in the eastern U.S. Join Sue Morse, founder of Keeping Track, for “The Cougar Returns to the East,” an illustrated introduction to cougar biology and ecology at Berkshire Community College. Morse is one of the top wildlife trackers in North America and has studied wildlife and their habitat, particularly bobcat, black bear, Canada lynx, and cougar, since 1977. Sponsored by the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, The Trustees of Reservations, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and Berkshire Community College. 413-230-7321. Robert Boland Theatre – Koussevitzky Arts Center, 1350 West Street, Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, February 7, 10am-5pm
Every first Sunday of the month, The Clark Art Institute offers free admission! The Clark Art Institute, located in north Berkshire County, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts. Opened in 1955, the Clark houses exceptional European and American paintings and sculpture, extensive collections of master prints and 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. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street, Williamstown, MA (FREE)

Sunday, February 7, 1pm-4pm
Celebrate storytelling in all its forms — verbal, visual, digital, or musical — at the
Clark Art Institute‘s Word Up Family Day. In conjunction with the exhibition An Eye for Excellence: Twenty Years of Collecting, there will be family activities to stretch your thinking about what makes a story and how it can be told. Make books inspired by the museum’s collection; participate in collective storytelling by adding to a group narrative at a typewriter station; learn the art of paper marbling; listen to musician Harris MacDonald sing about his life’s journey; and explore printmaking techniques. As part of the Clark’s First Sunday Free program, admission to the galleries is free all day. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Franklin County

Wednesday, February 3, 6pm — What’s so fascinating about fossils? These preserved remains of ancient plants and animals can teach us what the world might have looked like millions, or even billions of years ago. When Sarah Doyle and her team of amateur and professional paleontologists bring their Jurassic Road Show to the Greenfield Public Library, they’ll have fossils of dinosaur footprints, raindrop impressions, mud cracks, and insect trails found on Bank Row in Greenfield in 1835. You can touch the fossils, ask questions, and even share your own fossils, if you like. 413-772-1544. LeVanway Room, 402 Main Street, Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, February 7, 1pm-3:30pm
Music and Diversity II is a series of events that educate, entertain, and build community awareness of diversity through the arts. This opening event at the Great Falls Discovery Center features “Portraits of African Americans, Past and Present,” an exhibition by artists Louise Minks and Belinda Lyons Zucker. Minks’ portraits of African Americans connected to the Pioneer Valley include Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Lyons Zucker will share her multi-media handmade dolls that represent historic African Americans, family members, and people she has met. The exhibition continues through March 31. At 2:30pm, Tim Neumann, executive director of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, will present “A Web of Community: Slavery in a Rural New England Town,” a look at the complicated relationship between free and enslaved African Americans in the mid-1700s. 413-835-1390. 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Hampshire County

Tuesday, February 2, 6:30pm-9pm — Unbroken (PG-13, 2014) tells the incredible story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, who survived 47 days on a raft in the ocean and two years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Following the film, families can discuss what personality traits allowed Zamperini to survive the many traumatic experiences he endured. Part of the Oscar Film Series at Jones Library. Due to violence and harrowing scenes, this movie is best suited for mature teens. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, February 3, 6:30pm-7:30pm —  Share your love of conservation and the work of Kestrel Land Trust as part of the new Kestrel Community Crew! Help organize big events such as the 5K for Farmland, or small events like a farm tour; talk to people about Kestrel at community festivals; and foster a connection with the land in adults and kids through art, history, and culture. Learn about the events Kestrel has planned for 2016 and how you can help make them happen at this kick-off meeting. Refreshments will be served. No commitment required to attend meeting. Best-suited for adults and self-directed teens. 413-549-1097. 284 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, February 3, 7:30pm — Experience ancient Japan and the discipline of the Samurai warrior when TAO brings their precision, energy, and stamina to the UMass Fine Arts Center in their new production, Seventeen Samurai. Intense Taiko drumming and powerful bodies produce innovative choreography. 413-545-2511. Concert Hall, 151 Presidents Drive, Amherst, MA ($$)

Friday, February 5, 7pm-9pm — Black bears have become so common in Western Massachusetts that many of us have seen one, sometimes in our own backyards. Mammal tracker and wildlife photographer Susan Morse will introduce you to your ursine neighbors in “Bear with It,” a slide-show presentation about black bear biology and ecology. She will focus on field identification of tracks and signs and discuss “bear safety,” using her original images. At Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. Suitable for ages 8 and up. 413-584-3009. 127 Combs Road, Easthampton, MA. ($)

Sunday, February 7, 2pm-6pm — Carnival season in the Caribbean features big, boisterous music and dance. Learn the percussion and songs of three Carnival traditions: Brazil (samba), Cuba (conga) and Martinique (vidé), at the Caribbean Carnival: Drums & Songs Workshop, offered by the Northampton Community Music Center. Beginners will get an introduction to basic technique on conga, bass drums, and a host of bells, shakers, and scrapers. More experienced percussionists are welcome to come wail! Instruments provided, but if you have a conga, bring it. Suitable for teens and adults. 413-585-0001. 139 South Street, Northampton, MA. ($$)

Sunday, February 2:30pm-6pm — The American crow is one of our most common birds, and one of the most intelligent. Learn about these fascinating members of the corvidae family, and their cousins the ravens, at Winter Crows, a workshop at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. Following a slide show, participants will carpool to Springfield to observe thousands of crows on a nighttime roost. For lifelong learners and self-directed teens. Registration recommended. 413-584-3009. 127 Combs Road, Easthampton, MA. ($ Members, $$ Non-members)

Hampden County

Monday, February 1, 5:30pm-7:30pm — Holyoke Codes invites teens to create games that address social issues in a positive way, creatively engage with technology, and explore issues important to them. At “We Got Game — Teen Arcade,” professional game designers will discuss how they create games and brainstorm with participants about how to turn ideas into games. Learn how to be an artist, programmer, project manager, and game tester while building projects with a Scratch Game Engine. Participants will present their games on the big screen to friends, family, and the community at an Arcade Party on Friday, 2/19. 100 Bigelow Street, Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Monday, February 1, 6pm —  Melinda Thomas reads from her book of poetry, Love Letters to a Paper City, at the Holyoke Public Library. Her poems explore the relationship between humans and geography and invite readers to experience what is present and possible. Book signing to follow. 413-420-8101. Community Room, 250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, February 2, 10am-5pm — The earliest known drawings date from 30,000 to 10,000 BCE and were found on cave walls in France and Spain, demonstrating that humans were drawing pictures long before they learned how to write. Like other art forms, drawing has evolved over time and closely paralleled the development of painting. This evolution was aided by the discovery of an enormous graphite deposit in Cumbria, England, during the 16th century. First used as a marking tool for sheep, this particular deposit of graphite was extremely pure and soft and could easily be broken into sticks, which made it a natural material for sketching. The versatility of this ancient medium is explored in Leaving Our Mark: In Celebration of the Pencil, on display through March 27, 2016 at the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. 413-263-6800, ext. 488. 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, MA. (<$)

Thursday, February 4, 6pm — If you have a hard time remembering whether it’s “i” before “e” or vice versa, you’ll be impressed by the spelling smarts of the participants in the “Words with Friends” spelling bee. The top two fifth-grade spellers from each of eight elementary schools throughout Westfield will compete at the Dever Stage at Westfield State University. The event is organized by the Circle K Club of Westfield State. To get in the spirit ahead of time, watch Akeelah and the Bee (PG, 2006), the inspiring story of an eleven-year-old girl from south Los Angeles who has a way with words. 413-572-5406. 577 Western Avenue, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, February 7, 12noon-3pm — Have you ever heard someone, perhaps a grandparent or great aunt, refer to the refrigerator as the “icebox” and wondered where the term came from? In the 19th century, before the development of mechanical refrigeration, people cut ice from lakes and ponds in the winter and stored it throughout the year for use in iceboxes to keep food and drinks cold. It was the first “harvest” of the year, and by the turn of the 20th century, 10 million tons were used throughout the U.S. each year. Come to the 7th Annual Ice Harvest at the Noble and Cooley Center for Historic Preservation to see how ice cutting was done and try it for yourself. Dennis Picard, director of Storrowton Village, will lead the program. Also view a video on ice harvesting and take a tour of the museum. 413-357-6321. 42 Water Street, Granville, MA. (<$)

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