37 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Rhubarb to Woolcraft. Bubbles to Adventure Playgrounds.

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If you love wool, weaving, textiles, fiber arts, or animal husbandry, you won’t want to miss the annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair! Western MA is full of talented, crafty people, and opportunities to learn or practice your fiber arts skills with them abound throughout the year.

Rhubarb to woolcraft. Bubbles to adventure playgrounds. World music to Shakespeare. These are just a few of the community-based learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

Peruse our list below and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!

Featured community highlight this week: Adventure playgrounds invite children to engage with a variety of open-ended, simple materials (think giant cardboard boxes, tubes, fabric, string, bales of hay) to create the play spaces and experiences they desire. Participating an adventure playground not only stimulates the imagination, it encourages collaboration and builds self-esteem. Visit The Play Workshop‘s pop up playground on Saturday, May 28, from noon until 4pm, to try out this fun, different, joyful type of creative free play! 413-588-2208. Community Field Road. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

AgricultureCulinary ArtsFiber ArtsAnimal HusbandryPhysicsEarth SciencePuppetryCareer StudiesNative American StudiesIntergenerationalChildren’s LiteratureLanguage StudiesOrnithologyCitizen ScienceTinkeringTheater ArtsDanceMemorial DayMusic StudiesService-based Learning

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Saturday, May 28, 10am-2pm
Farmers’ markets offer a consistent, simple way for local farmers and food producers to connect with the community. These markets provide locally grown items, teaching buyers about their habitat through seasonal variation in what is available. Now, a new farmers’ and makers’ market in Easthampton will bring these benefits to a new area. This market will also offer locally made items, bringing artists and crafters into the mix. See what you can find every Saturday from 10am-2pm through September 24th. For more information, visit the Easthampton Farmers’ and Makers’ Market website. 50 Payson Avenue. Easthampton, MA. (MARKET/SALE)

Saturday, May 28, 10am-3pm
You may think of rhubarb as a simple side vegetable, but at the Lenox Rhubarb Festival you’ll see this ingredient used in pies, chili, and even beverages! Learn by example by purchasing a rhubarb recipe booklet and fresh local rhubarb. There will also be rhubarb plants available, and advice from local experts, for those who want to learn how to grow the plant on their own. Lenox Library. 413-637-0197. 18 Main Street. Lenox, MA. (MARKET/SALE)

Looking for another rhubarb-inspired culinary adventure? Try making this strawberry-rhubarb sorbet served in ice bowls! After you’ve eaten the sorbet, you can experiment with the bowl as it melts. Does freezing change the herbs that were encased in ice? What happens when you sprinkle it with salt? With pepper?

Tuesday, May 31, 9:30am-11am
Children under five and their caregivers are invited to participate in a garden playgroup, sponsored by the Trustees of Reservations. Your kids can learn about locally grown vegetables. Interacting with healthy foods in fun ways with help them form positive associations with these foods. Children and their caregivers will gain the knowledge and skills to start their own gardens at home. Babies are also welcome. Groups will take place at Monument Mountain every Tuesday until June 28 2016. Registration is recommended. 413-298-3239. Great Barrington, MA. (<$)

Fiber Arts

Saturday, May 28, 7am-6pm; Sunday May 29, 6:30am-4pm
The 42nd annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft fair is an all ages celebration with opportunities for learning about animal husbandry, sheep shearing, fiber arts, photography, and even cooking! Kids can attend workshops on felting, spinning, and dyeing. Adult workshops include Amish oval rugs, needle felting, photographing your textiles, and more. There will be food available for purchase and a cooking demonstration. At 6pm, attendees are welcome to attend a potluck supper and discuss what they have learned with their friends and community. Come take part in a decades’ old local tradition! Check out the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair website for a full schedule and contact information. Cummington Fairgrounds. 97 Fairgrounds Road. Cummington, MA. ($)

Fascinated by fibers? Here’s another way to create textiles from natural materials: using tree bark!

Wednesday, June 1, 11am & 2pm
The Shakers are known for their beautiful and simple fiber crafts. Visit the Hancock Shaker Village  to watch flax-processing and felted bead-making demonstrations by talented artisans who use traditional tools and techniques. Plan ahead and borrow a free museum pass from your local library! 413-443-0188. 1843 West Housatonic Street. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE for members and children 12 and under; $)

Friday, June 3, 1pm-3pm
Did you put down a knitting project and lose your momentum? Does someone in your family want to learn to crochet? Head over to the Sheep & Shawl yarn and fiber arts shop in South Deerfield, MA, where a talented group of people meet each Friday for a Knit/Crochet/Spin Circle. You can ask your questions, get advice on how to read that tricky pattern, and share your ideas with others when they need some input on their project. 413-397-3680. 265 Greenfield Rd., South Deerfield, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, May 28, 9:30am-11:30am
Bubbles! When they go floating by, everyone’s eyes follow. They dip, float, hover, and pop in different ways. Children are invited to the Community Action Family Center where they can learn about the science behind bubbles. Participants can make giant bubbles and engage in other hands-on activities, as well as enjoy a free breakfast with their families. After the session, try some bubble explorations at home. Can you blow a bubble using your hands? Can you make a bubble wand out of any other household object? What happens when you blow a bubble using a square shape? What is the difference between touching a bubble with a dry finger and with one coated in bubble solution? The questions and discoveries are nearly endless! 413-475-1555. 90 Federal Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Why are bubbles so predictable in their geometry? Find out in this clip from the BBC, featuring “bubbleologist” Tom Noddy.

Sunday, May 29, 4pm
In Steven Weinberg’s lecture, “To Explain The World,” he will relay ancient and medieval models of the world and explain the limitations of these theories. Out of attempts to explain observable phenomenon such as the movement of planets and tides, science eventually emerged. Learn about history and science at the same time, at the Lenox Library. 413-637-0197. 18 Main Street. Lenox, MA. (FREE)

Monday, May 30 12pm-4pm
Explore and experience physics principles with a ride on the Holyoke Merry Go Round! Take a ride on a horse on the outer ring, then try riding in the inner ring. How do those experiences compare? If everyone is on the same merry-go-round, why do some people feel like they were going fast while others report going at a slower speed? Holyoke’s merry-go-round will be open on Memorial Day, offering free rides for veterans. Take a ride with your family and explore fun, fantastic physics together! 413-538-9838. Holyoke Heritage State Park. 221 Appleton Street. Holyoke, MA. (<$. Veterans ride FREE)

Community Connections

Saturday, May 28
Learn how to create puppets while supporting a community effort towards sustainability! The First Annual Northampton Interdependence Day Festival will be held on July 2nd 2016 and feature children’s theater and street performances around the theme, “We Love This World.” Prior to the event, on May 28th, June 18th and June 25th, workshops will be held for those interested in making puppets to be used in the performances. Get involved early and watch this new sustainability themed event unfold in your community. For more information, contact Beth Fairservice at bethbirth@crocker.com. Location TBA, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, May 28, 10am-2pm
From young kids who like to play with fire trucks, to teens and adults interested in crime investigation, “Police Day” will both entertain and educate. Come to the Northampton Police Department for complimentary popcorn. The first fifty attendees under age twelve will receive free shirts! You can get an up-close look at police gear, meet police officers and firefighters, see a fire engine, and vote for the best police cruiser design. All ages welcome. 29 Center Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

How do police officers help people every day? StoryBots’ “Police Officer” song will give you a glimpse of police officers’ important work.

Tuesday, May 31, 6:30pm
You can meet and engage in important dialogues with local members of the Mohican nation by attending the Stockbridge Library Association’s Annual Meeting. This meeting will feature representatives from the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Nation. These representatives will relay the story of Stockbridge, which was founded as “Indian town” in the 1730s. For more information call 413-298-5501. 46 Main Street. Stockbridge, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, June 2, 6pm-8pm
Bring a lawn chair, or set up a picnic with friends and family at this Co Op Concert in Greenfield. You can also explore the gardens, and children will be able to play on the brand new train structure in the children’s area. This concert will feature Boys of the Landfill with Mike Pattavina, Roland Lapierre, and finally Pat and Tex LaMountain Band. Come hear folk, rock, bluegrass, rockabilly, swing music and country in Energy Park. 50 Miles Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Friday, June 3, 5:15pm-6:30pm
Join other families with kids ages six and younger to welcome the Sabbath at Tot Shabbat, offered by Beit Ahavah Reform Synagogue. Kids will enjoy music and activities led by Marlene Rachelle and Rabbi Riqi Kosovske, then share a veggie potluck dinner. Adults are welcome to socialize and relax. Interfaith and GLBTQ families, nursing moms, babies and siblings of all ages, grandparents and special people, new members, first-timers, and friends all welcome! 413-587-3770. 130 Pine Street. Florence, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, May 28, 10am-11:30am
Beloved children’s book author Eric Carle studied art in his youth and began his career as a graphic designer before going on to illustrate picture books. His books have been read and loved all over the world for generations, and have been translated into 62 different languages. His latest book, The Nonsense Show, was published in October 2015. Now is your chance to meet him and get your favorite books signed, at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art! No tickets will be available in advance and a limited number of visitors will be admitted in for the book signing. There is a limit of three books to be signed. Museum members will receive priority line placement and may enter early at 9:30 am. The book signing is free with museum admission. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. (<$)

Saturday, May 28, 10am-3pm
Story walks combine two very healthy activities for families: reading and exercise. This year the Lenox Library has chosen The Ugly Vegetables for its annual story walk. Grab a map from the library and find the pages of this beloved picture book enlarged and posted around town. The first page of the book will begin your journey at the Roche Reading park and the final page can be found in the Children’s Room of the library. There will also be live readings of the book at 11am and 12pm at the library. For those who are interested in utilizing story walks as a resource (for example, teachers, child care providers, and homeschool parents) the Pittsfield Public Library has story walk books you can borrow! 413-637-0197. 18 Main Street. Lenox, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, May 28, 11am
Local author Megan Lambert and illustrator Nicole Tadgell will be at the The Odyssey Bookshop for a reading and drawing demonstration. Lambert and Tadgell will read from their new book, Real Sisters Pretend, a heartwarming story about two adopted sisters. Attendees can enjoy cookies and coloring sheets, and draw pictures of their own families on a mural. This event is open to all families, whether or not they have experience with adoption. 413-534-7307. 9 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, May 31, all day
Pick up a form at the Forbes Library or sign up online for your children to participate in a summer reading challenge! There are bronze, silver, and gold level challenges. Tasks include reading a book, drawing a picture inspired by the book you read, attending a library event, and other literacy-building activities. Complete the entire challenge to win a prize! 413-587-1011. 20 West Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, June 1, 6:45pm-7:30pm (Russian)
Thursday, June 2, 6:45pm-7:30pm (Spanish)
All cultures share stories! These bilingual storytimes at the Westfield Athenaeum will feature the same story read in both English and Russian (Wednesday) or Spanish (Thursday). This is a wonderful opportunity for bilingual kids and families to hear a story in their native languages, or for parents to introduce a new language to their kids. Language learning is a fun educational endeavor to take on as a family, and goes hand in hand with enriching cultural learning. A bilingual book will be provided for free to take home. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Animal Studies

Saturday, May 28, 10:30am-11:30am
This program at the Great Falls Discovery Center will teach children about the creatures which share our habitat in the Connecticut River watershed. Through games and crafts, this program will teach attendees about birds, and the variation in different species’ diets. This is a great event to instill a new area of interest, as you and your children can continue learning about birds by observing them in your backyard, day to day. Meet in the Great Hall. For ages 3-6 and their caregivers. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, May 28, 12pm
Meet some of your favorite animals…at the library! Zoo On the Go at the Hatfield Public Library will introduce kids and parents to live animals. Learn about different animal behaviors and ask questions of the knowledgeable zoologists who will be in attendance. No sign up is required, but visitors will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. 413-247-9097. 39 Main Street. Hatfield, MA. (FREE)

Friday, June 3, 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 several 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 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)

Creative Free Play

Saturday, May 28, 12pm-4pm
This pop-up playground adventure encourages not only creative free play but collaborating among young people. Provided with huge cardboard boxes, tubes, fabric, string, bales of hay, and other items, children will design their own playground and direct their play within it. This event encourages children to get outside and shows them that their creativity can be implemented to turn an ordinary stretch of grass into a playground! For more information, visit The Play Workshop website. 413-588-2208. Community Field Road. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Learn more about the philosophy behind adventure playgrounds here:

Saturday, May 28, 10am – 5pm; Sunday, May 29, 12pm-5pm; Monday, June 1, 11am – 4pm
The Berkshire Museum’s Spark!Lab is open for drop in play. In Spark!Lab, everyone is an inventor! Spark!Lab is a hands-on, creative laboratory that engages children and families in the process of innovation: try the variety of activities, from creating a wheeled vehicle to experimenting with percussion to assembling safe electrical circuits. Visitors of all ages can work together to combine skills and ideas to create inventions with real-world applications. 413-443-7171. Berkshire Museum, 39 South St., Pittsfield, MA. (FREE with museum admission)

Friday, June 3, 9am-10:30am
This play group at the Shutesbury Elementary School will have a special guest: children’s book author and educator Ellen Mayer. Ellen will demonstrate activities, offer free books for children, and lead a short discussion about language and talking with very young children. 23 West Pelham Road. Shutesbury, MA. (FREE)

Performing Arts

Saturday, May 28, 1:30pm
Emily Dickinson was highly influenced by the writing of William Shakespeare, as evidenced by the many allusions to him she made in her writing. You’re invited to the garden at the Emily Dickinson Museum for a performance of some of Emily Dickinson’s favorite Shakespeare plays, and readings of Dickinson’s poetry. See if you can trace his influence on her writing style. Please call 413-542-2947 or e-mail info@emilydickinsonmuseum.org with questions. Reservations are not required. 280 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Friday, June 3, 6pm-8pm
Circle Dance at the West Cummington Parish House draws upon the traditional dances of many different cultures. Sacred Circle Dance was founded by the members of Findhorn Community in Scotland. The dances have a range of pace and style, but no experience is necessary. Every dance will be explained and demonstrated, so this is a great opportunity to learn something new while getting exercise and meeting new people. Call 413 634-0132 for more information. 27 West Main Street. West Cummington, MA. (DONATION)

Friday, June 3, 6:30pm
This Gala Recital at Buckland Shelburne Elementary will demonstrate some of what the pioneer valley has to offer for dance classes. Ballet Renverse encourages dance as a lifelong hobby, teaching classes for students as young as five as well as adult classes. Sarah Jane Duax, one of the original dancers from Ballet Renverse, will perform. Performer and director Cynthia James, soprano singer Shelley Roberts, and the Marlboro Morris Men (folk dance troupe) will all showcase their talent and hard work. 413-625-2521. 75 Mechanic Street. Shelburne Falls, MA. (FREE)

Memorial Day

Sunday, May 29, 9:30am
Memorial day is a deeply personal holiday, a day for remembering those who have lost their lives serving this country. It is also a chance to honor living veterans, and learn more about the history of war from a local perspective. You are invited to march behind the Pelham Historical Society banner at this service honoring individuals who were removed from their original resting places for the building of Quabbin Reservoir. For more information and to sign up contact Cynthia Weigel at 413-256-4606. Meet at the Pelham Museum (376 Amherst Road Pelham) at 9:30am to carpool or go directly to the Quabbin Park Cemetery at 11:00am. Belchertown, MA. (FREE)

Many Western Mass communities are hosting Memorial Day parades and celebrations on their streets, sidewalks, parks, and town centers. As friends, neighbors, and community members gather in these areas, opportunities for small acts of kindness arise. For example, families can bring a bouquet of daisies or loaves of fresh baked bread to a Memorial Day parade to share with veterans as small tokens of gratitude. Memorial day parades invite people to engage with their communities in placemaking. Participating in parades by marching alongside an organization or viewing the parade from a common space can support individual health and well-being by strengthening a connection to place and community. Visit our post, Memorial Day as a Catalyst for Placemaking, Historical Learning, and Acts of Kindness to learn more and find an event that’s just right for your family.

Music Studies

Sunday, May 29 5pm
Want to learn about musical genres from the Balkans, South Africa, Georgia, and Syria? This Spring concert at the Wesley Methodist Church will feature international choral music, as well as Southern and gospel music by West Virginia musicians Emmy Miller and Jesse Milnes. Listening to music is one of the most effective and healthiest forms of stress relief. Live music combines this positive emotional impact with a sense of community and appreciation for talent. This concert will benefit the CONTACT Peacebuilding Program at SIT. 98 North Maple Street. Hadley, MA. ($. Seniors and students <$)

Wednesday June 1, 6:30pm
Are you a beginner mandolin player? Bring your mandolin to the Storrs Library for a mandolin lesson! 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. This is the last of three sessions run by Seth Roberts of The Blueberry Hill Boys. If you have been attending all along, show off what you’ve learned! Email questions to asethroberts@gmail.com. 413-565-4181. 693 Longmeadow Street. Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

You may have heard that playing an instrument, like learning a new language, is good for your brain. It’s true! Here’s why:

Thursday, June 2, 12pm-1pm
Folk music takes many forms depending on the cultures from which it draws its inspiration. Listen to the music of folk duo, Hungrytown, at the Westfield Athenaeum to hear what stories their music tells. Rebecca Hall and Ken Anderson, who make up Hungrytown, have released three albums and toured all over the world. Who knows what sounds they will bring to your ears? After listening to this concert, you can encourage your children to carry their inspiration forward by writing their own song lyrics or composing their own tunes on homemade instruments. Lang Auditorium. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Friday, June 3, 5pm-11pm
The People’s Music Network Summer Gathering kicks off Friday, June 3rd with dinner (at 6pm), a Shabbat ceremony, a performance by the Paul Robeson Theatre, and a community campfire song. You will have the opportunity to register for workshops to take place on Saturday June 4th and Sunday June 5th including vocal sessions and songwriting discussions. Meet music lovers in your community and get inspired! This festival explores the theme of songwriting as a political movement and/or an expression of faith. See the People’s Music Network for a full schedule and pricing details. Lodging is available. Camp Kinderland. 413-258-4463. 1543 Colebrook River Road. Tolland, MA. (Sliding scale)

Service-Based Learning

Tuesday, May 31, all day
Volunteering builds empathy, strengthens social bonds, and increases self-esteem. A sense of community is important to a complete picture of holistic health, and volunteering is a great way to build a sense of community. Volunteers are needed for the East Longmeadow Public Library’s 2016 summer reading program. They are looking for students going into grade 5 during the 2016 to 2017 school year who can commit to a weekly 2 hour shift between June 20 and July 29. Volunteers will assist with activities and promote reading! For more information, call 413-525-5432. 60 Center Square. East Longmeadow, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

Listen to these teens talk about why they volunteer:

Tuesday, May 31, 2:30pm-3:30pm
Thursday, June 2, 9:30am-10:30 am
Community members who are in need sometimes feel invisible or forgotten, which can add emotional hardship to the challenges they already face. Getting involved with an organization to offer support to those in need is an essential community service, and opportunities abound for you to do so. The Amherst Survival Center is in need of volunteers for its spring and summer season. All new volunteers must attend an orientation that includes a history of the Amherst Survival Center, a tour of the facility, and an in-depth review of the Volunteer Handbook. After your orientation, you can find the areas where you’d most like to help, such as welcoming Survival Center participants, sorting donated goods, and preparing meals. 413-549-3968. 138 Sunderland Road, Amherst, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

Friday, June 3, 3pm-6pm
The grounds around the Dickinson homestead were an integral part of Emily Dickinson’s contemplative life and nature themed writing. You can experience the garden for yourself while supporting the Emily Dickinson Museum by volunteering your time to help tend it. Register online. Please call 413-542-2947 or e-mail info@emilydickinsonmuseum.org with questions. 280 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)


[Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield]

Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Amherst, Blandford, Bernardston, Chesterfield, Erving, Holyoke, Montague, Montgomery, Pelham, Shutesbury, South Hadley, Springfield, Warwick and Williamsburg Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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