30 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Service-Based Learning to Acts of Kindness. Bat Houses to Sign Language.

Bread is such a staple of so many diets, such an important food, that it has become synonymous with wealth in the English language. Words like “breadwinner” drive home the necessity of bread. The word “dough has been a slang term for money for centuries now. Join members of your community at the Pioneer Valley Breadhouse in South Hadley on Thursday, March 31, 4pm-6pm and learn how to make this famously important food.

Juice box engineering to bread baking. Bat houses to sign language. Service-based learning to acts of kindness. 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:  Celebrate National Nutrition Month at  Hilltown Families Family Volunteer Day with The Food Bank of Western MA on Saturday, March 26, 9am-11am. Volunteering together teaches children positive values, like kindness, empathy and tolerance, and opens up channels of communication between parent and child. Engaging children in community service can increase their participation as future volunteers, helping to create more resilient and sustainable communities. There will be a number of educational and hands-on activities for children and their caregivers. Register by calling 413-247-9738 x135. 97 North Hatfield Road. Hatfield, MA (VOLUNTEER)

 Family VolunteeringCommunity MealOral HistoryBread BakingBridge EngineeringLocal LandscapesBatsOrnithologyMusic StudiesGender StudiesSign LanguageHistoryCollaborative ConsumptionArts & CraftsPhysicsComputer ScienceWeavingNutritionGrandparentingEaster

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If you are hoping to go on an egg hunt this weekend, you are in luck, as there are many from which to choose! Love searching for eggs but not into the idea of coming home with a load of candy? There’s even a candy-free egg hunt! Find your family’s perfect Easter- or Spring-themed event at our special seasonal post, Easter Events in Western MA, 2016.

Community Engagement

Saturday, March 26, 9am-11am
Celebrate National Nutrition Month at this Hilltown Families Family Volunteer Day with The Food Bank of Western MA. Volunteering together teaches children positive values, like kindness, empathy and tolerance, and opens up channels of communication between parent and child. Engaging children in community service can increase their participation as future volunteers, helping to create more resilient and sustainable communities. There will be a number of educational and hands-on activities for children and their caregivers. Register by calling 413-247-9738 x135. 97 North Hatfield Road. Hatfield, MA (VOLUNTEER)

Friday, April 1, 5:15pm-6:30pm
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 share 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)


Monday, March 28, 6pm-7:30pm
Do you have a favorite family story? Personal oral histories can shed light on where we came from, what life was like for the generations who came before us. Oral history projects can take important stories and capture them in recorded form, possibly combining many voices from a particular time or place. At this oral history workshop, Assistant Professor Sam Redman will teach you the basic principles of conducting an oral history interview and managing an oral history project. If you want to find out more beforehand, check out the Oral History Association website for information on best practices, as well as examples of projects for inspiration. Reserve your workshop spot online at the Wistariahurst Museum website. 238 Cabot Street. Holyoke, MA. (>$)

Thursday, March 31, 4pm-6pm
Bread is such a staple of so many diets, such an important food, that it has become synonymous with wealth in the English language. Words like “breadwinner” drive home the necessity of bread. The word “dough has been a slang term for money for centuries now. Join members of your community at the Pioneer Valley Breadhouse and learn how to make this famously important food. There will be plenty of time to connect, relax and talk while waiting for the dough to rise and the loaves to bake. Five College Women’s Studies Research Center on the Mount Holyoke College Campus. 83 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Now that you have a new skill, why not make an extra loaf or two and share with someone in need or a local hero?  Spread the Bread, a global grassroots bread-spreading initiative, is encouraging families to do just that by spreading acts of kindness to your local community! Read more in our post, Spread the Bread: Community Service from Hearth & Home.

Nature Studies

Saturday, March 26, 9:30am-12:30pm
Individuals on Kestrel Land Trust’s “Stew Crew” work as volunteers monitoring one or more of the Land Trust’s conservation properties. These volunteers help ensure that their communities can continue to enjoy preserved natural spaces. These natural spaces allow communities to thrive by connecting to the area where they live, by educating themselves on local wildlife or simply enjoying the land. Current volunteers are invited to this training session to keep their skills sharp. If you are not already involved but are interested in becoming a volunteer, attend this session to learn conservation skills and find out what being a member of the “Stew Crew” entails. There will be two training sessions, one on Saturday March 26th in Easthampton and one on Saturday April 16th in Pelham. Please only attend one session as the content will be similar. Arrive early for coffee,refreshments, and conversation. Registration is required. For more information and to register please email brittany@kestreltrust.org or call 413-549-1097. Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, March 26, 10am-1pm
The Keystone Arches, part of a railroad bridge over the Westfield river, are not only a beautiful structure but in fact changed the landscape and transportation far beyond Western Massachusetts. Without this bridge we would not have what is currently the longest and highest railroad in the world, the Western Pacific Railroad. To learn more about the history of the structure, meet at the Chester Train Station for a narrated hike around the Keystone Arch Trail. To register, call the Southern Hilltowns Adult Education Center at 413-685-1052 or email them at southernhilltownsaec@gmail.com. 10 Prospect Street, Chester, MA. (FREE)

What’s so special about arches? Learn more about this important structure here:

Tuesday, March 29, 6:30pm
While the Pioneer Valley is full of well-known spots for nature exploration, some of the most beautiful natural sites are not heavily advertised and are mostly found by word of mouth or stumbling upon them by chance. Gather with other nature enthusiasts at the Dickinson Memorial Library as they share with you the hidden gems they have found in New England. Afterwards, you will have many new sites to explore for hiking, swimming, picnicking and just relaxing outdoors. 413-498-2455. 115 Main Street, Northfield, MA. (FREE)

Animal Studies

Saturday, March 26, 10am-11:30am
By putting a bat house on your property, you are helping bats who may not have a safe place to live due to deforestation. Attracting bats near your home also allows you to observe them. In this workshop at the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary you will be taught how to build a bat box and where to put it in order to attract bats. You will also learn about various species in your area and their natural history. Ages five and up. Call 413-637-0320 to register. Lenox, MA. (Adult $$. Child FREE.)

Friday, April 1, 8am-10am
One way you can tell Spring is in the air, besides the temperature, is the sound. Suddenly, many more birds are chirping. At night, there is a chorus of crickets and other noisy bugs. Join Pleasant Valley Caretaker Jonathan Pierce at the Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary and learn how to spot migrating birds. What do these new visitors look like? What do they sound like? Bring binoculars. Beginners are welcome. This event is best suited for older students and adults. Holmes Rd, Pittsfield, MA. (>$)

Music Studies

Saturday, March 26, 10am
Through The Woods is a story of natural exploration, musical composition, and community. The three-time Parents’ Choice Award winning musicians, The Okee Dokee Brothers, set out to hike the Appalachian Trail, learn the music of the land and make a documentary at the same time. This family friendly film provides an opportunity to talk to your children about the ways in which culture affect music, and how to learn from the people you meet on life’s journey. This special screening at Amherst Cinema also includes a live performance of Shiprock & Anchordog, a multimedia performance about traveling dogs. All ages welcome. 413-253-2547 x110. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (>$)

Saturday, March 26, 7pm
The The Franklin County Musicians Cooperative is a not for profit organization bringing together solo and group musicians of folk, rock, country, Celtic, jazz and swing. These established and emerging artists bring their Franklin County communities together through their original compositions and covers of classic songs. Come to the Great Falls Discovery Center to hear a myriad of genres and groups perform live. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. (DONATION)

Monday, March 28, 6pm-8pm
Politically driven art has the power to set real change in motion. Books, movies, and songs have historically had the power to draw attention to political issues, often by lending a personal perspective on a societal problem.In this presentation, Lawrence Watson of Berklee College of Music will highlight stories of women musicians who have made history. This talk is entitled: “Still on the Journey: A Celebration of women in the civil and human rights struggle from Mary to Ida to Beyonce.” Come to the Owl’s Nest at Westfield State University to reflect on the political change women have fought for, and the fighting that is still going on. 577 Western Ave, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Monday, March 28, 7pm
Wu Man, of the group Wu Man and the Shanghai Quartet, plays both contemporary and classical music of Eastern and Western traditions. Anyone interested in music is invited to attend this screening and talk by Wu Man of her film: Discovering a Musical Heartland: Wu Man in China. The screening will take place in the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center lobby. Tuesday, March 29 at 7:30pm the Quartet will perform in the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall. 151 Presidents Drive, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Language Arts

Saturday, March 26, 3pm
Jubilat is a literary magazine which has been publishing poetry and artwork since the Spring of 2000. In 2001, Jubilat began conducting annual readings in partnership with the Jones Library. Come be a part of a local tradition supporting writers, and hear readings from two distinct voices. Michelle Gil-Montero and Sawako Nakayasu are both poets as well as translators. Gil-Montero translates contemporary Latin American literature. Nakayasu’s poems are influenced by her extensive travels, having been born in Japan, raised in the United States, and also lived in France and China. Travel the world through poetry at this free reading. Goodwin Room. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity St, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, March 29, 7pm-8:30pm
American Sign Language was created by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a minister, in the early 1800s. Prior to ASL there were other forms of visual communication utilized by deaf individuals in America. Learning a language is crucial to the understanding of the culture of people who speak it. American Sign Language is no exception. To learn about the vibrant culture of deaf Americans, come to Bay Path University for this screening of Deaf Jam, a 2011 documentary (not rated) about a deaf teenager’s decision to perform slam poetry entirely in ASL. This is an inspiring story of friendship, community, language and poetry. Mills theater, Carr hall. 588 Longmeadow St, Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Ready to meet some inspiring teens? Watch the Deaf Jam trailer:

While the learning of a verbal and written language can open international possibilities, the learning of American Sign Language opens possibilities within the local community. The pursuit of a second language can be fascinating when supported by useful resources – and it’s great for hands-on learners! Read more in our post, ASL Support & Resources in Western MA.

Thursday, March 31, 4pm-4:45pm
Elizabeth Raum’s book Orphan Trains: An Interactive History Adventure teaches young readers about a welfare program in the late 1800s and early 1900s, wherein orphaned and homeless children were sent West on trains to be placed in foster homes. Raum takes an innovative approach to this topic, taking the form of a “choose your own adventure” book in which readers can pick where they want this story to go. This personal approach to history may help children connect to these events by empathizing with the real children who experienced the Orphan Train Movement. At the Westfield Athenaeum children in grades 3 through 5 will discuss this book and play games related to this historical period. The first 10 people to register get free copies of the book to keep. Call 413-568-7833 to register. 6 Elm St, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, March 31, 4pm-5pm
Does your 3rd-5th grader like comic books? Does she draw? This week, the comic book club at the Jones library will be discussing the books Hilo, by Judd Winick, and Fairy Tale Comics. The group will also work on their own comic book! Comic book writing can give your child a creative outlet while encouraging linguistic development. Bring your imagination and be ready to share ideas. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Collaborative Consumption

Saturday, March 26, 10am-1:30pm
Access to free books through your local library is an amazingly helpful educational tool for individuals and families. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to own your own copy so you can lend your book out to friends, or write notes in the margins. At the Greenfield Public Library March Madness Book Sale you can purchase interesting books, keep used books out of the waste stream, and support the library at the same time! 4413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA (Various >$-$$)

Saturday, March 26, 3pm-4pm
Have you ever thrown a clothing swap with your friends? It feels great to give to your clothes away, get new clothes in return, and minimize your wardrobe so that your closet isn’t full of items you never wear. You can participate in a community-wide clothing swap at The Haberdashery by bringing no more than 15 items of Spring or Summer clothing or accessories. Drop your items off sometime before the event, during the Haberdashery’s hours of operation (Tues, Mar 22 thru Fri, Mar 25, 10am – 5pm, or Sat Mar 26, 10am-1pm). Add some community connection to your Spring cleaning, and check out this local resource for D.I.Y. products and classes. 52 Union Street, Easthampton, MA. (>$)


Saturday, March 26, 11am
Have you and your child ever crafted with perler beads? They are small, tube shaped beads that you place into formations and apply heat for them to meld together. This type of bead allows for a great deal of creative, out-of-the-box thinking as kids get to make choices about color and shape. They’re also a great way for children to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. For this Hatfield Public Library workshop, kids will be able to make either simple or complex jewelry, or character art. Children ages 4 through teen are welcome. Younger children will need assistance. Please call 413-247-9097 to register. 39 Main St, Hatfield, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, March 26, 11:30pm-1:30pm
Come to the Meekins Library for a loosely structured play activity. Children and their caregivers will be making boats out of juice boxes! First, drink the juice in the box, then remove the straw so the box will float. Kids can try to race their boats across the water. Bring it home and play with it in the tub. Teach your kids about reusing and repurposing objects and not being wasteful, and explore basic scientific concepts like density and buoyancy. Participants will also be able to engage in the engineering design process, which activates critical thinking skills and helps children embrace a growth mindset about challenges. Ages four and up. 2 Williams St, Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, March 30, 5:30-7:30pm
Come to a Holyoke Codes lab night and work on any project you like while meeting people and getting inspired by their projects. You’re welcome to play with a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 or WeDo robotics kit, work in Scratch, get help learning HTML, Javascript, or another programming language, learn how to create your own Minecraft mods, or write mobile apps for Android with App Inventor. The possibilities are nearly endless. Many of the Holyoke coders have been working with Raspberry Pi and are interested in getting started with gemma wearable computing projects. All ages welcome. Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center 100 Bigelow St. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, March 31, 3pm-5pm
Fiber arts such as weaving are ancient art forms, with tapestries dating back as far as 300 BC. Tapestries, artfully designed wall hangings, often served multiple purposes. They were originally made of heavy fabrics and provided insulation as well as decoration. 4th–8th graders and their caregivers are invited to The Clark for an introduction to fiber art. Learn about the warp and the weft as you create your own woven wall hanging! 413-458-2303. 225 South St, Williamstown, MA. (Adults $. Under 18 FREE)

Love to weave but don’t have a loom at home? Give paper weaving a try!

Parenting Support

Saturday, March 26, 10:30am-12pm
Children often dislike bitter tasting foods, making it difficult to get them to eat vegetables. This can partly be explained on a biological level, since bitter foods register as more likely poisonous than sweet foods. However, another reason behind picky eating in children is that they are exerting their independence and resisting commands. Come to the Southampton Library to learn more about picky eating and strategies for getting your children to eat, and enjoy their vegetables. The group will discuss how much, and in what ways, you should push your child to try new foods. Participants will also talk about portion control. Call 413-527-9480 to register. 30 East Street, Southampton, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, March 26, 11am
It can be difficult to navigate the world of processed foods while trying to maintain a healthy diet. Sugar, for example, can hide under dozens of different names on food labels. In celebration of National Nutrition Month, the Whately Library is holding a discussion group and healthy food tasting. Swap healthy recipes and strategies for avoiding over-processed foods and unhealthy ingredients. 413-665-2170. 202 Chestnut Plain Road. Whately, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, March 29, 6pm-7:30pm
Managing emotions and communicating effectively are lifelong skills we use every day. All young children struggle with regulating their emotions. Children feel frustrated with their lack of freedom and their limited (yet constantly growing!) abilities. In this workshop series, Certified Holistic Health Counselor Sarah Patton will provide strategies to help parents help their children. This is the first of six workshops taking place at Erving Elementary School on in March and April: on March, 15, 22, 29, April, 5,12,26. This class promises to instill greater competence and confidence in your children and help them follow directions more effectively. These are complex issues and there is no magic solution.Unlike one-time parenting events, in this workshop you can test new strategies, provide feedback, and ask questions over the course of several weeks. 28 Northfield Rd. Erving, MA. (FREE)

Grandparents face their own challenges in “grandparenting” the children in their families. Support groups for grandparents provide them with a space to connect and share their experiences. At each of the groups listed below, a lunch will be provided for participants as well as children who may accompany them. Childcare is provided during the event, too. Whether you are a new grandparent or have several grandchildren, this is a great way to make new friends, and become familiar with the resources at area family centers.

For more intergenerational opportunities, check out our post: Value of Intergenerational Community Engagement.

Thursday, March 31, 5pm-7:30pm
Parents of sixth grade students to the JFK Middle School for a parent cafe. Attendees will explore the topic of social media and their children. Social media, a new phenomenon which parents did not have growing up, can affect children in many ways. Some tweens and teens have trouble disconnecting from technology to focus on homework. Some are bullied or witness bullying online. Share insights, strategies and concerns with other parents to gain varied perspectives on this complex subject. 100 Bridge Rd, Florence, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, March 31, 5:30pm-7:30pm
At this casual parenting event, hosted by Child Care of the Berkshires, participants will discuss great ways to play and read with your children. Reading to and with your child is one of the simplest and most enjoyable ways to set your child on a path for success. Adults and children both benefit from reading as a relaxing activity before bed. Each parent who attends this event will receive four new children’s books! Enjoy a meal and conversation with other parents. Free on-site child care and transportation is available. Call 413-664-4821 to reserve, space is limited. Haskins Center Gym, 210 State Street, North Adams, MA. (FREE)

[Photo credit: (cc) H is for Home]

Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Amherst, Blandford, Bernardston, Chesterfield, Erving, Holyoke, Montague, Montgomery, Pelham, Shutesbury, South Hadley, Springfield, Warwick and Williamsburg Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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