27 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Peace Movements to Microbiology. Service-Learning to Ecology.

Winter is a great time to learn new recipes, and cook warm comfort foods for friends and family. Bring your favorite soup to the Buckland Public Library for Winter Soup night on Tuesday, January 24, 5:30pm-7pm! Guests may bring bread, cheese and other tidbits. All are welcome. 413-625-8541. 30 Upper Street. Buckland, MA. (FREE)

Celtic Mythology to Microbiology. Sound Waves to Chinese New Year. Peace Movements to Fiber Arts. Tracking to Townshend Acts. 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:  Hilltown Families will be hosting a new Service-Learning Micro-Event Series featuring “Acts of Kindness” volunteer stations for families at multiple locations this winter, beginning on Saturday, January 21, 10am – 2pm! This series is modeled after our larger community-service events, with a shift towards smaller micro-volunteer opportunities through the spring at community events, including winter farmers’ markets, in the hopes that these smaller volunteer opportunities will allow us to engage new audiences with service-learning opportunities! The first Service-Learning Micro-Event will take place at the Amherst Winter’s Farmers’ Market in the Amherst Regional Middle School. Families will have an opportunity to stop by a pop-up volunteer station anytime between 10am-2pm to create handmade valentines to be distributed to seniors in the community. 170 Chestnut Street. Amherst, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

KindnessVolunteeringOrnithologyGuided HikesFilm StudiesMuseum AdventuresSTEMMakerspaceCultural StudiesConstitutional LawCivic EngagementHerpetologyTextilesGamesIntergenerationalMeteorologyDance StudiesNew England HistoryPolitical ScienceLiteracyCommunity MealsArt StudiesArchitecture

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Constitutional Law

From Gandhi to Gregg to Bayard Rustin to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Arab Spring, John Green explores nonviolence and peace movements in the 20th century, teaching the history of nonviolence peace movements and advocates.

Saturday, January 21, 12:30pm
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects our right to expression and assembly. But what limitations might apply? Do you need a permit? Where can we gather? What is civil disobedience? Why are people gathering around a particular topic? What is the outcome they are hoping for? Families can engage in experiential learning about our constitutional rights as part of the Women’s March on Washington (Jan 21), using this opportunity to teach about our right to gather as a grassroots method to communicate and engage change in our leaders and society. This upcoming event in Washington, D.C. has inspired hundreds of smaller “Sister Events,” including Women’s March On Washington – Greenfield, MA Sister Rally. The rally will also provide information on concrete actions families can take to help protect their rights and those of vulnerable populations in our community. Families with young children can make signs together before the march, giving them the opportunity to think about the values that are important to them and how to communicate them with signs and banners. Gather on the Greenfield Town Common (Court Square). Main Street and Federal Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, January 21, 10am – 2pm
Hilltown Families will be hosting a new Service-Learning Micro-Event Series featuring “Acts of Kindness” volunteer stations for families at multiple locations this winter! This series is modeled after our larger community-service events, with a shift towards smaller micro-volunteer opportunities through the spring at community events, including winter farmers’ markets, in the hopes that these smaller volunteer opportunities will allow us to engage new audiences with service-learning opportunities! The first Service-Learning Micro-Event will take place at the Amherst Winter’s Farmers’ Market in the Amherst Regional Middle School. Families will have an opportunity to stop by a pop-up volunteer station anytime between 10am-2pm to create handmade valentines to be distributed to seniors in the community. 170 Chestnut Street. Amherst, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

Random acts of kindness can take many forms – sometimes it’s a card or a gift, sometimes it’s a freshly shoveled walkway or a flower in a hand-painted pot, and other times it’s the gift of edibles baked in your kitchen Whatever form your random act of kindness takes, the concept behind the act is the same: share small acts of kindness with those around you, and watch it spread! Random Acts of Kindness Foundation offers a free set of lesson plans developed for teaching kindness to students from kindergarten through high school. While the lesson plans are written for teachers to use in creating kind, safe learning environments, the ideas that they teach are universally useful and parents can easily pull ideas, questions, and even resources like videos from the lesson plans in order to guide their family’s growth, understanding, and practice of everyday kindness.


What living organisms are the most abundant on Earth? Which ones are the oldest? The answers are found in single-celled organisms! In this CrashCourse video, the show host explores Archaea, Bacteria, and Protists!

Saturday, January 21, 10am-5pm
The human body is like an ecosystem. Each one of us is home to trillions of organisms! Known as microbes, these non-human organisms thrive in various areas of the body. In the mouth, for example, there are over four hundred identified types of bacteria. The word “bacteria” often has a negative connotation; we often hear of harmful bacteria which makes us sick, however, we need bacteria to survive! Families can learn about your own body and explore the concept of microbes at the Springfield Museums exhibit, Zoo in You. Learn all about types of bacteria, archaea, fungi, and viruses, and the ways in which your body affects them, through interactive and bilingual programs for all ages. Visit the Springfield Museums website for a full schedule of family programs which will take place on January 21, the opening day for Zoo in You. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE)


Saturday, January 21, 12pm
We can attract birds to our backyards or apartment windows with feeders, bird houses, and other helpful props for birds. Learn how to make bird balls to hang outside your home (and bring home your own!) at Make It Springfield. Participants will also learn about ecology by studying the birds which share our local habitat. The program host, Vicki Mann, is an expert on fun crafts with reused items that would otherwise end up in the landfill. All materials will be provided. (Allergy warning: Peanut butter will be utilized.) 168 Worthington Street. Springfield, MA. (DONATION)

Saturday, January 21, 1pm
Learning to identify birds by their calls opens up a whole new world of bird identification. Listening for bird calls and songs connects you to nature through your sense of hearing while connecting you to your place. This can be helpful at times when a bird flies by so quickly you can’t identify it by sight. Bird calls also convey meaning, as birds make different sounds to indicate distress, to claim territory, to seek a mate, and more. Interestingly, bird songs evolve socially. Although species sing the same song, individual birds learn songs from their fathers and dialects develop regionally. Birdsong expert Donald Kroodsma committed ten weeks to studying ornithology across ten different states on a bicycling journey from from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He will providing unique insights into ornithology, travel, and nature studies, in this talk, “Listening to a Continent Sing,” at the Great Falls Discovery Center. All are welcome. Best for self-directed and lifelong learners. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, January 21, 5pm-7pm
Can you name an owl species native to Massachusetts? Jane Yolen, author of the classic book Owl Moon, will tell you about seven native owl species, at this Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary program. This event will also feature a magical shadow puppet presentation of Owl Moon, followed by a walk in the woods to call for owls. After the walk, participants will return indoors to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate and a snack. This program is suitable for children ages five to ten, and their caregivers. Registration is required. 413-584-3009. 127 Combs Road. Easthampton, MA. (<$)

Film Studies

Saturday, January 21, 10am
Magic, fantasy, a grand quest, and Celtic mythology all come together in the 2009 movie, The Secret of Kells, being screen this weekend as part of Amherst Cinema’s family film series. In the film, the story is set in medieval Ireland and starts of with reference to Vikings. Before or after the film, explore the history of 7th century Ireland and get curious about the Vikings. Use the internet and books to answer questions about both. Let this award-winning film support this interest with it’s beautiful animation and fictional story line. The main character in this story is Brendan who lives in a medieval outpost which is under siege. Brendan embarks on a quest in search of secret wisdom. 413- 253-2547. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (<$)

Guided Hikes

Saturday, January 21, 9:30am-12:30am
Guided hikes combine nature-based learning with outdoor adventures. On this guided hike to the summit of Lenox Mountain, folks will gain tips for tracking wildlife and identifying trees by their bark. This knowledge will further enrich the time you spend on your own hikes. Bring snowshoes or microspikes, depending on the conditions. Snowshoes will be available to borrow for a fee. Ski poles are also recommended. Dress for cold. Bring water and a snack. Call 413-637-0320 for more information. Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. 472 West Mountain Road. Lenox, MA. (Non members $; members <$)

Sunday, January 22, 10am
Join naturalist guide and Tamarack Hollow Director Aimee Gelinas for a guided snowshoe hike and educational program. You will learn about forest ecology, gain winter tracking skills, and learn to identify native trees and plants. This crash course in nature education is suitable for self-directed and lifelong learners. Email aimee@gaiaroots.com to register. Take place at the Tamarack Hollow Nature and Cultural Center. 1515 Savoy Hollow Road. Windsor, MA. (DONATION)


Saturday, January 21, 2pm
The physics of sound and it’s impact of human physiology and psychology are vast fields of studies. Start with the simple question of what causes sound waves and how these vibrations make music loud or soft, then apply the answers to music and how it corresponds with volume and pitch of sound. Set your kids up to watch the video below, “What is Sound?” and then bring them with their questions and curiosity to the Forbes Library children’s department for an acoustics demonstration for kids with Ralph and Stephen! Music lovers and junior scientists alike will enjoy this program. Registration is preferred. 413-587-1010. 20 West Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Makerspaces inspire creativity!  These community places provide the space to combine science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM!) in order to make and create.  They are like an artist’s studio but also include digital making as well as physical making.  Activities include woodworking, electronics, computers, 3D printing, knitting, screen printing, sewing, and more!  Western Massachusetts has a number of community maker spaces to start brainstorming your do-it-yourself gift giving ideas.  Read more in our post, Go to a Makerspace!

Thursday, January 26, 3:30pm-4:30pm
Lying in the space between ideas and their physical manifestations, makerspaces cater to the creators amongst us, providing spaces within which to combine science, technology, engineering, art, and math (a combination widely known as STEAM) in order to produce… who knows what! Even young children can engage with these concepts. Monthly Maker Lab at the West Springfield Public Library invites youth ages six and up to explore the Imagination Station. This month, participants will be using dough for creative free play and projects. No registration is needed. 413-736-4561. 200 Park Street. West Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Cultural Studies

Saturday, January 21, 11am
The Chinese New Year is coming up on Saturday, January 28.  But what is Chinese New Year? In the History video below, learn about the different cultural traditions of this annual celebration. Discover that some Chinese New Year celebrations include a reunion dinner with family, cleansing of the home, and decorating windows and doors with red paper-cut artwork. The Granby Library invites families to come celebrate by making a Dancing Dragon puppet, a Chinese mask, a lantern, and lucky red envelopes. Participants will also practice writing Chinese letters and discover their Chinese Zodiac animal. Wear red if you have some. Registration is required. 413-467-3320. 297 East State Street. Granby, MA. (FREE)

Families can explore Chinese culture by learning about the celebrations surrounding the new year. From food to hong bao (red money packets) to day trips to regional cultural celebrations, families can choose from many different ways to explore Chinese culture while celebrating the coming of the new year. Explorations of Chinese culture can begin with our rich list of children’s titles by author Demi exploring Chinese art and traditions offering young readers a visual feast for learning about the Chinese aesthetic, and music for the lunar new year can add aural elements to the ushering in of the red monkey. Additionally, the Springfield Museums’ online collection of Asian Art speaks to the culture’s roots year-round. Bellies filled with traditional new year foods can inspire further explorations of specific beliefs and practices by using a curriculum as a guide!


Saturday, January 21, 2pm
There aren’t many rattlesnakes living in New England, or the northeastern United States in general. One species which does reside here, the timber rattlesnake, is unfortunately endangered. It is also one of North America’s most dangerous snakes, with long venomous fangs. Join Berkshire Community College Professor Tom Tyning at the Berkshire Athenaeum to learn more about this snake’s habits and habitat. No registration is required. 413-499-9480. 1 Wendell Avenue. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)


Saturday, January 21, 2pm-3pm
Weaving is an ancient and practical art form used to make yarn or fabric, to create clothing, blankets, tapestries, and other forms of fiber art. Looms are a tool for making weaving easier. Did you know that you can create your own cardboard loom? Teens and tweens are invited to learn about loom weaving in this craft event at the Jones Library. Participants can create an individual project or help work on a community project. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Make a cardboard loom at home for weaving friendship bracelets. This video walks you through while giving you the opportunity to practice simple math skills found in fiber arts. See the written pattern at www.redheart.com.

An age-old skill, knitting provides us with some of our most treasured warm clothes. Learning the art of knitting can not only help to provide warmth, but can lead to explorations of local history, local agriculture, and complex math – and families can even engage in service-based learning by donating hand-knitted goods to help support people in need! Read more in our post, Knitting Supports Explorations of History, Agriculture & Mathematics.


Saturday, January 21, 7pm-9pm
Family game nights are one way to get both parents and kids to put aside their work, and their screen-based entertainment, to spend time together. Simple games can challenge young kids to think critically, while harder games can challenge older children through friendly competition. Spice up your family game night by joining other families at Notchview. Notchview will provide classic games such as Battleship, Yahtzee, Boggle, Monopoly and Scrabble. Soup is included with the cost of a ticket. 83 Old Route 9. Windsor, MA. (<$)

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.


“Maybe you’ve seen animal tracks in the mud after a rainy day, but did you know that you can study these tracks to learn all kinds of things about the animals that made them? Grab your detective hat and join Jessi to find out how!” – SciShow Kids

Saturday, January 21, 10am
Although many species of local wildlife take shelter, hibernate, or migrate during winter months, fresh blankets of snow can make animal tracking easier. The West Springfield Environmental Committee invites people of all ages to look for signs of deer, fox, coyote, squirrel, raccoon, beaver, otter and other animals on this guided hike. This hike will take about two hours and the pace will be slow. Environmental historian and naturalist Dietrich Schlobohm will lead the group, meeting at Four Corners in Bear Hole. All ages are welcome. Registration is required. Call 413-788-4125. West Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, January 22, 10am-12pm
Get your kids interested in learning about habitat and ecology through an outdoor adventure tracking wildlife such as deer, rabbits, mice, fox and birds. Participants at this family friendly event will learn to become nature detectives, honing their observational skills as they interpret the information hidden in animal tracks. Naturalist and tracker Dan Yacobellis will run this guided walk. From 12:30 through 3:30 there will be a more in-depth tracking program for adults and children 8 years and older, to look for more elusive animals such as the fisher cat and bobcat. This program is weather dependent, please call to confirm that the program is being held in the event of inclement weather.Reservations are required and space is limited. Ramblewild. 844-472-6253. 110 Brodie Mountain Road. Williamstown, MA. (<$)


Saturday, January 21, 10:30am-12pm
Snow opens up a world of opportunities for kids, from creative free play, to learning about chemistry and meteorology, to animal tracking, to crafts! This STEAMcraft at the Meekins Library will teach kids science through the lens of snow, and invite them to use winter as inspiration for creativity: color icy orbs, create a frozen bubble, paint an icy print, and more in this hands-on learning program. 413-268-7472. 2 Williams Street. Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

Friday, January 27, 3:30pm-4:30pm
The white coating that covers our landscape here in New England not only offers opportunities for winter sports, but it is also a great creative medium that can support science studies too! The chemistry behind snowflakes and frost are just waiting to be discovered. Snowflakes are a beautiful form of crystals, each one showing off a microscopic symmetrical design of spears, points, indents, and cutouts. Youth ages nine and up can learn about the science behind ice, crystals, and snow, at the West Springfield Public Library. Please register. 413-736-4561. 200 Park Street. West Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Dance Studies

Friday, January 27, 8pm
Does your child like to dance? Get them inspired by taking them to a youth dance performance by 16-20 year-old international students of the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company. You will see two premiers of never-before-seen pieces, as well as a performance of Antony Tudor’s 1979 show, “The Leaves are Fading.” Witness choreography from past and present at Mount Holyoke College’s Kendall Hall Studio Theatre. 50 College Street. South Hadley, MA. ($; Students and seniors <$)

New England History

Sunday, January 22, 2pm
The Townshend Acts placed taxes on items such as glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea in America, the revenue of which benefited English rule. Most people are familiar with the rebellions which ensued, including the Boston Massacre. Historic Deerfield is hosting a winter lecture series to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Townshend Acts through an exploration of the politics of tea, consumer culture, and resistance. This first lecture, “Colonial Opposition and the Road to Revolution, 1763-1775,” will be presented by William M. Fowler, Distinguished Professor of History at Northeastern University. 413-774-5581. 80 Old Main Street. Deerfield, MA. (FREE)

Political Science

Monday, January 23, 10am
Although you may be tired of thinking about the 2016 presidential election, reflecting upon and understanding election cycles is crucial to understanding the political process in this country. Prominent MSNBC news anchor Rachel Maddow will be offering her perspective and insights on the election in this lecture at Smith College. This talk is part of a Presidential Colloquium offering bipartisan political perspectives. The colloquium continues with republican strategist and CNN news anchor Ana Navarro on Tuesday, January 24 at 10am. No tickets are required. John M. Greene Hall. Northampton, MA. (FREE)


Monday, January 23, 10am-11:30am
Reading and comprehension of language are essential skills for functioning; these skills also open up a world of enjoyment through reading for pleasure. Parents can do a lot to encourage literacy in their children. Talking, singing, playing and reading with your child all build early reading skills. This program from the Collaborative for Educational Services will teach parents of children ages birth to five years fun activities to encourage literacy. Registration is required through the Collaborative for Educational Services website. For more information, call the Collaborative at 413-586-4900. This program will take place at the West Brookfield Elementary School. 89 N Main Street. West Brookfield, MA. (FREE)

Community Meal

Monday, January 23, 5pm-6pm
The Berkshire South Regional Community Center hosts a community supper prepared by some of the best chefs in the Berkshires every Monday. Join your neighbors and make new friends. Donations are accepted as well as contributions of non-perishable food items for local food banks encouraged. No reservations required. 413-528-2810. 15 Crissey Road. Great Barrington, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, January 24, 5:30pm-7pm
Winter is a great time to learn new recipes, and cook warm comfort foods for friends and family. Bring your favorite soup to the Buckland Public Library for Winter Soup night! January 24, February 7 and February 28 the library will be hosting this social, community meal program. Guests may bring bread, cheese and other tidbits. All are welcome. If you would like to bring soup on any of the nights, please call 413-625-8541. 30 Upper Street. Buckland, MA. (FREE)

Art Studies

Tuesday, January 24, 6:30pm-7:30pm
Woodblock carving is an ancient method of printing and a popular type of Japanese artwork. Woodblock artist Hokusai will be at the Hubbard Memorial Library to teach kids ages eight and up about their art form and invite them to make woodblock prints of their own. Kids should dress in paint-appropriate clothing. Space is limited; please register at the Hubbard Memorial Library website. 413-583-3408. 24 Center Street. Ludlow, MA.

January 23 through April 28
The UMass Amherst Libraries host Color Woodblock Prints, an Exhibition by Linda Mahoney ’79. Moku Hanga—Japanese watercolor woodblock printmaking. Moku Hanga consists of designing an image, carving several blocks for each print design, experimenting with colors while proof printing, refining the blocks and colors, using brushes to apply water-based paint mixed with rice paste to the paper and then applying pressure with a hand-held baren (a pad of twisted cord covered with paper, cloth, and bamboo leaves) in order to make the final print.  Exhibit on view in the Science & Engineering Library, Lederle Graduate Research Center Lowrise, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Amherst, MA (FREE)


Thursday, January 26, 12:15pm-1pm
What can architecture teach us about local history? Preserved historic homes and furniture can lend insight to industrial history and daily life in various time periods. Springfield resident and historic preservationist Jim Boone restored his Victorian home, transforming it from a former rooming house to a period showplace. He will be giving a talk at the Springfield Museums, featuring before and after photos of the restoration process. Feel free to bring a lunch to enjoy during the lecture. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (<$)

[Photo credit: (cc) Migle Seikyte]

Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Agawam, Buckland, Chicopee, Colrain, Cummington, Gill, Hadley, New Salem, Shelburne Falls and Westhampton Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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