30 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Greek Souvlaki to Jewish Literature. Time Zones to Train Rides.

Greek “Glendis” are celebrations, often highlighting Greek culture through traditional food and dance. Every year, St. George’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral hosts a Glendi for thousands of visitors from far and near, providing the best in traditional Greek foods, pastries, music, dancing, and more. Beginning next Friday, all are welcome to this celebration on September 9-11, 2016. Call 413-737-1496 for more information. 22 St George Road. Springfield, MA. (<$)

Raccoons to Rattlesnakes. Greek Souvlaki to Jewish Literature. Time Zones to Train Rides. 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: Youth in grades 3-6 are invited to Smith College for an afternoon of engineering, geology, physics and biology activities on Saturday, September 3, 3pm-5pm! Participants will choose one of four options: Engineering Design with balloon powered cars, Investigating physical properties for rocks and minerals, Exploring electricity and electromagnetism and Investigating food chains and food webs with an owl pellet dissection. Registration is required through the Smith College website. 413-585-3932. Drop off and check in will take place in the lobby of Ford Hall. Green Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

GeologyDendrologyNature-Based LearningGuide WalksArchaeologySunken CitiesIndustrial HistoryMusic StudiesZoologyPhrenologySTEMComputer CodingLocal HistoryCemetery StudiesOrnithologyJewish CultureGreek FoodTransportation HistoryLocomotivesHistory of TimeLifelong LearningRattlesnakesLiterary AdaptationSherlock HolmesArt StudiesActivism

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Who is considered the “Father of Modern Geology?” James Hutton, of course! Geological concepts we still use today took a previous simple understanding of our world and made it complex. Stemming from his theory on the circulation of blood, his theory of rock formations followed a similar train of thought. Theories like Hutton’s Unconformity and Uniformitarianism were born, paving the way for discoveries by future geologists, including formation of rock and minerals. In this SciShow video, “Great Minds: James Hutton, Founder of Geology,” Hank Green reveals Hutton’s history and geological contributions… learning that rocks are more than just rocks… they’re the key to Earth’s history!

With an understanding of the history of geology as Hank Green shares in the video above, following an interest in history through community-based resources can also support learning about geology and early Hilltown industries. Western Massachusetts is home to some incredible geological gems like mineral dig sites, abandoned quarries, and former mines. An exploration of these resources can lead to experiential learning about the area’s history – both local and natural. We’ve highlighted four such gems that families can easily visit in our post, Community-Based Resources to Support an Interest in Geology & Local History.

Saturday, September 3, 9:30am-12:30pm
If your interest is more specifically about rocks, or maybe just trees, ask yourself how rocks and trees affect one another and then check out this community-based educational event that supports learning at the intersection of geology, dendrology and biology. During a three mile hike of Mount Holyoke, you can learn how rocks affect trees, and how you can tell by looking at the trees what kind of rocks you might find near them. 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 of Mount Holyoke Range State Park.. 413-253-2883. 1500 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Nature-Based Learning

Saturday, September 3, 10:30am-11:30am
Do your kids love animals? You can help nurture your child’s love of animals into a love of science learning. Youth ages three to six are invited to Kidleidoscope programs, on September 3, 10, & 17, at Great Falls Discovery Center. Siblings and friends welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult. At the September 3 program, participants will learn about raccoons, who share our home in the Connecticut River. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, September 4, 2pm-4pm
Spending time outdoors can connect us with our senses as we watch and listen to animals, and take in the smells and sensations of being in nature. Animals, too, use their senses to find food and service. Kids ages six and up, and their caregivers, are invited to a guided hike to learn about local animals and their survival techniques. Children must be accompanied by an adult. This hike is about 2 ½ miles long, and covers easy terrain. Please bring water, bug spray, and sunscreen, and wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Meet at the Notch Visitors Center of Mount Holyoke Range State Park.. 413-253-2883. 1500 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, September 6, 2pm-3pm; Friday, September 9, 2pm-3pm
Walking in the woods is a relaxing and mind-clearing exercise. With a guide and awareness, you can add learning 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)


How do buildings, towns, and cities come to ruins? While abandonment is one way, coastal areas might experience another path towards ruins… sinking! Learning about sunken cities gives a lens into understanding how our ancestors lived and the power of nature (think earthquakes, tsunamis and changes in sea levels). While we have numerous ruins in our region, sunken cities are ruins we might not be able to directly experience here in western MA; however, this TED-Ed video explains how they happen and the value they have to scientists.

Check out the full lesson at TED-Ed: Real life sunken cities – Peter Campbell.

Western Massachusetts isn’t under threat of sinking into the ocean any time soon, however we have plenty of ruins that serve as 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. Exploring Ruins Reveals Local History and Culture.

Labor Day Weekend, 11am, 2pm & 4pm
Mt. Holyoke’s Summit House marks the grandeur of a 19th century tourist hotspot. Once home to a tramway (quite novel 150 years ago!), a 200-seat dining room, and 44 guest rooms, the hotel allowed guests easy transportation by offering steamboat rides from the western shore of the Connecticut River – literally ferrying them away from competing hotels like the Eyrie House. The hotel eventually closed after economic hardships and extensive damage from the 1938 hurricane, and the building was restored to its early 20th century appearance. Learn more about the history of this historical treasure and why visitors from all over the world visited it at a talk hosted at Skinner State Park. Arrive curious. Ask questions to give you a better understanding on how a tourist hotspot come fall to ruins, and what went into restoring it to it’s current state. Appropriate for ages twelve and up. Skinner State Park. 413-586-0350. 20 Skinner State Park Road. Hadley, MA. (Parking <$)

Every Sunday from 2-4pm through mid-October
Take a step back in time to the late 1800s at the Westhampton Museum & Blacksmith Shop to see some really basic entertainment. Stereoscope viewers were all the rage and those fortunate enough to own them planned parties around showing their newly arrived images. The ruins of Athens and Scottish castles were very popular themes, but local images such as those taken of the aftermath of the 1874 Mill River Flood also quickly made their way to the western Mass. marketplace. After a few weeks, friends, cousins and neighbors would swap collections for some variety. Come to the museum and see what you can see through their stereoscope viewer! 413-527-3209. 5 Stage Rd. Westhampton, MA (FREE)

Friday, September 9, 10:30am-11:30am
Ruins have much to teach us about our industrial history. Get out in nature while learning about the industrial history of your community! Individuals and families with children ages 8 and older (siblings welcome) are invited to tour Holyoke’s upper and second level canals. In this walk you will learn about the canals’ history, how they were built, how they were harnessed to power paper and textile mills, and how they are used today. Meet at the visitors’ center at Holyoke Heritage State Park. Children must be accompanied by an adult. 413-534-1723. 221 Appleton Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Music Studies

One of the best ways to peak children’s interest in classical music is simply through exposure. By combining symphony performances and concerts with exploration of musical instruments, community-based educational resources, and close listening to recorded classical music, families can support children in gaining a deepened awareness of what defines classical music. Families can listen to classical music at home or in the car – beginning with the Classical Music Episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show.

Families can test out activities for expanding listening time in order to keep kids excited about classical music!

Saturday, September 3, 3pm
Leading players of The Orchestra Now and Juilliard come together to present a concert on the Spencer Terrace of the Clark Art Institute’s Lunder Center at Stone Hill. The program includes American modernist composer Charles Ives’s famous Piano Sonata No. 2, rearranged for winds. As a musical member of the American Romantic movement, Ives sought to convey emotional experience, memory, and sense of place in his music. Many of his pieces were written to recall specific experiences and events. The program will also include compositions by Elliott Carter and Antonín Dvořák. The chamber music repertoire is inspired by the Clark’s exhibition Sensing Place: Reflecting on Stone Hill, on view through October 10. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Sample Symphony No 1 by Charles Ives in this performance by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland:


Saturday, September 3, 3pm-3:30pm
What can you learn from the bones of an animal? Phrenology, the study of skills, is a field of science that answers these questions. Find out at the “Speaking with Skulls” program where you will examine the skulls of species which thrive in our local habitat. 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, September 3, 3pm-5pm
Youth in grades 3-6 are invited to Smith College for an afternoon of engineering, geology, physics and biology activities! Participants will choose one of four options: Engineering Design with balloon powered cars, Investigating physical properties for rocks and minerals, Exploring electricity and electromagnetism and Investigating food chains and food webs with an owl pellet dissection. Registration is required through the Smith College website. 413-585-3932. Drop off and check in will take place in the lobby of Ford Hall. Green Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Some educators in the field of computer science have taken up the motto that, “Coding is the new literacy.” Programming languages, the logic used to build tools such as websites and video games, do have similarities with the written word. But what is programming? Here’s a video that explains while gets you excited about the outcome and culture behind programming:

Once you learn to read and write code, new avenues of understanding and building emerge. Knowledge of programming languages and can turn people from users and consumers to creators. Thankfully, there are several Western MA organizations and spaces which support this “new literacy.” Discover these community-based resources in our post Community-Based Organizations & Workshops to Support Coding for All Ages.

Wednesday, September 7, 5:30pm-7:30pm
Lab nights at Holyoke Codes offer unstructured time for participants to work on any project, independently or in groups. People of all ages are welcome to attend. Visit the Holyoke Codes website to register for this free community event. 413- 552-4900. 100 Bigelow Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Local History

Saturday, September 3, 4pm
Autumn is “back to school” season and the perfect time to learn about a local history that is rich in education. The town of Stockbridge has been home to a large number of schools and teachers. You can come to a cemetery walk to learn about the town’s history through the life stories of its educators. For more information, please contact the Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives at 413-298-5501. The walk gathers at the cemetery gate on Main Street. Stockbridge, MA. (DONATION)

Sunday, September 4, 1pm-3:30pm
Historic House museums provide people with both historic objects and documents, as well as informational texts to put the objects in a personal context. Viewing history through a personalized, biographical lens, can make the information more interesting and memorable. You are invited to take a tour a the Keep Homestead Museum open house! Explore the antique objects and furniture collected by the Keep family who lived there for over 150 years. The museum houses one of the most outstanding antique button collections in the U.S. For more information, call 413-267-4137. 35 Ely Road. Monson MA. (DONATION)

Wednesday, September 7, 1pm-4pm
The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum is a resource for local, historical learning. You are invited to the opening of the Waypoint Center at the museum. This will be a place for learning the history of the Connecticut River Valley, from dinosaurs to Ice Age to Native American peoples to colonial settlers, as well as the history of the museum itself, and a list of other attractions for visitors to the area. Learn about the past and present culture of the Connecticut River Valley by attending this opening. All are welcome. 413-584-4699 . 130 River Drive, Hadley MA. (FREE)


Sunday, September 4, 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. Meet at the Notch Visitors Center of Mount Holyoke Range State Park.. 413-253-2883. 1500 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Can’t make this event above? Interested in dissecting your own owl pellet but short on supply? Here’s a virtual dissection, and here is a lesson plan for when you do have a supply.

Tuesday, September 6, 9am-10am
You don’t have to venture far into the woods to learn about birds. Birds are everywhere! Individuals and families with children ages 6 and older are invited to Holyoke Heritage State Park for a guided walk wherein attendees will look for, and identify, various birds. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Meet in front of the visitors’ center. 413-534-1723. 221 Appleton Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Why do birds vocalize simple chirps sometimes while at other times they emit elaborate, melodious songs? “Bird language” is a term referring to the combined chirps, songs, and behaviors which allow birds to communicate with each other. Humans can study the sounds and behaviors of birds in order to gain an understanding of what they are communicating. Read more in our post, Bird Language Connects Citizens to Their Habitat.

Cultural Studies

Sunday, September 4, 2pm-4pm
The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst is a resource for learning about Jewish culture through Yiddish books and recorded personal histories. In addition, it can be a place to learn about the act of historical preservation. You are invited to a screening of the film, Sholem Aleichem: A Conversation with Ruth Wisse and David Roskies which was recorded live at the Yiddish Book Center in 2015. This film consists of a conversation between scholars Ruth Wisse and David Roskies, discussing the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem. Learn about an important literary figure through a conversationally driven documentary film. 413-256-4900. 1021 West Street. Amherst, MA.

Who was Sholem Aleichem? Learn more about this great Jewish writer on the early 1900’s and his early challenges in New York that influence his views of America:

Friday, September 9, 5pm-11pm
Greek “Glendis” are celebrations, often highlighting Greek culture through traditional food and dance. Every year, St. George’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral hosts a Glendi for thousands of visitors from far and near, providing the best in traditional Greek foods, pastries, music, dancing, and more. All are welcome to this celebration on September 9th through 11th, 2016. Call 413-737-1496 for more information. 22 St George Road. Springfield, MA. (<$)

Want to try a Greek dish at home? How about Greek Souvlaki!


Though Amtrak just recently made its debut in a handful of communities in western Massachusetts, mass transportation has existed in our state for centuries – since 1631 to be exact! While there’s plenty of mass transportation statewide to learn about, the railways of western Massachusetts present local folks with lots of opportunities for community-based learning. Trains have served as a means of moving both goods and people across the state and country for generations, and rail travel has played an important role in the development of industries and, as a result, communities throughout western Massachusetts. Letting railroads serve as a point of entry to community engagement, families can utilize enthusiasm for train travel as a way of connecting interests to local history, innovation and transportation. Find out more with these 6 Community-Based Resources: Train Travel with Local History.

Trains not only had a impact on local culture, they had a huge impact on our world culture by standardizing time! In this TED-Ed video, William Heuisler explains the history of time and how trains changed everything.

Monday, September 5, 10am-4pm
Though the possibility of train travel in western Massachusetts feels new and exciting, railroads have been an important part of the region’s history. The Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum will be offering historic train rides at 10am, 11:30am, 1:30pm and 3pm on Labor Day. See the Berkshires countryside and experience a vintage 1955 Rail Diesel Car. An interest in trains can be a launching point for learning about transportation, engineering, and local history. 413-637-2210. 98 Crowley Avenue. North Adams MA. ($. Under 12 <$. Under four FREE)

Lifelong Learning

It’s back to school season for many. Some families are buying school supplies and adjusting to new schedules. Autumn is a time for learning, no matter your age. Western Massachusetts is home to many resource centers for adult education, often providing classes on topics related to workplace readiness and self-directed interests. Courses tend to be highly individualized, and focused on helping students reach their professional and personal goals. There are also subject-specific opportunities for learning about everything from mathematics to photography to bicycle repair! Discover these resources in our post, Lifelong Learning Resources in Western MA.

Tuesday, September 6, 3pm-4pm
Public libraries can be great local resources for job searching, resume writing, and career readiness skills. The Sunderland Public Library will be providing three job seeking workshops for adults, on September 6, 13, and 20. The September 6 workshop, “How to find a job,” will provide participants with resources and skills for job searching. For more lifelong learning and career readiness resources, check out our post, Lifelong Learning Resources in Western MA. 413-665-2642. 20 School Street. Sunderland, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, September 6, 6:30pm
Facebook is a website which can connect you with friends, family members, organizations, and events. This basic introductory workshop will teach users how to set up an account, get started, and effectively use the website. This is part of the ongoing Social Media Evenings program at the Storrs Library. For more resources and opportunities, check out our post, Lifelong Learning Resources in Western MA. 413-565-4181. 693 Longmeadow Street. Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, September 8, 6pm
You may have heard about a plan to establish a rattlesnake population on Quabbin Island. This is a response to the endangerment of the Timber Rattlesnake. At this OEB Science Cafe night, Anne Stengle will discuss the importance of conserving Massachusetts rattlesnakes. Science Cafes aim to bring science outside of the university walls. Lifelong learners, unaffiliated with local schools, are encouraged to attend. Kids are also welcome. Nacul Center. 592 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, September 8, 2pm
The Norman Rockwell Museum is located on 36 park-like acres in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Rockwell’s hometown for the last 25 years of his life. The museum offers the opportunity to learn about art history as well as biographical information on Rockwell himself. During this adult program, visitors are invited to explore the entire campus, learn about the historic buildings onsite, and enjoy the museum’s outdoor exhibition inspired by Rockwell’s first Saturday Evening Post cover. The program is free for Museum members, or included with Museum admission. 413-298-4100. 9 MA-183. Stockbridge, MA. ($. College students with ID <$. Ages 6-18 <$. Under 5 FREE)

Literary Art

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most adaptable literary characters in the world. Through both stage and film adaptations, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work is a classic palimpsest with most of the characteristics known of this character (clothing, relationships, habits) not appearing in Doyle’s original work. In this TED-Ed video, Neil McCaw traces the evolution of Sherlock.

View the full lesson here: Who IS Sherlock Holmes? – Neil McCaw

Wednesday, September 7, 6pm-8pm
Film adaptations of literary texts are a resource for learning about both film studies and writing. Sherlock Holmes is a very famous story written originally in 1887 by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Many iterations of the story exist. You are invited to the Greenfield Public Library for a talk by local presenter Barry Deitz about Holmes and his world. 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Art Studies

Thursday, September 8, 12:15pm
LIFE magazine promoted the work of 20th-century artists and architects, including Thomas Hart Benton, Rockwell Kent, Charles Sheeler, Frank Lloyd Wright, Georgia O’Keeffe, Stuart Davis, Jackson Pollock, and Andrew Wyeth. You can attend a lecture at the Springfield Museums which will explore the magazine’s collaborations with people in the art field, and the impact which the magazine had on the public and critical reception of modern art. 413-263-6800. Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (<$)

Thursday, September 8, 5:30pm-7:30pm
Museum curation is itself an art form. You can see the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, and the collections therein, in a new light with the unveiling of the renovated main gallery. New exhibitions and installations will provide a fresh perspective on the college’s art collection. All are invited to learn about art history and architecture at this opening and reception. 413- 542-2000. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Friday, September 9, 4pm-8pm
Visits to art museums can be great inspiration for artists. You can visit the Smith College Museum of Art on a free, second Friday of the month, and engage in art activities designed to connect you to the work on view. Make your own Solar Snapshots using the sun, natural objects, and light sensitive paper. Then, at 6pm, join a guided conversation exploring a work of art in the collection. Then take this budding interest and check out these 5 Ways to Explore Science with the Summer Sun, while it’s still officially summer! 413-585-2760. 20 Elm Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Friday, September 9, 5pm-7pm
As part of Northampton’s Arts Night Out, you can attend an opening reception at Historic Northampton for a new exhibition, Utopia to Paradise? This collection of fiber art and found objects, created by Anna Polesny, provides insight into history and geography through garments. 413-584-6011. 46 Bridge Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Friday, September 9, 5pm-8pm
Arts Night Out in Northampton will provide people of all ages with opportunities for connecting through an interest in visual and performing arts. This special Arts Night Out will coincide with the seventh annual Northampton Chalk Art Festival, turning the town itself into a canvas for artistic works. You can witness the creation of these sidewalk masterpieces from 10am to 4pm, or view the finished works during the monthly gallery walk from 5-8 pm. Families can also meet teachers and learn about classes at the School for Contemporary Dance and Thought’s open house. Try a free class while exploring local galleries! Northampton, MA. (FREE)


Thursday, September 8, 7pm
Cultural changes require the work of individuals. Sometimes this work can be as simple as turning inward and addressing personal biases and beliefs. The Jones Library will be screening the TEDx Talk: You Can Help Stop Violence against Young Black Men by Verna Myers as a catalyst for conversation about harmful, unwanted stereotypes. The talk will be followed by a brief discussion. This screening provides the chance for interested community members to meet and possibly develop anti-racism action projects. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

[Photo credit: (cc) VanessaC (EY)]

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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