25 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Meteorology to Mixed Media. Basketball to Tea.

Learn about Jewish culture through the lens of food by screening three short films at the Yiddish Book Center on Sunday, January 8, 2pm. The center will be showing In The Last Blintz, Life and Hummus, and Bagels in the Blood. These films will explore Jewish food culture from New York, to Israel and Palestine, to Montreal. 413-256-4900. 1021 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Tea Ceremony to Sports History. Ornithology to Nutritional Anthropology. Aromachology to Dyslexia. 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:  Card games challenge your logical reasoning abilities, sometimes also involving mathematics and various social skills. Playing games in general is a great way to connect with your kids in a low-tech way, without screen technology. Do you or your kids like to collect card games? Kids and parents are invited to Make It Springfield to meet and play collectible card games on Sunday, January 8, 12pm-2pm. Challenge your brain by learning a new game, while meeting new families with shared interests. 168 Worthington Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Winter SportsNordic SkiingMindfulnessJapanese CultureLEGOSSTEMArt StudiesBasketballAnimal StudiesCivic EngagementGamesJewish CultureSleep ScienceParent SupportSkillsharingAromatherapyTheater HistoryLearning DifferencesWomen’s History

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According to Wikipedia, “Aromachology is the study of the influence of odors on human behavior and to examine the relationship between feelings and emotions such as relaxation, exhilaration, sensuality, happiness and well-being brought about by odors stimulating the olfactory pathways in the brain and, in particular, the limbic system.” But did you know that a adult human can distinguish up to 10,000 odors” According to TED-Ed, “we use our nose to figure out what to eat, what to buy and even when it’s time to take a shower. But how do the molecules in the air get translated into smells in your brain?” In this TED-Ed video, “Rose Eveleth charts the smelly journey through your olfactory epithelium and explains why scent can be so subjective.”

View full lesson: How do we smell? – Rose Eveleth

Tuesday, January 10, 6:30pm-8pm
Winter is often a time for baking sweets and knitting scarves. There are lots of other skills you can learn this time of year, however. Come to River Valley Co Op and learn how to create your own infused oils, salves, and lip balms. People with concerns about the ingredients in their toiletries may be interested in making their own body products. Local herbalist, Jade Alicandro Mace, will be running this program. Registration is required. Call 413-584-2665. 330 North King Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Winter Sports

There are many ways to remain active and engaged with the outdoors during the winter season. Nordic skiing, alpine skiing, ice skating, and snowshoeing are a few examples of different activities that encourage New Englanders to get outside, stay fit, and maintain a healthy lifestyle while connecting them to local places during the cold winter months. Download our Jan/Feb edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for places to ski, skate and snowshoe in Western MA, and check out these winter sport events:

Sunday, January 8, 12pm-1pm
Do your children like to ski? Skiers ages ten to fifteen are invited to expand their ski knowledge into areas related to ski patrol. Participants will learn first aid and CPR among other safety techniques, with members of Notchview’s National Ski Patrol. This eight week program will take place at Notchview on Sundays through February 26. For more information call The Trustees at 413-684-0148 or email notchview@thetrustees.org. 83 Old Route 9. Windsor, MA. ($)

Friday, January 13, 11:30am-1:30pm
One benefit to homeschooling your children is that the schedule can sometimes allow greater flexibility for your child to explore their interests during school hours. The Mullins Center at UMass Amherst invites homeschooling families to skate at discounted prices. All children school age and younger are invited. Adults must be accompanied by children. Parents receive free admission and skate rental when accompanying children. Cash only. Commonwealth Avenue. Amherst, MA. (<$)

Friday, January 13, 7pm-9pm
Following the cycles of the moon can connect you with other aspects of astronomy. Studying astronomy is a good way to spend more time outdoors at night and admire an important part of nature- the night sky. You can enjoy a full moon snowshoe hike at Bartholomew’s Cobble. Those who do not own showshoes can rent them for a fee. Call 413-298-3239 ex 3013 for more information. 117 Cooper Hill Road. Sheffield, MA. (Members <$; Non members $)

Saturday, January 7, 9am-2pm
Skiing and snowboarding are great ways to get outside in the cold months, enjoy the snow, and get exercise when other forms of recreation become inaccessible. Purchasing equipment for these hobbies, though, can be expensive. The Ski, Skate and Snowboard Winter Gear sale will be providing both new and used gear at low prices, while supporting a cause. All proceeds will benefit the Amherst Historical Society, a local resource for historical education. The sale will take place at Crocker Farm Elementary School. 280 West Street (aka, Route 116). Amherst, MA. (MARKET/SALE)


“On this final installment of Journey to the East, learn about the Japanese tea ceremony, the Cha Dao, or way of tea. An ancient tradition rooted in peace, tranquility, and meditation. Even as the samurai prepared for war, they would still take time out to enjoy a bowl of matcha, a high quality powdered green tea. What can we learn today from these ancient practices? The answer involves far more than health and antioxidants. Find out on this episode of Journey to the East.” – China Uncensored

Interested in a local tea tasting? Dobra Tea in Northampton has tea tastings. Want to see a traditional Japanese teahouse? At Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, on the top floor of Eliot House sits Wa-shin-an, a traditional Japanese meditation garden and teahouse. Tours take place Monday-Friday, 1-5pm when classes are in session. To learn more, check out Japanese Tea Ceremony, an online curriculum offered by Five College Center for East Asian Studies.

Sunday, January 8, 10am-5pm
Woodblock carving is a method of printing which preceded movable type and the printing press. The artistic technique of Japanese woodblock printing is explored in the current Clark exhibition, Japanese Impressions: Color Woodblock Prints from the Rodbell Family Collection. You can attend this Free Sunday program at the Clark Art Institute to view the exhibition, and engage in activities to learn about the cultural importance of tea ceremonies to Japanese identity and culture. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, January 11, 5:45-7:15pm
Learning to meditate can help you achieve balance, peace of mind, and healing in your life. Make It Springfield is offering a beginner’s meditation class, focusing on observing and exploring consciousness. It is recommended that you eat a few hours before class and wear flexible, comfortable clothing which allows for range of motion and easy breathing. Please bring your own pillow, mats, or blankets to sit on. Otherwise, chairs are available. Beginners of all ages are welcome. 168 Worthington Street. Springfield, MA. (DONATION)


“Lego isn’t just for kids. Its versatility has been exploited by innovating programmers to create more advanced models and machines. Combining average plastic Lego bricks with other forms of Lego, such as Lego Pneumatic, Lego Technic and the programmable robotics construction set that is Lego Mindstorms, the simplest building blocks have been utilized for some amazing advanced creations.” – Be Amazed

Saturday, January 7, 9:30am-11:30am
The idea of robots can seem like very sophisticated machines, created by highly trained robotics specialists. However, robotic machines don’t have to be very complex – and even kids can learn to make them! Everyone ages ten and up is welcome to go to Holyoke Codes to build robots with LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 kits. Participants will learn how to make the robots dance! 413- 552-4900. 100 Bigelow Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, January 11, 3pm
LEGOs are a versatile toy which can help kids practice fine motor skills, learn cause and effect relationships, and express their creativity. Children ages three and up and their caregivers are invited to a LEGO and Little Bit creative play event at the Erving Public Library. LittleBits and electronic gadget sets will keep older children entertained with engineering projects. Assistance will be provided as needed. Caregivers are encouraged to play too! 413-423-3348. 17 Moore Street. Erving, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, January 7, 11am
Kids are natural scientists, full of questions about their environment. Kids ages four and up are invited to this meeting of the Young Scientists Club at the Gaylord Memorial Library, where they will learn about meteorology through rainbows! Participants will experiment with rainbow bubbles and create a “Paint With Golf Balls” poster. Put some STE(Art)M in your STEM! No registration is required, just drop in! 413-538-5047. 47 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, January 8, 5pm-8pm
Artists of all backgrounds and mediums are invited to Make It Springfield for a choose your own adventure style, weekly workshop. Participants are invited to draw, color, paint, collage, or any mixed-media combination. You are welcome to drop in anytime during the event. Supplies will be provided. Local hexagon artist Max Rudolph will be hosting. 168 Worthington Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Friday, January 13, 4pm-8pm
Benches are architectural pieces with a practical purpose as well as an artistic design. If you are familiar with downtown Northampton, you may have seen the benches on Main Street transformed into works of art. “Buddy benches” have popped up in recent years as places where any child can sit if they are seeking company from a friend. Creative people of all ages can create their own benches, inspired by the artist-designed benches on display in the Smith College Museum of Art. At 6pm, you can also participate in a guided tour of the museum. 413-585-2760. 20 Elm Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)


In terms of sports fame, the area is probably best known as the official birthplace of both volleyball and basketball. Springfield’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is a landmark in the city, and honors the city’s claim to fame as home of basketball and its inventor, James Naismith. Created in 1891 in order to offer athletes an exciting and physically challenging indoor sport, basketball is now internationally known and loved. The Basketball Hall of Fame itself includes thousands of square feet of basketball history exhibits, as well as a 300+ member hall of fame commemorating the contributions and achievements of notable players, coaches, and others who’ve been a part of the sport.

Saturday, January 7, 10am-1pm
The Harlem Globetrotters are an independent, exhibition basketball team with a rich history. They have been entertaining audiences since 1926. St. Mark’s Church invites you to a day of entertainment, exercise, skills clinics, games, dancing, and positive messages with the Harlem Globetrotters, featuring Kevin “Showboat” Jackson and Kenny “Blenda” Rodriguez, with DJ Master of Sounds, Eddie Brown. This day of family fun is not just for basketball fans and athletes. Parents are welcome. Wear comfortable clothing. Taconic High School gymnasium. You can call ahead for tickets at 413-447-7510 between 8am-3pm or purchase tickets at the door. Valentine Road. Pittsfield, MA. (<$)

Learn more about sport history and the Harlem Globetrotters:

Animal Studies

During the cold months of winter, many of the creatures often seen during the rest of the year have migrated south, are tucked away in burrows for most of the winter, or have become even better at hiding so as not to be easily spotted against the snow. But their signs are still there and a lot of fun searching for! Looking for signs like tracks, scat, dens, and nests is a fun and educational way to learn about the habits of wildlife living near you. To inspire families into winter tracking expeditions, Mass Audubon offers an online list of the nests to spot in Winter! The list includes information on the American Goldfinch, American Robin, Baltimore Oriole, and Chipping Sparrow, as well as Eastern Gray Squirrels, who builds nests high up in trees as well. The nest list not only shares information on spotting and identifying different nests, it also includes facts about the nest’s structure, specific reasons for why each nest is created the way that it is, and interesting facts.

“The same technology used to locate lost pets is now being used to track common backyard birds. Scientists and students at the Cornell Lab have collected data on hundreds of thousands of feeder visits so far by Black-capped Chickadees and other birds. Tiny tags weighing less than one-tenth of a gram are attached to the birds’ legs and are detected each time the birds visit specially-rigged feeders. Watch this in which David Bonter describes the radio frequency identification (RFID) technique and what we can learn by keeping track of who’s coming to dinner.” – LabofOrnithology

Saturday, January 7, 10am-12pm
Snowfall can provide help to naturalists who want to track wildlife. In the winter months it can be easier to spot animal prints on the ground, or see animals against the increasingly clear backdrop of bare trees (as long as they are not hiding away somewhere!) Want to get started with wildlife tracking? Come to this program at Noble View Outdoor Center to learn about animal behaviors, their tracks, and other signs of winter wildlife. This program will include an indoor discussion as well as time spent outside looking for tracks and signs. Call 413-454- 3232 to register. 635 South Quarter Road. Russell, MA. (DONATION)

Friday, January 13, 6:30pm-8pm
Take advantage of the long winter nights by learning to track nocturnal wildlife! Come to Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary to enjoy a moonlight guided walk to search for owls and other creatures. Participants will explore fields, forests, and wetlands and learn about various animals’ seasonal adaptation. There will be tea and hot chocolate after the walk. Snowshoes will be provided if the conditions warrant. Dress for the weather. 413-637-0320. 472 West Mountain Road. Lenox, MA. (<$)

Identifying nests together with your family can teach them a lot about the habits of each bird species, and can help them develop a greater awareness of the many animal signs present around them. Mass Audubon also has Winter Walk Bingo Cards families can download and print that would make for fun this winter while searching for nests and other signs of wildlife.


Saturday, January 7, 12:30pm
Saturday, January 7th is the 76th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech. In this inspiring 1941 State of the Union Address, FDR outlined four fundamental freedoms which he believed everyone had a right to. These four freedoms are freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. All are invited to downtown Pittsfield to march and rally together around a commitment to these freedoms. Marching participants will meet in front of St. Joseph’s Church, then march down North Street to Park Square for an indoor rally of speeches. Speakers will include U.S. Senator Edward Markey, among many others. The Four Freedoms March and Rally is being organized by the newly formed non-partisan Four Freedoms Coalition, led by the Berkshire County Branch of the NAACP, the Berkshire Central Labor Council, and the Berkshire Brigades. 414 North Street. Downtown. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, January 11, 7pm-8:30pm
How can we fight back against an inflammatory political climate? All are invited to The Erikson Institute of the Austen Riggs Center to engage in a discussion on combating hate, building community, and protecting our neighbors. Understanding the concerns of our community members can help us as individuals to be more politically engaged and active. Call 413-931-5284 to register. 25 Main Street. Stockbridge, MA. (FREE)


From classics to original creations, board games have much to offer in terms of learning. Almost any game will encourage the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills, and specific games help players to hone in on specific skills or topics. By exploring local resources for game play, creating new games, and digging into the history of games, families can maximize the educational potential of a great family pastime! Read more in our post,Board Games Spark Play-Based Learning and Inspire Critical Thinking and Problem Solving.

Sunday, January 8, 12pm-2pm
Card games challenge your logical reasoning abilities, sometimes also involving mathematics and various social skills. Playing games in general is a great way to connect with your kids in a low-tech way, without screen technology. Do you or your kids like to collect card games? Kids and parents are invited to Make It Springfield to meet and play collectible card games. Challenge your brain by learning a new game, while meeting new families with shared interests. 168 Worthington Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Nutritional Anthropology

Sunday, January 8, 2pm
One of the biggest factors tying food to culture is habitat. The ecological factors which determine which edible plants thrive in an area partially determines the meals which become a culinary mainstay within that culture. Thus, studying the connection between cultures and the foods they value will shed light on ecology as well. You can learn about Jewish culture through the lens of food by screening three short films at the Yiddish Book Center. The center will be showing In The Last Blintz, Life and Hummus, and Bagels in the Blood. These films will explore Jewish food culture from New York, to Israel and Palestine, to Montreal. 413-256-4900. 1021 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)


Sunday, January 8, 4pm-5:30pm
A good night’s sleep is essential for emotional regulation, creative problem solving, memory, and more. Adolescents face unique challenges when it comes to maintaining a healthy sleep routine. Northampton Area Pediatrics is offering a parenting workshop to discuss ways that adolescents can improve their sleep. Adolescents as well as parents are welcome to attend. 413-517-2226 . 193 Locust Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Monday, January 9, 10am-11am
Drop in for a casual, parenting discussion group at the Sunderland Public Library. Karen Green of the Coordinated Family and Community Engagement program will be present to facilitate as parents discuss their parenting techniques and challenges. 413-665-2642. 20 School Street. Sunderland, MA. (FREE)


Monday, January 9, 2pm-6pm
Learning to tune up and repair your own bike can save you time and money while teaching you about engineering and problem solving. Bring your bike or just your questions to Make It Springfield, and have your repairs taken care of by RadSpringfield. Stop in anytime during these drop in hours. All ages are welcome. There is a suggested donation up to twenty five dollars or more, depending on the repair. You can also bring by your old, unused bikes to donate. 168 Worthington Street. Springfield, MA. (DONATION)

Theater History

Wednesday, January 11, 12pm
Many famous performers have graced the Academy of Music Theatre’s stage during the past 123 years of the theatre’s existence. You are invited to learn about the history of the theatre on a guided tour. You will learn fun facts about performers. Did you know that a trap door was once cut into the stage for Harry Houdini’s disappearing act? Academy Board member Gail Yacuzzo Director will lead this historic tour. Reservations are required. 413-584-9032 ex105. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Learning Differences

Wednesday, January 11, 6:30pm
Dyslexia is a disorder which affects an individual’s ability to read, write, and spell words to varying degrees. Educators are learning more and more all the time about ways to effectively help students with dyslexia. For parents of children with dyslexia, it is important to understand both the condition and the ways in which schools and educators can best help dyslexic children. The Hampshire Regional Special Education Parent Advisory Council will be screening the 2012 film, The Big Picture; Rethinking Dyslexia, a positive and empowering film which explores these topics. Attend this screening at Hampshire Regional High School to learn more about dyslexia. 19 Stage Road. Westhampton, MA. (FREE)

Women’s History

Thursday, January 12, 12:15pm
There is a lot to wonder about the historical lives of women. This lecture at the Springfield Museums will explore topics such as menstruation, sex and birth control, childbirth, sickness and medicine, and the ways in which they affected New England’s colonial women. This lecture, The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife, is presented by Velya Jancz-Urban, teacher, author, and former Brazilian dairy farmer. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (<$)

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