Learning Ahead: April 25th-29th, 2016

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

This week we are featuring 24 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

Tuesday, April 26, 4pm
The constitutional statements concerning separation of church and state have far-reaching impact on individual ideology, institutions, and even geography. In his forthcoming novel, Landscapes of the Secular: Law, Religion, and American Sacred Space, Nicholas Howe explores the intersection of these concepts. He discusses America’s nominal secularity, combined with freedom of religion, and how these concepts impact the way individuals view the American landscape. His book covers many topics: religious studies, architecture, geography, constitutional law and environmental history. He will be discussing this book at Williams College in the Stetson Reading Room of the Sawyer Library. 26 Hopkins Hall Drive, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, April 27, 8am
For humans, the natural world is peaceful and a great place to learn. Once you become interested in identifying birds (as well as plants, trees, and other wildlife) nature walks become puzzles to solve. Hosted by the Hoffman Bird Club, this beginning bird identification walk around Jackson Pond will get you started with basic bird identification tips and examples of local birds to look and listen for. Bring water and a snack. Contact Doug at dbruce@bnrc.net or 413-499-0596 with questions. Meet at the Stockbridge Bowl boat launch on Route 183. Stockbridge, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, April 27, 6:30pm-8pm
Muriel Rukeyser once posed this challenge: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” The Powder Keg Sessions is a women’s writing workshop at the Ramsdell library, where women come together to share their truths. The workshops are run by Suzi Banks Baum, an author, artist, and mother who teaches classes on nurturing the habit of daily writing. Come see what writing can do for you, and what your writing can do for others. 413- 274-3738. 1087 Main St, Housatonic, MA. (FREE)

Friday, April 29, 8am-10am
The holistic health benefits of spending time in nature are intuitive for anyone who does so. Scientific study of the phenomenon is also useful, though, for providing more information on these benefits. Nature walks may improve focus, mood, and even visual acuity. Bird watching is a wonderful way to get outdoors early in the morning while the world is especially peaceful. A nature walk early in the morning starts your day off right. Beginners and experts alike are invited to a bird walk at Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary. This event is best suited for adults and self-directed teens. Please bring binoculars. 413-637-0320. Holmes Road, Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

Franklin County

Wednesday, April 27, 6:30pm
The documentary series The Raising of America is meant to increase awareness of the struggles of modern parenting in this country, and to inspire changes in our education system, employment benefits, and culture. The film discusses political issues such as paid parental leave, sick leave, and affordable housing. Screening the film with other parents, educators, and people who care about children, is particularly productive. After this screening at the New Salem Public Library you can discuss potential solutions and ways of advocating with other parents and educators. If you are interested in this film but cannot attend this screening, view the listing below in Hampden County on Monday, April 25th. 978-544-6334. 23 South Main Street, New Salem, MA. (FREE)

Watch the trailer here:

Friday, April 29, 6:30pm-8pm
As the seasons change, the Earth opens up new nutritional possibilities through thriving local plants. At the same time, some people experience health issues with the changing seasons, such as allergies. Come to the Northfield Public Library to learn about local plants, herbal teas, tinctures, and oils. Ally Sterling from Delicious Dirt Apothecary will explain the health benefits of these products, and you’ll have a chance to make your own herbal tea and a salt scrub to take home. 413-498-2455. 115 Main Street, Northfield, MA. (FREE)

Hampshire County

Monday, April 25, 6pm
Baseball players and fans often memorize historical facts about players including statistics on their performance. This can come in handy at trivia nights, and it can also be a starting point for advanced statistical analysis. “Sabermetrics” is a term referring specifically to the empirical analysis of baseball. Come to this Sci Tech Cafe event at Union Station to hear more about it from a Ben Baumer, professor of statistics and data sciences at Smith College. 413-341-3161. 125 Pleasant Street, Northampton, MA. (DONATION)

Want to hear a bit more about sabermetrics? Listen to this interview with Bill James, father of sabermetrics, by NPR’s Neal Conan.

Monday, April 25, 6:30pm
Discussing books with friends can enrich your experience of the text and even challenge your opinions on what you’ve read. Unfortunately, this can become a less frequent activity as we grow older and, in most cases, leave formal classes behind. Come to the Emily Williston Library for a discussion of I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. There is much to discuss in this autobiography from the inspiring girl who risked her life for education at the age of fifteen. Share your insights on education, culture studies, politics, feminism and the ways Malala’s story influenced your perception of these issues. 413-527-1031. 9 Park Street, Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Monday, April 25, 7pm
Alta and Matt DeChamplain are jazz musicians, drawing inspiration from Nat Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Corea and many more jazz greats when they write and play music. The couple will be performing at the Gaylord Memorial Library as part of the library’s music Monday series. Hear a range of jazz styles and see if you can detect how their musical tastes have influenced their compositional styles. 413-538-5047. 47 College Street, South Hadley, MA. ($. Students <$)

Monday, April 25, 7pm
In addition to taking immense effort and time, and changing the structure of your life, parenting affects your identity. We are, in many ways, what we do. Parents ought to take great pride in the daily work of parenting and allow it to be an important part of their personal identity. It can be difficult for parents to maintain hobbies and interests which used to be a bigger part of their self-definition. On the other hand, the intense emotional experience of parenting can be inspiration for many types of art and other hobbies. Amy Dryansky is a poet as well as a parent of two. She will be discussing her strategies for overcoming writer’s block and finding time to write at the Forbes Library. 413-587-1011. 20 West Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 26, 6:30pm-8pm
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the raw food diet, a nutritional lifestyle of eating uncooked, unprocessed and mostly organic foods. Diet is inexplicably tied to lifestyle, and you may have questions about how raw food meals work. What sort of raw food recipes can you prepare? What are the nutritional benefits of these foods? You don’t have to eliminate cooked meals from your life, but you may want to expand your diet to include more frequent ingestion of raw foods. Raw food expert Johanna Sophia will be able to answer your questions in her “Benefits of Raw Foods” workshop at River Valley Co Op. Pre-registration is required. Call 413-584-2665 or sign up at Customer Service. 330 North King Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 26, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Happiness studies have exploded in the last several years. It seems natural that neuroscientists and psychologists would be interested in empirically analyzing happiness, since it is often cited as the thing humans desire the most. Naturally, then, it is also one of the things parents want most for their children. And yet, happiness is elusive, and people often look for it in entirely the wrong places. Come to this presentation, “Raising a Happy Child,” and learn about the emotional tools and behaviors you can teach your children. Children often learn from example, and parents will likely come away from this talk with ideas on improving their own emotional state as well. Organized by the Amherst Regional High School PGO and held at the Amherst Middle School Auditorium. Register for childcare by April 20th. 413-783-5500 ext 16. 170 Chestnut Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Interested in learning more about happiness? Watch this TED talk by Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and director of the longest study on adult development, about “What Makes a Good Life.”

Tuesday, April 26, 7pm
The public awareness campaign Money Smart Week seeks to educate people of all ages on the topic of financial literacy. You can test your own knowledge by attending Understanding Credit at the Jones Library, a workshop on the wise use of credit which will cover concepts like your credit score and the best credit cards. Adults and older teens will likely find this highly valuable. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, April 27, 7pm
Have you been to a reading this National Poetry Month? It’s not too late! The Pelham Library will be celebrating with a reading from three local poets: Sarah Sousa, Richard Michelson and Michael Teig. Sarah Sousa has won numerous awards for her poetry and has also published prose. Richard Michelson is a prize-winning poet and children’s book author. Michael Teig is a founding editor of the international poetry journal, jubilat. Come hear three distinct and talented poetic voices. 413-253-0657. 2 South Valley Road. Pelham MA, (FREE)

Thursday, April 28, 6pm-8pm
Do you love notebooks? You can make your own notebook for writing or drawing out of tea boxes and coffee cup sleeves. Rather than throwing these items away, use them as a blank slate for creativity. This event is great for self-expression since participants get to creative the notebook itself as well as use it for a vehicle for future creative projects. This event is best suited for adults and teens. Please email library.pelham@gmail.com or sign up in person at the Pelham Library. Space is limited. 413-253-0657. 2 South Valley Road. Pelham MA, (FREE)

Trying to get your upcycling juices flowing? Watch this slide show of clever upcycling ideas for inspiration!

Thursday, April 28, 7pm
Parent’s today have to compete with pervasive media and advertising for their children’s attention. What’s worse, these media outlets often promote unhealthy values such as materialism, consumerism and violence. Child development expert Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige works to fight back against these pressures on children through her work and research. She will be discussing her research and her book, Taking Back Childhood: A Proven Roadmap for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassionate Kids at The Eric Carle Museum. Please call 413-256-8989 to RSVP. 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, April 28, 8pm
Jane Ira Bloom is a composer and a soprano saxophone player who has drawn inspiration from the words of Emily Dickinson for her latest performance piece, Wild Lines. Bloom draws connections between poetry and jazz, and believes that “Emily used words the way jazz musicians use notes.” You can witness feats of composition and performance by the Jane Ira Bloom Quartet, to take place in Bezanson Recital Hall at UMass Amherst. 413-545-2227. Amherst, MA. ($. Students <$)

Friday, April 29, 8pm
The Amherst College Concert Choir provides students a possibility to connect with their peers and their community through music. In 2001, this group went on a European tour to Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. At this performance you can hear their rendition of performs the Liebeslieder Waltzes (Lovesong Waltzes) by Brahams, as well as Six Chansons of Paul Hindemith, and Three Ancient Irish Airs by Percy Hall. Vocal music such as choir performances can demonstrate to audiences that the emotions expressed through music transcend barriers of language and culture. 413-542-2484. Amherst College, Buckley Recital Hall, 53 College Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Hampden County

Monday, April 25, 12pm-2:30pm
The documentary series The Raising of America is meant to increase awareness of the struggles of modern parenting in this country, and to inspire changes in our education system, employment benefits, and culture. The film discusses political issues such as paid parental leave, sick leave, and affordable housing. Screening the film with other parents, educators, and people who care about children, is particularly productive. This screening at Mercy Medical Center will involve a lunch, panel discussion, and group conversation. Attendees will be able to look at the problem in a localized way and suggest potential solutions. If you are interested in this film but cannot attend this screening, view the listing above in Franklin County on Wednesday, April 27. 271 Carew Street, Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, April 26, 1pm-2:30pm
No matter where you are in your career path you are invited to a resume writing workshop which will provide help formatting and wording your resume. Sometimes new trends emerge in resume writing, so it can be helpful to gain advice from knowledgeable people. Even if you are an expert, a fresh set of eyes can lend insight, pointing out strengths, weaknesses, and typos! Meet in the Committee Room of the Westfield Athenaeum. Participants will need either an email address or a USB flash drive to save their work. Please call 413-562-0716 to register. 6 Elm Street, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, April 28, 12:15pm-1:15pm
It can be difficult to wrap your head around the fact that birds, which are usually small, are closely related to a type of dinosaur which evolved over 60 million years ago. It may be easier to see resemblance in larger birds, such as emus. The Springfield Museums will be hosting a talk on emus, explaining their relation to large, meat-eating dinosaurs, and why farmers in America raise these ancient birds which originate from Australia. This talk will also teach listeners about the life cycle of emus, including development of the embryo. Attendees are invited to bring a lunch. 413-314-6488. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (<$)

Thursday, April 28, 1pm-2pm
Do you or someone you know need help building your computer skills? This Introduction to Microsoft Word workshop at the Westfield Athenaeum. will get you started creating, editing and saving documents.The workshop leader will help you set pages up with your preferred formatting, and show you how to cut, copy and paste words and images. Please call 413-562-0716 to register. 6 Elm Street, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, April 28, 7pm-8:30pm
There are many sub-genres of music under the general distinction of “jazz”: Bebop, free jazz, jazz fusion, smooth jazz, big band, and many more. Dixieland music is one of the first types of jazz, emerging in the 1910s in New Orleans and later spreading to Chicago and New York. You can learn about the genre in the most fun way possible: hearing it live with your friends and family. Dixieland Stomp will be performing at Chester Railway Station. 413-686-5027. 10 Prospect Street, Chester MA. (FREE)

Get a front row view of Dixieland Stomp as they play their signature sounds during a community parade!

Thursday, April 28, 7:30pm
Friday, April 29, 7:30pm
Listening to another person speak from his or her own experience can be a powerful way to gain a better sense of other cultures, families, and lives. Award-winning comedian and storyteller Steve Solomon will walk you through his childhood, growing up with an Italian mother and a Jewish father, in his show “Cannoli, Latkes, and Guilt.” In this one-man show, Soloman will capture the voice and mannerisms of many characters as he presents the story of his dysfunctional yet lovable family. City Stage150 Bridge Street, Springfield, MA. ($$)

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