Learning Ahead: February 15th-21st, 2016

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

This week we are featuring 26 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

Thanks in part to Gilbert Stuart’s iconic 1796 painting, George Washington exists in our collective memory as a man with white hair. The painting does not capture George’s remarkable height, at 6 foot 6′, or the fact that he was born with red hair. You and your family can visit George Washington’s portrait over school vacation week at The Clark Art Institute and celebrate his birthday with cake and crafts. Cement your own image in history with the patriotic photo booth. Galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street, Williamstown, MA ($ Nonmembers. Free for members, students with valid ID, and children under 18.)

Monday, February 15, 7pm
As part of the film series “In / dependence: Capturing Women in (New) French Cinema,” you can attend a free screening of the 2013 French film Camille Claudel. All films screened in this series will be in French with English subtitles. Each film explores traditional gender roles in France, with portraits of women who preserve and subvert these roles. If you are able to attend multiple screenings in February and March, you will be able to compare a broad spectrum of French female experiences, from the eighteenth century up to the present day. 413-458-5612. Images Cinema. 50 Spring Street, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, February 17, 10am-12pm
Do you love to watch birds? Can you name some of the species that are frequently found visiting backyard birdfeeders? Would you like to know more, or to simply enjoy some time connecting to nature? Jonathan Pierce, caretaker of the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, will host a birdwatching session and teach you how to “e-bird,” that is, how to add your bird sighting data to citizen science databases. Please bring binoculars if you have them! All ages welcome. 413-637-0320. 472 West Mountain Road, Lenox, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, February 17, 2pm
In spite of its modern fame and frequent appearance on required reading lists, Moby Dick was actually not a success in Herman Melville’s lifetime. In Berkshire Theater Group’s modern presentation of the epic story, three actors will use cellos and a double bass to imitate the sensory experience of a seafaring adventure. Their performance will serve as a great introduction to a literary work for kids, and provide a new perspective for adults already familiar with the classic revenge story. Ages 10 and up. Call 413-997-4444 to reserve tickets. The Colonial Theater. 111 South St, Pittsfield, MA. ($)

Thursday, February 18, 4:15pm
There is more to the phenomenon of bird chirping than simple mating messages. Bird songs evolve socially. Although species sing the same song, individual birds learn songs from their fathers and dialects develop regionally. Bird songs have also had a great impact on human music, and as a result, culture. To learn more, you can attend the lecture, “What to sing? Bird Song and the Evolution of Cultural Traditions.”  413-597-4277. Wege Auditorium, Thompson Chemistry, Williams College. 880 Main Street, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, February 20, 12pm-4pm
Have you ever wanted to develop your own photographs? Cyanotype is a printing process which results in stunning cyan-blue photographs. At Makers’ Mill in North Adams you can learn several ways of developing images with this very old photographic process. You will prepare a photographic emulsion, prepare a negative, expose an image and finalize your print. All supplies and materials are covered in the cost. 413-749-2073. 73 Main Street. North Adams MA. ($$)

Sunday, February 21, 12noon-4pm
Why buy new clothes when you can mend them? Learn a new skill and make an investment in the future of your clothing by attending a “Visible Mending” workshop at the Makers’ Mill in North Adams. Visible mending is part of a “slow fashion” movement (similar to the slow food movement) in which people track the origins of their clothes and whenever possible, make and fix clothes themselves. Visible mending is a specific kind of sewing which adds new visual elements to your clothing articles during repair. 413-749-2073. 73 Main Street. North Adams MA. ($$)

Franklin County

Tuesday, February 16, 6pm-8pm
Searching for a creative outlet? Sign up for the “Paint Like the Masters: Stunning Still Life” pastel painting class offered by renown artist Gregory Maichack at the Sunderland Public Library! The class includes all materials, instruction, demonstration, and lots of time for making art. Instruction will focus on learning the techniques used by master artists such as Van Gogh, O’Keeffe, and Monet, and all participants will go home with their own still life painting. Advance registration strongly encouraged. 413-665-2642. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, February 17, 6pm
Although vampire stories have recently exploded in popularity, these tales have existed in English literature since at least 1819. One explanation for the popularity of the Twilight series is that it draws together two favorite genres for teenagers: supernatural and romance. Still, vampire books have been written for all ages, drawing on the human attraction to spooky, creepy, scary stories that keep us up at night. Speaker Barry Deitz will discuss the history and appeal of vampire tales from the 18th century up to the present. 413-772-1544. Greenfield Public Library. 402 Main St. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, February 20, 11 am
A Goodreads Choice 2015 Winner and Washington Post notable 2015 nonfiction book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania has drawn attention even from readers who are reluctant to pick up a historical text. In his retelling of a WWI disaster, Larson incorporates details from firsthand documents to weave specific details into his story. Copies of Dead Wake are available through the Whately library. Grab a copy and join other readers for this book discussion. 413-665-2170. S. White Dickinson Memorial Library, 202 Chestnut Plain Road, Whately MA. (FREE)

Sunday, February 21, 10am
Witness draft animal power in action at Natural Roots Farm in Conway, MA. Come learn about the use of draft animal power for sustainable and low impact forestry. Join us as we discuss the practice of managing timber in a way that maximizes ecological diversity and minimizes ecological impact. Start the day with licensed forester and local oxen logger, Tom Jenkins and his 10am talk “Draft Animal Powered Forestry: When does it Work?” Jenkins will discuss which logging jobs are appropriate for animal power. After the discussion, watch David Fisher of Natural Roots, local farmer and logger, and his draft horses lead a one hour winter logging demonstration. Afterwards folks are invited to a Q/A session at 12pm with Jenkins and Fisher. “Draft animal power forestry is a great way for owners in the Hilltowns to log their land carefully and responsibly,” says Michael Madole, MassLIFT AmeriCorps Land Stewardship Coordinator at Hilltown Land Trust, “these demonstrations are a fun and engaging way of reaching curious landowners interested in the process.”Licensed foresters will receive 2.5 hours of Continuing Education credits for their attendance. Be sure to RSVP by February 18, contact Andrea Caluori-Rivera at Hilltown Land Trust for registration and further information: hltoutreach@thetrustees.org (413) 628-4485 ext.#3. Conway, MA. ($ DONATION. Hilltown Land Trust Members FREE)

Hampshire County

Monday, February, 15, 8pm
Are you a fan of TED talks? These short presentations by artists, thinkers, and storytellers are full of “ideas worth spreading.” For the first time, the general public is invited to experience the opening night of the annual TED conference, on Cinemark‘s (Hampshire Mall) big screen, no less! The theme of this year’s conference is “Dream,” and will feature dynamic, interesting speakers sharing their ideas about the greatest dreams we are capable of dreaming. 413-587-4237. Route 9, Hadley, MA. ($)

Tuesday, February 16-Friday, February 19, 11am and 1pm
The discovery, in recent decades, that many dinosaurs likely had feathers, is a good example of the fact that history (and prehistory) is not just a series of set facts. History is a constantly changing narrative, with new information re-shaping our collective idea of the past. The Beneski Museum of Natural History in Amherst is one of New England’s largest natural history museums, boasting three floors of exhibits with more than 1,700 specimens on display, and tens of thousands of specimens available for use by scholars and researchers from across campus and around the world! Tuesday, February 16th through Friday, February 19th, families can enjoy student docent-guided tours at 11am and 1pm daily. Scavenger hunts for the whole family will be available throughout the entire month. Read more about what the Beneski Museum has to offer in this recent highlight. 413-542-2165. 11 Barrett Hill Rd, Amherst, MA. Admission is always free

Wednesday, February 17, 1:30pm
All week long, the Academy of Music is hosting KidsBestFest-YouthFilm 2016, a film festival of specially-selected children’s films. Wednesday’s film is Shana, The Wolf’s Music (NR, 2014), a coming-of-age story about a Canadian First Nations girl who overcomes many obstacles. This film touches upon themes of connecting with nature, making sense of our heritage, and the role of art/music in our lives. Viewers will be offered a unique perspective on the world and an opportunity to enrich understandings of the differences and similarities between their own cultural group and that of Shana’s. Suggested for ages 10 and up. 413-584-9032 x 105. 274 Main Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE/DONATIONS ENCOURAGED)

Wednesday, February 17, 3pm
Archivists around the world are committed to preserving and distributing ancient texts in an effort to keep alive the cultures of the past. Musical manuscripts are particularly special because they be played by musicians, and heard by listeners. This allows interested parties to actively participate in history, using the texts as they were intended to be used. At “Hidden In Plain Sight,” a Mount Holyoke College event, three music manuscript leaves will be displayed in a high quality reproduction. A small musical group will chant the notes from these manuscripts. Abbey Interfaith Chapel, Mount Holyoke College. 47 Morgan Street, South Hadley, MA. (FREE).

Wednesday, February 17, 7pm
The Well Tempered Ukes, a talented local ukulele trio, will perform the last of its series of workshop/performances at the Forbes Library. This group plays mainly early music, parlor songs, and art songs, and audience members can count on both an acoustical treat and interesting information about the history and culture surrounding their instruments and repertoire. The trio will also share tips about ukulele playing! 413-587-1011. 20 West Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, February 17, 7pm-9pm
When English settlers first came to New England, they imported sheep for the production of meat and wool, and to this day, western Massachusetts is strongly influenced by our woolen industry that stems back over 300 years. You can become an active participant in this agricultural and artistic tradition by attending a free Introduction to Sheep and Wool class. Attendees will compare and discuss three sheep breeds, the types of wool they produce, and the products typically made from their wool. Sponsored by the Southern Hilltowns Adult Education Center.Classes will take place at the Middlefield Senior Center 169 Skyline Trail, Middlefield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, February 18, 3pm-4:30pm
New research suggests that kids who are involved in cooking the food they eat are more likely to make healthy eating choices. Teach the children in your life to make positive nutritional choices which will benefit them throughout their lives. Joan, the Healthy Eating specialist from Whole Foods in Hadley will be running a healthy cooking class at the Amherst Survival Center. Join Joan, the Healthy Eating Specialist from Whole Foods (Hadley) in a healthy cooking class. Ages 8 and up and their caregivers. 413-549-3968. Sign up by emailing Tracy at tracey@amherstsurvival.org. 138 Sunderland Rd., North Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, February 18, 7pm
Today, in New England and beyond, pie is a staple dessert during the winter holidays. In early American cuisine, sweet and savory pies were an integral part of diet year-round. Pilgrims brought to America their practice of pie making and developed their recipes with newly available ingredients. Robert Cox, head of special collections and archives at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and author of New England Pie: History Under A Crust can tell you a great deal more about pie at this free lecture, to take place at The Stone House Museum. Refreshments will be served. 413-323-6573. 20 Maple St, Belchertown, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, February 18, 8pm
Twine: After Troy . In a collaboratively-developed performance by Amherst College students and alumnae, Twine: After Troy tells the story of four women scavenging for a future in the rubble of their gutted past. Using the threads of stories passed down for generations, they begin to weave themselves a new mythology, one in which chaos gives way to creation, silence is supplanted by strength, and the love of sisters, mothers, and daughters unravels into women who survive. This deeply moving story will explore the transcendental nature of our emotional bonds of sisterhood, and how these connections instill the power necessary to heal and rebuild our lives. Tickets are free, but reservations are recommended by calling 413-542-2277. Performances will be held in the Kirby Theater at Amherst College, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, February 20, 11:30am
Writers and storytellers of all ages are invited to meet and share their ideas. Writing groups are a great place for inspiration, providing prompts and friendly advice. Whether you’re an experienced writer, you like to keep a journal, or you never write but you want to start, bring a notebook and an open mind! It’s not just professional writers who benefit from picking up the pen. Bill Gates is a regular writer, using the act of writing to process his thoughts and ideas. See what writing can do for you and make some friends along the way at the Emily Williston Memorial Library. 413-527-1031. 9 Park St, Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, February 21, 4pm
Have you ever looked at old pictures of your town and thought about what life was like there 100 or 200 years ago? Take this curiosity a few steps further by learning local geologic history. Professor Richard Little taught classes in geology and oceanography at Greenfield Community College for 34 years. He will be giving a talk at White Square Books about the geology of the Connecticut River. 413-203-1717. Easthampton MA. (FREE)

Hampden County

Monday, February 15, 11am-2pm
The refrigerator is a great example of an invention which, by now, we take for granted. Not only can you store and preserve food in your freezer long term, but you can have ice year-round in virtually any shape you want with funky, modern ice cube trays. Dennis Picard, director of Storrowton Village Museum, will take visitors back in history to a time when ice harvesting was a common skill and the ninth largest trade in the United States. There will be opportunities to try it yourself, with old fashioned tools. The demonstration will take place at the lagoon, inside Gate 9 of the Exposition grounds. 413-205-5051. Storrowton Village. 1305 Memorial Ave, West Springfield, MA. (DONATION)

Tuesday, February 16, 1pm
Meet live owls at the Montgomery library! Julie Ann Collier is a raptor rehabilitator, and one half of the partnership, Wingmasters. She cares for injured birds of prey in the hopes of releasing them back into the wild. Visitors will come away with a greater knowledge about local owls, who in spite of their cute appearance are fierce nocturnal hunters. 413-862-3894. 161 Main Road, Montgomery, MA. (FREE).

Wednesday, February 17, 4pm-6pm
During this year’s black history month, Westfield State University is putting particular emphasis on highlighting the achievements and experiences of black American women. You can come be a part of the conversation by attending “We the Women,” a free presentation about black female civil rights activists. This presentation will discuss important figures such as Coretta Scott King and Angela Davis. 413-572-5300. New Hall. 577 Western Ave, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, February 18, 2:30pm-4:00pm
Manga is the Japanese word for comics, and anime is the Japanese word for animated films and television shows. Although there are similarities between the two, and many Americans are fans of both mediums, they are two different art forms. If you know a teenager who is interested in manga, or anime, or both, they can learn more at the Westfield Athanaeum’s “Anime 101” panel. They will meet other teens who like to read, watch, and possibly draw their own Japanese style animations. Registration is required for this event. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm St, Westfield, MA. (FREE).

Sunday February 21, 3-4pm
Come to the Wistariahurst Museum for a lively mix of Holyoke history and personal memories. Allerton Kilborne, the last living Skinner descendant to have resided at the historic estate, brings the past to life as he shares his memories of living at Wistariahurst with his grandmother, Katherine Skinner Kilborne, and a full time staff. An historian himself, Mr. Kilborne weaves his personal memories into the broader narrative of Holyoke. Mr. Kilborne will lead a tour of the house, including more of his own memories and anecdotes, following his talk. Tickets are available on the Wistariahurst website. 238 Cabot St, Holyoke MA. ($)

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