Learning Ahead: March 28th-April 1st, 2016

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

This week we are featuring 25 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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Multiple Counties

Thursday, March 31, 7pm
Thursday, March 31 kicks off the 11th annual Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival with a screening of the 2015 film Dough. Now through April 14th, films will be screened across the pioneer valley in Amherst, Chicopee, Easthampton, Greenfield, Longmeadow, Northampton, Shelburne Falls, Springfield and West Springfield. Find a venue near you and celebrate Jewish history and culture through film. The festival will include award-winning, independent, feature films and documentaries. Visit the festival website for the full calendar of screenings. Various locations in MA. ($)

Berkshire County

Monday, March 28, 1:30pm and 7pm
Acts of space exploration, including exploration of the moon, are among some of the greatest human accomplishments. But what does landing on the moon feel like? What kind of effect does the job of astronaut have on a person, and on that person’s family? The 2014 documentary, The Last Man on the Moon (not rated) tells the story of Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan from a deeply personal perspective. Going to outer space, especially in the early years of space exploration, is dangerous. You and your family cannot be certain you will return. Come to The Little Cinema inside The Berkshire Museum to witness this personal and historical account. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street. Pittsfield, MA. (>$)

Watch the trailer here:

Monday, March 28, 6pm
This film screening, reading, and discussion is the perfect transition into April, which is National Poetry Month. Come to the Dalton Public Library and honor the work of William Jay Smith, America’s 19th Poet Laureate. The library will present a mixed media program in which you will hear five of his poems. This project was a collaboration between Smith, composer Alice Spatz and filmmaker Eric Shepherd. Shepard and Spatz will tell the story behind this project. This performance may get participants thinking about writing poetry themselves or beginning an artistic collaboration with others. 413-684-6112. 462 Main Street. Dalton, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, March 30, 12:30-1:30
Do you have goals for improvement of your health? You may be focused on exercise, or nutrition, mental health, or some combination of these factors. Since the mind and body are intricately connected, even one seemingly small change in lifestyle can have a far-reaching impact on your overall sense of well-being. Berkshire Health Systems will be holding a four week workshop series on healthy eating, exercise, stress reduction and more. Participants will receive a wellness screening. Each participant will identify his or her own personal goals and hear strategies for taking small steps in the direction of a healthier lifestyle. Join others interested in making these changes, at the Adams Visitor Center. 3 Hoosac Street. Adams, 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 in homes. 4th–8th graders and their caregivers are invited to The Clark for an introduction to fiber art. You will be able to take home your own woven wall hanging. 413-458-2303. 225 South St, Williamstown, MA. (Adults $. Under 18 FREE)

Friday, April 1, 8am-10am
One way you can tell Spring is in the air, besides changes in temperature, is the sound. Suddenly, you can hear more birds 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 adults. Holmes Rd, Pittsfield, MA. (>$)

Looking for a new way to visualize bird migration? Watch this model that uses radar data to track migratory movements across the US!

Franklin County

Tuesday, March 29, 6:30pm
While the Pioneer Valley is full of well-known spots for nature exploration, many 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 the pioneer valley and across 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)

Friday, April 1, 7pm
For over 25 years Jeanne Douillard has probed the history of the French in New England. In researching her own genealogy she discovered she had Québecois, Acadien, Native American and English roots. Her passion to learn more led her to delve into conflicting historiographies. English, French and American historians offered up irreconcilable views of La Nouvelle France. Make sure you pre-register online . GCC Downtown, 270 Main Street, Greenfield. 413-775-1661 ($)

Hampshire County

Monday, March 28, 6pm
How do plants defend themselves against herbivores? Since plants cannot run or hide (although sensitive plants such as mimosa pudica can move slightly) they typically protect themselves with chemicals. Not all chemicals produced by plants are dangerous to humans, however, and plants have a multitude of medicinal uses. Come to the Sci Tech Cafe’s presentation, “Engineering Plant Defenses to Fight Cancer,” to learn more about plants that produce human health agents. Professor Susan Roberts, head of the chemical engineering department at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, will discuss how scientists can exploit plants to supply anticancer agents. All ages welcome. Union Station. 125 Pleasant St, Northampton, MA. (DONATION)

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 in which Wu Man will discuss her film: Discovering a Musical Heartland: Wu Man in China. The screening will take place in the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center lobby. If you are interested in this event, be sure to check out Wu Man and the Shanghai Quartet’s performance on Tuesday, March 29 at 7:30pm at the UMASS Fine Arts Center Concert Hall. 151 Presidents Drive, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Watch Wu Man perform a Tiny Desk Concert:

Tuesday, March 29, 7:30pm
National Poetry Month is right around the corner, and it’s not too early to celebrate! Come to Smith College for a reading from Kirby Jambon. Jambon’s writing is influenced by his Louisiana upbringing and his Cajun heritage. He is a recipient of the Henri de Régnier prize in Paris and has worked as a teacher, activist, actor, and storyteller. How has your upbringing influenced your hobbies and work? This reading will take place in the Poetry Center in Wright Hall. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, March 29, 7:30pm
“Verbatim theater” is a type of documentary performance which draws upon exact quotes as dialogue for the stage. Graduating Smith College senior Hannah Sachs utilized this form in the creation of her new play, “Krása.” The script for this play is composed entirely of direct quotes gleaned from 11 in-depth interviews conducted in the Czech Republic. Among those interviewed are religious leaders, artists, Communists, and academics. Come to Smith College to witness the culmination of this student’s work, view an innovative form of theater in action, and learn about the history and culture of the Czech republic. Theatre 100, Mendenhall CPA. Green Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, March 29, 7:30pm
Explore the musical traditions and contemporary trends of the East and the West in this performance by Wu Man and the Shanghai Quartet. You will hear Mozart’s K. 499, compositions by contemporary Chinese composers, and traditional Chinese folk songs. Travel through time and place at this concert at the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center Concert Hall. Attendees are invited to stay for a post-performance discussion. 151 Presidents Drive, Amherst, MA. ($$. Five College Students, GCC Students and Youth 17 & under >$)

Wednesday, March 30, 5pm
The term “filter bubble” was coined by scholar Eli Pariser to refer to the phenomenon of personalized search results. Search results are personalized when a website’s algorithm prioritizes the results the user is most likely to want, based on previous web activity. The filter bubble effects Google, Facebook and other sites. On the one hand, this makes searching more convenient. On the other hand, it may make it less likely for people to see information they don’t agree with, therefore making it less likely that people will find their beliefs being challenges. Social media scholar Dahna Boyd will be discussing the intersection of society and technology in her lecture, “Living in a Culture of Algorithms.” Come to this Smith College lecture to learn more about how website algorithms influence the information you see, and don’t see. Boyd is the author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, March 30, 7:30-9pm
Jodi Gilman, neuroscientist and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School will be discussing the long and short term effects of marijuana use in this talk, “Marijuana: What We Know and Don’t Know.” Come to Mount Holyoke College’s Hooker Auditorium to learn more about this topic from an expert in neuroscience. Open to the public. 50 College St, South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, March 31, 4pm-6pm
Bread is a staple of so many diets, and 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. Join members of your community at the Pioneer Valley Breadhouse and learn how to make this famously valued 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)

Passionate about bread? So is renown baker, Peter Reinhart! Be inspired by his passion for bread baking by watching his TEDx talk, “The Art of Baking Bread.”

Friday, April 1, 4:15pm
How long have scientists known about climate change? In the early 19th century, scientists identified the greenhouse effect and some began to suggest that human activity could impact the climate. In 1960, Dr. Charles Keeling demonstrated that CO2 levels in the atmosphere were rising. This play, Dr. Keeling’s Curve, will shed light on this historical discovery while providing an in-depth look into the life of Dr. Keeling. Neilson Library Browsing Room at Smith College. 7 Neilson Drive, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Did you know that some colleges, including Berkeley College of Music, now offer a degree in electronic music? Computers and other electronic devices have been utilized by a variety of musical groups and individuals for years now. Some rely entirely on electronics, while others blend new and traditional, electronic and acoustic instruments. The Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra will be playing music for orchestra and electronics, while also combining film, dance and interactive video in this multimedia performance. Local artists and Mount Holyoke College students will join together in this exploration of technology through art. For further details, please contact Eileen O’Grady by email at ograd22e@mtholyoke.edu. To order tickets online, visit: brown paper tickets. Chapin Auditorium, Mount Holyoke College Campus. 50 College St, South Hadley, MA. ($$. Students >$)

Hampden County

Monday-Thursday 8:30am-8:30pm; Friday and Saturday 8:30am-4pm
International Women’s Day has a rich history since its inception in 1909. It began as a socialist event, celebrating working women. It has since broadened its scope to include all women, with new themes every year. Past themes have included “women in decision-making,” “women and HIV/AIDS,” and “equality for women is progress for all.” You can explore the history of this celebratory day through an exhibit of historic International Women’s Day posters. These posters will be on display at the Holyoke Public Library (Monday-Thursday 8:30am-8:30pm; Friday and Saturday 8:30am-4pm; 250 Chestnut Street) and the Holyoke Heritage State Parkvisitor center (Tuesday-Sunday, noon to 4pm; 221 Appleton Street) until March 29. 413 534 1723. Holyoke MA. (FREE)

Monday, March 28, 4pm-6pm
Come to the final meeting of the genealogy workshop at Holyoke Public Library. Today will be an open session for participants to continue the work they have started. But if you missed the first three sessions, don’t fret! Research expert Dave Robinson (creator of Old Bones Genealogy of New England will help you get started with the basics. Please bring your library card. 413-420-8101. 250 Chestnut St. Holyoke, 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 and 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. <b>Holyoke, MA. (>$)</b>

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 far-reaching 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 changes women have fought for, and the fighting that is still going on. 577 Western Ave, Westfield, 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 understanding 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, self-expression and art. Mills theater, Carr hall. 588 Longmeadow St, Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

You can learn more about American Sign Language and local resources for the deaf at our post, ASL Support & Resources in Western MA.

Wednesday, March 30, 5:30-7:30pm
Come to a Holyoke Codes lab night and work on any project you want 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 and abilities welcome. Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center 100 Bigelow St. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, March 31, 6:30pm
People who practice mindfulness often claim that the practice helps them relax, keeps them more focused, and generally makes life more enjoyable. With that kind of description, who wouldn’t want to at least give it a try? Mindfulness is remarkably simple. Being mindful means being aware, taking a moment to notice your thoughts, feelings, and senses. You can do this anytime, even during the high-stress moments of your day. Join Tzivia Gover, author of Joy in Every Moment at the Holyoke Public Library and she will offer several simple exercises for mindfulness which can help you alter your day-to-day perspective. 413-420-8101. 250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

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