33 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Ornithology to Upcycling. Storytelling to Circus Arts.

Bioluminescence, emission of light by an organism, is a fascinating chemical process. It has many uses in various organisms including attracting mates, communication, defense against predators, and illumination for the purpose of sight. An upcoming Young Scientists’ Club gathering at the Gaylord Memorial Library will teach kids all about bioluminescence.

Ornithology to Upcycling. Storytelling to Circus Arts. Dance Studies to Service-Based Learning. 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: On Thursday, July 21, from 10am-4pm, people of all ages are invited to “Science in the Streets” at the Springfield Museums. This STEM festival, part of the Summer Spectacular family programming series, will feature exciting demonstrations by researchers and innovators. Educators and parents are encouraging children to develop or sustain an interest in STEM because many exciting career paths require STEM skills. Learn about science, technology, engineering and math at the Springfield Museums! This program is open to all ages and free with museum admission. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE).

Ornithology ♦ Zoology ♦ Bioluminescence ♦  Music Studies ♦ Local History ♦ Dance Studies ♦ Family Theater ♦ Storytelling ♦ STEM ♦ Physics ♦ Upcycling ♦ Art Studies ♦ Drawing ♦ Service-Based Learning ♦ Circus Arts

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Saturday, July 16, 10:30am
Often, in Western Massachusetts, you can glance up at the sky and find a red-tailed hawk soaring above. And if you’re lucky, you can spy a bald eagle along the Connecticut and Westfield Rivers. Hawks, eagles, and owls live throughout the Pioneer Valley and the Berkshires, but face threats due to human activities. Come to the The Odyssey Bookshop to learn more about predatory birds at this presentation by internationally renowned raptor rehabilitator, Tom Ricardi. 413-534-7307. 9 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, July 17, 1pm-2pm
“Bird banding” refers to the process of catching birds, marking them with an identifying band, and setting them free again. Why do naturalists do this? The data gathered from this process can assist in ornithological and biological research, and can be part of tracking reproductive success and population rates. In this presentation at the Great Falls Discovery Center, Ashley Green of Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship will teach you about her work bird banding. All ages welcome. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Interested in further exploration of local birds of prey? You can check out the live stream of Peregrine Falcons at UMass Amherst any time. This species has nested on the roof of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library for the past thirteen years! See if you can catch them returning home to their nest.

Backyard birding can be an educational venture at all times of the year. An interest in birds can intersect with broader learning about habitat and mapping. Have you hearD of YardMap? It’s a fun citizen scientist project that families can participate in, mapping their yards using Google maps and collecting data for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Read more in our post, YardMap: Make Your Yard a Personal Refuge.


Saturday, July 16, 11am
Have you ever wondered why jellyfish glow, or how? Bioluminescence, emission of light by an organism, is a fascinating chemical process. It has many uses in various organisms including attracting mates, communication, defense against predators, and illumination for the purpose of sight. This Young Scientists’ Club gathering at the Gaylord Memorial Library. will teach kids (ages four and up) all about bioluminescence. Attendees will also be able to make a glow in the dark doorknob hanger. 413-538-5047. 47 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, July 20, 2pm-3:30pm
Learn about polar bears, elephants and humpback whales at a screening of the documentary, Earth. This film screening, part of the Summer Spectacular event series at the Springfield Museums, will educate viewers about biology, habitat, and the planet in general through the story of these three specific animals. Free with museum admission. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE)

Animals are a common interest among children. Whether they’re in love with cats of all shapes and sizes or fascinated by the destructive power of a shark’s jaws, children can learn a lot through having an interest in creatures. In utilizing the numerous animal-related community-based learning resources available locally, families can support children of all ages in learning about everything from biological classification to compassion. Summer opens up these opportunities and is the perfect time to seek out animal demonstrations, visit the zoo, or learn about biology through volunteering at a shelter. Read more in our post, Community Resources Support Interests in Animals, Insects, Fish and More!


Sunday, July 17, 1:30pm
A carillon is a musical instrument involving at least twenty-three bells, typically played by striking a keyboard. Automated music can also be played on certain carillons, similar to a player piano. You can hear these bells played by carilloneur Norma Hopper in Stanley Park. For more information, call 413-568-9312 ext 100. 400 Western Avenue. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Monday, July 18, 6:30pm-8pm
Learning a musical instrument opens up a world of possibilities for individual expression and collaboration with others. 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 Westhampton Public Library. Bring your own ukulele if you have one. Julie will teach you two chords and you can strum along to simple songs. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road. Westhampton, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, July 20, 6pm
Percussion is a highly physical musical form. Local percussionist Craig Harris with encourage even more physical activity by combining dance and movement with intergenerational music making. This Greenfield Public Library program is part of the “Ready, Steady, Read” summer reading series which is helping families engage with literacy learning, sports, and more this summer. 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Even children who like music and enjoy playing it may have some trouble motivating themselves to do so. For parents interested in encouraging this healthy activity, read our post, 12 Musicians Share Strategies on How to Get Kids to Practice Their Musical Instruments


Saturday, July 16, 1pm-4pm
Local, historical authors can help you understand the history of your area and see it from a different perspective. The Emily Dickinson Museum is a resource for learning about the history of Amherst, the life of the Dickinsons, and the poetic form. The 19th Century Children’s Circus will engage children in placemaking and historical education through the lens of poet Emily Dickinson, with fun activities and performances such as storytelling, readings, 19th century toys, and a living history appearance from Emily Dickinson herself! 413-542-2947. 280 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (<$. FREE for museum members)

Western Massachusetts is a treasure trove for community-based studies of literature and literary history! Including historic homes, local landmarks, beautiful trails, and more! Here in the western half of the state, community-based educational resources for explore American literary history are plentiful. Find a location near you in our post that supports your interests in our post, 10 Resources for Literary Learning in Western MA.

Wednesday, July 20, 6pm
The free app, Pocketsights, provides users with self-guided walking tours. These tours can support placemaking while encouraging historical learning. Come to the Westfield Athenaeum for an introduction to use of the app, followed by an optional guided walking or biking tour. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Joining the host of local communities offering educational opportunities through walking tours, Springfield’s downtown has been given new life and new educational possibilities through a walking tour. Provided by the Springfield Central Cultural District, the tour spotlights over 200 years of the city’s history, and includes entry points for learning about everything from art and architecture to local government and the first gas-powered automobile. Read more in our post, Explore Local History and Culture with a Downtown Springfield Walking Tour! After exploring Springfield, take a walk through another community or two – there are over 25 local walking tours in cities and towns in western Massachusetts, all waiting to be explored!


Saturday, July 16, 6:15pm
Dance and choreography can be a hobby, an interest, or a career. People of all ages can enjoy a dance performance or engage in dance themselves. Jacob’s Pillow Dance hosts, free “Inside/Out” performances on an outdoor stage, the Marcia & Seymour Simon Performance Space, providing families with the chance to see professional choreography. Saturdays, July 16, 23, and 30th, you can witness performances by dancers in the Contemporary Program of The School at Jacob’s Pillow. These contemporary variations were coached by program director Milton Myers and esteemed faculty member and Colombo-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. In case of rain the performance will be moved indoors. All ages are invited. 413-243-9919. 358 George Carter Road. Becket, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, July 17, 3pm
Paul Taylor is a dance choreographer whose work includes Duet (1952) and Aureole (1962). His choreography in Aureole combines traditional, technically challenging ballet with everyday gesture. Learn more about his legacy at this screening of the 1998 documentary, Dancemaker, at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. This event may appeal to those interested in dance, choreography, theater, film studies, or some combination. 413-528-0100. 14 Castle Street. Great Barrington, MA. (<$. FREE for members)


Saturday, July 16, 10:30am and 1pm
Improvisational, all ages performance group, PaintBox Theater, will be taking on the cartoon-turned-children’s-toy character of Raggedy Ann in this new production. Raggedy Ann will be joined by dozens of other characters and woven into many familiar and unfamiliar tales. Audience participation is likely! This performance will take place at the Shea Theater 413-923-7159. 72 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (<$)

Saturday, July 16, 2pm and 7:30pm; Sunday, July 17, 2pm
Kit and Kaboodle is a children’s summer theater series presented by the Red Door Theatre. The show is the culmination of a summer camp program for children ages 8-15. The Lost Bookmarker tells the story of Peter, a boy who hates books and doodles all over them he is punished by having to work at the library. He falls asleep and finds himself called to task for his misdeeds. What follows next is an adventure as he leaps from story to story trying to escape the craziness he has created. The show offers an opportunity to introduce young children to the joys of live theater while cultivating their interest in the art. Summer theatre presented by young people for young people! Call 413-789-2026 to reserve your tickets. Performances will take place at the Red Door Theatre. 152 South Westfield Street. Feeding Hills, MA. ($)

Saturday, July 16, 2pm-3pm
The Wizard of Oz is an important story in our culture. Every little boy and girl knows about Dorothy and her adventure, even though the original story was published in a 1900 novel, and the first film adaptation was made over 7 decades ago! Come see what makes this story so enchanting, at this theater production at the Spectrum Playhouse. 413-394-5023. 20 Franklin Street. Lee MA. (Adults $. Students and Seniors <$.)

Wednesday, July 20, 10:30am; Thursday, July 21, 10:30am; Friday, July 22, 10:30am
Frog and Toad is a classic story of friendship which has remained relatively popular for children since its publication in 1970. The tales from the Frog and Toad books have been adapted for screen and stage, and soon the production, A Year With Frog and Toad, will be coming to New Century Theater. This musical adaptation will feature a score by Robert Reale. Call the box office for tickets: 413-585-3220.122 Green Street. Northampton, MA. (call for pricing)

Friday, July 22, 7pm
The 2016 season of PaintBox includes one of Aesop’s age old fables. In The Great Race of the Tortoise and the Hare, children will learn the concepts of persistence, an important moral lesson about goals and actions, and how “slow and steady” really can win the race. Welcome to The International Raceway where this competition between the Tortoise and the Hare is taking place. There will surely be lots of cheering and excitement from the audience as they witness one of the greatest races of all time! Performances will be held at The Williston Theater at The Williston School. 18 Payson Avenue, Easthampton, MA. ($)


Sunday, July 17, 8pm-10pm
Listen to some great stories, and possibly tell you own, at the Ko Festival of Performance Story Slam. Stories must be true and told in first person, without notes. If there are not enough slots, participants may have to audition the first line of their stories. Come hear true stories which will move you and amuse you, at the Holden Theater. Call 413-427-6147 to sign up. Amherst College. 220 South Pleasant Street. Amherst, MA. ($$)

Tuesday, July 19, 11:30am-1pm
People of all ages like to hear, and tell, stories. Narratives help us make sense of our lives and keep each other entertained. This workshop at the Springfield Museums will give you a few tricks and tips for telling an effectively engaging story. The workshop will be followed by a storytelling session, where you can hear examples and maybe even tell your own! This program is free with museum admission and open to all ages. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE)

Friday, July 22, 7pm-9pm
Celebrating the Clark Art Institute’s current exhibit, Sensing Place: Reflecting on Stone Hill, a community story slam will coincide on Friday, July 22 at 7pm. Community members are invited to The Clark in Williamstown to hear and tell stories that center around the topic of place. Stories about the place called home, a particularly meaningful place, or moments of feeling in place, out of place, or displaced are all welcome at this community story slam. This program is free with museum admission. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. ($. 18 and under, students, and members FREE)

“Sensing Place: Reflecting on Stone Hill,” the current exhibit at The Clark Museum in Williamstown, immerses visitors in the rich natural and cultural history of Stone Hill from its geological formation to the present. It examines the broader concepts of place through objects linked to Stone Hill, as interpreted by those familiar with the richness of this special place. Celebrating The Clark’s current exhibit, a community story slam will coincide this month and the community is invited to sharing place-related stories. Read more in our post, Storytelling Contest in the Berkshires Celebrates a Sense of Place, for more details about the contest and the exhibit.

While story slams typically encourage real, personal stories, children can benefit greatly from making up narratives which involve fantasy. Rather than confusing fantasy with reality, creating magical stories allows children to think creatively and problem solve actual, real-life challenges. It also helps them connect with topics more deeply. Read more in our post, Learning Landscapes: Re-Framing Creativity.


Monday, July 18, 5:30pm-7:30pm
Scratch is a useful website and tool for learning the basic logic of programming. People of all ages can have fun with Scratch, with no prior knowledge of coding. This Holyoke Codes workshop will invite participants to create characters, using the drawing tool, and animate them to tell a story. Ages seven and up. 413-552-4900. Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. 100 Bigelow Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, July 20, 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 both of the remaining workshops on July 20, and 27 to take place at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. Learn about cause and effect, computer science, and engineering, all the while flexing your creativity. 413- 552-4900. 100 Bigelow Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, July 21, 10am-4pm
Educators and parents are encouraging children to develop or sustain an interest in STEM because many exciting career paths require STEM skills. Learn about science, technology, engineering and math at the Springfield Museums! This STEM festival, part of the Summer Spectacular family programming series, will feature exciting demonstrations by researchers and innovators. This program is open to all ages and free with museum admission. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE).

Thursday, July 21, 10am-12pm
3D printers are a type of industrial robot which can synthesize three dimensional objects for a variety of purposes. The possibilities are endless! This makerspace workshop at the Greenfield Public Library will feature demonstrations on how to use a 3D Printer and a CNC Router. Space is limited and registration is required. Ages 8-12. 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

3D printing, a type of industrial robot which can synthesize three dimensional objects for a variety of purposes, is one of the most exciting technological, scientific, and creative innovations of recent years. Local libraries and other learning centers have begun to support an interest in engineering, technology, and creativity by housing 3D printers and providing demonstrations of the technology. There are several upcoming opportunities for families to learn about and utilize this new technology their your own projects. Read more in our post: 3D Printing Resources at Local Libraries Supporting STE(A)M.

And for more programming, 3D printing, and makerspace opportunities, check out: Community-Based Organizations & Workshops to Support Coding for All Ages.


Monday, July 18, 6:30pm-7:30pm
How do you get kids interested in science? Lots of activities can be used as examples of scientific properties. This fun science program at the M.N. Spear Memorial Library invites kids ages five and up to learn about physics by creating paper airplanes and rockets. 413-259-1213. 10 Cooleyville Road. Shutesbury, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, July 21, 4:30pm-5:30pm
Upcycling, the repurposing of objects, encourages a sustainable lifestyle as well as creative thinking and problem solving. This program at the Mason Library wil combine upcycling with STEM learning! Participants will learn how to make a jump rope out of trash bags, and construct mad scientist catapults. This activity can open up a discussion about the physics behind these tools. 413-528-2403. 231 Main Street. Great Barrington, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, July 16, 10am-4pm and Sunday, July 17, 10am-4pm
Spirit houses are shrines made to protect spirits of a particular place. The Hancock Shaker Village currently has a collection of house-like sculptures, and invites you to draw inspiration from them to build your own spirit or fairy house. This day of family activities will also include a “Parade of the Spirits,” with farm animals and dancers from Cantarella School of Dance, as well as special activities in the Discovery Barn. 413-443-0188. 1843 West Housatonic Street. Pittsfield MA. (Adults $. 13-18 <$. Children 12 and under, and members, FREE.)

Tuesday, July 19, 3pm
Do your children enjoy crafts? Bring them to the The Odyssey Bookshop where they can make colorful masks. Julia Denos, author and illustrator of the book Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color will run this program. Ages four and up. Please register at least two days prior to the event. 413-534-7307. 9 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (<$)

Friday, July 22, 1pm-3pm
Most children enjoy making art and don’t tend to worry as much as adults do whether their art is “good.” This picture book reading by author Bob Shea will also feature a drawing demonstration. Shea will show you how he draws some of his signature characters in stories such as, Don’t Play With Your Food. He will show you how to draw dinosaurs and unicorns. Shea will also sign your copies of his books. Springfield Museums. Parents can use this as inspiration to draw together with their children. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE)

Drawing can be a tool for regulating emotion. The positive impact of drawing on mood can be especially helpful for parents whose children enjoy making art. Watch the following video to learn more about the psychological benefits of drawing.


Monday, July 18, 10am
Historical preservation is a rich academic field. Archives in museums, libraries, and historical societies provide an organized and protected record of documents and objects which could be useful for historical learning. You can help the Stockbridge Library, Museum and Archives preserve Stockbridge history by volunteering to organize clippings. Lunch will be provided. 413-298-5501. 46 Main Street. Stockbridge, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

Friday, July 22, 9am-11am
Volunteering together teaches children positive values like kindness, empathy and tolerance, and opens up channels of communication between parent and child. You can volunteer with your child at this Hilltown Families Family Volunteer Day with The Food Bank of Western MA. Engaging children in community service can increase their participation as future volunteers, helping to create more resilient and sustainable communities. There will be a number of educational and hands-on activities for children and their caregivers at this event. Register online. 97 North Hatfield Road. Hatfield, MA (VOLUNTEER)

Volunteering helps people connect with their communities. This greater sense of community can positively contribute to mental health. Volunteering can also open up new avenues of learning and help you gain new experiences. If the above service-based learning opportunities don’t interest you, there are many other ways to offer your time to a good, local cause.

To read more about the benefits of helping the food bank at a Family Volunteer Day, or in any fashion, read our post: Service-Based Learning at The Food Bank of Western MA Supports Neighbors in need.


Friday, July 15, 1pm & 7pm; Saturday, July 16, 1pm & 7pm
Circus Smirkus is coming to 3 County Fairgrounds in Northampton! If you haven’t already heard about Circus Smirkus, it’s a professional-level youth circus (performers ages 11-18) that travels around New England and New York every summer putting on a fun and amazing Big Top show. If you’ve seen them before, you know you don’t want to miss their all-new performance (theme: “Up, HUP! and Away: The invention of flight). If this will be your first time, check out this highlight reel from last year.

Saturday, July 16, 1:30pm-2:30pm
Circus arts encourage kids to hone their strength, balance, and flexibility. The learning process also can have a positive effect on self esteem. Bring your children to the Mason Library to learn basic circus acts like juggling. Jill of Berkcirque will teach these skills, and there will be a reading of the classic children’s book, Mirette on the High Wire. 413-528-2403. 231 Main Street. Great Barrington, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, July 16, 8pm-10pm
Sara Felder’s unique performances combine complex juggling with personal narratives. You can witness her outstanding acting ability and wit in her performance, “If I Can’t Juggle, It’s Not My Revolution.” Felder wrote this solo act and will be performing it as part of the Ko Festival of Performance. Holden Theater. Amherst College. 220 South Pleasant Street. Amherst, MA. ($$)

[Photo Credit: (cc) Yu-Chan Chen]

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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