29 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Economics to Psychology. Nature Walks to Migration.

Want to organize a Monarch Butterfly tagging effort? Monarch Watch has instructions and kits with tags for tracking.

Economics to Psychology. Fall Foliage to Graveyards. Songbirds to Coding. 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:  You can become a citizen scientist on Wednesday, September 14, 4pm-6pm by helping to tag monarchs before they head south to the overwintering grounds in Mexico. Jennifer Unkles has been tagging monarchs since 1997. She will be teaching participants at the Hitchcock Center about the monarch’s life cycle, their epic annual migration, how the tagging program works, and how to tag any monarchs you’re able to catch and release. Registration is recommended. 413-256-6006. 845 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Industrial HistoryCutlerySeed SavingService-Based LearningClimate ChangeImmigrationEconomicsGuided HikesFood StudiesWild EdiblesMigrationSTEMOpera1Computer ProgrammingHorticultureBilingualismOrnithologyFood HistoryCulinary ArtsEntomologyCitizen ScienceFinancial LiteracyPsychologyCartographyAncestryCemetery Walk

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Local Industry

Saturday, September 10, 10:30am and 11:00am
You can learn about America’s industrial past through a local lens by touring the historic paper company, Paperlogic, which has been in operation since 1839. Learn about the paper making process, from pulp to finished paper. This tour is not handicap accessible, with flights of stairs to climb. Children must be 10 years or older. Meet under the Paperlogic sign on Turners Falls Road, just over the Canal Street bridge. For more information, call Great Falls Discovery Center at 413-863-3221. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, September 10, 1pm-2:30pm
Turners Falls was America’s 19th century cutlery manufacturing capitol!  Learn about the topics of industrial and cultural archaeology through a tour of the John Russell Cutlery Company sites. The walking tour includes uneven, irregular ground, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes. Meet in the Great Hall to see cutlery artifacts. Great Falls Discovery Center. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

What is the history of knives and forks? Who invented them and  how did they impact society and influence modern day behavior? Check out The History of Spoons, Forks, and Knives to discover the history of cutlery, and view the video below to learn how they are made. Then head out to the event above to learn about the local history of cutlery manufacturing in Western MA!



Once you’ve reaped the delicious benefits of a summer’s harvest, look further than your plate in order to find a purpose for what you’ve grown. Seed saving is a fantastic way to practice self sufficiency and resilience, and also helps to preserve plant varieties for years to come. In addition to the cultural and agricultural value of holding onto these plants (and their seeds), practicing seed saving at home is a great way to engage in hands-on science learning – the digging-in-the-dirt kind that leads to some serious discoveries! Read more in our post, Seed Capital Provides Return for Nature-Based Education.

Saturday, September 10, 1pm-3pm
Want an experiential lesson in seed saving? Seed saving is a harmonious practice of taking seeds, which are reproductive material from fruits, vegetables, herbs, or flowers, to continue the cycle of growth through planting. This is how farms and gardens were traditionally maintained for thousands of years. You can connect with local and agricultural history, while learning about ecology, at this beginner seed saving workshop. Daniel Botkin will teach this workshop at Just Roots/Greenfield Community Farm. Register on the Just Roots website. 413-325-8969. 34 Glenbrook Drive. Greenfield, MA. (<$)

Thursday, September 15, 5:30pm-7:30pm
Come to this seed saving workshop at the Gaylord Memorial Library to learn how to develop seeds that become acclimated to our local climate. Seed saving will help you save money on plants and gain a greater understanding of where your food comes from. 413-538-5047. 47 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Just in time for the seed-distributing days of fall is our literary guide for “A Seed is Sleepy,” an incredibly rich textual exploration of the world of seeds. Using our guide, families can learn about the science of seeds by finding hands-on place-based ways to connect with the environment. Read more in our post, Literary Guide for Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long’s “A Seed is Sleepy”.

For further seed-related learning, check out these titles:

Service-Based Learning

Saturday, September 10, 9am-11am
September is hunger action month. Want to get involved? 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)

Saturday, September 10, 9:30am
Invasive plant species thrive and spread to a degree that they begin to do harm to the biodiversity of their habitat. These species can be harmful to human health, or dominate an ecosystem in a dangerous way. Hardy Kiwi is a locally invasive species which kills all other vegetation as it spreads. You can help remove Hardy Kiwi from Kennedy Park, in the area between the West Dugway parking lot and the Arcadian Shop and along the Log Hop trail. Bring gloves, comfortable shoes, water, and snacks–also, best to dress in a way to discourage ticks. 413-637-5500. 275 Main Street, Lenox, MA (VOLUNTEER)

Climate Change

Saturday, September 10, 9:30am-5pm
John Muir wrote, “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.” Climate change is an issue that all humans must face. The Earthcare Festival at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead will explore climate change issues through presentations, poetry, music, and more. This is also an opportunity to learn about Hilltown Chautauqua, “an eco-festival and symposium…that celebrates the wonders of Nature and looks hard at the changing human relationship to the Earth in the era of climate change.” 413-532-1631. 207 Bryant Road. Cummington, MA. ($$)

Did you know that 98% of all the species that have ever lived are extinct?! Our planet has experienced 5 mass extinctions, including the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event (think dinosaurs!).  So what is the Sixth Extinction? Find out in this video, The Sixth Extinction from the YouTube channel, It’s Okay To Be Smart (see supporting links here):

Monday, September 12, 8pm
Climate change is a reality we must all face and grapple with, and sometimes the first step is a greater understanding of the phenomenon through education. Elizabeth Kolbert is author of the Pulitzer Prize winning nonfiction book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, about the future of planet Earth and the possibility of human extinction. Her book talk will offer the opportunity to learn about writing, Earth science, geology, natural history, and more. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for admission. Please reserve tickets online at the “The ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance page of the Williams College website. 880 Main Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)


“Is Immigration good or bad? Immigration is a touchy subject in the United States. The 2016 election has been filled with debate about the subject, and both proponents and opponents have lots of reasons for their stance. But, this is a show about economics, and when it comes to the effects of immigration on economies, there is actually a lot of consensus. It turns out, immigration is economically beneficial.” – Crash Course. Learn more in this Crash Course video, The Economics of Immigration:

Saturday, September 10, 10am
Often, immigration is taught to students in a way that focuses on the history of immigration in the United States. Central to the development of our country and responsible for bringing people from all over the world to be part of communities across America, immigration is discussed with students mainly in the past tense. We focus on who immigrated when and why, without spending much time looking at who is immigrating now. Learning about immigration as something that happened in the past does, of course, help students develop an understanding of the ways in which our country has constantly changed throughout the last few centuries, but it doesn’t teach them that the United States is continuously evolving. By examining modern immigration, students can develop an understanding of what immigration means in modern times. In order to begin examining what immigration looks like today, families can attend a naturalization ceremony at the Norman Rockwell Museum, a great way to learn about modern immigration, through a personal lens. The Norman Rockwell Museum will be hosting a naturalization ceremony for Berkshire County residents who immigrated to the country from around the world! Meet people from various cultures and nations in a celebration of new citizens. Check out the museum’s collection for further learning about American culture and history through art. 413-298-4100. 9 MA-183. Stockbridge, MA. ($. College students with ID <$. Ages 6-18 <$. Under 5 and museum members FREE)

Guided Hikes

Saturday, September 10, 1pm-4pm
Time spent outdoors is worthwhile and enjoyable for its own sake, but it can also coincide with learning about birds, wildlife, and plants. You can join a group of naturalists for a guided hike along the Threemile Hill Trail. The guides will focus on early signs of fall foliage, encouraging you to look and listen for birds and wildlife, and identify trees and flowers. Wear appropriate clothing for the weather. For registration, directions, and information call 413-528-2810 ext. 10. Meet at the gazebo/trailhead located at the Berkshire South Regional Community Center on Crissey Road off Route 7. Great Barrington, MA. (FREE)

Monday, September 12, 10am-11am
A love of the outdoors can inspire an interest in local history, as naturalists learn about history through the changing landscape of forests, parks, mountains, and trails. People ages twelve and up are invited to a “Changing Landscapes” guided hike to learn how forests in Massachusetts changed since European colonization, and how they continue to change. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Meet at the Notch Visitors Center of Mount Holyoke Range State Park.. 413-253-2883. 1500 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Monday, September 12, 11am-12pm
New England is a beautiful place to spend autumn, as the leaves change colors. But why exactly do they change colors? You can learn about all of the changes trees are undergoing as they prepare for winter on a 1.5 mile hike at Skinner State Park. Ages 10 and up. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Meet on the summit house deck. 413-586-0350. 20 Skinner State Park Road. Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Food Studies

Saturday, September 10, 12pm-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. (FREE)

Saturday, September 10, 2pm
Wild edible plants can add an element of learning to your time spent outdoors. Learn to identify and pick wild edible plants on this walk led by naturalist John Root. Edible perennials and bluebird boxes will be offered for sale. All ages are welcome. Crabapple Farm. 22 Sugar Hill Road. Chesterfield, MA. (FREE)


Travel from coast to coast, across continents, and even from the end of the world and back via bird migrations. Audubon has a great resource, Flyways of Americas, for learn about the pathway of four birds that travel each spring and fall… just like these snow geese:

Monday, September 12, 6pm
Conservación Panamás’s Executive Director, Ezekiel Jakob, will be giving a talk about migratory New England birds at the Greenfield Public Library. You can learn about species conservation efforts, the organization Jakob runs, and scientific research which has been conducted in this field 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Friday, September 16, 8am-10am
You can bird watch year-round, but Spring and Fall are the best times to learn about migrating birds. You can learn to identify newly arrived wood-warblers during this guided nature walk. These birds are small, but many of them are bright and colorful, making them relatively easy to spot. Learn about local ecology while enjoying a walk around the Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary. Come each week to observe changes in bird species. 413-637-0320. Holmes Road. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, September 10, 8pm
Science Fair is a unique combination of opera and science experiments! This performance was created as a collaboration between an opera singer and science writers and teachers. Learn about scientific concepts such as the solar system, atomic orbitals, molecules of DNA and more through music and wit. This performance takes place in the Daniel Arts Center at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. 413-644-4400. 84 Alford Road. Great Barrington, MA. (DONATION)

Monday, September 12, 5:30-7:30pm
Scratch is a website which allows users to program their own characters and stories, and to share them with other users online. It is a resource for beginners to experiment with coding and commands. Participants ages 9 and up are invited to Holyoke Codes to build video games with Scratch. The group will collaborate to build a game called Space Defender. 413- 552-4900. 100 Bigelow Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, September 14, 5:30pm-7:30pm
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. Read more in our post, Community-Based Organizations & Workshops to Support Coding for All Ages. 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 for more information. 413- 552-4900. 100 Bigelow Street. Holyoke, MA.

Plant Studies

Tuesday, September 13, 1pm
Garden plants tend to die in winter, right? Not necessarily. You can prepare now to build a garden of brightly colored berries, twigs, stems, foliage and even winter-blooming flowers, to brighten up your yard in the cold months. Winter gardens are low maintenance, with no weeding or watering. Find out more at this talk, Celebrating the Winter Garden, to take place at the Storrs Library 413-565-4181. 693 Longmeadow Street. Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)


“It’s obvious that knowing more than one language can make certain things easier — like traveling or watching movies without subtitles. But are there other advantages to having a bilingual (or multilingual) brain? Mia Nacamulli details the three types of bilingual brains and shows how knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged.” – TED-Ed. Learn more in the TED-Ed video:

View full lesson: The benefits of a bilingual brain – Mia Nacamulli

Tuesday, September 13, 6pm-7pm
Learning a second language is a fun and exciting challenge for the brain. The best way to learn and improve is through conversation. Fluent French speakers and learners are invited to a casual gathering for French conversation at the Cushman Library. For more language learning opportunities, check out our post, Language Learning Resources in Western MA. 413-648-5402. 28 Church Street. Bernardston, MA. (FREE)


Thanks to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, families can work together to learn common bird calls using an interactive bird song poster. The beautifully illustrated poster includes detailed depictions of nearly 25 commonly found North American birds, and when viewers click on a bird, their song is played! Families can explore the poster, listening to the unique call of each bird. Hearing each birds’ call multiple times can help families to learn and remember what sets each call apart from the others. For practice, try playing each call and trying to identify its source species without looking at the screen – you’ll be surprised how difficult it can be to tell some of the calls apart!

Tuesday, September 13, 8am-10am
Studying birds is a sensory experience, requiring birders to clear their minds and focus in on particular sounds and sights. On the second Tuesday of the month, through November, Joe Superchi will be running an accessible birding course, for birders of all abilities. For additional outdoor activities, check out our post, Accessible Outdoor Trails in Western MA. Call ahead for wheelchair van access, 978-248-9491. 100 Main Street. Athol, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, September 14, 8am-10am
Do you love to watch birds? Can you name some of the species that are frequently found visiting backyard bird-feeders? Would you like to know more, or to simply enjoy some time connecting to nature? Bird watching is a wonderful way to get outdoors early in the morning while the world is especially peaceful. Jonathan Pierce, caretaker of the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, will run this weekly bird walk for adults. Learn new bird species as you explore the sanctuary. 413-637-0320. 472 West Mountain Road, Lenox, MA. (FREE)

Food History

Tuesday, September 13, 7pm
Today, in New England and beyond, pie is a staple dessert during the winter holidays. In early American cuisine, sweet and savory pies were an integral part of diet year-round. Pilgrims brought to America their practice of pie making and developed their recipes with newly available ingredients. Robert Cox, head of special collections and archives at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and author of New England Pie: History Under A Crust can tell you a great deal more about pie at this free lecture at the Pelham Library. For more information and to sign up contact Bruce Klotz, 413-695-1797. 2 South Valley Road. Pelham, MA. (FREE)

Learning about the history of food extends our connection to the culinary and pastry arts.  It also opens up pathways for discovering new interests… like botany. Take the Apple Pie into consideration and think about the different types of apples that could be selected for your dessert. Not all apples are made the same. Why? What’s different? Why are some better for pies and others are better for eating out of hand? Learn about the varieties of apples and which ones would be better for your pie… and why!


Birds aren’t the only fauna who migrate. Monarch butterflies make perhaps the most epic of all migratory journeys. Though their long trek can sometimes take up to four generations to complete, it spans an almost unbelievably large portion of North America. The butterflies begin high in the mountains of southwestern Mexico, and, come springtime, gradually work their way as far north as Saskatchewan, Canada and as far east as Maine and the southernmost parts of New Brunswick. The distinctive black-and-orange butterflies lay their eggs along the way, and depend on the availability of milkweed-filled habitat throughout their journey. While no one butterfly makes the round trip from Mexico to Maine and back again, the pattern of monarch movement across the continent is incredibly sophisticated and, at times, beautiful.

“Habitat loss and the destruction of native plants have been responsible for the rapid decline of the monarch butterfly, the most recognized butterfly in North America. To help protect these majestic insects as they migrate, citizens in the U.S. are resorting to a simple yet powerful tool: gardening. Gardens full of milkweed and nectar plants can serve both as rest stops for adult monarchs and as nurseries for their eggs.” – National Geographic. Learn more about their plight and the value of planting milkweed and nectar plants in this National Geographic video:

Wednesday, September 14, 4pm-6pm
You can become a citizen scientist by helping to tag monarchs before they head south to the overwintering grounds in Mexico. Jennifer Unkles has been tagging monarchs since 1997. She will be teaching participants at the Hitchcock Center about the monarch’s life cycle, their epic annual migration, how the tagging program works, and how to tag any monarchs you’re able to catch and release. Registration is recommended. 413-256-6006. 845 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Want to organize a Monarch Butterfly tagging effort? Monarch Watch has instructions and kits with tags for tracking.

Financial Literacy

Wednesday, September 14, 5pm-6pm
Most states in the U.S. do not require financial literacy courses be taught in schools and these topics do not appear on standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT. For now, the task is left to parents and the community, but some parents do not feel comfortable talking to their kids about money. These conversations can be difficult as they may alert your child to harsh realities and difficult choices of adulthood. And many adults need support with financial literacy themselves! Libraries have long been advocates for reading and literacy for the people in their communities. Another community need now being addressed by libraries in an annual campaign is financial literacy and money management.  At some point, teens need to learn essential banking skills such as how to write a check, how to balance a checkbook, and how to use the bank efficiently. Anita from Greenfield Savings Bank will be discussing those topics in this workshop for teens at the Sunderland Public Library. 413-665-2642. 20 School Street. Sunderland, MA. (FREE)


Thursday, September 15, 5pm-8pm
There are dozens upon dozens of phobias, ranging from the common to the rare, the general to the highly specific. A new exhibit, Something Scary, at the Berkshire Museum will explore fears through artwork of various mediums. A family friendly, somewhat wacky exploration of fears and phobias as visitors encounter the “shadow wall,” venture into the torture chamber, and contact spirits with an Ouija board. From a witch’s broom to a mad scientist’s laboratory, specimens of owls and snakes, and even spooky dolls with glass eyes, discover how being terrified can be a blast! Get ready for the spooky season of autumn by checking out this exhibition, on view from September 15 through October 31, 2016. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street. Route 7. Pittsfield, MA. (Adult $; Child <$; Museum members FREE; Ages 3 and under FREE)

What is a phobia? In this Khan Academy video, explore the psychology behind phobias:


Maps! These give a visual to more than geography. They give context to history, travel, demographics, and so much more. In this video featuring 25 maps, take a different view of statistical data:

Thursday, September 15, 12:15pm-1pm
“Imaginative” maps incorporate illustration, exaggeration, and other forms of creativity to the art of map-making. Author and illustrator John Roman will be giving a lecture at the Springfield Museums about his book on the topic, The Art of Illustrated Maps. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (<$)


Friday, September 16, 7pm
Historic cemeteries can teach people about local and natural history, through the structures of gravestones and the information they contain. You are invited to Night of the Living Dead III at Ringville Cemetery, a full moon cemetery walk. Historic figures residing in the cemetery will rise from the dead and relay their stories. Visit the Worthington Historical Society website for more details. 413-238-0491. Witt Hill Road. Worthington, MA. (FREE)

[Photo credit: (cc) Putneypics]

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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