34 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Stone Art to Electrical Engineering. Indonesian Culture to Invertebrates.

Who knew there was so much math and science at play when we're trying to get a hole-in-one on the mini golf course? Everyone in your family can put these skills to use at the Holyoke Public Library this week!

Who knew there was so much math and science at play when we’re trying to get a hole-in-one on the mini golf course? Everyone in your family can put these skills to use at the Holyoke Public Library this week!

Stone art to electrical engineering. Indonesian culture to invertebrates. Quidditch to food sculpture. 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 highlight this week: Collaborative art brings communities together and provides a visual example of what can be accomplished when people work together. Working in a large group moves creative expression off of any one individual and allows people to simply have fun, be free, and respond to what others have already drawn. The creative process takes on new dimensions and the continually-evolving piece of work is always a delight for all to see! On Saturday, April 9, 12pm-12am, bring your creative, collaborative spirit to the 2nd Annual Hilltown Draw Around at the Conwell Gym, where the space will be transformed into a 4,000 square foot space for collaborative community art. Proceeds benefit ARTeens. 51 Maple St, Shelburne Falls, MA. (DONATION)

EcologyEngineeringMathematicsLocal HistoryHydropowerLocal LandscapesAthleticsCreative WritingCollaborative ArtCircus ArtsPublic ArtPerforming ArtsPuppetryVolunteerismIntergenerationalParenting

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Nature Studies

Saturday, April 9, all day
Have you ever taken a trip to Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton and Northampton, or Pleasant Valley in Lenox? Now is your chance to visit these beautiful, local natural areas, and participate in outdoor educational events for free in celebration of Mass Audubon’s 100th year. There are events for naturalists of all ages including crafting, guided walks and hikes, vernal pool exploration and other hands-on activities. Check the Arcadia and Pleasant Valley websites for full schedule and details. Easthampton, Northampton and Lenox, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, April 9, 9:30am-12pm
Do your children like to observe wildlife in rivers, ponds, or oceans? Teach them about a different kind of aquatic habitat: vernal pools. These temporary accumulations of water house a surprising number of creatures! Come to the Hitchcock Center for the Environment and wear your rubber boots for an exploration of vernal pools. Participants will have the chance to catch and observe creatures before returning them back to their vernal pool home. Open to adults and children ages 8 and up. Registration is required. 413-256-6006. 525 South Pleasant Street. Amherst, MA. ($)

Explore more vernal pools and their inhabitants here:

Saturday, April 9, 10am-12pm
The nightly chorus of bugs and frogs is a sign of warmer weather. Young children can look for wood frogs, peepers, egg masses, and aquatic invertebrates in the vernal pools at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. Families with children ages 4 and up are invited to watch a slideshow about these interesting creatures and their habitats, and then go out to explore a vernal pool for signs of life! 413-584-3009. 127 Combs Rd, Easthampton, MA. (<$)

Saturday, April 9, 1pm-3pm
It’s Spring and the vernal pools are coming to life with fairy shrimp and other creatures. Fairy shrimp are crustaceans which live in salt lakes as well as temporary pools of rainwater and runoff known as vernal pools. Fairy shrimp swim upside down and filter food as they swim. You can see fairy shrimp, frog eggs, and other creatures up close as you explore vernal pools with experts and amateur community scientists from the Kestrel Land Trust. Please register by emailing office@kestreltrust.org. Specific meeting locations will be shared via email. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, April 10, 11:30am
On this guided nature walk, licensed forester Tom Jenkins will teach participants about the American agricultural tradition of maple sugaring as well as sustainable forestry. Trees are essential to life on Earth as we know it because they produce oxygen while sequestering carbon as they go through photosynthesis. Their wood has also become an integral part of human life. Luckily, low impact tree harvesting can be executed in a sustainable way, benefiting humans without negatively impacting wildlife. Learn how through this discussion, hosted by Kestrel Land Trust. Get some exercise and fresh air while you’re at it! For specific location details and to register please email office@kestreltrust.org. Westhampton, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, April 9, 9:30am-11am
Playing with LEGOs, especially LEGO sets without instructions or a specific goal, opens up children to creativity while improving their dexterity and fine motor skills. As children grow older their creations become more complex. LEGO play can be the start of a lifelong interest in building things whether that means carpentry, architecture, or any number of D.I.Y. projects. Your four to fourteen-year-old LEGO lover is invited to showcase his or her skills at the Lenox Library. Please bring your own set of LEGOs from home. Participants will have forty-five minutes to create a display, followed by a forty-five minute showcase. The theme is outer space. Registration is required for this program. Call 413-637-0197. 18 Main St., Lenox, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, April 9, 9:30am-4pm
You may not have contemplated it during your last round of putt-putt, but mini-golf is a game that depends on your ability to use geometry and apply your knowledge of physics. At what angle do you need to hit the ball to make it bounce off of the wall and be redirected towards the hole? How should you adjust the strength of your stroke when putting the ball uphill? Play mini golf inside the Holyoke Public Library and use math and science in a fun, real-world application! All ages welcome. No registration necessary. Get your putter, golf ball, and scorecard in the lobby. Regular library services will still be available on a limited basis. See the Holyoke Public Library website for more information. 413-420-8110. 250 Chestnut Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, April 9, 10:30am-12pm
All children are scientists! Whether they like exploring their backyards, figuring out how machines operate, or playing with animals, your children are asking important and worthwhile questions about the world around them. Encourage their curiosity at the Children’s Science Festival, to take place at the Sunderland Elementary School. There will be animals, a fire and ice show, LEGOs, slime and more. Whether your children likes to get messy and participate, or learn by observing, they are sure to have a great time with other junior scientists. 413-665-1151 x 46. Swampfield Drive, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, April 9, 10:30am-12:30am
Want to use your old phone, broken laptop or other electronic device to learn about circuitry? Bring your old electronics to the Westhampton Public Library and explore the science of electronic devices. Participants will also learn how to build a simple robot! This is a wonderful way to repurpose outdated and/or broken electronics. Keep these items out of the waste stream while finding interesting new ways to rearrange their parts to create different functions! Ages ten and up. Space is limited. Register by calling 413-527-5386. 1 North Rd. Westhampton, MA. (FREE)

Friday, April 15, 11am-12pm
This month, the Cushman Library’s STEM Storytime event will focus on engineering. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The Cushman library is helping families foster STEM interests in their children ages zero to five years on the third Friday of each month from February to June. This event will feature an engineering themed story and play time with LEGO Duplos and wooden blocks. This event combines literacy enrichment, scientific learning, and creative, social play. 28 Church St, Bernardston, MA. (FREE)

Just what can children learn when they play with blocks?

Local History

Saturday, April 9, 10am
The Northampton Association of Education and Industry was an organization united over several prevailing, egalitarian values including a desire to abolish slavery. The community boasted such famous figures as member Sojourner Truth and frequent lecturer Frederick Douglass. The David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History invites you to learn about this organization through primary source documents and still existing architectural structures on this guided hike. 225 Nonotuck St., Florence, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, April 9, 1pm-3pm
Hydroelectricity is a form of electricity powered by the gravitational force of flowing water. At the time of its inception and for many years after, the Turners Falls hydroelectric concrete dam known as Cabot Station was the largest hydroelectric facility east of Niagara Falls. Come to the opening reception of “Vintage Powerhouse—Cabot Station: A One Hundred Year Retrospective” at the Great Falls Discovery Center to learn about local history, hydropower, and infrastructure. The Turners Dam also has three fish passage facilities in order to sustain these species. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Interested on a primer in hydropower? Look no further!

Saturday, April 9, 2pm-4pm
Do you have a stone wall in your yard? Have you ever wondered why they are so popular in New England? Join a local expert as he discusses the history of the New England stone wall in a presentation hosted by the Charlemont Historical Society. He will also explain technique, stylistic development, and aesthetics, and relate how and why New England came to acquire its thousands of miles of stone walls. His talk will detail the ways in which dry stone structures were built, how their styles emerged and changed over time, and their significance to the famous New England landscape. There will be ample time for questions. Hawlemont Elementary School, 10 School Street, Charlemont, MA. (FREE)

Motor Skills

Saturday, April 9, 10am-12pm
Does your young son or daughter want to learn about vehicles by visiting a school bus, a police car, fire engine and dump truck? Bring them to the Jackson Street School for the children’s festival! This event is part of The Week of Young The Child, a celebration of children and those who teach and take care of them. Kids will have the chance to play together on the playground and participate in brain building games. There will be mats for kids to tumble on, and lots of information for parents. Take a “storywalk” with your family and see the pages of a popular children’s book mounted along a path. This event is best suited for children around ages three to seven and their caregivers. 413-587-1471. 120 Jackson St, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, April 9, 1pm-3pm
Did you know that UMass Amherst has a Quidditch team? Harry Potter fans between the ages of seven through eighteen are invited to the Sunderland Public Library to learn from UMass players! This event gives local youth the opportunity to learn a new sport, which they are unlikely to learn elsewhere, from young adults in the community. There’s a fun connection to literature here, too. How does real-world Quidditch compare to how you imagined it in the books? Please register by calling the library at 413-665 2642. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Wait a minute! People actually play Quidditch? Yes, they do! Watch these highlights from the US Quidditch World Cup tournament:

Sunday, April 10, 1pm-3pm
Do you know a young soccer player who wants to brush up their skills or learn some new moves? Playing soccer helps children develop gross motor skills, core strength, and communication skills. Youth soccer players ages five and up are invited to play with UMass coaches and players! Ages 5-12 will play from 1-2pm, followed by 13 and up players from 2-3pm. All abilities are welcome. This is a great chance to play with professional coaches and older players. To register, Please email names and ages to: allinclusivesoccerclinic@gmail.com. University of Massachusetts Boyden soccer fields. Amherst, MA. (DONATION)

Friday, April 15, 8am-8:30pm
Every four years the winter and summer paralympic games showcase incredible athletes. For the past fourteen years, the Amelia Park Arena has hosted their Annual New England Sled Hockey Invitational Tournament, showcasing paralympians and other physically challenged athletes and coaches. Witness feats of physical strength, speed, perseverance and skill this April 15-17. For children who have physical challenges or who are close with someone who does, this event can be empowering and inspiring. For children who do not have experience with or understanding of the wide range of physical differences that exist in humans, this event can help them gain a contextualized understanding, an essential part of celebrating our similarities and differences. See the Amelia Park website for a full schedule of events. 413-568-2503. 21 S Broad St, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Language Arts

Saturday, April 9, 10am-8:30pm
Easthampton’s full day long BookFest has something for all literary fans. Whether you’re interested in novels, poetry, comic books, picture books, plays, zines, or all of the above, there is a panel just for you. There will be readings of prose and poetry, as well as performances of monologues and plays. Speakers, writers, and storytellers will discuss all aspects of books including an analysis of books as a physical object. Check out the event website for a full schedule of events and locations. Easthampton, MA. (Various. FREE – $$$)

Friday, April 15, 10am
Parent educator Scott Noyes invites you to bring your children to the Hilltown Community Health Center for a play-to-learn session focused on early language development. Children who grow up in language-rich environments show improved receptive and expressive language skills throughout childhood! Creating a language-rich environment may sound fancy, but it is easy to do once you know how. For more information please contact Kim Savery at 413-667-2203. 9 Russell Road, Route 20. Huntington, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, April 14, 9am-8pm
Friday, April 15, 9am-5pm
One of the many great things about books is that they’re easy to share. Once you’re done reading a book you can lend it to friends, give it to someone to keep, or sell it. Keep books out of the waste stream by welcoming used books into your home and by passing your own books along when you’re done with them. The Westfield Athenaeum will be continuing this cycle of learning with their annual book sale, to benefit the library. Buy new books and support educational programming and other services provided by the Westfield Athenaeum. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm St, Westfield, MA. (Various >$-$$)

Friday, April 15, 3:30pm-4:30pm
Do you know a child between the ages of seven and ten who enjoys writing? Invite him or her to the Forbes Library to join other writers in an hour-long meeting filled with brainstorming activities. Whatever your genre, this is a safe space to get creative, work together, and share if you want to. Improving your writing, like any other skill, just takes practice. This is a great opportunity for kids to get started early honing a skill they love. Writing is also helpful for sorting out emotions and experiences. 413-587-1011. 20 West St, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Visual Art

Saturday, April 9, 12pm-12am
Collaborative art brings communities together and provides a visual example of what can be accomplished when people work together. Working in a large group moves creative expression off of any one individual and allows people to simply have fun, be free, and respond to what others have already drawn. The creative process takes on new dimensions and the continually-evolving piece of work is always a delight for all to see! Bring your creative, collaborative spirit to the 2nd Annual Hilltown Draw Around at the Conwell Gym, where the space will be transformed into a 4,000 square foot space for collaborative community art. Proceeds benefit ARTeens. 51 Maple St, Shelburne Falls, MA. (DONATION)

Learn more about the Hilltown Draw Around and the Circus Sketch Lab (below) at our post, Intergenerational Drawing Events Support Creative Free Play & Community Connections!

Saturday, April 9, 2pm-4pm
The 300 year old publication, The Saturday Evening Post, has built a reputation on showcasing fiction and non-fiction, as well as impressive cover art. Norman Rockwell illustrated the publication’s cover art for many years. Local illustrator Patrick O’Donnell will use Rockwell’s cover art as inspiration when he teaches his drawing techniques to families at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Free with museum admission. 413-298-4100. 9 MA-183, Stockbridge, MA. (Museum members and children under five FREE. Non members $)

Saturday, April 9, 6:30pm-7:00pm
Artists, circus performers and interested audience members are invited to the Paragon Arts and Industry Building for a unique performance of physical and one-dimensional art. Show Circus students will perform their act and artists are invited to gather inspiration from their movements, recreating the performance in sketches on the page. Whether you would like to participate in the sketching or simply attend, please register for this event at the Big Top Quilts site. For more information, please contact: Audrey Hyvonen at audrey@bigtopquilts.com 413-230-0771. 150 Pleasant Street, Suite 313. Easthampton MA. (FREE)

Sunday, April 10, 2pm-4pm
Once again the Forbes Library will be participating in Edible Book, an international event which began in 1999. Entrants create cakes based on books, drawing inspiration from the book cover, the plot, the characters, or all of the above. This is a wonderfully open-ended, creative event. Participants in the contest win awards, and attendees, entrants, and judges all get to eat the books. This year the event will take place at the Florence Civic Center. 90 Park Street, Florence, MA. (<$. Children ten and under FREE)

Kids can learn how to make an appetizer sculpture using fresh veggies and a lot of imagination!

Friday, April 15, 2pm-3:30pm
Some people are attracted to street art, such as graffiti and yarnbombing, because it is anonymous and it puts art in a public space for everyone to see. Graffiti, however, is against the law and can do damage to public or private property because it is difficult to remove. If you want to put some art out into the world to brighten a stranger’s day, try something less invasive, like rock art! Kids are invited to the Dickinson Memorial Library to create a work of art on a rock and put it out into the world to inspire others. All materials provided. 413-498-2455. 115 Main Street. Northfield, MA. (FREE)

Performing Arts

Saturday, April 9, 4:30pm
The Frog and Toad books became an instant classic children’s series after the first iteration was published in 1970. Now, your whole family can see optimistic Frog and timid Toad come to life on stage at The Drama Studio. If your children are not familiar with these characters, the play could get them interested in reading the books. Frog and Toad model friendship beautifully in each of their stories. They have very different personalities and life outlooks, and they bother and confuse each other from time to time, just like what happens in real friendships. Time spent with Frog and Toad helps children understand how to be a good friend and how to appreciate our differences. 413-739-1983. 41 Oakland St, Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, April 10, 3pm-5pm
Learn about Indonesian culture through a live “wayang” performance. Wayang is a kind of puppetry, originating from Bali and incorporating narratives, rituals, music, and comedy. When wayang is used as a sacred Hindu ritual, there are specific guidelines for the techniques and melodies used in the music. Viewing this performance, “Wayang Kulit: Balinese Shadow-Puppetry and Music” at Smith College could inspire further interest in either the sacred or theatrical aspects of this art form. Earle Recital Hall. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Learn more about the history and artistry of wayang puppetry here:

Community Connections

Saturday, April 9, 1pm-3pm
Celebrate National Volunteer 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 at this event. Register by calling 413-247-9738 x135. 97 North Hatfield Road. Hatfield, MA (VOLUNTEER)

Saturday, April 9, 6pm-8pm
Children ages three through eleven are invited to get dressed up for a night of dancing with their mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandparents or other family members. Get some exercise, take photos and make happy memories with your family and friends. There will be light snacks and drinks. To register for this event, please visit the West Springfield Parks and Recreation Department, 26 Central Street. The dance will take place in the UNICO Building in Mittineague Park, 1 UNICO Way, West Springfield, MA. ($$)


Sunday, April 10, 4pm-5pm
How do you promote healthy behaviors with your teenager? Maybe you discuss unhealthy habits like substance abuse. Maybe you try to lead by example, demonstrating healthy behaviors in your daily life. Parents benefit from frequent discussions of these issues with other parents, and assistance from experts in the field. Join Dr. Paul McNeill at Northampton Area Pediatrics for tips on preventing alcohol and marijuana use by your teen. 413-584-8700. 193 Locust St., Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 12, 4pm
Anyone who has had an extended conversation with a three-year-old child knows that children are naturally curious; they want to learn. This fact is clearly demonstrated through all of the “Who?” “What?” “Why?” questions children are so eager to ask. Teacher and developmental psychologist Susan Engel points out, however, that curiosity is a relatively under-researched topic. Attend this twenty-minute lecture followed by a discussion at Williams College and you can find out about the research Engel conducted on curiosity for her book, The Hungry Mind: the Origins of Curiosity in Childhood. Her research has interesting implications for both parents and educators. This lecture will take place in the Stetson Reading Room, Sawyer Library. 413-597-4277. Williams College. 880 Main St, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 12, 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 regulate their emotions. This is the fifth of six workshops taking place atErving 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)

Thursday, April 14, 5:30pm-7pm
Teaching your children about money can both prepare them for their future and help them understand the world around them in the present. At this workshop, “The Value of a Dollar,” presenters will provide tips on how to lead useful financial conversations with your children. This workshop is for parents of children in kindergarten through eighth grade and will take place at The Family Center. Dinner will be provided for adults and their children. 413-663-7588. 210 State Street, North Adams. MA (FREE)

[photo by Moralist (own work), via Wikimedia Commons]

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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