33 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Figure drawing to Robotics. Snails to Architecture.

African drumming performances are highly physical and visual, involving not only the movement required to play the drums but also dance and chanting. These high energy performances get people moving and feeling the beat. You catch witness African drumming as part of the 15th Annual Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams on Friday, July 15.

Figure drawing to Robotics. Snails to Architecture. World Music to Literacy. 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 highlights this week: The 12th Annual Massachusetts Regional Yo-Yo Contest at the Academy of Music Theatre will feature the best of the best Yo-Yo tricks! More than just a toy, Yo-Yos can teach kids about physics. In order to understand how a yo-yo works in the first place, it’s essential to understand potential and kinetic energy. Even young kids can learn what these terms mean just by holding and dropping a yo-yo, or witnessing someone doing so. Be amazed by physics in action, Friday, July 15, 11am-5pm. Arrive towards the end of the event to witness the very best performers. 413-584-9032. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Art Studies ♦ Collage ♦ Nature Studies ♦ Invasive Species ♦ Animal Studies ♦ Invertebrates ♦ Geology ♦ STEM ♦ Robotics ♦ History ♦ ArchitecturePhysics ♦ YoYosLiteracy ♦ Music Studies ♦ Klezmer

Join our stellar team supporters!
Become a sponsor of Learn Local. Play Local. and see your banner here:


Saturday, July 9, 1pm-4pm
En Plein Air (outdoor) painting draws together two interests- nature and art. Many artists whose work appears in the Clark Art Institute’s collection, painted outdoors. The Clark is offering you the chance to do the same! Participants will hike up Stone Hill and pick up a complimentary drawing kit at the outdoor installation, “Thomas Schütte: Crystal.” Enjoy acoustic music as you paint what you see. This ongoing program will take place Saturday afternoons, July 9 through August 27. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. ($. 18 and under and museum members FREE)

Tuesday, July 12, 10am-12pm
Do you and your children like to make art? Come to the Norman Rockwell Museum for a Summer Sketch day session. Feel free to experiment and express yourself. Please bring a sketchbook or drawing pad. Other supplies will be provided. This program is free with museum admission, and may take place outdoors, weather permitting. Ages 7 and up. 413-298-4100. 9 MA-183. Stockbridge, MA. ($. College students with ID <$. Ages 6-18 <$. Under 5 and museum members FREE)

Tuesday, July 12, 3pm-4pm
Collages are a modern art form which may appeal to kids and adults who do not necessarily like to paint or draw. Collages can be made out of magazine clippings, photographs, colored paper, and much more. Come to the Odyssey Bookshop to make animal collages with local author/illustrator Micha Archer, illustrator of Daniel Finds a Poem. Ages four and up. Young children must be accompanied by a parent. Register at least two days prior to the event. 413-534-7307. 9 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (<$)

Collage is a highly open-ended art form. For those who do enjoy drawing, painting, or some other art form, collage can be combined with these techniques for a mixed media art form. In the following video, the artist uses prints of other art pieces he has made, combined into a new work, with some paint also added.

Wednesday, July 13, 2:30pm-4pm
Figure drawing is a fundamental skill for artists. This type of drawing can be intimidating for beginners, and it is easier with a real model to replicate on the page. The Clark Art Institute will be offering the rare opportunity of casual, drop in, figure drawing sessions, to take place on Wednesday afternoons, July 13–August 31. All skill levels are invited to try it out and gather inspiration from the work on view: “Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado.” 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. ($. Under 18 and museum members FREE)

Wednesday, July 13, 3pm-6pm
Picture books and graphic novels are multi-faceted art forms which draw together storytelling and visual art. You’re invited to the Goodwin Memorial Library to make your own picture book! Check out some of the library’s picture books and graphic novels for ideas. Crayons, markers, pencils, pens and other supplies will be provided. 413-584-7451. 50 Middle Street. Hadley, MA. (FREE)

For more visual art community-based education opportunities this summer, read our post, Visual Art in Western MA: July Openings, Closings & Calls for Art for exhibits happening across the region.


Saturday, July 9, 9am-12pm
Learning about plant and soil science practically necessitates outdoor, hands-on learning. Wild plant walks allow you to see where plants grow in relation to each other in local habitats. This guided plant walk at Just Roots/Greenfield Community Farm will teach participants the names of several local species while providing tips for distinguishing similar plants. Please register on the Just Roots website. 413-325-8969. 34 Glenbrook Drive. Greenfield, MA. (<$)

Saturday, July 9, 10am-2pm
Invasive plant species thrive and spread to a degree that they begin to do harm to the biodiversity of their habitat. These species can be harmful to human health, or dominate an ecosystem in a dangerous way. Volunteering to eradicate invasive species is a great way to learn about local habitat while getting outdoors and strengthening your connection to your community. The organization, Wild Scenic Westfield River, is providing a chance to learn how to identify and remove aquatic and wetland invasive plants on a guided paddle trip at Center Pond. For all the event details, register with Meredyth Babcock, 413-623-2070, volunteer@wildscenicwestfieldriver.org. Becket, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

Sunday, July 10,11am-4pm
Hardy Kiwi is a locally invasive species which kills all other vegetation as it spreads. Native to Japan, Korea, Northern China, and Russian Siberia, hardy kiwi has been cultivated commercially in the United States since the early 1900s and has only recently begun spreading dangerously in the Northeast. You can help remove Hardy Kiwi from the area around Burbank Park. Volunteers will meet at the boat launch. 413-429-6416. Lakeway Drive. Pittsfield, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

Though quite unwanted and dangerous to our fragile ecosystems, the numerous invasive species that have become part of the local landscape can serve as a community-based resource for learning. Read more in our recent post, Invasive Species an Unlikely Catalyst for Community-Based Learning.

From bunnies to bamboo to birds, learn more about what causes  these invasive species to spread rapidly, and find out about a handful of species which are invasive in North America, watch the following video:

Monday, July 11, 11am-12pm
Children are naturally scientific. Every day, children pose questions about the world around them and gain knowledge through experimentation. You can support this curiosity by bringing your children to the Cushman Library for an exploration of P.I. Pond. Dawn, Environmental Educator at Northfield Mountain Environmental Center, will teach participants how to carefully collect samples from the pond, study and learn from them, and return them safely. The event will be rescheduled in the event of rain. 413-648-5402. 28 Church Street. Bernardston, MA. (FREE)


Monday, July 11, 6:30pm
Snails are characterized by their slow movement, which makes them easy to observe. Once you learn a little bit about these creatures’ biology and habitat, your own backyard nature explorations can be a site for scientific learning. Children ages three and up, and their families, are invited to the Erving Public Library to learn all about these slow moving creatures in a presentation by Helen Ann Sephton of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. 413-423-3348. 17 Moore Street. Erving, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, July 13, 10am
Snails are a familiar creature which exist in a wide variety of habitats across the globe including land, saltwater, and freshwater environments. Snails are characterized by their slow movement, consisting of gliding along via muscular contractions. Their slow movements make them easy to observe. You and your children can observe snails- and the brave are invited to hold them- during this presentation at the Westhampton Public Library. You can keep the learning going after you leave by keeping an eye out for various species of snails in your own backyard. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road. Westhampton, MA. (FREE)

Flip the classroom. Learn about the way snails move, breathe, eat, and navigate the world in the following video before heading out to the above mentioned community-based events:

Wednesday, July 13, 10am-12pm
Animal presentations provide children with a direct way of learning about biology, habitat, ecology, and other scientific disciplines. Reading or hearing about animals is useful, but actually seeing them is invaluable. Programs such as this “Animal Friends” event at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art help kids develop a connection to nature and science. At this program, children will have the chance to see a variety of animal species while learning about these species’ natural habitats, special skills or unusual habits. All ages are welcome. Free with museum admission. 413-658-1100. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. (<$)

Wednesday, July 13, 6:30pm-7:30pm
Stories can pique our interest in new topics. This storytime at the M.N. Spear Memorial Library will be bug and frog themed. Children will have the chance to see live animals as well as hearing stories about them. 413-259-1213. 10 Cooleyville Road. Shutesbury, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, July 13, 12pm-1pm
Most kids are fascinated by animals- their appearance, their behavior, the way they interact. Animals are interesting partly because you don’t know what they are thinking, and need to deduct the meaning behind their actions through observation. This is a worthwhile, scientific process and a lot of fun. This Zoo On The Go program at Stanley Park will give children the chance to touch and observe animals, and ask questions about their environments, eating habits, and whatever else might interest participants. All ages welcome. 413-568-9312. 400 Western Avenue. Westfield, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, July 9, 10:30am-12:30pm
Rock collectors between the ages of eight and twelve are invited to the Granby Library to learn more about rocks and minerals! Jack Marcy, president of the Connecticut Valley Mineral Club, will teach kids how to identify rocks. You’re welcome to bring your collection and receive help identifying specific pieces. You may attend one, two, or all three sessions. Registration is required and space is limited. 413-467-3320. 297 East State Street. Granby, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, July 10, 1pm and 3pm
Boat tours allow participants to observe and learn about geology up close from a rare perspective. You can take a narrated tour the Connecticut River from the Quinnetucket II with geologist Richard Little. The tour will begin in Northfield and head to Barton Cove before returning. Call 800-859-2960 for reservations. For more information, go to the GDFSuezna website. Northfield, MA. ($. 14 and under <$)

Besides the Connecticut River, there are plenty of other sites in Western Massachusetts where you can observe and learn about local geology. For a list of sites and ways to use them educatoinally, read our post, 4 Outdoor Adventures for Exploring Geology and Local History.


Tuesday, July 12, 3pm-6pm
LEGOs are a highly popular, classic toy. These simple toys allow children to infuse their creativity with their engineering ability, all the while practicing fine motor skills. This program at the Erving Public Library will encourage parents to participate in the building! This program is best suited for ages five and up. Participants ten and under must be accompanied by an adult. 413-423-3348. 17 Moore Street. Erving, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, July 13, 5:30pm-7:30pm
Robotics is a fascinating branch of engineering and computer science which applies these skills in order to create robots. These robots can be made purely for fun, for some practical purpose, and even for artistic purposes. Wednesdays in July, Holyoke Codes will be running a Robotics Lab, creating Artbots. Artbots are robots that involve artistic design or sculptures that include interactive parts. Participants are welcome to come to one or all of the workshops on July 13, 20, and 27 to take place at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. Learn about cause and effect, computer science, engineering, and flex your creativity. 413- 552-4900. 100 Bigelow Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Studying the history of robotics can give you an idea of how far humans have come in the field, and what sort of innovations have yet to be made.


Sunday, July 10, 2pm-3:30pm
Oral histories are primary sources for research and learning. First-person accounts of history are invaluable because of their individual perspective; they provide information on the emotional aspects of historical places and events. Naumkeag, the former home of the Choate family built at the height of the Gilded Age, is a resource for learning about local history from a personal perspective. In this presentation, “The Choates Return to Naumkeag,” Mabel Choate’s grand-nephew Geoffrey Platt, will share his own memories of summer at Naumkeag. Platt has conducted years of research on his family history, with which he will paint a detailed picture of how the original Choate family lived. For information call the Trustees at 413.298.3239 x3008. 5 Prospect Hill. Stockbridge, MA. (Members <$. Non members $)

Sunday, July 10, 2pm-4pm
Historical societies draw people together who have an interest in preservation of the past. The Buckland Historical Society open house will offer tours of the Museum and the Wilder Homestead. The Museum is a former school house which now houses three floors of artifacts and town records. The Wilder Homestead is a furnished 1775 saltbox with five fireplaces, a 1779 English barn with an antique barn loom, and a shoemaker shop. 413-625-9763. 20 Upper Street. Buckland Center, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, July 9, 1-8:30pm
The Springfield Armory produced rifles and muskets for nearly two centuries before closing in 1968. Now an educational resource, the Springfield Armory National Historic Site provides information about the products the armory created as well as the people who worked there, and the impact of both on national and local history. The 2016 reunion of armory workers will bring people together to share stories and celebrate local history. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about history through primary source story sharing. 413-734-8551. 1 Armory Square. Springfield, MA. (FREE).

Opened as an arsenal to support George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War, the Springfield Armory served as a major arms manufacturing center for over two centuries. The Armory closed in 1968, becoming a National Historic Site which now provides families with opportunities to explore the intersection of local and national history. Read more in our post, Springfield Armory Reunion Offers Historical Learning Through Collective Memory.

Thursday, July 14, 7pm
What do fishing and football have in common? An intersecting local history! Presenter Rex Eads can tell you more about how an American football player had a major role in the development of The Pelham Fish Rod Factory. Attendees of this Pelham Library program are invited to bring any Pelham Rod Shop or Montague artifact to share with the group and to bring fishing rods for identification and appraisal. 2 South Valley Road. Pelham, MA. (FREE)


Thursday, July 14, 11am-12pm
The Yo-Yo People’s performance at the Springfield Museums will combine humor and music with tons of Yo-Yo tricks.In addition to the physical benefits of learning how to use a yo-yo, yo-yo tricks are a great entry point for learning about all sorts of physics principles. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA.($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE).

Friday, July 15, 11am-5pm
In order to understand how a yo-yo works in the first place, it’s essential to understand potential and kinetic energy. Even young kids can learn what these terms mean just by holding and dropping a yo-yo, or witnessing someone doing so. You can witness the best of the best Yo-Yo tricks at the 12th Annual Massachusetts Regional Yo-Yo Contest at the Academy of Music Theatre. 413-584-9032. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

You can read more about the physical principles behind Yo-Yos in our post, Yo-Yo School Can Unlock Secrets of Physics! To see concepts such as inertia and friction take place, watch the following explanatory video:


Saturday, July 9, 9am-5pm; Sunday, July 10, 9am-5pm
Many library lovers read more books than they could reasonably afford to buy. The ability to borrow books and spread knowledge through libraries is a benefit for people of all ages. Sometimes, though, owning a book has its advantages. You may want to make notes in it, read it over and over again, or lend it out to your friends and family. You can buy books, as well as CDs and DVDs, while still supporting a local library at this book sale! The sale will take place on the front lawn of the Stockbridge Library on July 8th, 9th and 10th. 413-298-5501. 46 Main Street. Stockbridge, MA. (MARKET/SALE)

Saturday, July 9, 2pm
Local authors Jeanne Birdsall and Harry Bliss have teamed up on a picture book all about sheep! My Favorite Pets: by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Class is a unique book, relaying one child’s school essay about his seventeen “pet” sheep. Come here the authors read at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. This program is free with museum admission. 413-658-1100. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. (<$)

Monday, July 11, 1:30pm
All across the country in libraries, schools, museums and other spaces, educators have been bringing in therapy dogs to help children with literacy skills. Children are invited to read to the dogs, providing a stress free reading experience so that reading is purely fun! Children ages 4-11 are invited to do so at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Call 413-559-6307 to register. Space is limited. This program is free with museum admission. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. (<$)

To learn more about the connection between literacy and therapy dogs, read our post, Time to Talk: Stress-Free Reading


Sunday, July 10, 5:30pm-7pm
Singing releases both endorphins and oxytocin, leaving the singer more relaxed. Oxytocin also causes a feeling of bonding with others. Combine singing with a sense of community and you are bound to experience a strong sense of belonging. Come to this community singing event at EarthDance, followed by a potluck supper, to experience the benefits of music and community involvement. 413-634-5678. 252 Prospect Street. Plainfield, MA. (DONATION. Children under 12 FREE)

Wednesday, July 13, 7pm
As players of world music, The Pangeans play genres ranging from Samba and Calypso to Jazz and Funk. Check them out at this concert on the Forbes Library lawn. There will be refreshments for sale, and visitors are welcome to bring a picnic. 413-587-1011. 20 West Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, July 14, 1pm; Friday, July 15, 11am
Music festivals bring together several different bands and musicians, sometimes within a single genre of cultural theme. “Yidstock,” at the Yiddish Book Center, will celebrate traditional and modern Yiddish music through performances and talks. Purchase tickets on the Yiddish Book Center website. Space is limited and tickets may sell out. 413-256-4900. 1021 West Street. Amherst, MA. (<$ – $)

Yidstock Festival of New Yiddish Music offers opportunities to enjoy music you might not encounter elsewhere, and to learn about and celebrate Jewish culture. Many of the groups identify their music as “Klezmer.” What is Klezmer exactly, and where does the word come from? Watch the following video to find out.

Thursday, July 14, 5pm-10pm
Motown is an American musical genre which emerged around the 1960s with infectious melodies, tambourines, horns, and lots of back and forth between a lead singer and his or her band of backup vocalists. On July 14th, the CityBlock Summer Concert Series will feature several hours of motown music. Stearns Square. Downtown. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, July 14, 5:30pm-8pm
The Pangeans play genres ranging from Samba and Calypso to Jazz and Funk. Come to this concert in Kendrick Park for a crash course in music studies! The Alchemystics will be there playing their reggae, politically charged hip-hop, rock and Trinidadian rhythms. Rain location: Pacific Lodge. For more information, call the Amherst Business Improvement District at 413-345-2945. Kendrick Park. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Friday, July 15, 4:30pm
African drumming performances are highly physical, involving not only the movement required to play the drums but also dance and chanting. These high energy performances get people moving and feeling the beat. As part of the 15th Annual Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA, you catch listen to African drumming in the courtyard of the museum, performed by festival fellows and African Drumming Master, Nani Agbeli. 413-662-2111. 1040 Mass MoCA Way. North Adams, MA. ($ Non members. <$. members)

Check out our post, Lawn Concerts Strengthen the Social Fabric of a Community via Live Music in Green Spaces for a broader list of opportunities for seeing local music.

Making musical performances an integrative part of your family’s summer activity could help inspire your children to take up, or continue practicing, a musical instrument. Playing an instrument has profoundly positive effects on other educational areas. To learn more, read our post, How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain!

[Photo Credit: (cc) MyWhisperingImages]

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.

Donate Now

Support Hilltown Families, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, with your tax-deductible donation.



Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: