39 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Autumn Equinox to Rosh Hashanah. Science Fiction to Music Studies.

Grain Mill to Weaving. Freshwater Mussels to BBQ. Poetry to Meditation.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:  Fall is here! The autumnal equinox, the first full day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, is a good time to learn about astronomical concepts such as the seasonal positions of the Earth, Sun and Moon. You are invited to view sunrise and sunset from the standing stones of the UMass Amherst Sunwheel on Thursday, September 22, 6:45am and 6pm. A UMass Amherst astronomer will be present discussing the significance of the solstices and equinoxes, phases of the moon, building of the Sunwheel, and other calendar sites such as the Karnak Temple in Egypt, Stonehenge in the U.K, Chichen Itza in Mexico, and Chankillo in Peru.The UMass Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Autumn Equinox  ♦ EntomologyMetamorphosisLiving HistoryTheaterLGBTQLocal IndustriesPaddlingCommunity MealsEcologyComedyGuided HikesOrnithologyPhenologyFoliageFood StudiesLanguage ArtsLiteracyMusic StudiesRosh HashanahScience FictionTransportation HistoryStorytellingMindfulness

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Saturday, September 17, 11am
Beekeeping is an educational hobby which can also be a vital part of a sustainable living lifestyle. This weekend there will be a final session of a summer-long beekeeping workshop sponsored by Just Roots and led by Daniel Berry. The information in this workshop is not entirely cumulative. Even if you have not attended previous sessions you are welcome to attend. This workshop has a pay-what-you-can policy, with the goal of achieving a $10 donation on average, per person, at each workshop. Bee suits will be provided. Register at the Just Roots website. 413-325-8969. Just Roots Farm. 34 Glenbrook Drive, Greenfield, MA. (<$)

Bumble Bee Watch, a collaborative effort to track and conserve North American bee species, calls for citizen scientists to submit photographs of bees they’ve encountered, along with basic information about location and the species pictured. Though families will need to do some work in order to learn to identify bee species, the challenge is also a valuable learning opportunity. In learning the basics for identification, children will learn about insect anatomy, important physical characteristics, and the role that each unique body part plays in a bees daily life. And while it’s important to do a thorough job of checking photographs for details in order to identify accurately, each submitted sighting will be double-checked by a professional – so if you’re wrong, it won’t affect the study! — Of course, more important than proper identification is taking good photos. In order to identify, it’s important to see lots of detail – so the more detailed the photo, the better. There are lots of ways to take a good bee photo, and good photographs don’t necessarily depend on having a fancy camera. Families using basic point-and-shoot or smartphone cameras will get the best photos by exercising patience and staking out some bee-attracting blooms, like a newly-bloomed rhododendron bush or purple clover. Check out this video tutorial on how to submit to Bubble Bee Watch.

Lessons in geometry and architectural design… from bees! An interest in bees can teach us so much more than just about food production (honey) and botany (pollination). Honeybees have been referred to as “nature’s finest mathematicians.” In this TED-Ed video, Zack Patterson and Andy Peterson explore the “smart geometry” on the home of the honeybee.

View full lesson:
Why do honeybees love hexagons? – Zack Patterson and Andy Peterson

Saturday, September 17, 1pm-6pm
Families are invited to the Hitchcock Center for an afternoon of learning about caterpillars. Come to the Caterpillar Lab from 1pm-4pm to see a collection of butterfly and moth caterpillars and learn about their life cycles, also know at metamorphosis. Then, at 4pm, you can become a citizen scientist by helping to tag monarchs before they head south. Attend one or both programs. 413-256-6006. 845 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, September 17, 11am, 12pm 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. The audience will travel through several rooms in the house as well as outdoors. Tickets are limited, so be sure to reserve in advance. 413-532-1631. 207 Bryant Road. Cummington, MA. ($)

Friday, September 23, 7pm; Saturday, September 24. 7pm
The Springfield Spectacle. Based on Double Edge’s Once a Blue Moon – Cada Luna Azul, this large-scale outdoor performance features the Double Edge Ensemble and renowned Argentine guest musicians Manuel Uriona (Bersuit Vergarabat) and Micaela Farias Gomez (Santadiabla), and will showcase youth performers from Springfield Conservatory of the Arts Public School. The Springfield Spectacle follows a traveler who returns to his hometown after many years. Memories of his past and stories about the town’s colorful inhabitants evoke reflections about an increasingly universal theme: how progress can displace people. Inspired by Alejandro Jodorowski and other Latin American writers, the show infuses audiences with the excitement of a Latin American carnival, and draws upon memory, culture, and song. The show is free and open to the public, making this celebration of culture accessible to all audiences. The performances will be held at 1350 Main Street, Springfield, MA (FREE)


Wednesday, September 21, 7pm
Narratives are an educational tool which elicit empathy and understanding. The 2015 documentary From This Day Forward tells the story of a family as they handle a father’s transition as a transgender person. Screening this film at Amherst Cinema could help individuals and families understand transgender perspectives through a personal narrative. 413- 253-2547. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (<$)

Local Industries/History

Iron Ore
Saturday, September 17, 9am-12pm
The landscape of the Berkshires has undergone massive changes, largely due to human activity. Come to this program, “From Iron Ore to Orioles,” to learn about how 18th and 19th century charcoal, lime, glass, and iron industries impacting the land. Educators will explain the impact these industries had on forests and wildlife. Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. 413-637-0320. 472 West Mountain Road. Lenox, MA. (FREE)

Fiber Arts/Weaving
Saturday, September 17, 10:30am-12pm
What does the city of Holyoke have in common with weaving? Holyoke was originally intended to be a textile manufacturing city. Families with children ages 7 and older (siblings welcome) are invited to Holyoke Heritage State Park to learn about that history and the basics of how cloth is woven. Participants will be able to engage in hands-on learning, weaving their own colorful cloths. 413-534-1723. 221 Appleton Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Performance Art
Saturday, September 17, 10am-11am
The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield is an historic and world-class structure. This theatre, movie house, and National Historic Treasure was built in 1903, later restored and reopened in 2006. Learn more about a gilded age building and the role it has played in the culture of Pittsfield on this one hour tour. Call 413-448-8084 ext.31 to register. 111 South Street. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

Grain Mill
Sunday, September 18, 2pm-4pm
The Bisbee Mill Museum is a three-story 19th-century reconstructed grist mill, with a blacksmith shop, woodworking shop, and a small museum area. The museum houses hundreds of historic artifacts, from a circa-1835 horse drawn hearse to old woodworking tools. Come to the museum on August 21st or September 18th and witness demonstrations, such as corn grinding demonstrations, with historic tools. 66 East Street. Chesterfield, MA. (FREE)


Sunday, September 18, 9:30-11:30am
The practice of racing dragon boats, which are traditionally wooden boats powered by rowing, originated in China more than 2500 years ago. You can learn about this ancient cultural history while you take in the natural history of the Connecticut River at this interactive Historic Northampton event. Betsy Powell, founder of Paradise City Dragon Boat, will begin the outing with a paddling lesson. Naturalist Laurie Sanders will share information about the environmental and human history of the area. All equipment provided. No prior paddling experience necessary. Contact lsanders@historicnorthampton.org to register and obtain directions. Hadley, MA. (DONATION)

Community Meals

Throughout history, community has been built through the sharing of food. Shared throughout the world as a universal human need, food provides a common thread through which all people can be woven together. Community meals offer much to families in terms of learning opportunities, and the benefits of engaging in community through food are numerous. Community meals serve as a common interest for all those involved, providing a foundation upon which for further connections to be built. Taking place within intergenerational settings, such meals provide families with the opportunity to connect with diverse humans, with whom they share a common need: to eat.

Saturday, September 17, 9am-11am
Local resources such as the Amherst Survival Center keep communities thriving by providing food, workshops, and essential products to families in need. The Survival Center connects people through a spirit of giving, through the practice of community members volunteering time or donating goods. You can come together with friends, family, and neighbors to celebrate this local resource at the Community Appreciation Breakfast. Breakfast will include pancakes, eggs, sausage, smoothies and more. Yuri “Prince of Color” will perform and there will also be face painting. Donations of non-perishable food items are welcomed and appreciated. All are welcome. 413-549-3968. 138 Sunderland Road. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, September 18, 12pm-3pm
Enjoy a community meal with your neighbors courtesy of the Florence Civic Association. The meal options will include chicken, potato, corn on the cob, salad, ice cream and brownie for dessert. Community meals encourage neighbors to meet and socialize, and strengthen a sense of place. Florence Civic Center. 90 Park Street. Florence, MA. ($)


Saturday, September 17, 9am-2pm
Rivers are everywhere, and the best way to learn about local rivers is to visit them, walk along the edge, and dive in whenever possible. At the 3rd Annual Watershed Blitz you will have the opportunity to learn from river specialists, naturalists, and other river steward as you explore segments of the Westfield river. For event details, register with Meredyth Babcock, 413-623-2070. West Branch Westfield River. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, September 22, 8:45am-3pm; Friday, September 23, 8:45am-3pm
Do you enjoy spending time outdoors, and like learning about water ecology? Adults and self-directed teens are invited to assist with freshwater mussel research. You will learn about how the drought affects local animals, plants, and the overall brook. Connecticut River Watershed Council leaders will demonstrate freshwater mussel identification and survey techniques. Contact Andy Fisk at afisk@ctriver.org to register and obtain directions. Volunteers have the options of snorkeling and/or wading during the surveys. If planning to snorkel please bring a wet-suit. Snorkeling is recommended only for those that are strong swimmers and comfortable in the water. Bring water shoes, waders, a towel, a lunch, sunblock, and insect repellent. Otis, MA. (VOLUNTEER)


Friday, September 23, 2pm-3:30pm
Much has been said about the philosophy behind comedy and what makes something funny. Carol Burnett famously stated, “comedy is tragedy plus time.” But what we consider funny, and the kind of humor which appears in media, differs over time and across cultures. You can learn about the history of comedy at the Berkshire Museum series, “A Serious Look at 20th Century Comedy.” Fridays through October 28 (no session October 7), learn about the impact of silent film, radio, and early television through video clips, photos, illustrations and discussion. Drop-ins welcome, no registration required. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street. Route 7. Pittsfield, MA. (<$)

What’s the definition of comedy? Explore the philosophy behind comedy in this TED Ed talk by Addison Anderson:

View full lesson:
What’s the definition of comedy? Banana. – Addison Anderson

Guide Hikes

Saturday, September 17, 10am-1pm
You can learn a great deal about natural history and ecology through careful observation of bodies of water. You can participate in a hike which will begin at Tamarack Hollow Nature and Cultural Center and continue through Notchview Reservation and Windsor Jambs State Forest. Along the way, participants will learn about ecology through observation of the drowned lands watershed, streams and beaver pond. Call 413-522-1505 to register. Windsor, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, September 17, 10am-2pm
Do you like hiking? Exploring a new trail is easier and more fun with the help of a guide. You are invited to check out trails in East Leverett under the guidance of presenter Nancy Goodman. Participants will walk along the Doolittle Brook between Shutesbury and Teawaddle Hill Roads. Register and pay on the Greenfield Community College website. Call 413-775-1661 for details. Leverett, MA. (<$)

Saturday, September 17, 1pm-2pm
The 1930s were a time of significant building for wilderness parks, when the government created many spaces for public recreation. You can learn about this national trend on a local level, by participating in a guided hike at Mt. Greylock. Meet on the summit in front of Bascom Lodge where Jude Stull, from the Massachusetts Department. of Conservation and Recreation and Peter Dudek, from Bascom Lodge, will discuss the natural habitat and historic structures. 30 Rockwell Road. Lanesborough, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, September 17
This September and October, Housatonic Heritage will be offering several opportunities to learn about local history, natural history, infrastructure, architecture, ecology, and more! Paddling trips, self-guided tours, and craft projects will allow people of all ages to connect with their community through a greater sense of place. Visit the Housatonic Heritage website for more information. Registration is required. Email berkshires@massaudubon.org or call 413-637-0320. Lenox and Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)


Using a bird migration chart, families can pay close attention to the approximate dates when specific species either depart their neighborhood, appear for the winter, or make a short stopover on their journey to another locale. Paying close attention to the changes in local animal populations and animal habits can help to illuminate the subtle and daily climate-related seasonal changes taking place.

Saturday, September 17, 10am-4pm; Sunday, September 18, 11am-1pm
Hawks are migrating birds. In autumn, thousands can be seen traveling overhead in our region, especially from good viewing sites such as mountains. You are invited to celebrate the annual hawk migration at Mount Tom, one of the best hawk watching and monitoring areas in New England. The celebration will also include shows with birds of prey. Attendees will learn about rehabilitation efforts for hawks and eagles from North America and beyond. Children’s activities will include games, face masks, and coloring. Mt Tom State Reservation Visitor Center and Playground. 125 Reservation Road. Holyoke MA. (FREE)

Sunday, September 18, 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 Visitor Center of Mount Holyoke Range State Park.. 413-253-2883. 1500 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)


Fall in Western Mass is when nature literally takes center stage; a destination visitors outside the area flock to because of the gorgeous dynamism of the season. The trees and their changing foliage are great connectors for kids (in a sense they connect to themselves!) to the outdoors and their sense of place. In this change lies a wonderful community-based educational opportunities tied to art and science. Read our post, Autumn Leaf Collecting Supports Art & Science, to see how you can get your kid hooked on fall by collecting, creating and learning in their own backyards!

Saturday, September 17, 11am
New England is a beautiful place to spend autumn, as the leaves change colors. But why exactly do they change colors? This Young Scientists’ Club meeting at the Gaylord Memorial Library will begin with a reading of the book Why Do Leaves Change Colors, followed by hands on learning about trees and climate. 413-538-5047. 47 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Food Studies

Saturday, September 17, 12pm-5pm
Want to vote on the best local chili? Gaze upon a rainbow of locally grown chili peppers? Taste delicious, yet spicy, dishes? Go to Chilifest at Mike’s Maze to enjoy varieties of spicy local food, and live music! You can also enjoy the 8-acre corn maze! The 2016 maze design, “See America,” celebrates 100 years of the National Park Service. This event can connect you to cooks, farmers, and local families. 413-665-8331. 23 South Main Street. Sunderland, MA (Adults $; Children <$)

After tasting the spice at the annual Chilifest, you might be wondering what makes spicy food spicy? The science that connects the chemistry of food, like chili peppers and mustard, and the physiology of the body, with the experience of spice if fascinating! What is it about a chili pepper that make you feel as if your mouth is on fire? Or that passing burning sensation in your nose after eating wasabi? It’s all connected to your brain and food chemistry! In this TED-Ed video, Rose Eveleth walks us through the science and the history of spicy foods:

View full lesson:
The science of spiciness – Rose Eveleth

Sunday, September 18, 11am-5pm
Lammas Day, the festival of the wheat harvest, celebrates the August harvest with fresh loaves of bread. CISA’s 13th annual Wonder Not Bread Festival is a celebration of Lammas Day hosted by Hungry Ghost Bread. There will be vendors and performers. CISA will also unveil their new Persephone mural by artist Emma Kholmann. Email somehungryghost@yahoo.com to RSVP or ask questions. 62 State Street. Northampton, MA. (MARKET/SALE)

Language Arts

Saturday, September 17, 12:30pm-3:30pm
Western Massachusetts is home to authors of many genres, including novelists, nonfiction writers, poets, and children’s book authors. The Springfield City Library will be bringing many of them together, at the Central Library location, for its annual Author Fair. Call 13-263-6828 ext 221 for more information. Visit the library website for a full list of the authors who will be in attendance. 220 State Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, September 17, 1pm-2pm
Children’s books are more than just a resource for teaching kids how to read and to love learning. These books often contain positive lessons and themes to help children grow into kind, considerate people. The Greenfield Public Library and the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice invite you to celebrate International Peace Day with children’s books. Presenters will read aloud from both fiction and nonfiction concerning a range of subjects: world peace, empathy, friendship, tolerance, community, and our place in the natural environment. LeVanway Meeting Room. 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, September 17, 2pm-2:45pm
Do you or your children enjoy writing poetry? By sharing your interest in writing with your child, you will each benefit from mutual inspiration. This writing workshop for children and adults at the Emily Dickinson Museum will provide writing prompts related to Emily Dickinson and her poetry. This program will take place in the garden at the museum. 413-542-2947. 280 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (Adults $; 17 and under FREE)

Saturday, September 17, 7pm; Sunday, September 18, 6am-10pm
Learning about the historic figures who once resided in a town can enlighten citizens and instill in them a greater connection to place. For those who live in and around Amherst, Massachusetts, learning about the history of Amherst through a lens of historic poetry can do exactly that. The Amherst Poetry Fest and Emily Dickinson Poetry Marathon continues on September 17th with poetry workshops offered at Amherst Regional High School, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and UMass Amherst during the day. Then, from 7-8:30pm, a poetry reading featuring the participants from that day’s workshops will take place on the Emily Dickinson Museum grounds. Visit the Emily Dickinson Museum website for a full schedule of events to take place September 15th-17th. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Friday, September 23, all day
Getting the whole family involved in reading together can make for a more fun learning experience for the kids. Children age 6 to 10 and their caregivers, parents, grandparents, or foster parents are invited to participate in a reading discussion series at the Meekins Library. The six 90-minute sessions will take place each Saturday at 1pm from October 15 through November 19. Sessions will include storytelling, singing, reading aloud from picture books, and an introduction to library services. People who would like to take part are asked to sign up by September 23, by calling the Library at 413-268-7472 or stopping by the circulation desk. 2 Williams Street. Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

Music Studies

Saturday, September 17, 3pm-5pm
What is it like to be a professional musician? You can get a glimpse into the artistic life by attending this discussion, “Conversation with Pianists Boris Berman and Henry Kramer,” at Smith College. This informal and wide-ranging conversation will cover topics related to the life of a pianist. Earle Recital Hall, Sage Hall. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, September 18, 3pm; Wednesday, September 21, 5pm
It’s September, and that means a return of free musical performances at Smith College which are open to the public. Pianist Boris Berman Berman, head of the Piano Department at the Yale School of Music, will perform both books of Claude Debussy’s enchanting and ground-breaking Preludes. Add some breathtaking music to your Sunday afternoon. Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Rosh Hashanah

Sunday, September 18, 10am
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year. The biblical name is Yom Teruah, which is sometimes translated as the “Feast of Trumpets.” You can celebrate Rosh Hashanah with a feast of apples! Families with young children are invited to pick their own apples at Park Hill Orchard. Picking your own apples connects children with where their food comes from, forging a stronger connection with place and making healthy food fun! Email amy@abundancefarm.org with questions. Park Hill Orchard. 82 Park Hill Road. Easthampton, MA. (FREE except cost of apples)

Science Fiction

Sunday, September 18, 2pm
Leonard Nimoy, best known for playing Spock on Star Trek, was born in Massachusetts to Jewish immigrant parents. The 2016 film, For the Love of Spock, explores the life of Leonard Nimoy and his role of Spock. You can screen this film at the Yiddish Book Center. Learn about both Jewish culture and an important figure with ties to Massachusetts. 413-256-4900. 1021 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE).

Transportation History

Saturday, September 17, 10am-5pm
Smithsonian Week at the Springfield Museums kicks off with a day of free admission! There will also be special programs including the History on the Move Car Show with vintage automobiles, music, and family activities. Learn about local history through the lens of automobiles in the Wood Museum of Springfield History. From 11am-1pm there will be guest speakers from the Smithsonian and the National Air and Space Museum, as well as a member of the Mars Rover Team. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, September 18, 2pm-4pm
Car and transportation shows teach people about automotive technology. The presence of vintage cars provides insight into technological history. In commemoration of Eastern States Exposition’s centennial, you can attend a car show at Eastern States Exposition with collector cars from the 1900s to present. There will be commentary and interviews with car experts. Check the Eastern States Exposition website for full pricing details. 413-737-2443. 1305 Memorial Avenue. West Springfield, MA. (Fair admission: $ – $$)

Where do automobiles fit in to the history of transportation? Here’s a brief animated history that looks at many modes of transportation, from the Penny Farthing to the Maglev.


Sunday, September 18, 3:30pm
In the English language, we often use weaving metaphors to describe storytelling. Storytellers spin a yarn, weave a tale, or thread ideas together. Stories, like fabric, can keep us feeling warm and safe. Storytelling is a useful skill for imparting lessons and family histories. The town of Easthampton will be keeping the art of storytelling alive with a community storytelling session. Stories should be around 5 minutes or less and are told without reading. Adults, and children who listen like adults, are welcome. There will be an optional practice session on September 17 at 11:15-12:45. Park Hill Orchard. 82 Park Hill Road. To be a storyteller call 413-203-5247. Easthampton, MA. (FREE)


Sunday, September 18, 3:30pm-5pm
Yoga practices often coincide with mindfulness meditation, making the hobby a holistic wellness practice focused on both mind and body. You are invited to Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center for a guided hike, followed by yoga and meditation. The exercise and time spend in nature during the hike will likely strengthen and deepen your yoga practice. Some yoga mats will be available; however, it is best to bring your own. Bring water and wear loose, comfortable clothing. In case of rain, classes will be held indoors. 800-859-2960. 99 Millers Falls Road. Northfield, MA. ($)

Monday, September 19, 6:30pm
More and more people are beginning to appreciate the vast healing benefits meditation can have on mental and physical well being. Even short meditations can help sharpen focus throughout the day. You can learn basic meditation techniques at a three-session meditation workshop led by Longmeadow resident Amy Appell. Her sessions at the Storrs Library will cover topics such as relaxation, decision making, and inner peace. Sessions two and three will take place on October 17 and November 14. Register on the Storrs library website or by calling 413-565-4181. 693 Longmeadow Street. Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

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.



One Comment on “39 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Autumn Equinox to Rosh Hashanah. Science Fiction to Music Studies.

  1. I’m looking for someone who can teach about wild edibles to children in an After School Program/.

    Jody Massa

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