38 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Comedy to Pottery. Sun Prints to Paleontology.

Comedy to Pottery. Sun Prints to Paleontology. Writing to 3D Printing. These are just a few of the community-based learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

The 10th annual Hilltown Six Pottery Tour offers families the opportunity to visit potters’ studios, see their work, learn about the process of creating pottery, and ask questions. Visit nine studios across Western Massachusetts on Saturday, July 23, 10am-5pm and Sunday, July 23, 10am-5pm. Go to the website for a map and full schedule of events on this self-guided tour. Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire county, MA. (FREE)

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

Featured community highlight this week: Celebrate African American culture at the 43rd annual “Gather-In,” in Durant Park on Saturday, July 23, 12pm-6pm, a free neighborhood festival. Organized by the Berkshire County chapter of the NAACP, this free, fun-filled community event for all ages celebrates the rich cultural traditions and deep roots of the African-American community in Berkshire County and is open to everyone. There will be games, activities, music, food, and a free children’s raffle for bikes. The second annual Jahda Classic Basketball Tournament will be held during the Gather-In. For more information call 413-464-9060. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE admission. MARKET/SALE)

Outdoor Adventures ♦ Pottery ♦ Comedy ♦ Animal Studies ♦ Dance Studies ♦ History ♦ Music Studies ♦ Literacy ♦ Writing ♦ Technology ♦ 3D Printing ♦ Art Studies ♦ Figure Drawing ♦ Culture Studies ♦ Science ♦ Paleontology ♦ Crafts ♦ Sun PrintsBotany

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


Saturday, July 23, 10am-12pm
Building fairy houses is a fun activity which gets kids engaging in citizen science, and creative free play. Children ages 4 and up, and their caregivers, can enjoy a morning of outdoor fairy-themed activities at Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center. Families will play games, build fairy houses, launch fairy boats, and read fairy stories. This outdoor activity intersects with literacy and creativity. Register by calling 800-859-2960. 99 Millers Falls Road. Northfield, MA. (<$).

To read more about the embedded learning involved in building fairy houses, read our post: Building Fairy Houses Promotes Learning, Creative-Free Play & Citizen Science.

Monday, July 25, 10:30am-11:30am
Do your kids love exploring the backyard? You can help them explore beyond their close surroundings and encourage an interest in nature studies. Young naturalists ages 8-11 are invited to become Junior Rangers at the Great Falls Discovery Center. This four-part nature education workshop, running July 25-August 15th, will teach children about their local habitat. Kids will become experts on the Connecticut River Watershed, and have the chance to earn a Junior Ranger Patch from Mass Parks. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, July 28, 6pm-8:30pm
Invasive species grow and spread across habitats at an extremely fast rate and pose a threat to other species. Help save the biodiversity of the Connecticut River by volunteering to hand pull water chestnut with staff from Northfield Mountain and the Connecticut River Watershed Council. This educational volunteer opportunity will also involve paddling on the river. Meet at the Barton Cove Canoe and Kayak Rental Area. Register by calling 1-800-859-2960. Gill, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

Friday, July 29, 6pm-7pm
The new Mutter’s Field Accessible Trail provides outdoor recreation access for people of all abilities! Join Marty Klein from the Pascommuck Conservation Trust for a walking tour and conversation about the new Mutter’s Field Accessible Trail. Wear your walking shoes and meet us at the trail opening. Call the Easthampton Public Library at 413-527-1031 for more information. East Green Street. Easthampton, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, July 23, 10am-5pm and Sunday, July 23, 10am-5pm
Pottery has been a part of human civilizations around the world ever since the Neolithic era – which was over 10,000 years ago! Much more than just a means of making dishes, pottery serves as a creative outlet for many artists, and the slow development of the art and technology surrounding pottery speaks volumes to the changes that human civilization has undergone, both long ago and more recently. The 10th annual Hilltown Six Pottery Tour offers families the opportunity to visit potters’ studios, see their work, learn about the process of creating pottery, and ask questions. Visit nine studios across Western Massachusetts. Go to the website for a map and full schedule of events on this self-guided tour. Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire county, MA. (FREE)

Utilizing local resources, children’s literature, and online tools, families can explore art, history, culture, and science through pottery-centric studies. Read our post, Discovering History Through Pottery-Based Learning, to find pottery resources including classes.

Pottery has different symbolic and cultural significance depending on its origin. Watch the following video to learn about Native American pottery.


Tuesday, July 26, 3pm
Improvised performances require collaboration and creativity. Improvisers must think on their feet and successful performances can boost self esteem. As part of Camp Odyssey at the Odyssey Bookshop, youth ages six and up are invited to an improv workshop with local authors Lisa Papademetriou and Molly B. Burnham. Registration is required at least two days prior to the event. 413-534-7307. 9 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (<$)

Friday, July 29, 5:30pm-6:30pm
Kelsey Flynn is a stand up comedian and improvisor. Her comedic performance, “Put Down The Phone, Pick Up Your Power,” will explore the challenges of living in a constantly plugged-in, digital world. As a parent, Flynn discusses these matters as they relate to balancing work and time spent with her kids. People of all ages are welcome to attend this program at the Forbes Library 413-587-1011. 20 West Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

What we find funny and why we laugh is not only a cultural, sociological, and philosophical question, but also a biological one. To learn the science behind laughter, watch the following video.


Tuesday, July 26, 11am-12pm
Often, in Western Massachusetts, you can glance up at the sky and find a red-tailed hawk soaring above. Hawks and other raptors live throughout the Pioneer Valley, but face threats due to human activities. Come to the the Hatfield Public Library to learn more about predatory birds at this presentation by internationally renowned raptor rehabilitator Tom Ricardi. 413-247-9097. 39 Main Street. Hatfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, July 27, 2pm-3:20pm
It is widely known that chimpanzees are humans’ closest living relatives, and that they are highly intelligent beings. You and your child can learn about our closest relative at a screening of the Disneynature film, Chimpanzee. This screening at the Springfield Museums is part of the ongoing Summer Spectacular Family Series and is free with museum admission. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE)


Saturday, July 23, 3pm and 7:30pm
Paul Taylor is a dance choreographer whose work includes Duet (1952) and Aureole (1962). Paul Taylor continues to shape the American art of modern dance. The Paul Taylor Dance Company, one of the early modern dance companies, will be performing at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Friday, July 22 and Saturday, July 23. Paul Taylor Dance Company has performed in over 500 cities since its formation in 1954. For tickets, call the box office at 413-528-0100 or purchase them online on the Mahaiwe website. 14 Castle Street. Great Barrington, MA. ($)

Saturday, July 23, 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 23, and 30th, you can witness performances by dancers in the Contemporary Program of The School at Jacob’s Pillow. These will be contemporary variations 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)

Monday, July 25, 6pm
Exercise is an integral part of holistic health, and it is easier to exercise once you find an activity you enjoy for its own sake. You are invited to join the Crescent Dancers for a lesson of belly dancing at the East Longmeadow Public Library. All ages are welcome and no experience is required. Belly dancing could become part of your exercise routine! 413-525-5432. 60 Center Square. East Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

To find other dance classes and performances, read our post: Explore the Art of Dance Through Community-Based Resources


Saturday, July 23, 11am, 12noon & 1pm
Join Enchanted Circle Theater and The Trustees at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead for a unique living history experience! A Fiery and Still Voice: William Cullen Bryant at Home is a site-based history play where past and present converge to bring the Homestead to life! This is a play about love, passion and social justice. Audience travels through several rooms in the house as well as outdoors. Tickets are limited, so be sure to reserve in advance. 413-532-1631 x 3110. 207 Bryant Road. Cummington, MA ($)

Saturday, July 23, 11am-5pm
How did people work, live and travel in the early 1900’s? Step back in time at the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum as they celebrate their annual TrolleyFest! TrolleyFest will host hands-on activities like cider pressing, butter making, weaving, and toolmaking. There will also be blacksmithing demonstrations, Trolley Era reenactors, live music trolley rides, and more. Families can learn about local history and the American Trolley Era while experiencing some aspects of day-to-day life of this time period. 413-625-9443. 14 Depot St. Shelburne Falls, MA (>$)

Sunday, July 24, 2pm-4pm
Historical societies draw people together who have an interest in preservation of the past. This 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 antique barn loom, and a shoemaker shop (Rt. 112). 413-625-9763. 20 Upper Street. Buckland Center, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, July 27, 6pm
Studying the evolution of gravestones over the centuries can provide insight into changes which have been made in industry and production techniques. Bob Drinkwater, local anthropologist, will present “Pioneer Valley Gravestones: Circa 1650-Present” at the Greenfield Public Library. His talk will focus on the time when gravestones were locally produced from local materials. 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)


Sunday, July 24, 1pm-4pm
Learn about Spanish culture through a performance of classical and flamenco guitar. In conjunction with the Clark Art Institute’s current exhibition, Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado, the museum is hosting educational events for families on Sundays in July and August 2016. On July 24th you can attend this performance by Jason and Elysa Hochman, the elite musical couple behind Rumba Flamenca and co-founders of the New York Guitar Academy for free with museum admission. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. ($. Under 18, students with valid ID, and museum members, FREE)

For a sample of flamenco guitar music, check out the following video

Wednesday, July 27, 6pm
You can learn about history through music at the Whately Library! Sugarloaf Stringband is a five piece, acoustic group who will be playing cowboy music from the 1800 and 1900’s on a variety of instrument. Learn about music history and hear some songs which have influenced the genre of country music. 413-665-2170. 202 Chestnut Plain Road. Whately, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, July 28, 6:30-7:30pm
Ukuleles are a great introductory instrument. They are relatively simple, with only four strings, and they are light and portable. This makes it easy to get a practice session going. Anyone interested in learning to play the ukulele is invited to the Erving Public Library
If you do not own a ukulele, register early to reserve a ukulele to play during the lesson. There is a limited number. 413-423-3348. 17 Moore Street. Erving, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, July 23, 1pm
Writing is a great way for teens to express their emotions, open up their creative side, and share their ideas with others in an articulate manner. Local author Joan Embree will be running this workshop at the Stockbridge Library. She will offer inspiring ideas for budding writers in grades five and up. Registration is recommended by calling 413-298-5501. 46 Main Street. Stockbridge, MA. (FREE)

Monday, July 25, 1:30-2:30pm
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. (<$)

Tuesday, July 26, 10am-2pm
Best known for his invented words, imaginary animals, and silly yet thought provoking plots, Dr. Seuss is one of the most well-known children’s authors of all time. Two of his books rank amongst the 20 best-selling children’s books ever. A native of western Massachusetts, Dr. Seuss drew upon his surroundings in order to create images for his stories. “Celebrate Dr. Seuss Day” at the Springfield Museums with feature musical performances, a meet and greet with characters, acrobatics by the Boston Circus Guild, face painting and more. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (Museum admission $. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE)

Given the worldwide impact of Dr. Seuss’ work, it’s hard to believe that there is no museum in his honor. That is set to change when the Springfield Museums will open the first museum dedicated to celebrating the life and legacy of Springfield native Theodor Seuss Geisel! Read more in our post,  Coming to Pioneer Valley: The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, and watch the following video to learn more about Seuss’ life.


Monday, July 25, 5:30pm-6:30pm
ScratchJr is a great tool for getting even young children involved in coding. With Scratch, kids can make their own games and stories by controlling how characters move, jump, dance, and sing! In this Holyoke Codes program, children ages five through seven will learn how to make a simple game. Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. 413- 552-4900. 100 Bigelow Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, July 26, 3pm
Have your children ever experimented with “LittleBits?” LittleBits are easy-to-use electronic building blocks. They are a great, fun tool for getting kids to think inventively. Lots of things can be created with LittleBits, including a remote controlled car! No soldering or wiring is required. This program is for youth ages five and up. Erving Public Library. 413-423-3348. 17 Moore Street. Erving, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, July 27, 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. Learn about cause and effect, computer science, engineering, and flex your creativity. This workshop will take place at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. 413- 552-4900. 100 Bigelow Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

This summer, you can combine summer reading with STEM learning, with STEM themed books. For a list of suggested titles, check out our post: 100+ Science Books to Support STEM Learning at Home & in the Classroom


Saturday, July 23, 10:30am-12:30pm
The innovative manufacturing technology of 3D printers is frequently utilized by libraries who want to boost the creative power of their makerspace clubs and events. The Sunderland Public Library will be hosting a Makerspace Party for ages eight through fourteen. There will be demonstrations and participants will have the chance to use a 3D printer to create models, toys, bracelets, and more. Space is limited. Please call 413-665-2642 to register. 20 School Street. Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, July 28, 3pm-4pm
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. Patrons ages 12-18 can come to the Berkshire Athenaeum to learn how to use a 3D printer. They will be printing the logos of their favorite sports team, in conjunction Children under two FREE)

To find more 3D printing resources and events, check out our post: 3D Printing Resources at Local Libraries Supporting STE(A)M.

Check out the following video for an explanation of 3D printing and the implications this technology has on manufacturing and industry.



Wednesday, July 27, 2:30pm-4pm
Figure drawing is a fundamental skill for artists. This type of drawing can be intimidating for beginners, and it is easier to execute with a real model for reference. The Clark Art Institute will be offering the rare opportunity of casual, drop in, figure drawing sessions, to take place on Wednesday afternoons, through 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)with the fitness themed summer reading program. 413-499-9480. 1 Wendell Avenue. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, July 28, 11:30am-3pm
Collaborative artwork is a tool for inspiration and growth among individual artists. This pop up outdoor art museum at the Springfield Museums invites anyone and everyone to contribute their creative vision. Come check out the artistic styles of friends, neighbors, and community members and draw inspiration from what you see at the museum. This program is included in the cost of admission. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$.)

There are many more art studies events in July and August 2016. Read our post, Support Art Studies this Summer with Community Classes and Art Exhibits, to find workshops on everything from plein air painting to intergenerational drawing.


Friday, July 29, 10am
Celebrate Jewish culture at a “Shabbat Shabloom” gathering! Fridays until late August, at Abundance Farm, families will gather for music. Felicia Sloin and Amy Meltzer lead a musical performance especially for young children, encouraging participation and movement. Families are invited to tour the farm, sample what is in season, and take home flowers. 253 Prospect Street. Northampton, MA. (DONATION)

Saturday, July 23, 12pm-6pm
Celebrate African American culture at the 43rd annual “Gather-In,” in Durant Park, a free neighborhood festival. Organized by the Berkshire County chapter of the NAACP, this free, fun-filled community event for all ages celebrates the rich cultural traditions and deep roots of the African-American community in Berkshire County and is open to everyone. There will be games, activities, music, food, and a free children’s raffle for bikes. The second annual Jahda Classic Basketball Tournament will be held during the Gather-In. For more information call 413-464-9060. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE admission. MARKET/SALE)


Thursday, July 28, 6:30pm-8pm
Dry ice, the solid form of carbon dioxide, has practical, aesthetic, and educational uses. Dry ice has an unusual appearance which can spark an interest in learning the chemistry behind the substance. Changes in matter are an important, basic concept for chemistry learning. Youth are invited to the Westhampton Public Library to learn about chemistry and dry ice through storytelling. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road. Westhampton, MA. (FREE)

Watch the following video to see learn the science behind two dry ice experiments.

Tuesday, July 26 and Thursday, July 28, 8pm
An interest in studying astronomy can develop from an interest in mathematical calculation, or a simple appreciation for the beauty of the sky. Observing the stars can be an act of scientific or spiritual curiosity, or both. Once again, the Old Hopkins Observatory at Williams College is opening for the summer and offering free shows for the public. The Hopkins Observatory, built in 1836-38 by the first professor of astronomy at Williams College, Albert Hopkins, is the oldest extant observatory in the United States. Shows will take place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 8 p.m.: July 26, 28; and August 2 and 4. Reservations are recommended. Call 597-2188. 829 Main Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Monday, July 25, 6:30pm-7:30pm
Lots of kids find dinosaurs fascinating because of their extinction, their unusual appearance, and their massive size. Youth ages five and up are invited to the M.N. Spear Memorial Library to help excavate dinosaur fossils! Learn about fossils and their relationship to the study of dinosaurs and other species. 413-259-1213. 10 Cooleyville Road. Shutesbury, MA. (FREE)

If your kids want to learn even more about dinosaurs, you can check out any number of the local resources outlined in our post: When Dinosaurs Walked…Western Mass.


Monday, July 25, 11am
Nature is a beautiful inspiration for artistic creation. In this program at the Cushman Library, participants will walk around Cushman Park, gathering bits of nature to use in the creation of sun prints. These blue, “cameraless photos” are made by placing objects on special paper and exposing the paper to sunlight. Sun prints are also part of photographic history, and creating them could potentially spark an interest in this history. 413-648-5402. 28 Church Street. Bernardston, MA. (FREE)

Friday, July 29, 10:30am
‘Fused glass’ is glass that has been fired or heat-processed in a kiln, allowing it to be altered for artistic purposes. Deenie Pacik will be at the Holyoke Public Library teaching young adults how to create Dichroic fused glass pendants. 413-420-8101. 250 Chestnut Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, July 27, 3pm-4pm
A lot of teens love decorating their rooms and other household spaces. Decorating your room can be an enjoyable form of self-expression which you get to see every day. This program at the Hatfield Public Library will provide materials and instruction to make decor, with dowels, feathers, and yarn. Get creative and inspire each other. 413-247-9097. 39 Main Street. Hatfield, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, July 23, 10am
Fiddleheads, that delicious early spring delicacy, is a young fern frond before is unfurls into a beautiful green fan that waves in the shady forest breeze in the summer months. One of the oldest surviving plants, dating back to over 300 million years, ferns are one of the most diverse plant groups with a unique reproduction adaptation. Join the Pioneer Valley Fern Society for a guided fern walk to learn more about pteridology (the study of ferns) and the ferns that with which we share our local habitat. Come curious to learn and be prepared to identify a dozen or more common ferns that call western MA home. Bring your camera and sketchbook and ready to learn about botany, ecology and local habitats that host New England ferns. This will be an outdoor discovery event for all ages. Meet in the parking lot across from 153 Montague Road. Shutesbury, MA (FREE)

[Photo Credit: (cc) Carrie Kellenberger]

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: