Learning Ahead: May 23rd-27th, 2016

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

This week we are featuring 22 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

Tuesday, May 24, 7:30pm
Wednesday, May 25, 7:30pm
Thursday, May 26, 3pm and 7:30pm
Friday, May 27, 7:30pm
The exciting new musical Presto Change-O features a star-studded cast that includes Tony Award winner Michael Rupert (Broadway’s Falsettos, On The Town), Tony Award nominee Jarrod Spector (Broadway’s Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), Tony Award nominee Barbara Walsh (Broadway’s Company), Jenni Barber (Broadway’s Wicked), Bob Walton (Broadway’s 42nd Street), and Lenny Wolpe (Broadway’s The Drowsy Chaperone, Wicked). Presto Change-O tells the story of three generations of magicians who find themselves under one roof for the first time in years. When the grandfather causes real magic to happen, they must confront their past mistakes and re-examine what it means to be a family. The show is presented by the Barrington Stage Company and performances will be held on the St. Germain Stage. 413-236-8888. 36 Linden Street. Pittsfield, MA. ($$$)

Friday, May 27, 4:30pm
The more politically engaged you are, the better positioned you will be to make a difference. Beyond voting, you can write and sign petitions, attend important local or national hearings, or raise money for a political cause. This lecture, sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College, can help you become more informed about the state of U.S. politics today. Bestselling author and Time magazine columnist Joe Klein will discuss the 2016 presidential election and more in his lecture, “How on Earth Did We Get Here? The Chaotic Politics of 2016,” at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. 413-528-0100. 14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, MA. (FREE)

Friday, May 27, 5:30pm-7:30pm
One of the Berkshire Museum’s new exhibits is Finding Raven: Art and Stories from the Northwest Coast. Featuring Native peoples’ art from the Pacific Northwest, this exhibit includes an amazing array of artwork and objects, both historic and contemporary, by the Haida, Tlingit, Kwak’waka’wakw, Tsimshian, and Coast Salish. Come to the family-friendly opening reception for this exhibit as well as for Tiny Titans: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies, and enjoy special interactive stations and refreshments. RSVP requested. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street, Route 7. Pittsfield, MA. (Adults $. Children <$)

This exhibit opens with a Circle of Totems. Wonder how an artist goes about creating one, and what the designs within represent? Watch this!

Franklin County

Monday, May 23, 6:30pm
The ukulele is one of the simplest instruments to play, with only three chords needed to play most songs. Join Julie Stepanek for a Ukulele Strum at the M.N. Spear Memorial Library. Bring your uke, or other instrument, or just come to sing along. 413-259-1213. 10 Cooleyville Road, Shutesbury, MA. (FREE)

How did the ukulele get its name? Trace the vernacular history of the ukulele in this TED Ed talk!

Tuesday, May 24, 5pm
Summer jobs offer teenagers the opportunity to hone their social and practical workplace skills, build their resumes, and meet new people. This job seeking workshop at the Sunderland Public Library will teach participants how to hunt for jobs, how to decide if a job post requires a resume, how to format their resumes, and what kinds of skills employers expect. Teens will also get tips for interviewing. Give your kids a head start at practicing these lifelong skills! 413-665-2642. 20 School Street. Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, May 24, 6:30pm
When you capture a moment or scene in a photograph, you are able to take a closer and longer look, possibly noticing details which you otherwise would not. Everyday life may seem mundane, but looking back at your life through photographs you can see how much has changed. Even natural landscapes evolve over seasons and years. Outdoor writer, photographer, and historian John Burk can teach you about nature photography through his own examples at this exhibit and talk at the Northfield Public Library. 413-498-2455. 115 Main Street. Northfield, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, May 24, 6:30pm
Want to learn about the natural wildlife of Western Massachusetts? Join naturalist Sue Morse as she gives a visual presentation on the mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles which share our habitat. Sue Morse is the founder of Keeping Track, an organization which trains biologists and citizen scientists in wildlife monitoring skills. Come to this presentation at Mohawk High School to learn how you can become more involved in sustaining local wildlife. For more information contact the Franklin Land Trust at 413-625-9151. 24 Ashfield Road. Shelburne Falls, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, May 24, 6:30pm
Permaculture is much more than the study of horticulture or gardening. It is a science of sustainable design which applies the structures found in nature to human agriculture, architecture, inventions, and other designed systems or structures. While permaculture is a complex practice and a far-reaching philosophy, you can engage in it close to home and independently. Ashley Schenk from Broadfork Permaculture will be teaching attendees at this workshop how to use permaculture concepts to face climate change. She will educate participants on growing food, reducing energy, and bolstering ecological health. Dickinson Memorial Library. 413-498-2455. 115 Main Street. Northfield, MA. (FREE)

Hampshire County

Tuesday, May 24, 10:30am-1pm
Invasive plants spread to the point where they threaten the biodiversity of a region, and become a danger to other plants and animals. Learn more about invasive plants as you help pull garlic mustard from the East branch trail. This event is sponsored by the Westfield River Watershed.To register or for more information contact Julie Richburg at 413-532-1631. Chesterfield, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

The diversity of organisms on Earth is breathtaking. Have you “met” this hydromedusa, recently discovered by NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer? They make their home in the Atlantic Ocean’s Mariana Trench, the deepest place in Earth’s oceans.

Tuesday, May 24, 6:30pm
When humans and other organisms sleep there is a decrease in body temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and energy use. REM sleep is the sleep stage in which most vivid dreaming occurs, and the length of REM sleep increases over the course of a night’s sleep. This means that if you do not sleep for very long, you will not spend much time in REM, and you will lose the opportunity for dreaming and the release of serotonin. Getting a good night of sleep boosts memory and problem solving the following day. Dr. Wendy Chabot, MD, FAAP, will be discussing the benefits of healthy sleep for kids and teens. Poor sleep in teens can contribute to anxiety, depression, learning challenges, and other issues. Find out more by attending this talk at the Smith Academy Library. 33 School Street. Hatfield, MA. (FREE)

Interested in learning more about why we sleep? PBS’ “The Good Stuff” lets us in on some of the science about sleep.

Tuesday, May 24, 6:30pm
Author, engineer, and autism advocate John Elder Robison will be at the Pelham Library discussing his latest book, Switched On, a memoir about his experience as a research subject in brain studies. These studies used transcranial magnetic stimulation, which enhanced his ability to read emotions. This talk will educate attendees about neuroscience, the autism spectrum, and possibilities for neurologically-based methods of assistance, all from a first-person perspective! 413-253-0657. 2 South Valley Road. Pelham, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, May 24, 6:30pm-8pm
Energy, memory, and sleep are all interconnected, and this workshop at River Valley Co Op aims to address strategies for improving all three. It is easier to sleep once you’ve had plenty of exercise, and easier to exercise once you’ve had a good night sleep. Both exercise and sleep improve memory. Thus, focusing on improving just one aspect of your health can positively affect many habits. To sign up, please call 413-584-2665. 330 North King Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 25, 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, fruits, 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)

Wednesday, May 25, 6:30pm
The image of the labyrinth combines the symbolic meanings of both the circle and the spiral, standing for a complex but meaningful path. Labyrinths can be used in walking meditation. Cathy Rigali and Lorraine Villemaire will be discussing their new book, Labyrinth Reflections, at the Gaylord Memorial Library. They will explain the process of making a labyrinth and incorporating it into spiritual practice. 413- 538-5047. 47 College Street, South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Gain a new understanding of labyrinths through this short introduction by Eliza Pillsbury, TEDxKids presenter.

Wednesday, May 25, 6:30pm-8pm
Permaculture, a form of agriculture which focuses on reflecting natural ecosystems, can be executed on a small scale in the form of backyard gardens. Lisa DePiano will be giving this workshop on permaculture basics at River Valley Co Op. Call 413-584-2665 or sign up at Customer Service. 330 North King Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, May 26, 7pm
According to lifelong musician Ellen Cogen, “The art of improvisation is irresistible, and the purest essence of musical expression.” That is why she was drawn to jazz singing, which she currently teaches at Holyoke Community College. You can hear Ellen perform with her quartet. Experience the creative, musical, and intellectual feat of improvisation at Eastworks in the 121 Club. 116 Pleasant Street, Easthampton, MA (<$)

What is jazz? Just ask Ella Fitzgerald!

Thursday, May 26, 7pm
People typically learn how to write and hone their personal style by reading the works of other writers. One way to study shifts in literary trends is to follow this trail of artistic influence. Emily Dickinson was highly influenced by the writing of William Shakespeare, as evidenced by the many allusions to him she made in her writing. Páraic Finnerty has conducted extensive research on Dickinson, and will be discussing Shakespeare’s influence on her life and work at Amherst College. This talk will take place in Converse Hall, Cole Assembly Room. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Friday, May 27, 3:30pm
Minecraft, a game of increasing popularity among children, is like a digital version of LEGOs. In the game, players have to build any number of objects and architectural pieces out of blocks. When played in moderation, this game can have surprisingly positive effects on kids’ learning and motivation. Teachers have begun using this game to explain physical and mathematical concepts. The game requires complex planning, technological knowledge, and even creativity. This kids’ Minecraft Club meeting at the Forbes Library will feature a special challenge! Meetings take place in the Community Room. Registration is required. 413-587-1011. 20 West St, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Hampden County

Monday, May 23, 6:30pm
Pinterest is a tool for aggregating images and information. As a user, you can utilize Pinterest in order to keep websites together for future reference. For example, you might want to pin movies you want to watch someday, or books you’d like to read. Pinterest is also used to spread skillsharing information, such as D.I.Y. instructions and recipes. If you want to get started using Pinterest, come to the Storrs Library for this basic workshop. 413-565-4181. 693 Longmeadow Street, Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 25, 2pm-3pm
The final May technology workshop at the Westfield Athenaeum will cover Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word is a useful personal computer tool for creating documents to save, print, or email. This workshop will help participants learn how to navigate the editing tools and format their documents. Registration is required. Please call 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street, Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, May 25, 6:30-8pm
Come learn to play this convenient, portable string instrument, in a supportive environment with other beginners. More experienced ukulele players are also welcome, however, to come join in on the fun at the Storrs LibraryPlease bring a ukulele if you own one. Loaner ukuleles will be available on a first-come first-served basis. With only four strings, the ukulele is easier to learn than the guitar and can be a great introduction to learning chord progressions. 413-565-4181. 693 Longmeadow Street. Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, May 26, 3pm-4pm
In an increasingly digital world, people do not always print physical copies of their photographs. Printing them allows you to make scrapbooks, a fun crafting activity which adds a further element of creativity to photography. Bring photographs of your choice to the Westfield Athenaeum to scrapbook with your friends. This event is for patrons between the ages of 12 and 18. Registration is required. Please call 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

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