29 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Community Sing to Poetry. Gospel to Japanese Culture.

Valentine’s Day is not just for couples! Parents can use this holiday to engage in intergenerational crafts with their children, and teach them concepts of service and kindness. Come to the Meekins Library on Saturday, February 4, until 1:30pm for a morning of Valentine’s Day activities! People of all ages are invited to craft valentines and decorate cookies. Participants are encouraged to donate some of their valentines to the Williamsburg Senior Center. 413-268-7472. 2 Williams Street. Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

Permaculture to Teddy Roosevelt. Anime to Hawaiian Culture. Electoral College to Calligraphy. 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:  Saturday, February 4, from 10am-12noon at Flywheel Arts Collective, Hilltown Families and the Flywheel Arts Collective are continuing the Saturday Morning Music Party series with a breakfast bash featuring food, dancing, and diversions for kids! During a free breakfast of fresh pancakes, juice, and fruit, you can craft handmade Valentines with the Easthampton Parents Center. Then we’ll enjoy special guests, DandyLions Garden, a musical act for kids and inner children alike. We’ll round out the morning with DJ Youthelectronix for the “best ever dance party before noon!” This is a fundraiser for both Flywheel & Hilltown Families, with a “pay what you can” admission to attend with your family. For more information, email info@hilltownfamilies.org.

PermacultureMuseum AdventuresAmerican HistoryFiber ArtsFilm StudiesIntergenerationalLanguage ArtsCreative-Free PlayMusic StudiesCulture StudiesClimate ChangeAnthropometryPolitical ScienceReligion StudiesArt StudiesWinter FestivalsWomen’s HistoryTheater Studies

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Saturday, February 4, 6:30pm
Permaculture is a flexible and adaptable holistic design approach based on natural laws that allows us to examine and refine our relationships with a whole ecosystem, including ourselves. Permaculture calls upon us to make ethical choices, take action, and live knowing “all is in relation.” The film Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective explores several examples of permaculture projects and the social and ecological innovators spearheading these efforts in the Northeast and beyond. Come see the film and meet others interested in permaculture. Before the film, Nutwood Farm representatives will tell audience members about their plants to grow perennial staple foods on their farm.   Childcare will also be provided during the film screening.  For more information please call Sara at 413-824-1840 or email nutwoodfarmers@gmail.com. Cummington Community House. 33 Main Street. Cummington, MA. (FREE)

Museum Adventures

Saturday, February 4, 10am-4pm
Sharing your favorite book with a friend makes it twice as fun! Help your child associate reading with fun at the First Book Friendiversary! You and your children are invited to bring friends to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for a morning of storytimes and films. Attendees will meet Elephant and Piggie from Mo Willem’s books. Every child in attendance will receive a free book while supplies last. There will also be friendship themed art projects. Check the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for a full list of activities. In the event of snow, please call 413-559-6300 for cancellation news. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. (<$)

Saturday, February 4, 11am-9pm
Have you ever heard elevator music…played live? Free Day at MASS MoCA will feature an array of artistic and musical learning opportunities, from pop-up performances to take-home art-making workshops. Take advantage of the pop-up photo booth and participate in the human sculpture contest. Kidspace artists-in-residence Huck Elling and David Lane will be exhibiting artwork they have created in collaboration with 4th and 5th grade students from the North Adams Public Schools. Wrapping up the evening, Steven Bernstein’s Universal Melody Brass Band will play their funky classic hits and jazz tunes. Bernstein has been arranging music for thirty years and has been awarded three Grammy Awards. Admission and activities for the day are free with the exception of the Universal Melody Brass Band performance. 413-662-2111. 1040 Mass MoCA Way. North Adams, MA. (FREE admission; $ music tickets)

Friday, February 10, 4pm-8pm
Making your own jewelry is a fun, creative hobby which can also be a form of thoughtful and inexpensive gift making. Participants at this month’s Free Second Friday at the Smith College Museum of Art will have the opportunity to make a gilded arm band or bracelet inspired by the art on view. At 6pm, enjoy a guided tour of the exhibition Valentines from Venus. Then, at 7pm, you can stick around for a screening of the film Layers of Pompeii (2016). People of all ages are fascinated by the story of Pompeii, a sixth century BC town destroyed, yet preserved, by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. 413-585-2760. 20 Elm Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Political Science

“You vote, but then what? Discover how your individual vote contributes to the popular vote and your state’s electoral vote in different ways–and see how votes are counted on both state and national levels.” – TED-Ed

View full lesson: Does your vote count? The Electoral College explained – Christina Greer

Tuesday, February 7, 6:30pm-8pm
What exactly is the electoral college? How does it affect the outcome of our voting process and why do we use it at all? Sometimes the winner of the popular vote, in other words the person with the most individual votes, does not become president. This occurred in both the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections and this phenomenon has many citizens calling for the abolition of the electoral college. You can gain a better understanding of U.S. government and decide where you stand on this issue by attending a presentation at the Brightwood Branch Library. Attendees will hear from students Amel Amed and Jesse Rhodes of UMass-Amherst, Adam Hilton of Mount Holyoke College, and State Senator Eric Lesser. 359 Plainfield Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

American History

Saturday, February 4, 3:30pm
Teddy Roosevelt was a soldier, naturalist, historian, father, statesman, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and remains to this day a relatively popular presidential figure. Author, educator, and actor Ted Zalewski will be bring Roosevelt’s boisterous personality to life at Ventfort Hall. This one-man performance will be followed by a Victorian tea. Step into the past and learn about the life and personality of the 32nd United States president. 413-637-3206. 104 Walker Street. Lenox, MA. ($$)

Fiber Arts

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, February 4, 2:30pm
Do you have yarn, needles, patterns, tools, or fabric you no longer use? Ashfield Needles and Threads is hosting an exchange of fiber arts materials and ideas! Bring items, take items. Connect with others and exchange your crafting knowledge, while engaging in collaborative consumption. New materials may be just what you need to get inspired about a new project. All are welcome to take materials whether they have some to donate or not. Snow date is February 5. Check the Ashfield Needles and Threads Facebook page or call 413-628-4527. Congregational Church. Main Street. Ashfield, MA. (FREE)

Film Studies

Saturday, February 4, 6:30pm
The 2016 stop-motion fantasy, Kubo and The Two Strings (rated PG) uses magical elements and an exciting quest to demonstrate the power of storytelling and music. Kubo lives a simple life, making living storytelling, until he accidentally summons a spirit from his past. He must go on a journey to battle monsters and reunite his family, using a magical musical instrument! This animated film is set in Japan and features a score of original music. Join other families to enjoy this family film! The M.N. Spear Memorial Library is hosting a screening. Snacks and baked goods will be available for purchase. 413-259-1213. Town Hall. 1 Cooleyville Road. Shutesbury, MA. (DONATION)

Wednesday, February 8, 6pm
The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter is considered the oldest known Japanese narrative. This 10th century Japanese folktale tells the story of a childless bamboo cutter who finds an infant in a stalk of bamboo. Folktales of any culture can be a useful key to understanding modern literature and narrative art forms. The 2015 film, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (rated PG) combines elements of this famous folktale with beautiful, hand-drawn artwork. This film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The Clark Art Institute will be screening the film as part of their anime film series, in conjunction with the current exhibition, Japanese Impressions: Color Woodblock Prints from the Rodbell Family Collection. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)


Thursday, February 9, 6:30pm-8pm
Do you like to sing? No matter your musical abilities or experience, you can come be a part of “Hope Singing” at the Shelburne Falls Senior Center. Music minister Sarah Pirtle will run this community event, providing lyrics to uplifting songs for everyone to join in singing. Participants are also invited to bring their own favorite songs if they wish. Drop by anytime during the event. For more information, call 413-625-2355. 7 Main Street. Shelburne Falls, MA. (FREE)

Language Arts

Thursday, February 9, 7pm-9pm
Poems pack meaning into fewer words than prose. Reading and writing poetry can improve your vocabulary, strengthen your imagination, and encourage creative thinking. Whether you write poetry or just like to read it, you are invited to the Poetry Cafe at the Westhampton Public Library. All ages are welcome. Bring a favorite poem to share. Homemade desserts and warm beverages will be provided. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road. Westhampton, MA. (FREE)

Creative-Free Play

Saturday, February 4, 10:30am-1:30pm
Valentine’s Day is not just for couples! Parents can use this holiday to engage in intergenerational crafts with their children, and teach them concepts of service and kindness. Come to the Meekins Library for a morning of Valentine’s Day activities! From 10:30 to 11:30, young children can enjoy a storytime and song. From 11am to 1:30pm people of all ages are invited to craft valentines and decorate cookies. Participants are encouraged to donate some of their valentines to the Williamsburg senior center. 413-268-7472. 2 Williams Street. Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, February 7, 4pm-5:30pm
Making Valentines with your children can be a way of teaching them about random acts of kindness and charity. You don’t have to make Valentines just for your secret sweetheart. You can make them to show appreciation for friends, families, neighbors, or even your favorite non profit! The whole family is invited to the Community Action Family Center to make handmade Valentines. Supplies and snacks will be created. All ages are welcome. 413-475-1555. 90 Federal Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Music Studies

Saturday, February 4, 7pm-9pm
Gospel is a genre of Christian music which can be traced back to the 17th century. Gospel music holds great historic and cultural significance in many African American communities. This year, you can kick off Black History Month by attending the Second Annual Gospel concert at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. This concert will feature both traditional and contemporary gospel music featuring choirs from Pittsfield, Albany, and Hudson. 413-644-4400. 84 Alford Road. Great Barrington, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, February 5, 2pm
Modern a capella music stems from Renaissance music which relied heavily on vocalists. Joining an a capella group in college is a great way to get involved in music if you are a talented singer or percussive vocalist (beatboxers are often utilized to add a percussive layer to a capella pieces). The 2017 Silver Chord Bowl will bring together some of the best collegiate a capella groups of the Northeast, including Dartmouth Aires, the Boston University BosTones, Tufts sQ!, the UMass Dynamics, the UMass Doo Wop Shop and the Smith College Noteables. Northampton High School’s very own Northamptones will open the show. This event kicks off the Four Sundays in February Winter Festival Series. Call 1-800-838-3006 for tickets. John M. Greene Hall, Smith College. 60 Elm Street. Northampton, MA. ($ – $$)

Culture Studies

Sunday, February 5, 1:30pm-4:30pm
Stories of ghosts, spirits, apparitions, or some similar entity is a cultural universal, appearing in various forms in cultures all over the world. You can explore another culture’s ghost stories by screening the unrated, 1965 film, Kwaidan (unrated). What kinds of similarities or differences can you see, comparing American contemporary ghost stories to this film, which adapts four, nineteenth century Japanese folk tales. This event is part of the series, “Colors of Japan: Cinematic Impressions,” providing local art fans with the chance to explore Japanese culture through a variety of Japanese films and artwork at the Clark Art Institute. The film series is occurring in conjunction with the exhibition Japanese Impressions: Color Woodblock Prints. Check out both the film and the exhibit for a crash course in Japanese artistic expression. All films are in Japanese with English subtitles. This is the second to last film in the series, followed by Equinox Flower on February 26. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA.

Thursday, February 9, 7:30pm
Dance is a cultural universal, something humans engage in all over the world. The types of dances and music vary greatly across cultures, however. The Halau Hula Ka No’eau Ensemble will be executing a culturally authentic performance of hula, music, chances and innovative dances inspired by Hawaiian legends. Their performance is a new piece created by choreographer and historian Michael Pili Pang. Join them at the Fine Arts Center at UMass Amherst. 413-545-2511. 151 Presidents Drive. Amherst, MA. (General admission $$; Five college students, & ages seventeen & under <$)

Climate Change

Monday, February 6, 3pm-3:45pm
It can be a difficult balance to be politically aware and active while not allowing global concerns to take an unnecessary toll on your mind. Mindfulness teaches people to be aware and present moment-to-moment. Practicing mindfulness can help you to be active in the moment, without letting your activism spiral into anxiety about the future. As part of a climate change event series, “Talking Truth: Finding Your Voice Around the Climate Crisis,” you are invited to participate in a Mindful Climate Action workshop every Monday through May 8th. Attendees will be guided through a thirty minute mindfulness practice, followed by a discuss on resources, action-based opportunities, and ideas. W.E.B. DuBois Library at UMass Amherst. Room 1638. 154 Hicks Way. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, February 9, 7pm-9pm
Want to be more active in the fight against climate change? In the Pioneer Valley there are many resources and knowledgeable individuals working towards sustainable living solutions. You can connect with others interested in these topics by attending a panel discussion led by several leaders in our local sustainable community. This panel discussion at the W.E.B. DuBois Library will feature: Ofer Sharone assistant professor of sociology at UMass Amherst, Sara Schley, co-founder of Seed Systems, Ezra Small, UMass Amherst Sustainability Manager, Sarah Hebert G’13, Trinity Solar employee, and John Fabel, building and construction technology adjunct faculty member, UMass Amherst. The group will discuss climate change strategies as they relate to the fields of education, entrepreneurialism, and green building. This discussion is part of a climate change event series, “Talking Truth: Finding Your Voice Around the Climate Crisis.” UMass Amherst library. Room 1638. 154 Hicks Way. Amherst, MA. (FREE)


Monday, February 6, 4:30pm
Have you ever heard of anthropometry? Even if you’ve never heard this word before, this subject of study has effected clothing design, architectural trends, and ergonomic design of furniture. Anthropometry is the study of the measurement of the human body. It is a tool for anthropologists and intersects with topics such as race and psychology. You can learn more by attending a lecture at Smith College. Associate professor of history Marina Mogilner will be examining these topics in her talk, “American Humanitarian Intervention, Jewish Race, and Anthropometrics: A Story From the Russian Civil War.” Smith College. Seelye 106. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Religion Studies

Wednesday, February 8, 5pm
How can an understanding of Buddhism help inform and improve Western medical practices? Anthropologist Dr Joan Halifax Roshi has pioneered the development of Zen-based hospice care. Her book, Being with Dying has been powerfully influential in the area of hospice care. Roshi works at a medical program in Dolpo, a remote region of Nepal. Adults and older teens interested in Buddhism, medicine, and the intersection of the two should attend Roshi’s lecture at Smith College. Bring questions and an open mind. Seelye 106. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Art Studies

Sunday, February 5, 1pm-5pm
Calligraphy brings artistic visual elements to the act of writing. Calligraphy can be a fun activity for those who enjoy writing or drawing, or want to improve their penmanship. Like many art activities calligraphy can help you hone your patience by focusing on a tactile task. For children, projects such as this can help hone fine motor skills. Ann Kremers, professional calligrapher, will be giving a calligraphy demonstrations to visitors of all ages at the Clark Art Institute, as part of First Sundays Free. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Winter Festivals

In 19th century New England, the winter season was a time for gathering and socializing with family, friends, and neighbors. As the fields lay dormant in anticipation off the agricultural season, rural New Englanders used the cold season as a time for meeting friends, having conversations, and visiting with one another. Before the telephone or telegraph, visiting a friend’s home was a way to share news, gossip, and stories. Now with the invention of social media, automobiles, and blended fabrics, how do communities gather in the winter months, celebrating local culture and strengthening their sense of place? Read more in our post, Winter Festivals: Living Seasonally through History, Culture & Art.

Friday, February 3-Sunday, February 5
Winter brings with it the opportunity for lots of sun family activities like sledding and enjoying warm meals of comfort food. The Greenfield Winter Carnival welcomes the entire community to celebrate the season by enjoying or participating in ice carving, the cardboard sled race, a chili cook-off, cribbage tournament and more. Admire the parade of lights on Main Street and fireworks over Poet Seat Tower. Visit the Greenfield Recreation website for more details. Various locations. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, February 8, 7:30pm
Celebrate the local music, artists, food, and other cultural icons Holyoke has to offer at the 2017 Winter Festival. This five-day event kicks off on February 8, with a performance by piano rock musician Marco Benevento. Benevento has been performing for more than a decade and made appearances at high-profile venues and events ranging from Carnegie Hall to Pickathon, Mountain Jam to Bonnaroo. Check the Gateway City Arts website for a full schedule of programs and performances taking place through February 12. 413-650-2670. Race Street. Holyoke, MA. ($)

Friday, February 10, 1pm-8pm
Ice sculpture is a long-held tradition with strong ties to ice harvesting. In China, for example, fisherman began sculpting ice into lantern shapes, as early as the 1600s (The Origins of Ice Sculpting). You can be a part of local ice sculpting tradition by attending the seventh annual Northampton Ice Art Festival. Sculpting will begin early and completed works will be featured as part of Arts Night Out. Stop by the outdoor ice luge at The Deck at Union Station and enjoy “Science on the Street” demonstrations at First Churches. For more information email ncfa@nohoarts.org. Downtown. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Women’s History

Saturday, February 4, 2pm
Deborah Sampson was the first woman to fight in the American Revolution, serving in the Revolutionary war from 1782 until she was honorably discharged in 1783. Sampson also married and had a family, and often gave public talks about her military experience, including a stop at the manufacturing site of the Springfield Armory. You can learn about Deborah Sampson’s upbringing, experience in active combat, and success as the first female professional soldier by attending Judith Kalaora’s one woman play, “A Revolution of her Own”. The performance will take place at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site. Seating is limited. Please call the museum at 413-734-8551 to reserve your seat. One Armory Square. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, February 9, 12:15pm-1pm Massachusetts woman Anne Sullivan is best known for having been an educator to Helen Keller. Sullivan also had an interesting life in other ways. She was the child of an indigent, immigrant, illiterate father in a society with few safety nets for the poor. This lunchtime lecture at the Springfield Museums will explore the societal changes which took place from 1870 to 1920, a time when Americans changed their definition of the public good, and redefined their level of responsibility to poor populations. The audience is invited to bring a lunch to enjoy during the program. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (<$)


Friday, February 10, 10am
Romeo and Juliet, the story of “star-crossed” lovers from dueling families, remains a popular play to read and to perform today, more than four hundred years after Shakespeare wrote it. William Shakespeare permanently reshaped the English language as we know it today, inventing hundreds of words and phrases in his writing which are now commonly used. Young actors and fans of literature are invited to a performance of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare and Company. This performance is for student audiences. Homeschooled parents are invited to bring their homeschoolers. Performances run for 90 minutes, and are followed by an optional 15-minute talkback with the actors. 413-637-3353. 70 Kemble Street. Lenox, MA. (Student <$; Chaperone FREE)

[Photo credit: (cc) zsófi B]

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

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