Learning Ahead: May 9th-13th, 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.

See your banner here! Sponsor Learning Ahead!

Berkshire County

Monday, May 9, 1:30pm and 7pm
This screening of family-friendly, short animated films at the Berkshire Museum allows children and adults to learn about art, film, biology, and natural history. Filmmakers and journalists capture science and natural history with paper-puppet animation techniques. This screening is free with regular museum admission. Be sure to check out the ArtZoo exhibit for further learning about animals and art! 413-443-7171. 39 South Street, Pittsfield, MA. ($. Under 18 <$. Under 3 FREE)

Watch one way in which paper has been used to create beautiful, nature-themed animated films.

Tuesday, May 10, 5:30pm
People who work with art, including art historians, art librarians, gallery owners and collectors, have a wide range of knowledge beyond appreciation of beauty. An unidentified, anonymous work of art is a puzzle to solve, requiring research techniques to determine the medium, time period, fiscal value, and possibly the creator of the work. Conservation and restoration are other facets of art history. Julia Silverman, Williams College Student (class of 2016) has worked to research and conserve three eighteenth-century engraved horns. These works are part of the Historic Deerfield collection. She will be discussing her work at the Lunder Center at Stone Hill on the Clark Art Institute’s campus. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street, Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, May 10, 6:30pm
Self-doubt is common emotion for writers, even successful, professional writers. Sion Dayson overcame her insecurity as a writer in an unusual way, living for three months in the former home of Jack Kerouac. At this screening of the documentary short, “Haunting the Kerouac House,” you will learn about literary history and the creative process. Sion Dayson, as well as the film’s director Frederic Monpierre, will be present during the screening and will discuss their collaborative work. Come to the Stockbridge Library to meet them and learn about their work. 413-298-5501. 46 Main Street, Stockbridge, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 11, 7pm-9pm
Images Cinema is a non-profit movie theater which showcases works which have had a significant impact on the art of filmmaking. Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing (rated R) had a strong impact on film as well as the national dialogue surrounding race. The film received universal acclaim and won many awards for directing, acting, and best picture. Screening this film can get viewers thinking about how race relations have and have not changed in this country, and how modern films depict these issues. 413-458-5612. 50 Spring Street, Williamstown, MA. (<$)

Friday, May 13, 7am-9am
Identifying birds by their calls is a great introduction to both nature studies and music theory. Do you know what a “major third” sounds like? This is an interval of two whole steps on a major scale, and it is used by the white-throated sparrow in one of their two main bird songs. You don’t have to know anything about music to identify birds by their calls, however. You just have to learn what sounds to listen for. Noreen Mole and Jonathan Pierce will teach you about the appearance and sounds of wood warblers and other birds in this hike around the Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary. Spring is a great time to learn about migrating birds. Beginners are welcome. This program is best suited for adults. Bring binoculars. 413-637-0320. Holmes Road, Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

Franklin County

Monday, May 9, 6:30pm
Three core tenets of permaculture are: “Care for the Earth, Care for the people, and Return of Surplus.” Return of surplus reflects the first two tenets, advising that people not take more than they need and that they grow plants in a sustainable way. While permaculture is a complex practice and a far-reaching philosophy, you can engage in it close to home and independently. Ashley from Broadfork Permaculture will be teaching attendees at this workshop how to use permaculture concepts to build a resilient, backyard garden. Gardening in this way can help you reduce your energy usage and bolster ecological health. Learn more at this workshop at the Sunderland Public Library. 413-665 2642. 20 School Street, Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

View a primer on permaculture here:

Tuesday, May 10, 6:30pm
Learning about wild edible plants opens up new possibilities for learning and lifestyle, filling your nature walks with new discoveries and your dinner with fresh ingredients! Plant identification books can get you started, but it’s more fun to learn with friends. Russ Cohen will be taking community members on a foraging walk on the trails around the Northfield Public Library. 413-498-2455. 115 Main St, Northfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 11, 7pm
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. You can screen this film with community members at the Shutesbury Town Hall, sponsored by the Spear Library. 10 Cooleyville Road, Shutesbury, MA. (FREE)

Hampshire County

Monday, May 9, 10am
Computers have become ubiquitous and computer skills are essential to many jobs, hobbies, and even in maintaining relationships. Want to boost your technological skills? The Westhampton Public Library will be offering computer help in the community room. Please come prepared with specific questions or skills in mind that you would like to master. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road. Westhampton, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, May 10, 6:30pm
Scientists have theorized that cats essentially domesticated themselves, thousands of years ago after humans domesticated livestock. Cats begun to spend their time hunting the rodents that lived near humans, and became less aggressive. Today, pet owners actively take care of their cats by feeding and grooming and providing them with good medical care. You can learn about new research into the feline family and how to be a better pet owner at this workshop at River Valley Co-op. Registration is required by calling 413-584-2665. 330 North King Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Fascinated by cat behavior? Learn even more about it here!

Tuesday, May 10, 7pm-8pm
Screening locally made films can connect you with local artists while teaching you about history and current events in your community. Harvey Allen: A Man for all Seasons, is a 35 minute documentary film about the life of a Pioneer Valley resident who spend his days among the farmland, fields, and forests in this area. This film focuses on the importance of a strong sense of place. This screening at The Parlor Room is sponsored by Focus Locus as part of a series of local film screenings and open mics. If you’re interested in showing your work through Focus Locus, please contact Dave Newland at dnewland@northamptontv.org. 413-923-2800. 32 Masonic Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 11, all day
Oral histories serve as an important resource for cultural preservation and historical research. Oral histories are first person accounts, capturing time periods and events through individual perspectives. You can help preserve Jewish history by volunteering for the The Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project. This experience can help you build your resume and teach you valuable skills related to history, anthropology, and research. Please address all inquiries to Natalie King, the oral history administrative assistant, at tellyourstory@yiddishbookcenter.org or by calling 413-256-4900, ext. 148. Apply for this online position at the Yiddish Book Center website by May 11th 2016. 1021 West St, Amherst, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

Wednesday, May 11, 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. Plants are the basis of essential oils used in perfume. Explore the fascinating world of plant scent and sample a fine French fragrance, Datura Noir. This exhibit will be open daily from 8:30am-4pm until May 31st. College Lane, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, May 12, 1pm
It has been more than thirty years since planning began on The Human Genome Project, the largest collaborative biological research effort, which aimed to determine all of the genes of the human genome. This project has provided a foundation for the scientific community to make huge strides in genetic and genomic research. Dr. Stephen Cole studies the relationship between genes and social behavior. You can hear him identify which genes are subject to social regulation at a presentation at UMass Amherst. Campus Center Room 917. 413-545-4631. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Want to brush up on your foundational genetics? Watch this BBC “Knowledge Explainer” about DNA.

Thursday, May 12, 7pm
Venues across the Pioneer Valley are hosting Shakespeare themed events, in order to support the current Williams College exhibition, “‘While Thy Booke Doth Live’: Shakespeare and His World.” Amherst Cinema is putting on this one time, free screening of the 1965 film, Chimes at Midnight, directed by and starring Orson Welles. This unique Shakespeare adaptation draws from parts f multiple plays: Henry IV, Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. 413-253-2547. 28 Amity Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, May 12, 7pm
Want to get involved in fighting Islamophobia in our local community? If you find you have a limited understanding, you can educate yourself about some of the challenges Muslim women face, including the harmful stereotypes our society perpetuates about them, at this film screening at the Jones library. Attendees will watch the documentary Just a Piece of Cloth, a film about the hijab as it relates to issues faced by Muslim women. After the screening you can participate in a facilitated discussion to further enhance your understanding of these issues. Members of our local Muslim community are welcome to attend and contribute to this discussion. This event is free and open to all. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Watch this film’s trailer here:

Friday, May 13, all day
Imagine going outside and counting all the species of birds, plants, reptiles, amphibians, and insects- all the living things you could find. Alone, this would be a draining exercise. But with lots of help you could identify a lot of local species and learn a great deal about the biodiversity of your region. That’s exactly what will take place at The Hitchcock Center’s 17th Annual 2016 Biothon, a fundraiser for the Center’s environmental education programs. Teams will compete to identify the most species at specific sites for any time period (up to 24-hours) on Friday, May 13 – Sunday, May 15 or on Friday, June 3 – Sunday, June 5. Teams will choose their day, time, location, and what species to count. Visit the Hitchcock Center for the Environment website for more information. Locations vary, MA. (FUNDRAISER)

Friday, May 13, 12:30pm-5pm
Parents, educators, and others who regularly interacts with teens, need to know how to identify a mental health crisis and act accordingly. This Youth Mental Health First Aid training will identify common mental health challenges for young people and outlines steps to take in a crisis, or non crisis situation. This course will cover topics such as anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders and eating disorders. 413-582-0471 Ext. 5559. 8 Atwood Drive, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Friday, May 13, 4pm-8pm
Do you like to make abstract art? Activities at the Smith College Museum of Art will encourage abstract art making through experimentation with unusual tools. Participants of all ages will unleash their creativity without paintbrushes. If you prefer making realistic drawings or paintings, this is a great opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new. Hands-on art activities will take place from 4-6pm, followed by a guided gallery talk. 413-585-2760. 20 Elm Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Get excited about abstract art in its myriad forms by watching Optical Poem, a short abstract art film by Oskar Fischinger.

Friday, May 13, 5pm-8pm
Want to learn about local, agricultural history through contemporary art? Come to the opening reception of the exhibit, The Great Meadow: Natural and Cultural Histories of Northampton’s Meadows, at Historic Northampton. The meadows in Northampton are an unusual space, used as farmland, a nature preserve, a recreational space, a place where suspicious packages are detonated, and more. You can view this space through the eyes of local artists. Nick Baker, Claudette Lambert-Peterson, and Anthony W. Lee capture the land through photographs and illustrations. 46 Bridge Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Friday, May 13, 7pm-9pm
Why does popcorn pop? Corn contains water, which turns to steam, creating pressure inside the hard outer shell and eventually exploding. This is an example of a commonplace chemical reaction. Another common chemical reaction is oxidation. Tarnished silver, rust on a bicycle, and discoloration in some spoiled meats are all results of oxidation. Taking a closer and more analytical look at everyday chemical reactions can be interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the more elaborate and engaging demonstrations which are going to be put on by the UMass Amherst Department of Chemistry. Young scientists, roughly between the ages of five and seventeen, are invited to watch fascinating chemical reactions and engage in some hands-on learning projects. For more information or to RSVP, contact Raina Kittilstved at rkittilstved@chem.umass.edu. Please RSVP by May 11th. This event will take place in the UMass Integrated Sciences Building, Room 135. 661 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Chemical reactions are not only fascinating, they can be quite beautiful. Watch these chemical reactions unfold before your eyes!

Hampden County

Monday, May 9, 10am-1pm
The transit of Mercury is an astronomical phenomenon in which Mercury comes between Earth and the Sun, and can be seen as a tiny black dot moving across the sun. How do astronomers predict events like the transit of Mercury with such accuracy? In short, advanced mathematics. Astronomers draw from concepts of Physics, and use Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Calculus to make measurements of distances between objects in the sky, and predictions of when they will appear in various ways from Earth. You can witness the transit of Mercury with your own eyes at the Springfield Museums. Check the Museums’ Facebook page to make sure the event is happening, as it is weather dependent. Free with museum admission. 413-263-6800, ext. 318. 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Under 3 and museum members FREE)

Learn more about the upcoming transit of Mercury from NASA:

Tuesday, May 10, 7-9pm
In today’s climate of division and Islamophobia, it is easy to imagine that we are going through a uniquely troubling moment in our history that is out of sync with our national ethos of religious tolerance. In his book, American Heretics, Dr. Peter Gottschalk provides a historical perspective on the treatment of various religious groups. Dr. Peter Gottschalk and Muslim activist, Tahira Wadud will examine religious intolerance and ways to combat it in the current climate. For more information, see the Mass Humanities website. (978) 660 2844. 734 Longmeadow Street , Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 11, 3pm-4pm
Come make your voice heard and share what you would like to find at the Westfield Athenaeum. Library patrons between the ages of 12 and 18 are invited to join the Teen Advisory Board and help brainstorm programming, and suggestions for the collection. If you would like to join, please contact Heather. Joining a Teen Advisory Board is a fun way to make friends while boosting your resume and experience for jobs and college applications. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 11, 6pm
Why do so many famous artists, from O’Keefe to Van Gogh to Monet, choose to create still life paintings? There are practical as well as artistic reasons. It is easier to obtain inanimate objects to paint than to pay a professional or a friend to sit for you. Still lifes allow artists to arrange their scene three dimensionally before reflecting it on canvas. In this workshop at the West Springfield Public Library, Greg Maichack will demonstrate the techniques used in creating still life paintings. Call 413-736-4561 x3 to register. 200 Park Street, West Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Other Counties

Tuesday, May 10, 9:30am-4pm
The hands-on nature of living history museums can engage kids who are otherwise not interested in learning about history. Through active participation, kids can learn that history is a broad topic which includes the day-to-day lives of historical figures. You and your homeschooled children (between the ages of five and seventeen) can learn about open hearth cooking, gardening, carpentry and paper marbling at Old Sturbridge Village’s May Home School Day. Join other homeschooling parents and children for hands-on historical learning. 508-347-0274. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge, MA. ($ for admission)

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