Learning Ahead: April 11th-15th, 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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Berkshire County

Monday, April 11, 7pm
Meet two filmmakers and graduates of Williams College, John Sayles and Maggie Renzi, before screening Sayles’ award-winning 1991 film, City of Hope (rated R). This film explores political corruption through a personal lens. It is about a fictional American city, in which the mayor is attempting to drive out low-income housing residents in order to erect condominiums for profit. John Sayles also appears in this film as an actor. If you have seen the film before, be sure to come with questions concerning Sayles’ acting or directing experience in its creation. Images Cinema. 413-458-5612. 50 Spring Street, Williamstown, MA. ($; <$ for students, children, and seniors)

Tuesday, April 12, 4pm
Anyone who has had an extended conversation with a three-year-old 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)

Wednesday, April 13, 5:30pm
Entire classes in the field of philosophy focus on coming up with a sound definition for the word “art.” Art is something which separates humans from most other species. Species of mammals such as elephants, however, have shown an interest in painting and using instruments once humans provided the opportunity. Non-human artistic endeavors make the concept of art even more mysterious. Art provides an entryway for discussion of myriad philosophical topics. In this lecture at The Clark Art Institute assistant professor for philosophy Emmanuel Alloa will explore the question: “Can images think?” He will argue that thinking is not limited to the realm of language. 413-458-2303. 225 South St, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Friday, April 15, 8am-10am
You can bird watch year-round, but Spring and Fall are the best times to learn about migrating birds. Jonathan Pierce, Pleasant Valley Caretaker and Hoffman Bird Club Leader, will help participants identify newly arrived wood-warblers. These birds are small, but many of them are bright and colorful, making them easier to spot. Learn about local ecology while enjoying a walk around the Canoe Meadows Wildlife SanctuaryPlease bring binoculars. Beginners are welcome, no registration needed. 413-637-0320. Homes Road, Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

Familiarize yourself with one wood warbler’s song before heading out on this adventure!

Franklin County

Monday, April 11, 6pm
Have you ever picked up an earthworm and seen it writhe around in your hand? This action occurs in response to the dehydrating quality of salt on human skin. If you are particularly concerned with the feelings of all living things, don’t pick up earthworms! Earthworms go by many names, including “rainworm”, “night crawler”, and “angleworm.” They also serve many purposes for humans, as they are used for fishing bait and also to enrich soil for gardeners. Come to the Greenfield Public Library where Tony of Tony’s Worm Farm in Hadley will teach you how to use earthworms to enrich your garden. 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 12, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Do you like identifying birds? The American Woodcock, also known as the Timberdoodle, can be easily detected in Spring by sight and sound, if you know when and where to look, and what to look for. Meet in the Community Room at the Dickinson Memorial Library. Male woodcocks engage in a fascinating Spring mating ritual which involves distinct sounds and frantic flying. Attendees to this event will walk or drive to a field and sit quietly for about thirty minutes while watching and listening for woodcocks. Please bring a chair to sit on, dress warmly and wear dark colors. 413-498-2455. 115 Main Street. Northfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, April 13, 6pm
With the rise of adult coloring books, people everywhere are filling in mandala outlines for fun and relaxation. But did you know that the mandala has a rich history? The word “mandala” means “circle” in Sanskrit. Mandalas are Hindu objects of devotion. Before appearing in adult coloring books, mandalas were (and continue to be) made out of wood, stone, cloth, walls, colored sand, and other artistic mediums. Learn about the history of mandalas and the benefits of adult coloring and artistic expression at the Greenfield Public Library. 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

The creation of a sand mandala before your eyes can be a moving experience. Watch these Tibetan monks create, then ceremonially sweep up, an intricate sand mandala while visiting a college art museum.

Friday, April 15, 6:30pm
Rug hooking is a fiber craft which involves the use of multiple fabrics. A relatively flexible fabric such as yarn is woven through a stiffer fabric, such as burlap or linen. If you enjoy knitting, crocheting, or felting and want to expand your fiber art repertoire, come to the Dickinson Memorial Library and learn the skill of rug hooking. Even if you have no experience with any kind of weaving, come by and learn! 413-498-2455. 115 Main Street. Northfield, MA. (FREE)

Hampshire County

Monday, April 11, 7pm
This month’s “Nerd Nite “at the World War II Club will feature two speakers on two different topics. Max Price will discuss domestication of pigs in what is now present day Turkey, and the political impact this act had. Muira McCammon will talk about the Guantánamo Bay Detainee Library. McCammon will be drawing upon declassified Department of Defense documents to give listeners a picture of the role and policies of this prison library. All prison libraries have strict policies about what type of materials they can house. Come to this multi faceted educational evening and learn about a wide range of political topics. 413-586-3315. 50 Conz St, Northampton, MA (>$)

Wednesday, April 13, 6:30pm-7:30pm
Do you love to write, read, or listen to poetry? Come to the Meekins Library for a poetry reading which will also be interpreted into American Sign Language. Ruth Lehrer and Paul Hostovsky are both poets and sign language interpreters who will be reading from their latest works. You can learn more about these writers at their websites, ruthlehrer.com and paulhostovsky.com. 413-268-7472. 2 Williams St, Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, April 13, 1pm
End-of-life care has been in the news a lot lately. Dr. Atul Gawande’s critically acclaimed, best-selling book, Being Mortal, is an insightful book for anyone, but it is particularly helpful for people dealing with the aging or passing of a loved one. This book discussion at the Easthampton Public Library will be moderated by medical professionals from Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Come with questions. These medical professionals will be using Being Mortal and this discussion to form goals for the end-of-life care they provide at the hospital. Your participation and advice could have a significant impact on the hospital experience of countless families in the future. 413-527-1031. 9 Park Street. Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, April 13, 6:30pm
What would America look like today if the Confederates won the Battle of Gettysburg and seceded? That is what Glenn Swanson explores in his new book Independence. Learn about the ways in which one political event lead to another through Swanson’s imagined history. Participants will also learn new details about American historical events. Come with questions about the book or about history in general for this retired history teacher. The lecture will take place at the Gaylord Memorial Library. 413-538-5047. 47 College St, South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, April 14, 5:30pm-7:30pm
What have local students in the Pioneer Valley done to positively impact climate change? This “Climate Action Celebration” will showcase graduating UMass Amherst students as they relay what they’ve learned and what they wish they had a chance to learn about climate change and sustainability over the course of their education. Attendees will be able to discuss the future of climate change activism and the political, educational, and personal changes they hope to see locally as well as globally. Floor 26 of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at UMass Amherst. 154 Hicks Way. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, April 14, 7pm
Healthy communities depend on deep connections and understanding among people. How can we better understand, respect, and honor one another? Through what lenses do you view the world and what do things look like when you try on a new perspective? Explore Native American culture through comedy at a screening of Goin’ Native, No Reservations Needed at the Jones Library. This film, a comedy slam which showcases the talent of Native American comedians “fighting hundreds of years of stereotypes”, sheds interesting and sharp insights on the range of Native American experiences in our country. A panel of local Native people will facilitate a post-film discussion. 413-259-3223. 43 Amity St, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Watch the trailer here:

Thursday, April 14, 7pm
Whether you are already a fan of director Kirsten Johnson’s work, or you are currently unfamiliar with it, this film screening will teach you a great deal about the career of a director, and the art of documentary film. Johnson filmed Citizenfour, Fahrenheit 9/11, and The Invisible War among other films. Her newest work, Cameraperson, (not rated) is a memoir about her life and work. For this screening at Amherst Cinema Johnson will be present. 413-253-2547 x110. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. ($)

Thursday, April 14, 7pm
The phrase “net zero water” refers to water systems which reduce water waste and consumption through recycling and reusing. Under the guidance of civil engineer Chris Chamberland, the Hitchcock Center for the Environment will soon meet the goal of net zero water at its new facility. At this talk you will learn how buildings can be designed to collect rainwater for drinking, and how to process wastewater on site. Space is limited. Please call to register. 413-256-6006. 525 S Pleasant St, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Is net zero just for new construction, or can older homes become net zero buildings? Watch this team of students begin to contemplate how to convert a Victorian home to a net zero water system.

Friday, April 15, 8pm-10pm
How do you convey an idea or emotion through dance? Imaginative, award-winning dancers and choreographers Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser will be exploring the theme “Memory of the Future,” in their new performance at Smith College. Aiken and Hauser both teach as well as perform, and their teaching practice emphasizes the skill of improvisation through dance. Both dancers are skilled in collaborative improvisation techniques such as contact improvisation. Witness their performance along with other internationally recognized dancers and musicians. Northampton, MA. (<$)

Hampden County

Wednesday, April 13, 1pm-5pm
While some people are questioning the future of libraries in a digital world, the community-building component of public libraries serves an important purpose. According to a 2012 Pew Research Center report, library program attendance rose 4.1% between 2011-2012, and 37.6% between 2004 and 2012. Have you been to a program at any of the Springfield Library branches? Now is a great chance to find out what these libraries have to offer, at their open house. If you have a library card, you will be able to exchange it for a new one. If you don’t have a library card, bring identification and sign up for one. There will be programs and demonstrations at all branches throughout this open house. Come be part of a growing national trend of Americans seeking community and education through library programming. 413-263-6828, ext. 422. Springfield City Library at 220 State Street at all other branches. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Western Massachusetts is home to numerous public libraries and other educational resources. Visit our Educational Support & Local Resources page for an overview, and bookmark it for future reference!

Wednesday, April 13, 5:30pm-7:30pm
This week, educators from Holyoke Codes invite robotics enthusiasts to build a LEGO catapult! Tweak your LEGO WeDo robotics launcher design to make a cotton ball launch higher, farther, or faster. Learn about robotics, engineering, physics and coding all while having a blast. In this workshop, participants will also use the online programming tool Scratch to incorporate a sensor into their launcher. Recommended for ages ten and up. This event will take place at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. 100 Bigelow St. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, April 14, 12:15pm-1:15pm
Traveling is one of the most fun and effective ways of learning about culture. Travel is good for your brain since you have to constantly navigate an unfamiliar landscape when you travel. Depending on the level of language barriers and other cultural factors, travel can push you out of your comfort zone to varying degrees. Enjoy a lunchtime lecture at the Springfield Museums in which the speaker will discuss her recent trip to England. With plenty of photographs and fun music, the speaker will walk you through the castles, villages, homes, ruins and more which she was able to experience first hand. Consider a trip to England, or simply enjoy learning vicariously through someone else’s experience. 413-314-6488. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($)

Thursday, April 14, 7pm-8pm
Opening your mind up to the reality of holistic health can allow for innovative medical solutions. Changing your diet to improve your mood is one example of a health change which stems from a holistic view of personal health. Dr. Kathryn Hayward of Massachusetts General Hospital will be running a discussion at the Philip H. Ryan Health Science Center on Integrative Health, a holistic health system which combines conventional medicine, food, movement and mind/body/spirit disciplines. Please Note: Bay Path University employees and students are not eligible for this event. Email hpaquette@baypath.edu with any questions. Bay Path University. 588 Longmeadow St East Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Friday, April 15, all day
Sign up now to learn how to make gnocchi at the Italian Cultural Center of Western Massachusetts.  Gnocchi are delicious potato and cheese dumplings that taste particularly great when they’re homemade! Learn about Italian culture or connect with your Italian heritage by learning how to make this traditional dish. Please register by April 15th by calling 860-305-1175. This class will take place at Saturday April 23 from 1pm-4pm. 56 Margaret Street. Springfield, MA. ($$)

Friday, April 15, 8am-8:30pm
Every four years the winter and summer paralympic games showcase incredible athletes with a range of physical disabilities. For the past fourteen years, the Amelia Park Arena has hosted their Annual New England Sled Hockey Invitational Tournament, showcasing paralympians and other athletes and coaches. Witness feats of physical strength, speed, perseverance and skill this April 15-17. See the Amelia Park website for a full schedule of events. 413-568-2503. 21 S Broad St, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Meet some of the US sled hockey players and learn more about the sport!

Other Counties

Monday, April 11, 10am-2pm
Give your children the chance to move past paper airplane building and into the wide world of model airplanes at the New England Air Museum. Airplane and space enthusiasts ages ten and up are invited to build and fly an AMA Delta Dart model airplane. This is a fantastic introduction to model building since there will be experts there to help every step of the way. Building model planes and other objects helps children improve their dexterity, patience, and ability to follow directions. And they feel the thrill of a job well done as they fly their model planes! 860-623-3305. 36 Perimeter Rd,Windsor Locks, CT. ($)

Tuesday, April 12, 10am-3pm
Boomerangs are a fun and fascinating toy. More than just a toy, however, the boomerang is one of humanity’s oldest inventions that can take flight on its own! The oldest known boomerang is estimated to be at least 20,000 years old and early iterations of the object were most likely used as hunting weapons. Boomerangs interesting scientifically, as well as historically. Just what is it that makes boomerangs come back? In short, one wing spins faster than the other. Come to the New England Air Museum to learn more about the physics of boomerangs and build your own to take home! 860-623-3305. 36 Perimeter Rd,Windsor Locks, CT. ($)

How do boomerangs work, anyway?

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