34 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Winter Festivals to Valentine’s Day. Nordic Skiing to Immigration Studies.

Winter Trails is a national annual event that offers families new to snowshoeing and nordic skiing the chance to try out snowshoes and cross-country skis on local trails while showcasing the health benefits of these two outdoor winter activities.  On Saturday, February 11, 10am-3pm Notchview in Windsor will be participating!

Ice to Fungi. Winter Festivals to Puppetry. Valentine’s Day to Nordic Skiing. 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:

Red Gate Farm is teaming up with local libraries to provide programs to get young children interested in science, technology, engineering, and math. On Saturday, February 11, 10:30am-11:30am, participants will be learning the science of seeds! Children up to age seven will be investigating seeds at the Buckland Public Library. Planting seeds at home can help kids become interested in plant and soil science and horticulture by watching their seeds grow into beautiful plants. Teaching kids about horticulture can also help instill important values by teaching them about sources of healthy, local foods. 413-625-9412. 30 Upper Street. Buckland, MA. (FREE)

STEMBotanyFolk MusicLanguage ArtsMusic StudiesCreative-Free PlayLiteratureArt StudiesNature StudiesOutdoor AdventuresPlacemakingPuppetryTheaterCulture StudiesWomen’s StudiesImmigration StudiesAnthropology MycologyHydrologyPoetryOpera  ♦ Guided Hikes  ♦ ShakespeareFinancial Literacy

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Saturday, February 11, 10am-11am
Snow opens up a world of scientific learning for kids. Studying ice in the form of snow and snowflakes is a fun way of learning about chemistry, meteorology, and geometry. Snowflakes are a beautiful form of ice crystals, each one showing off a microscopic symmetrical design of spears, points, indents, and cutouts. As part of the Second Saturday Science program at the Hitchcock Center, children and their parents are invited to learn more about the science of snow!  Check out video below that share 8 beautiful and intense things ice can do, then come to this event curious and ready to learn more! 413-256-6006. 845 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Friday, February 17, 6:30pm-8:30pm
The yo-yo has enjoyed consistent use in hundreds of cultures for nearly three millennia. Seemingly moved by magic, the yo-yo is a toy as well as a well-designed tool for demonstrating basic principles of physics. Yo-Yo-ers of all ages can trade tricks and show off their skills at Mill 180 Park. Players from the A2Z Science & Learning Store will be running this informal Yo-Yo session. 413-203-1259. 180 Pleasant Street. Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, February 11, 10:30am-12pm
At the Meekins Library, you can drop by to celebrate Valentine’s Day and have fun with STE(A)M (science, technology, engineering, ART and math). Participants will build heart structures, learn about chemistry by dissolving candy hearts, and have fun with physics by playing with magnetic hearts. There will be other craft and science activities. Drop in anytime during the event. 413-268-7472. 2 Williams Street. Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, February 15, 10am-5pm
Science fairs ask young people to demonstrate their scientific knowledge through practically applying it in a creative way. Science projects can encourage outside-the-box, innovative thinking. The Berkshire Museum brings top-notch, high school science projects to the public at their annual Science and Innovation Fair, featuring approximately 100 students from Pittsfield’s public high schools. Teens will likely be inspired by the work of their peers. People of all ages can use this fair as inspiration for their own scientific ideas. Museum admission is free for the day of the science fair. 413-443-7171. 39 South Street. Route 7. Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)


What is the “Wood Wide Web?” In this video, learn about the Mycorrhizal Fungi and how they help the forest communicate and thrive!

Learn more about how trees talk to each other in this TED Talk by ecologist Suzanne Simard.

Saturday, February 11, 10am-12pm
As you can see in the video above, fungi is fascinating, are are their fruiting bodies, mushrooms! Some mushrooms are poisonous and some are delicious! Learning to identify mushrooms can teach you about local ecology, while giving you the practical ability to forage food. Paul Lagreze, owner of New England Wild Edibles, will be running a workshop: “Getting to Know Your Local Mushrooms: Where, Why, and How They Grow,” at Green Fields Market. The workshop will cover mushroom cultivation and shiitake inoculation.144 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (DONATION)

Saturday, February 11, 10:30am-11:30am
Red Gate Farm is teaming up with local libraries to provide programs to get young children interested in science, technology, engineering, and math. On February 11, participants will be learning the science of seeds! Children up to age seven will be investigating seeds at the Buckland Public Library. Planting seeds at home can help kids become interested in plant and soil science and horticulture by watching their seeds grow into beautiful plants. Teaching kids about horticulture can also help instill important values by teaching them about sources of healthy, local foods. 413-625-9412. 30 Upper Street. Buckland, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, February 12, 2pm-4pm
This year, you can make Valentine’s Day a learning opportunity. Expand your biological knowledge by learning about plant reproduction, in this talk at Bartholomew’s Cobble. Plants differ greatly in their reproduction, from asexual plants to self-pollinating ones. For more information please call 413-298-3239 ex 3013. 117 Cooper Hill Road. Sheffield, MA. (Members <$; Non members $)

Want to support an interests in plant studies, or use plants as a way of supporting an interest in the scientific process? Here’s a hands-on project you can do at home to teach your kids about the basic plant process of Osmosis.


Sunday, February 12, 2pm
Western Massachusetts is home to one of the largest man-made, public water supplies in the country: the beautiful Quabbin Reservoir. The reservoir is also a rich local resource for learning about ecology and habitat. All ages are welcome to an educational presentation on water sources: “The Influence of Weather Patterns, Forest Ecosystems, and Human Use on Water Supplies.” Call 413-323-7221 for more information. Quabbin Visitor’s Center. 485 Ware Road. Ware, MA. (FREE)

Folk Music

Saturday, February 11, 7pm
Pete Seeger was an influential American folk singer as well as an important social and political activist. You can celebrate his music and introduce your children to classic folk songs at the Pete Seeger sing-along! All are invited to the Ashfield Congregational Church to sing some favorite tunes, or hear them for the first time. This is also an opportunity to get together with other fans of folk music, and teach your children about the connection between American folk music and political activism. Wheelchair accessible from the front door. For more information call 413-625-2355. 429 Main Street. Ashfield, MA. (FREE/DONATION optional)

Sunday, February 12, 5:30pm-7pm
It’s no secret that music is good for your brain. In addition to the learning-based benefits of playing or reading music, singing has the added benefit of warding off chemicals that can cause depression and loneliness. The act of singing increases the natural production of endorphins and oxytocin (a chemical that decreases stress and anxiety). Parents may be interested in these findings. A singing child is likely to be calm and happy more often than not thanks to the chemicals that choral singing helps to release in their bodies. You and your family can participating in a casual, community sing at Earthdance. The group will sing tunes such as “Honey in the Rock,” “Don’t Give Up,” “Deep Peace,” “When Love had No Road We Built It,” plus some love-themed songs in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Bring a dish to share and stick around after the sing for a potluck supper. 413-634-5678. 252 Prospect Street. Plainfield, MA. (FREE)


When I grow up, I want to be a puppeteer! See this behind the scenes look into the work and jobs of puppetry.

Saturday, February 11, 4pm-7pm
The Northampton Parents Center provides programs and services to children birth through kindergarten age and their families and caregivers. The parents center invites these families, as well as siblings and alumni, to playtime and a family puppet show with Tom Knight Puppets. There will also be an optional potluck supper prior to the puppet show. Puppetry performances appeal to children’s love of stories, and their desire to animate objects, bringing the world around them to life. If your kids love these puppet shows, they may want to create puppets of their own. Puppets can be very open ended and offer children of all ages the opportunity to re-create favorite stories and often inspire new tales. Read more in our post, Let’s Play: Puppets and Creative Free Play. 297 Main Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Language Arts

Tuesday, February 14, 4pm
The term “poetry” comes from the Greek term, “poiesis,” which translates to “making.” How do you make poetry? Typically by applying literary techniques such as rhythm and rhyme to your writing. Some scholars argue that poetry actually predates the written word. Due to the often rhythmic and rhyming nature of poems, poetry can be easier to remember than prose, and poetry can be used as a mnemonic device. If you’re interested in learning more about poetry, keep in mind that it is a deeply historic and global art form. You can hear poetry from a Kenyan writer, Wambui Mwangi and South African poet, Malika Ndlovu in this reading at the Smith College Poetry Center. Wright Hall. 5 Chapin Drive. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Music Studies

Saturday, February 11, 7:30pm
For four years, the Illuminati Vocal Arts ensemble has been performing under the direction of Dr. Tony Thornton. Composer Clifton Noble Jr. has said of this group: “Performances at the level of Illuminati’s give the listener a clear window into the composer’s soul.” Get a glimpse into the souls of composers such as Gjeilo, Brahms, Ešenvalds, Handel, and Hella Johnson, at this choral concert “Luminous Night.” Helen Hills Hills Chapel. 123 Elm Street. Northampton, MA. ($; Student <$)

Friday, February 17, 7pm
Music generated in Sub Saharan Africa is highly influenced by rhythm and percussive sounds. Many percussion instruments now used across cultures were originally invented in Africa, including the jembe, the shekere (shaker), and the marimba. Learning about African drumming can connect you to music history and anthropology, while participating in African drumming can expand your musical abilities- and dance skills! All are welcome to see and hear the WOFA African Drum and Company Show perform “Kakilambé in the Harvest!” at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts
All tickets will be sold at the door. 413-552-1580. 15 Mulligan Drive. South Hadley, MA. (<$)

Thursday, February 16, 12:15pm-1pm
Leontyne Price is one of the most respected Soprano opera singers worldwide. She studied at Berkshire Music Center and the Julliard School, and was the first African American to perform with New York City’s Metropolitan Opera. Fans of opera and history- come to the Springfield Museums to learn more about this pivotal American musician. You are welcome to bring a lunch to enjoy during the discussion and lecture. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. (<$)

Creative-Free Play

Saturday, February 11, 10am-3pm
The Five Love Languages is a theory proposed by author Gary Chapman, in his 1995 book of the same name. In the book he outlines five different ways that people can demonstrate their love for another person: gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch (The Five Love Languages Wikipedia page. Whether you are naturally a gift-giver or not, making Valentine’s Day cards or crafts is a simple and inexpensive way to show someone you care. Bring your kids to the Goodwin Memorial Library to make Valentine’s cards with other community members. Drop in anytime. 413-584-7451. 50 Middle Street. Hadley, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, February 11, 11am
The Granby Library will be providing stampers, stickers, laces, ribbons and flowers for all your Valentine making needs! Kids of all ages are invited to make Valentine’s Day cards for friends, grandparents and other loved ones. What a simple way to show someone you care! Registration is required. Call the library during open hours: (T,W,F 10:30am-5:30pm, Th. 1-8pm, Sat.10:30am.-1:30pm). 413-467-3320. 297 East State Street. Granby, MA. (FREE)

Thanks to the science behind Shrinky Dinks, crafts made with these sheets of polystyrenea at home can add some steam to your STEM! Here a fun DIY Valentine craft to do with your kids which make great Valentine’s Day gifts! Free printable designs can be downloaded here. (Or make your own designs!)


Saturday, February 11, 10am
The family-friendly romantic comedy The Princess Bride (rated PG) has been entertaining audiences since it first came out in 1987. This film, based on the 1973 novel of the same name by William Goldman, has humorous elements which appeal to both parents and children. Older kids and adults can compare this film to the original book, or think about how the story functions as a “frame narrative” (a story within a story). The film is also educational in that the famous sword fighting scene contains accurate references to historical sword fighting techniques. Screening this film can be a fun introduction to the history of sword fighting, with references to significant fencers such as Rocco Bonetti, Agrippa, and Capo Ferro. Screen this film at Amherst Cinema as part of the Family First series. 413- 253-2547. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (<$)

Art Studies

Saturday, February 11, 10am
Do you like working with pastels? Unlike paint, pastel is mixed and blended on the canvas. There are more than a dozen different artistic techniques for using pastels. You can improve your pastel artwork, or try it out for the first time, by attending a step-by-step workshop run by the classically trained artist Greg Maichack. Maichack will be running this workshop at the Grace Hall Memorial Library. Register by calling the library prior to February 8. 413-862-3894. 161 Main Road. Montgomery, MA. (FREE)

Nature Studies

Saturday, February 11, 10am-12pm
Animal tracking is essential to assessing the status of certain species and habitats. Tracking helps naturalists and zoologists to focus their conservation efforts. You can learn more about both animal tracking and conservation at Bullitt Reservation. Join Laura Marx from the Nature Conservancy for a talk, followed by a guided outdoor tracking walk to apply what you’ve learned. Registration required: email Tamsin Flanders at hltlandsteward@thetrustees.org or call 413-628-4485 ex 4 and leave a message with your name, phone number, email address, and the number in your party.. Bullitt Road. Ashfield, MA. (Members <$; Non members $; children under 13 FREE)

Saturday, February 11, 10am-12pm
Do you like solving riddles, puzzles, or mysteries? You might enjoy tracking wildlife! Come to Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary for a two hour adventure outdoors and learn how to look for visual clues of animal behavior. This event is suitable for ages six and up. Time spent in nature is an opportunity to learn through observation, once you know what to look for. Dress warmly and in layers. Snowshoes will be provided if the conditions warrant. Registration is not required. Call 413-637-0320 for more information. Holmes Road. Pittsfield, MA. (<$)

Saturday, February 11, 7pm
Get some exercise and time spent outdoors for your weekend by joining a group for a guided hike. All are welcome to a moonlight hike through the woodland property of Phil and Diane Merritt. The route begins at Big View trailhead. There will be a campfire for roasting marshmallows and relaxed conversation after the hike. Carpool if possible as parking is limited. Bring snowshoes if you prefer, as well as a water bottle and a flashlight. In the event of inclement weather the event will be cancelled. Check Williamsburg Woodland Trails website for cancellation information. Call 413-268-3372 with questions. Unquomonk Road. Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

Outdoor Adventures

For some, winter is greeted with a sense of reluctance – gone are the bright sunny days of summer filled with lush deciduous trees, rushing streams, colorful wildflowers, and easy temperatures. Instead, the natural landscape changes completely as do our routines and recreational activities. Whereas summer is boisterous and full, winter is quiet and still – similar to how snow quietly builds on the ground during a storm – it’s a part of what makes wintertime feel so magical. How do we experience the outdoors during a time of year when we are often so inclined to stay indoors, looking at the outside world from the window? 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.

Saturday, February 11, 10am-3pm
Winter Trails is a national annual event that offers children and adults new to snowshoeing and nordic skiing the chance to try out snowshoes and cross-country skis on local trails while showcasing the health benefits of these two outdoor winter activities. These low-impact aerobic sports incorporate strength and endurance training, and can help people stay active and healthy throughout the winter months when other sports are more difficult to pursue. Notchview will be participating, offing half priced and free 2-hour snowshoe & ski equipment rentals on a first-come, first-served basis. 413-684-0148 . 83 Old Route 9. Windsor, MA. (<$)

Saturday, February 11, 6pm-8pm
Did you know that snowshoeing was practiced 6,000 years ago? The world’s oldest known snowshoe was discovered in September 2016 at an altitude of 10,280 ft on the Gurgler Eisjoch glacier close to the Italian-Austrian border. Learn more by reading our post, History of Snowshoeing. You can engage in this 6,000-year-old sport, and learn about ornithology, by participating in a guided hike at Notchview. Participants will learn to look for the sights and sounds of owls, and enjoy pizza in the visitor’s center after the hike. Registration is required. Bring your own snowshoes! Snowshoe rentals available on first come first served basis. For more information call The Trustees at 413-628-4485 x3. 83 Old Route 9. Windsor, MA. (Member <$; Non member $)


Ice! Winter in New England filled with it. In January, we wrote about the history of ice harvesting in Western MA and last week we featured winter festivals that happen in communities across the region that celebrate the season of ice through community celebrations. Below are a few highlighted events for engaging in your community that bring people together to celebrate all things ice!

Saturday, February 11, 10am-9pm
Does the winter weather have you feeling down? “WinterFest” at Mill 180 Park is a twist on your typical winter festival. The Mill 180 indoor park, complete with plants, turf grass, and games of cornhole, invites you to “Summer in the City!” There will be summer-themed food, beverages, sports, and movies all day at this indoor green space. Meet other local families and play summer-themed games. 413-203-1259. 180 Pleasant Street. Easthampton, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, February 11, 1pm-6pm
Winter is the time of year to connect with your community through the sharing of warm meals and winter activities. You can find both, and much more, at WinterFest Amherst! Physical activities include mountain bike rides, baseball toss, sledding, and disc golf. The whole family can enjoy community meals, performances, demonstrations, and wagon rides while connecting with local businesses and community members of Amherst. Cherry Hill Golf Course. 325 Montague Road. Amherst, MA. (<$)

Saturday, February 11, 4pm-8pm
The earliest form of ice skating is thought to date back to about 3,000 years ago in Finland. The original skates used were constructed with lengths of animal bone strapped to the bottom of boots. Bring your skates to “Fire and Ice,” a community skating party, or simply enjoy the bonfire and games. There will be music and s’mores! For full details visit the Burgy Ice Rink Facebook page. To learn more about the history of this sport and locations of rinks near you, check out our post Ice Skating in Western MA. Helen E. James Building Lawn. 16 Main Street. Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)


Thursday, February 16, 6:30pm
Did you know that many Native American languages are endangered or have gone extinct? For example, of the 170,000 Lakota tribal members, only 6,000 of them speak Lakota today. With the average age of a Lakota speaker being 70, effort is needed in order to save this dying language. Culture is interwoven with language in countless ways; language preservation is therefore crucial for cultural preservation. Learn more at the Meekins Library by screening the film, Rising Voices/Hótȟaŋiŋpi, followed by a discussion. This film, which was five years in the making, documents the ongoing efforts of Language Conservancy to preserve endangered languages. 413-268-7472. 2 Williams Street. Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)


Monday, February 13, 10am
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a great introductory play for students beginning to learn about Shakespeare. This comedy has a relatively simple plot compared to other Shakespeare plays and as a comedy, it has a happy ending. More advanced students can use this play to contrast a Shakespearean comedy with one of his tragedies, such as the also popular Romeo and Juliet. 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)

Culture Studies

The 2015 drama La Belle Saison (Summertime) (not rated) paints a picture of rural France in 1971, and tells the story of a young woman’s struggle against homophobia and class divisions. The main character Delphine moves from her family’s farm in Limousin, to Paris, where she falls in love with political activist, Carole. She returns to home a changed woman, and brings Carole with her. This authentic love story provides educational insight into the feminist movement in France, while carefully depicting the powerful dramas which occur within the family dynamic. You can screen this film at Images Cinema as part of Williams College’s ongoing series, “School Stories: Diversity and Adversity in New French Film.” 50 Spring Street. 413-458-5612. Williamstown, MA. (<$)

Women’s Studies

Thursday, February 16, 5pm
How would you describe your relationship with money? Between 2009 and 2014, author Christian McEwen interviewed more than fifty women in an attempt to answer that question, eliciting a wide range of money-themed stories and information. This research culminated in a play entitled: Legal Tender: Women and the Secret Life of Money. McEwen will be discussing this research process and his discoveries in a talk at Smith College. Poetry Center. Wright Hall. 5 Chapin Drive. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Immigration Studies

Thursday, February 16, 5:30pm
The first step towards political involvement and social transformation is education. You can become more informed about the current, global refugee crisis, and gain an understanding of current immigration issues in the United States at an educational forum. Norman Rockwell Museum‘s Four Freedoms Forum speakers will include: Asma Abbas, Associate Professor of Politics and Philosophy at Bard College at Simon’s Rock; Hilary Greene, Director of Berkshire Immigrant Center; and Dr. Charles Park, Director of Berkshire Immigrant Stories Project. Come with questions and ideas to contribute, or simply listen. 413-298-4100. 9 Glendale Road. Stockbridge, MA. (FREE)

TED Talk
Thursday, February 16, 7pm
In the United States, unless you are a Native American, you are a descendant of immigrants. Immigration is a political issue which affects all communities in various seen and unseen ways. José Antonio Vargas is a journalist whose life story exemplifies this fact. He lived and worked in the United States for some time before revealing his status as an undocumented person. After revealing this fact, he was on the cover of Time magazine and continued to work and live here. Come to the Jones Library to view his TEDx Talk: “Actions are Illegal, Never People,” followed by a discussion. The post-screening discussion will include information about local anti-racism action projects. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

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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