Learning Ahead: May 2nd-6th, 2016

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

This week we are featuring 26 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, May 3, 4pm
Like fine art, ancient maps attract avid collectors as well as thieves. In his 2014 book, The Map Thief, author Michael Blanding tells the story of once-reputable map dealer E. Forbes Smiley. His book delves into the history of New World cartography as well as modern obsession and attachment to rare objects. You can hear him discuss his book at Williams College, and ask questions in the post-presentation discussion. This talk will take place in the Sawyer Library Archives Chapin Instruction Room 452. 26 Hopkins Hall Drive, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

What drives us to create maps? How have different civilizations throughout history recorded important maps? Learn more about the history of maps here:

Wednesday, May 4, 7am-9am
Do you love to watch birds? Can you name some of the species that are frequently found visiting backyard bird feeders? Would you like to know more, or to simply enjoy some time connecting to nature? Bird watching is a wonderful way to get outdoors early in the morning while the world is especially peaceful. Jonathan Pierce, caretaker of the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, runs this weekly bird walk for beginning and advanced birders. Learn new bird species as you explore the sanctuary. 413-637-0320. 472 West Mountain Road, Lenox, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 4, 3pm
Although more than half of planet Earth is comprised of oceans, they remain largely an unexplored mystery to humans. Deep sea exploration has made large strides in recent years, revealing a diverse and previously unknown biota. You can learn a little of what we know, and don’t know, about deep oceans from oceanographer David Gallo’s talk at the Berkshire Museum. His presentation, “Deep Ocean, Deep Secrets: What Do the Oceans Mean to Us?” is included with regular museum admission. Seating is limited; please call 413-443-7171 ext. 360 to reserve your seat. 39 South Street, Pittsfield, MA. ($. Under 18 <$. Under 3 FREE)

Friday, May 6, 4pm and 7 pm
Animated films can be created through a variety of artistic techniques, including hand-drawn, paint on glass, stop-motion, and computer-generated. The eleven, international short films being screened at the Berkshire Museum will depict each of these artistic techniques. Documentary portraits will also discuss the creative process of directors. Visit the exhibitions and attend this screening for a full day of artistic exploration. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street, Pittsfield, MA. ($. Under 18 <$. Under 3 FREE)

Ever wonder how stop motion animation puppets are made? Take a look!

Friday, May 6, 7pm-9pm
Hand drums and other percussion instruments are perfect for highly inclusive music sessions. Playing drums does not require any melodic knowledge, just rhythm. All are invited to a community drum and dance night at Berkcirque. Bring hand drums if you have them. 413-429-4215. 115 Gas House Lane, Great Barrington, MA. (DONATION)

Franklin County

Tuesday, May 3, 6:30pm
When we think of worms, earthworms may come to mind, given that they are common and easy to spot. But worms live in almost all parts of the world including marine and freshwater habitats. You can learn about the freshwater worms living in the Connecticut river in this presentation at the Northfield Public Library. 413-498-2455. 115 Main St, Northfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 4, 9am-11am
Why do the police “read citizens their rights” when arresting them? The practice of informing citizens of their right to remain silent stems from a U.S. Supreme court decision in the case Miranda vs. Arizona, in 1966. For its Annual Law Day event, The Franklin County Bar Association and the Northwestern District Attorney will be exploring this case in detail at Greenfield Community College. For more information contact Christine Baronas at 413-773-9839. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 4, 6pm
Gardener and author Pat Leuchtman has educated readers about gardening through her newspaper column, website, and books. She documents her own experiences with gardening through writing and photographs. This information can help others identify plants and understand how to effectively grow them. She will be speaking about perennial gardening and sustainable roses at the Greenfield Public Library413-772-1544. 402 Main Street, Greenfield, MA (FREE)

Hampshire County

Tuesday, May 3, 5:45pm-8pm
The Hilltown Community Development Center works towards improving the community through housing and transportation projects, small business assistance, and various community engagement initiatives. You can learn about the work they have already done at their 2016 annual meeting. Board members will be elected between 7:45 and 8pm. Have your say in the future of your community! This event is open to everyone and handicap accessible. Please call 413-296-4536 ext. 110 to RSVP. Chesterfield Senior/Community Center. 400 Main Road, Chesterfield, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, May 3, 6:30pm
The Spring Choral Concert of the Northampton Community Music Center will feature vocal music from high definition, Ku’umba Women’s Choir, and Berkshire Hills Music Academy Chorus. The concert will take place in Edwards Church of Northampton. 413-585-0001. 297 Main Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Listen to the Ku’umba Women’s Choir perform Storm is Passing Over.

Tuesday, May 3, 7pm
War is a topic which has made its way into all literary and artistic genres, from Civil War photography and poetry to modern day graphic novels and performance art. People perceive of and discuss war from a deeply personal standpoint, as well as a political one. Jim Hicks will be discussing his book, Lessons from Sarajevo: A War Stories Primer, at the Jones library. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, May 3, 7pm
The 2014 documentary, Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story (not rated) explores why Americans throw away huge amounts of food. Food waste occurs on an individual basis through poor planning and overly strict adherence to expiration dates. It also occurs on a large scale basis by grocery stores. The filmmakers will show you the journey food takes to the trash can, with perspectives from farmers, retailers, inspiring organizations, and consumers. This screening at Amherst Cinema will also feature a discussion led by Congressman Jim McGovern, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts Executive Director Andrew Morehouse, and Gideon Porth of Atlas Farms. 413-253-2547. 28 Amity Street, Amherst, MA. (<$)

Watch the trailer here:

Thursday, May 5, 8:30am-4pm
What are perfumes made of? It depends on the scent the perfume creators want. Flowers and other plants will create an Earthy, floral fragrance. Other natural ingredients could include spices, fruit, wood, roots, or resins. Alcohol often serves as a base. You can learn about the use of plant scents in this Smith College exhibit in the Lyman Conservatory. You will be able to sample a French fragrance, Datura Noir. This exhibit will be open daily from 8:30am-4pm until May 31st. College Lane, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, May 5, 7pm
Amherst College Department of Music’s annual “Concertofest” will showcase various Senior instrumentalists and orchestra leaders performing some of their best work. Come witness the culmination of years of effort as these students perform music from composers such as Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. You will hear violins, horns, and more. Buckley Recital Hall in the Arms Music Center. 53 College Street, Amherst, MA. ($. Seniors <$. Children 12 and under and five college students with ID FREE)

Thursday, May 5, 7:30pm
Friday, May 6, 7:30pm
With its musical roots in hip-hop and salsa, In The Heights took audiences by storm when it hit Broadway in 2008. This play tells the story of residents in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in Upper Manhattan, as they struggle to make lives for themselves despite poverty, oppression, and gentrification. To help the student cast better understand the origin of this production, Williston theater director Emily Ditkovski took her students to New York City in January to learn about the play’s development first hand, while having lunch with members of the original Broadway cast! The students then toured Washington Heights. Preparing for this play has been a journey of discovery for these students. The performances are the result of extensive study and cultural immersion, giving this show a unique and vibrant authenticity. In The Heights is said to be a beautiful celebration of family, love, and the resilience of the human spirit. Performances will be held at The Williston Northampton Theater. 413-529-3000. 19 Payson Avenue, Easthampton, MA. ($)

Friday, May 6, 3pm-8pm
Where art is located or performed may influence the way we think about it. Artwork preserved in a temperature-controlled gallery may affect viewers differently than art placed outdoors. Mobile Art Boxes mix elements of both gallery and outdoor artworks. These works of art are created in and around DIY Mobile Boxes, 8’x8’x16’ storage units. As such, they are partially enclosed, yet mobile. The Mobile Art Boxes at Florence Night Out 2016 will be placed all over downtown Florence, allowing for the chance of being stumbled upon by accident as well as sought out by attendees of the event. Each box will contain the work of a single artist, using experimental installation, video, sculpture, painting, dancing, graffiti and sound performance. Connect with Florence community members as you explore these unique works of art. For a complete schedule, please visit the Florence Night Out website. Contact Joshua Braska at 413-330-5462 with any questions. Florence, MA. (FREE)

Hampden County

Monday, May 2, 9:30am-4pm
What can toys or games tell you about the culture of the time in which they were created? The popularity of certain toys gives some indication of taste, and cultural priorities. The Pioneer Valley History Network’s Spring gathering will concentrate on the theme, “Toys in the Attic,” exploring historical topics through toys, picture books, and games. At 9:30am, the day will begin with a business meeting. Then historians will discuss Milton Bradley, picture book art, and various old toys and games. Visit the Pioneer Valley History Network’s website to see the full schedule of talks to take place at Storrowton Village, and to register. 413-205-5051. 1305 Memorial Ave, West Springfield, MA. ($)

Did you know some folks use toy pianos to create more than simple music? Listen to classically trained musician, Margaret Leng Tan, perform using her collection of toy pianos.

Monday, May 2, 6:30pm
Performing music, theater, or comedy in front of a supportive audience and as part of a team can help teenagers and children achieve high self-esteem and a sense of belonging. Theater allows actors to express themselves creatively through various characters, while becoming more in-tune to emotions through their performance training. The skill to project your voice and articulate your words is useful for many career paths. The Drama Studio provides youth with the opportunity to intensively study theater through after school programs and vacation camps. Come to their Cabaret performance to witness a showcase of acting, comedy, stage combat, dance and musical theatre. 413-739-1983. 41 Oakland Street, Springfield, MA. ($. <$ Students.)

Tuesday, May 3, 6:30pm
It can be useful to look at health from a gendered perspective. Heart disease, for example, is the number one cause of death in the United States for both women and men, yet women experience different heart attack symptoms than men do. Dr. Patricia Martin, clinical psychologist and author of The Other Couch: Discovering Women’s Wisdom in Therapy will be discussing women’s mental and physical health at the Richard Salter Storrs Library. 413-565-4181. 693 Longmeadow Street, Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 4, 5:30pm-6pm
The Star Wars saga has captured die-hard fans for generations since it first screened in May 1977. The film may be modern in some of its concepts, but the core of the plot is a classic mythological tale. The hero must go on a dangerous quest to fulfill his destiny, overcome obstacles and discover his true self. The Star Wars series can be an entry point for understanding the tradition of mythological storytelling and its cultural purpose. Star Wars fans of all ages are invited to the Westfield Athenaeum to screen the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens (PG-13) and engage in crafts and other activities. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 4, 6:30pm
Are you a beginner mandolin player? Bring your mandolin to the Storrs Library for this three-part series of mandolin lessons! For those who don’t know, the mandolin is a string instrument in the lute family. This instrument originated in Italy. In the United States it is often utilized to play folk, celtic or bluegrass music. One Wednesday a month, April 6, May 4th and June 1st, join other beginners as you grow into more knowledgeable and skilled musicians together. Seth Roberts of The Blueberry Hill Boys will be running these sessions. Email questions to: asethroberts@gmail.com. 413- 565-4181. 693 Longmeadow St, Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, May 5, 3pm-4pm
Are you a Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin? The sorting of characters into houses in Harry Potter teaches readers about loyalty and teamwork. Harry Potter fans between the ages of 12 and 18 are invited to work together with other members of their house, in competition for the House Cup, at the Westfield Athenaeum. Discover something about yourself, your communication style, and your leadership style as you undertake this creative team challenge! 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, May 5, 5:30pm-8pm
In honor of Children’s Mental Health Week, adult and children’s psychiatrist Dr. Ned Hallowell will be speaking on the topic of emotional and learning challenges in children. Hallowell has taught at Harvard Medical School and published books about children’s anxiety. He is also a leading authority on ADHD. Parents, educators, and anyone interested in learning about these topics of psychology and neuroscience will likely find the information interesting and informative. Current and former members of The Support Network will receive free admission. Log Cabin. 500 Easthampton Road, Holyoke MA. ($$)

Thursday, May 5, 6pm-8pm
Most children spend a good deal of time coloring for fun, but most adults who are not professional artists give up the hobby. No matter your artistic ability, creating art is a skill like any other, and you can improve with help. More importantly, creating art is a relaxing form of self-expression. Experts and novices alike are invited to the Russell Public Library to learn pastel techniques and create a still life work with artist and teacher Gregory Maichack. This event will fill up quickly. Please register by calling 413-862-6221. 162 Main Street, Russell, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, May 5, 7pm
The narrative nature of folk music makes it an interesting vehicle for learning about culture and history. Adam Miller is a storyteller, musician, and expert on American folksongs and folklore. He will be showcasing his interactive, musical performance, “Singing through History!” at the Holyoke Public Library. His performance can be easily connected to some of the folk tales available at the library, for those who wish to continue exploring this topic in the future. 413-420-8101. 250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Get a taste of Adam Miller’s work as you watch his performance of The Frog Song.

Thursday, May 5, 7:30pm-9:30pm
Steelpan drums are barrel-shaped instruments built from sheet metal, and they can cover different octave ranges depending on their design. Steelpans originated in Trinidad and Tobago and have existed for less than 150 years (a relatively short time compared to many instruments). You can learn more about this type of instrument through presentation and performance of Steel Pan Jazz and Caribbean Rhythms. Ron Reid, faculty at Berklee College of Music, will perform with his Sunsteel Quartet and answer your questions. Gateway City Arts. 413-650-2670. 92 Race St, Holyoke, MA. (DONATION)

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