Learning Ahead: May 30th-June 3rd, 2016

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

This week we are featuring 21 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. This week, don’t miss our special listing of Memorial Day events, Memorial Day as a Catalyst for Placemaking, Historical Learning, and Acts of Kindness!

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Berkshire County

Monday, May 30, 8pm
Do you love musical theater? Are you interested in exploring the complex dynamics of intergenerational relationships? The exciting new musical 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. 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). 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. ($$$)

Tuesday, May 31, 6:30pm
One cannot talk about local history without addressing Native American history. 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)

Wednesday, June 1, 5:30pm
What can works of art teach us about history, culture, and the artists who created them? Fra Angelico (1452-1498) was an Italian Renaissance painter who depicted religious scenes for the Bible. He was also a civic leader in Florence. Francis Oakley, interim director of the Clark Art Institute will discuss Angelico as well as the difficulties historians have had making sense of this artist’s life. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Want to brush up on your knowledge about the Renaissance and the ideas that prevailed during that period?

Thursday, June 2, 2:30pm-4:30pm
Are you interested in writing a play? Participating in live theater as an audience member is an important part of learning the craft of playwriting. The Roommate, written by Jen Silverman and directed by Mike Donahue, is the story of a single, empty-nested woman forming an unexpected friendship with her new roommate in spite of their differences in personality. This brand new play, brought to you by The Williamstown Theatre Festival, will be performed at The Clark Art Institute with a discussion to follow. Reservations are required. 413-458-2303. Michael Conforti Pavilion at The Clark. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Franklin County

Wednesday, June 1, 6pm
Tiny houses are growing in popularity across the country. These structures have many advantages including their relative low price compared to large homes and the fact that individuals can be involved in the process of building their own homes. Tiny house communities have the potential to foster strong ties with neighbors and reshape our neighborhoods. But where do you even begin? How do you provide heat and running water for your tiny home? And where can you put it once it’s built? Isa Bauer, Project Manager and lead designer for Tiny House Northeast will answer those and other questions at the Greenfield Public Library. 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

A tiny house for a family of four? You bet!

Thursday, June 2, 6pm-8pm
Warm weather and longer stretches of daylight allow us new opportunities to meet and connect with our neighbors and other community members, many of whom we may not have seen during the cold, winter months. Bring a lawn chair, or set up a picnic with friends and family at this Co Op Concert in Greenfield. Sharing a meal, meeting someone new, appreciating the built and natural landscapes, and enjoying live music all play a part in placemaking. 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, 6:30pm
Do you enjoy dance performances? Are you interested in learning a particular style of dance, or returning to dance studies after a hiatus? 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)

Watch the Marlboro Morris Men perform a routine on the streets of Brattleboro, VT.

Hampshire County

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)

Why volunteer?

Tuesday, May 31, 10am-2pm
Gardening is good for the body and soul. In fact, a recent article notes that the physical and mental health benefits of gardening are so significant, doctors should consider prescribing gardening as a part of their patients’ health care interventions. Visit the plant sale at the Westhampton Public Library to collect new permaculture plants, perennials, edibles, herbs, and compost for your own garden pursuits. This fundraiser will benefit Grown In Westhampton. For more information call 413-529-0257. 1 North Road. Westhampton, MA. (MARKET/SALE)

Tuesday, May 31, 6:30pm-8pm
A good night of sleep is vital for emotional regulation, problem solving, energy, and memory. Sleep deprivation has even been correlated with susceptibility to false memories. No one understands the importance of sleep better than those who aren’t getting any. Insomnia sufferers, sleep deprived parents, and anyone interested in understanding how lifestyle affects sleep are invited to this workshop at River Valley Co Op. Courtney Hill Wulsin will discuss Chinese medicine theory, diet, bedtimes and the pros and cons of Western sleep medications. To register, call 413-584-2665. 330 North King Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Learn more about the importance of sleep in this TED Ed lesson.

Tuesday, May 31, 7pm-8pm
Native pollinators have been suffering population declines in recent years. One way to help these bees, butterflies, and other pollinators reestablish healthy populations is to grow a pollinator garden. This Grown In Westhampton meeting will educate participants on how to start one in their own yards. This is an excellent opportunity to exchange gardening knowledge and ask questions, too. The meeting will be held at the Westhampton Public Library. 413-527-5386. 1 N Road. Westhampton, MA. (MARKET/SALE)

Wednesday, June 1, 7pm
Get inspired! Local writers of all genres, including novelists, poets, memoir writers, essayists, journalists and more, will be reading their work at the Forbes Library. The Writing Room has been open at the Forbes for six years, providing writers with a space to work and share their voices, every Wednesday and Saturday morning from 9:30am-12:30pm. Help them celebrate by being part of a captive and encouraging audience. 413-587-1011. 20 West Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, June 1, 7pm
Folks interested in Polish culture, history, and spirituality may enjoy viewing and reflecting on the 2013 Polish drama, Ida. This film presents the story of a young woman in 1962 who is studying to be a nun and wrestling with the loss of her parents in World War II. Attend this one-time screening at Amherst Cinema to enhance your understanding of the film’s themes and to consider the questions and ideas the film brings up for you. 413-253-2547. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (<$)

Thursday, June 2, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Walt Whitman once said, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences.” You can support poetry as an audience member for the Meekins Library poetry open mic every first Thursday of the month. You are also welcome to share your own work! This open mic provides a welcoming environment for your first foray into public poetry reading. 413-268-7472. 2 Williams Street. Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

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)

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)

Hampden County

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)

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? Use this concert as a springboard for your own musical pursuits, be it songwriting, music composition, or practicing an instrument. 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)

Multiple Counties

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)

What does it mean to be a citizen scientist?

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