37 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Guided Nature Walks to Literacy. Sports to History.

Mr. Vinny: The Bubble Guy will be at the Springfield Museums with his gigantic bubble wants and jokes. This program is free with museum admission. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE)

Guided Nature Walks to Literacy. Sports to History. Sustainability to Music Studies. 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: People of all ages are invited to Wild Woods Walk at Mount Holyoke Range State Park on Sunday, July 31, 2pm-3pm. A park interpreter will teach you about the plants and animals that call the park home. You will learn how to recognize some of them by sight and sound. Meet at the Notch Visitors Center. 413-253-2883. 1500 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

ZoologyChiropterologyGuided Nature WalkArt StudiesEarth ScienceOceanographyCircus ArtsUpcyclingMusic StudiesHistoryWitchcraftSportsLiteracyCreative Free PlaySustainabilityDance Studies

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There’s much you can learn about an animal, it’s life experience, and even the impacts human life has upon them, simply by examining their bones… including their skulls! Knowing how to read a skull is filled with storytelling opportunities about the wild creatures with whom we share this planet. California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco has an extensive collection of marine mammal skulls that tell many stories, featured here in this KQED video:

Saturday, July 30, 3pm
What can you learn from the bones of an animal? Find out at the “Speaking with Skulls” program where you will examine the skulls of local animals. This program is approximately 20 minutes long and appropriate for all ages. Meet at the Notch Visitors Center of Mount Holyoke Range State Park. 413-253-2883. 1500 West Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, July 30, 8:30pm
Moths are a group of insects related to butterflies. Most moths are nocturnal. People of all ages are invited to Moth Night at the Westhampton Public Library. Moth aficionado Betsy Higgins, who has identified hundreds of moths in her own backyard, will take participants outside to view the moths that have been attracted to her mercury vapor and black lights. The rain date for this program is July 31st. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road. Westhampton, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, July 31, 10am
Do your kids enjoy watching or identifying birds? You and your children can learn about the owl species that inhabit our region, then play detective and figure out what an owl ate! This program is broken into two 20 minute segments. Feel free to come for either or both. This program is appropriate for ages eight and up.Mount Holyoke Range State Park. Meet at the Notch Visitors Center. 413-253-2883. 1500 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, August 3, 7pm-8:30pm
Have you ever heard the term chiropterology? It refers to the study of bats and other similar mammals. The word chiroptera refers to an order of mammals whose forelimbs form webbed wings. You and your children, between the ages of three and eighteen, are invited to a night of birds and bats at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. Participants will listen and watch for these winged creatures above and around Pleasant Valley. You will learn about the natural history of insect-eating predators which come out at night. This program is open specifically to families. Please wear long pants and long sleeved shirts. Hats and binoculars are recommended. Registration is required. Call 413-637-0320. 472 West Mountain Road. Lenox, MA. (<$)


Sunday, July 31, 10:30am-11:30am
Simple structures such as bike paths and sidewalks can tell stories of change and industrialization. Come to the Great Falls Discovery Center for a leisurely walk along paths, and a discussion of cultural and natural history. This event is open to all ages. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, July 31, 2pm-3pm
Walking in the woods is a relaxing and mind-clearing exercise. With a guide, you can add education to this healthy activity. People of all ages are invited to Wild Woods Walk at Mount Holyoke Range State Park. A park interpreter will teach you about the plants and animals that call the park home. You will learn how to recognize some of them by sight and sound. Meet at the Notch Visitors Center. 413-253-2883. 1500 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

While guided walks can be educational and informative, self-directed family hikes allow children and their parents to move at their own pace, exploring the aspects of nature which they are most interested in and comfortable with. For more outdoor walk and hike opportunities, check out the list of Western Mass hiking trails in at the bottom of our post: Explore the Local Landscape and Local History with Hike 125.


Saturday, July 30, 2pm-4pm
Artwork benefits people of all ages and can bring people together from across communities. You and your family members of all ages and abilities are invited to four creative labs to help compose, choreograph, and arrange a performance of music, art, and spoken word. The performance will be based on Alaa Awad’s mural, “Justice” and will culminate with a DownStreet Art Share. Labs take place July 30th, August 20th, September 9th, and September 24th. These labs offer the opportunity to learn from the performing artists of Marafanyi, Drum, Dance, and Song and to hone various artistic and performative skills. For more information, and to sign up, please email rootsheartpulse@ureach.com. Labs will take place at Common Folk Gallery. 33 Main Street. North Adams, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, August 3, 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)

Wednesday, August 3, 3:45pm-5pm
Messy art isn’t just for kids! Help your kids imagine, build, and create at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. This is a great opportunity for you to collaborate with your family while meeting other kids and parents. Attend one, or all four sessions on Wednesday afternoons: August 3, 10, 17 and 24. There will be an optional free play area for siblings under four years old. 413-658-1100. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. ($)


Saturday, July 30, 9:30am-12:30pm
What do rocks and trees have to do with each other? Find out at this three mile hike of Mount Holyoke. You will learn how rocks affect trees, and how you can tell by looking at the trees what kind of rocks you might find. This program is appropriate for ages twelve and up. Please bring water, bug spray, and sunscreen and wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Meet at the Notch Visitors Center. 413-253-2883. 1500 West Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, August 3, 2pm-3:45pm
Although most of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, humans have explored less than five percent of our oceans! Deep ocean is practically as mysterious and foreign to human eyes as outer space. Documentary footage provides a rare insight into parts of the ocean which have been explored and captured on film. You and your children can explore the ocean together with a screening, Oceans (rated G) at the Springfield Museums. This program is free with museum admission. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE)

Studying oceanography, you can learn about species which live in the ocean, as well as the broader concepts of geography and earth science. You can learn about the different layers of the ocean and the creatures that live in them, in the following video:


Sunday, July 31, 1:30pm and 3pm
Have you ever thought about running away to join the circus? You don’t have to leave Western Massachusetts to learn circus skills or witness excellent acrobatic performances. You can witness professional circus performers at the Clark Art Institute. Professional acrobats from the Boston Circus Guild will execute a three-tier human tower during two performances. This program is free with museum admission. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. ($. 18 and under, students with valid ID, and members, FREE)

Sunday, July 31, 7pm
One Man’s Trash by Cirque Us! combines circus arts such as acrobatics, aerial work, and clowns, with narrative and the concept of upcycling. You can view this performance at the Academy of Music Theatre and see how Cirque Us recycled, reused, and reinvented trash to build their set. 413-584-9032. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. ($)


Saturday, July 30, 4pm-10pm
Bang On A Can, formed in 1987, is an organization dedicated to contemporary and experimental music of all genres and instrumentation. The Bang On A Can residency program is culminating with a marathon concert at MASS MoCA. With six hours of music and myriad musicians and composers, it is bound to be a unique musical experience. 413-662-2111. 1040 Mass MoCA Way. North Adams, MA. ($$)

Wednesday, August 3, 4th, and 5th
If you are interested in becoming involved in music, you can attend a series of workshops as part of the Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival. On Wednesday, August 3, 5pm-6:30pm, Billy Arnold will discuss drums and rhythm. On Thursday, August 4, 5pm-6:30pm, saxophone player Jayvon Jackson will discuss the skill of improvisation and ways to improve it. On Friday, August 5, 6pm-7:30pm, Samirah Evans and Miro Sprague will give a workshop on the fundamentals of singing a song and finding your voice. These workshops will offer a constructive learning environment, advice and perspectives from professional musicians, and access to contacts in the music profession. For more information, visit the Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival website. Springfield’s Court Square. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

What are the defining features of jazz, and how did the genre originate? Find out in the following video:

Thursday, August 4, 6:30pm-7:30pm
If you’re interested in playing music but don’t know where to start, register for ukulele lessons at the Erving Public Library. Ukuleles are relatively simple instruments with only four strings. They can be a great introduction to other stringed instruments like guitar. For more information and to register, call 413-423-3348. 17 Moore Street. Erving, MA. (FREE)

Friday, August 5, 11am-2pm
Sea shanties are a type of work song, sung by sailors while they work. These chants helped keep up morale with difficult tasks. Below The Gaff’s performances entertain kids with the humor, while providing examples of traditional Irish folk songs, sea shanties and original pirate tunes for interested adults. You can see them perform at the Springfield Museums, free with museum admission. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE)

Playing music has immense benefits for your brain, in addition to being a calming and enjoyable activity. You can find out about the benefits of playing music and ways to build a practice habit in our post, How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain!


Saturday, July 30, 11am
Community celebrations bring people together, supporting placemaking. Buckland Summer Day will also provide music, storytelling, and opportunities for historic learning. The Buckland Public Library will host a storyteller at 11am. At 1pm there will be a concert. Throughout the day there will be book and art sales, historic walking tours, self-guided cemetery tours, self-guided garden tours, and more. For more information call 413-628-3231. Buckland Center Common. Upper Street. and Cross Street. Buckland, MA. (DONATION for dance.)

Saturday, July 30, 11am, 2pm, 4pm and Sunday, July 31, 11am, 2pm, 4pm
For many years, visitors would flock to the summit of Mount Holyoke and the Summit House. You can learn about the history of the summit house and why visitors from all over the world visited it. This talk will take approximately 20 minutes and is appropriate for ages twelve and up. Visitors will not enter the summit house. J.A. Skinner State Park. 413-586-0350. 20 Skinner State Park Road. Hadley, MA. (Parking <$)

Throughout western Massachusetts are many reminders of the past. From cellar holes to quarries, the region’s ruins speak volumes about its history. Families can explore old hotels, drowned towns, abandoned quarries, and old mill sites safely to learn about life in the past and to explore the ways in which nature can reclaim spaces. Read more in our post, Exploring Ruins Reveals Local History and Culture.

Saturday, July 30, 11am, 12noon and 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 30, 2pm
Witch trials are an important part of seventeenth-century Massachusetts history. With trials occurred not only in Salem but also in Western Massachusetts. In his talk, The Devil’s Juggles, Michael Thurston will contrast the Salem witch trials with witchcraft accusations which took place in Northampton and other Pioneer Valley towns. This talk is in conjunction with Susan Montgomery’s exhibition “Mary Bliss Parsons: Accused Witch of Northampton.” Historic Northampton. 413-584-6011. 46 Bridge Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, July 31, 1pm
The old-time one room schoolhouse is open! Explore the collections of books, documents, maps, artifacts, clothing, tools and other historical items at the Norwich Bridge Schoolhouse Museum. There will be additional open houses planned for last Sunday of each month until fall. For more information call 413-667- 3453 or visit the Huntington Historic Society website. The Norwich Bridge Schoolhouse Museum. Corner of Worthington and Littleville Roads. Huntington, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, July 31, 2pm
Fashion is much more than a material or superficial interest. An interest in fashion can lead to exploration of cultural trends, fiber arts, and history. In her talk, “Caring for Grace Coolidge’s Gown,” costume conservator Colleen Callahan will discuss her work restoring an evening gown owned by First Lady Grace Coolidge. The restored gown will be on view. This illustrated presentation will take place at Historic Northampton. 413-584-6011. 46 Bridge Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, July 30, 8am and Sunday, July 31, 7:30
Even just balancing on two skis in the water is impressive. But the Oxbow Water Ski Show Team can do much more than that, with pyramids 3-4 people high, flips through the air and other tricks. Come see what they, and other teams, can do at this Eastern regional water ski show. In addition to being dazzled and entertained, integrate the excitement into learning about physics by thinking deeply about water skiing and certain concepts of physics, including Newtown’s Third Law of Motion, Reynolds number, and gravity. The competition will take place on the 30th, and 31st. 413-626-1913. Oxbow Marina. 180 Island Road. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, July 30, 11am
You can learn all about historic baseball Springfield Armory National Historic Site by attending this a 19th century baseball game by the rules of 1861 and 1865. Learn old-fashioned baseball lingo, like “hurler,” “stinger,” “dew drop,” “cranks,” rooters,” and “bugs.” 413-734-8551. One Armory Square. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, August 3, 10am-11am
It’s not hard to see why athletics are good for children and adults. Sports require not only physical exercise but mental strategy, friendly competition and collaboration with peers. Formal sports can be intimidating and put mild pressure on kids. Silly Olympic Games at the Westhampton Public Library will give kids the chance to test their balance, aim and coordination in a fun, informal environment. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road. Westhampton, MA. (FREE)

Western Massachusetts is known for a great many things, but sports aren’t generally one of them. Nevertheless, the region is filled with opportunities to learn about (and participate in!) sports of all kinds. Read more about how sports history intersects with local history in our post, Exploring Athletics and Sports History Through Community-Based Resources.


Saturday, July 30, 10:30am
Writing intersects with the natural world in many ways. Genres of nature writing include science writing, environmentally inspired literature, and works of environmental advocacy. Nature lovers of all ages are invited to the Clark Art Institute to hike stone hill and record their throughts and observations. Conservation biologist, artist, author, and nature journalist Jennifer Lovett will lead this outdoor expedition and journaling event. Lovett has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies and is author of the children’s book, Beavers Away! This program is free with museum admission. For more information call 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. (Adults $. Children 18 and younger, students with valid ID, and museum members FREE)

Tuesday, August 2, 6pm-8pm
Writing workshops offer a chance to meet other writers, share inspiration and prompts, talk about your favorite books, and offer constructive feedback. Adults and self-directed teens may be interested in Make It Springfield’s two hour, weekly writing workshops. Register on the Make It Springfield website. 168 Worthington Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Gain some inspiration and guidance before the workshop with the following video.

Thursday, August 4, 9am-5pm
The Amherst League of Women Voters book sale will provide families with used books in great condition. Keep summer reading going through September with new books at affordable prices. This book sale supports the League of Women Voters as well as local schools and libraries. This year, the sale will take place at the Fort River Elementary School. 70 South East Street. Amherst, MA. (MARKET/SALE)


Saturday, July 30, 12pm-4pm
Pop-up playground adventures encourage 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! The most engaged age range for this program is roughly ages three through eleven. For more information, check The Play Workshop website. 413-588-2208. Courthouse Lawn. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, August 4, 11am-12:30am
For young children, bubbles are a fascinating thing to play with, chase, and pop. Older kids and adults may be interested in using bubbles as a means of learning about physical concepts such as surface tension. Whatever your interest, Mr. Vinny: The Bubble Guy will be at the Springfield Museums with his gigantic bubble wants and jokes. This program is free with museum admission. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE)

For more tips on engaging kids through bubbles, read our post: Let Them Grow: Getting Engaged Through Blowing Bubbles. And for even more ways to engage in creative free play as a family, this summer and beyond check out our post, Let’s Play: Being Creative With Your Old Books.

The following video offers a longer exploration into the importance of play from a developmental perspective:


Sunday, July 31, 9:30am-1pm
Interested in learning about the various forms of clean energy? At the Clean Energy Festival you can tour a wind turbine and a solar array. Wind and solar are two major choices of alternative energy sources. Learn about the pros and cons of each energy source and meet others interested in clean energy, at the Berkshire East Mountain Resort. Tours are free of charge. Other activities must be purchased. Check the resort website for more information. Charlemont, MA. (FREE)

Prior to the event you may want to become versed in the practical and financial aspects of clean energy by viewing the following video:

Wednesday, August 3, 4pm-6pm
Studying sustainability is not only a way to learn about nature, earth science, and climate, but also human practices as they relate to environmental issues. Adults and older students interested in sustainability and architecture may be interested in taking a tour of the Environmental Center at Williams College in order to learn about sustainability and green building initiatives. Williams College. All ages are welcome. 413-597-4277. 880 Main Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)


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. In case of rain the performance will be moved indoors. All ages are invited.

Wednesday, August 3, 6:15pm
On Wednesday, August 3, Francine E. Ott/The Walk will be performing a blend of hip hop, house, modern, and African dance. Her performance will tell a narrative of loss through her choreography. 413-243-9919. 358 George Carter Road. Becket, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, August 4, 6:15pm
On Thursday, August 4th, you can witness Kate Wallich + The YC performing excerpts of post-internet generation-inspired show, Splurge Land, set to an original score by Johnny Goss. You will also see the company’s newest work, Industrial Ballet. In case of rain the performance will be moved indoors. All ages are invited. 413-243-9919. 358 George Carter Road. Becket, MA. (FREE)

Friday, August 5, 6:15pm
Thresh Performing Arts Collective, led by Preeti Vasudevan, will perform on August 5. This group’s show will blend Indian dance forms and modern theories of movement, bringing together an opportunity for both dance studies and cultural studies. 413-243-9919. 358 George Carter Road. Becket, MA. (FREE)

Friday, August 5, 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)

Blending creativity and physical fitness, dance is a unique art form. Through classes, performances, community events, and other dancebased resources, families can learn about the art, history, and practice of dance in our community and around the world. Read our post, Explore the Art of Dance Through Community-Based Resources.

[Photo Credit: (cc) Kim Scott-O]

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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