25 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Economics to Biology. Saint Patrick to Mozart.

April and May might be filled with the blossoms of spring, but there is no need for flowers when we have sweet maple syrup to enjoy on our pancakes with family and friends! Read more in the March/April issue of Learning Ahead: March & April Cultural Itinerary for Western MA.

Maple Syrup to Apples. Financial Literacy to Molecular Biology. Saint Patrick to Mozart. Sustainability to Criminal Justice. 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:

The ground is thawing, the snow is melting, and the sap is running for maple season! Maple sugaring is a centuries-old tradition in New England, and the seasonal industry remains an important part of the foundation upon which local agricultural is built. On Saturday, March 11, 9am-12pm at Chester Hill’s 32nd Annual Maple Fest and Craft Fair, you and your family can witness old time sugaring and enjoy a pancake breakfast with local maple syrup, at the First Congregational Church. Chester, MA. (<$)

 Sugar SeasonPlant StudiesFood HistoryEconomicsAviationWomen’s HistoryPolitical ActivismArt StudiesCulture StudiesLanguage ArtsMusic StudiesNutritionBird StudiesTheaterPolitical Science

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Sugar Season

Let sugar season be a time of year for reconnecting to community and strengthening your sense of place through value-based community engagement that supports learning. Maple sugaring is a centuries-old tradition in New England, and the seasonal industry remains an important part of the foundation upon which local agricultural is built. Additionally, maple sugaring brings opportunities for families to engage in intergenerational community-based learning through visits to farms, community meals, living history, and experiential hands-on activities. April and May might be filled with the blossoms of spring, but there is no need for flowers when we have sweet maple syrup to enjoy on our pancakes with family and friends! Read more in the March/April issue of Learning Ahead: March & April Cultural Itinerary for Western MA.

Saturday, March 11, 9am-12pm
The ground is thawing, the snow is melting, and the sap is running for maple season! Maple sugaring is a centuries-old tradition in New England, and the seasonal industry remains an important part of the foundation upon which local agricultural is built. At Chester Hill’s 32nd Annual Maple Fest and Craft Fair, you and your family can witness old time sugaring and enjoy a pancake breakfast with local maple syrup, at the First Congregational Church. Chester, MA. (<$)

Saturday, March 11, 9:30am-4pm; Sunday, March 12, 9:30am-4pm
The ground is thawing, the snow is melting, and the sap is running for maple season! Maple sugaring is a centuries-old tradition in New England, and the seasonal industry remains an important part of the foundation upon which local agricultural is built. On Maple Days at Old Sturbridge Village, attendees have the opportunity to see the entire maple sugaring process, as it was done in early 19th-century rural New England. Costumed historians will also be cooking historically accurate period foods. 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. Sturbridge, MA. (Adult $$; Ages 3-17 <$; 2 and under FREE)

Saturday, March 11, 11am-2pm
Maple syrup and maple sugar were first produced by Native Americans. Europeans later adopted this practice with their own methods of extraction. At Williams College’s Maplefest, participants can visit a functioning sugar house, observe demonstrations of bottling, try tapping a tree, and taste the final product! There will also be demonstrations of pre-colonial era evaporation methods. This annual event is festive, educational, and delicious! All ages are welcome. Hopkins Forest. Bulkley Street and Northwest Hill Road. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, March 12, 10am-3pm
Maple syrup was originally created by Native Americans before being adopted by European settlers. It was a practice in the Northeast, where you can find sugar maple, red maple, and black maple trees. Learning about the traditional process of maple sugaring can connect you with the history of both indigenous peoples and European settlers. Maple Harvest Day at the Gilbert Farmstead in Storrowton Village Museum, will showcase this history with tree sapping and sap boiling demonstrations, as well as 19th century open hearth cooking. Get a crash course in the history of New England! 413-205-5051. 1305 Memorial Avenue. West Springfield, MA. ($)

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Families interested in sugaring can use maple sugar season as an opportunity to support place- and community-based studies of math and science, allowing children to learn new skills and concepts within a meaningful context. In order to successfully produce maple syrup, families must first learn to accurately identify trees. Some farmers joke that poor tree identification leads to the production of “pole syrup” – meaning that tapping anything other than a sugar maple is like tapping a telephone pole! During the winter, tree identification can be tricky. Young naturalists will need to look closely at the tree’s bark, tiny buds, and twig growth patterns in order to identify each species of maple. Identification is easier after trees have leafed out, but once the buds begin to pop, the sap stops running! But have you ever stopped to think where the mass of a tree comes from? Dirt? Water? Sun? You just might be surprise to learn that the mass of a tree comes from…

Saturday, March 11, 10am-11am
Dendrology, the study of trees, is a broad scientific topic. It encompasses plant taxonomy and includes the study of diseases which specifically affect tree species. Spending time outdoors with your child can spark a lifelong interest in scientific subjects such as dendrology, botany, or ecology. Children and their parents are invited to take a closer look at native trees at the Hitchcock Center’s nature program, “Meet the trees!” This event is part of an ongoing nature studies program continuing on the second Saturday of the month through June. 413-256-6006. 845 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

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Food History

Saturday, March 11, 2pm-4pm
Chocolate (Theobroma cacao) takes a long journey before you buy it wrapped up at a store. Cocoa beans come from tropical areas of the Americas where they are cut from trees with a machete. The beans are removed from their pods and fermented for several days. Further processing, cooking, and added ingredients turn these beans into chocolate as we know it. Visit Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory to see a real life Theobroma cacao, then join the Jones Library where chef Dede Wilson will host a decadent afternoon of learning about, and tasting, chocolate! Dede will teach participants how to assess varieties of chocolate. This event is recommended for ages 14 and up. Registration is required. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

“Have you ever walked into a grocery store and wondered where all the varieties of apples came from? You might find SnapDragon, Pixie Crunch, Cosmic Crisp, Jazz, or Ambrosia next to the more familiar Red Delicious and Granny Smith. So why are there so many types? Theresa Doud describes the ins and outs of breeding apples.” – TED-Ed

View full lesson:
Why are there so many types of apples? – Theresa Doud

Sunday, March 12, 2pm-3pm
What are “heritage apples?” These are the apples of past generations. These old apple varieties are diverse, and represent a part of our local agricultural heritage, but are at risk of disappearing. The Lost Apples of the Quabbin Project, a team of two seeking to locate and preserve heritage apples, has researched and explored this topic for the past year. You can learn about their work, the techniques they used, and discover the history of the Quabbin at this presentation. Download the Sept/Oct issue of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts to discover the influence apples has had our the humanities in our region, then supplement your learning with this talk taking place at the Quabbin Visitor Center. 413-323-7221. 485 Ware Road. Belchertown, MA. (FREE)

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“What is money? What is currency? How are the two different…. money has a few basic functions. It acts as a store of value, a medium of exchange, and as a unit of account. Money isn’t just bills and coins. It can be anything that meets these three criteria. In US prisons, apparently, pouches of Mackerel are currency. Yes, mackerel the fish. Paper and coins work as money because they’re backed by the government, which is an advantage over mackerel. So, once you’ve got money, you need finance. [In this video] We’ll talk about borrowing, lending, interest, and stocks and bonds…” – Crash Course

Saturday, March 11, 11am
Most states in the U.S. do not require financial literacy courses and these topics do not appear on standardized tests. For now, the task is left to parents and the community, but some parents do not feel comfortable talking to their kids about money. These conversations can be difficult as they may alert your child to harsh realities and difficult choices of adulthood. You teens and tweens can learn basic financial literacy skills at the Granby Library’s personal finance workshop. The workshop leader will provide youth with important tips on how to make money, how to spend it, save it and protect it! The early teen years are a great time to begin building these important, lifelong skills. 413-467-3320. 297 East State Street. Granby, MA. (FREE)

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Saturday, March 11, 11am-4pm
In celebration of Women’s History Month, New England Air Museum will be educating participants about women’s contributions to aerospace history. There will be hands-on activities to encourage the next generation of pilots and engineers. Guest speakers will include Lt. Col. Kristen Snow, C-130 pilot and Commander of the 103 rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Bradley’s Connecticut Air National Guard base; Duchess Harris, Professor of American Studies at Macalester College and author of the book Hidden Human Computers: The Black Women of NASA; and Lee Boulanger, who climbed the ranks from aircraft mechanic to General Manager at the Bombardier Hartford Service Center at Bradley International Airport. Lectures and activities are included with museum admission. 860-623-330. 36 Perimeter Road. Windsor Locks, CT. ($; Agess 4-11 <$)

Political Activism

“’If there is no struggle, there is no progress,’ said Frederick Douglass in 1857. ‘Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.’ [Read the full text of this 1857 speech here, and explore books by Frederick Douglass here.] To learn more about US history, watch these 5 TED-Ed Lessons about American power, politics and protests.” – TED-Ed

Saturday, March 11, 12pm-1:30pm
On March 10th, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Native Nations will be marching on Washington to make demands including the protection of their water from the Dakota Access Pipeline. The March organizers have stated the following: “We ask that you rise in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of the world whose rights protect Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) for the future generations of all.” If you would like to do your part to “rise in solidarity,” you can attend a gathering in Greenfield for prayer, song, and peaceful action in support of Standing Rock and the Native Nations. Town Common. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, March 15, 4pm-8pm
Sending physical, “snail mail” messages to government can be a productive and cathartic experience. All community members are invited to drop in to the Odyssey Bookshop for an evening of post-card writing. Put your words into action in the form of this small step. Participants will write postcards to national, state, and local politicians and the White House about any political issue. Participants are welcome to stay as long as they’d like, swap stories and meet neighbors. The Odyssey Bookshop will provide tables, chairs, postcards, pens, addresses for state and national politicians, and some light refreshments, but participants should provide their own postage.413-534-7307. 9 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

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Art Studies

Saturday, March 11, 5:30pm-6:30pm
Cartoon television shows are entertaining; they are also works of visual art! Animated cartoons are made from sequential drawings. Early examples include flip books. Animated television shows began in the 1950s and took off in the 1960s with youth-targeted shows such as The Flintstones. Today, there are cartoons for audiences of all ages. Fred Seibert served as president of Hanna-Barbera, a successful American animation studio, from 1992 to 1996. He was involved with shows such as Dexter’s Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, Johnny Bravo, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and The Powerpuff Girls. Catch him speaking at the Norman Rockwell Museum as part of their Masters of Animation series. This talk is included with regular museum admission. 413-298-4100. 9 Glendale Road. Stockbridge, MA. ($. College students with ID <$. Ages 6-18 <$. Under 5 and museum members FREE)

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Culture Studies/Irish

Friday, March 17th, is Saint Patrick’s Day. But who is St. Patrick? Born Maewyn Succat, Saint Patrick has a rich history that stretches far beyond the folklore of shamrocks and leprechauns.

Sunday, March 12, 3pm-5pm
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, “Music and Tea with Todd McLeod at Ventfort Hall will honor Irish heritage through music and tea! Singer-songwriter McLeod will play traditional folk songs of Ireland and Scotland, as well as his original compositions which are inspired by his roots living in coastal Maine. Audience members will enjoy a special Irish tea. 413-637-3206. 104 Walker Street. Lenox, MA. ($$)

Friday, March 17, 6pm
Irish step-dancing combines the quick foot movements of step dancing with a stiff upper body and traditional costumes. The Celtic Heels Irish Dance Company takes traditional Irish dance movements and infuses them with modern choreography. You can celebrate St. Patrick’s day by attending their family-friendly performance at the Academy of Music Theatre. This show celebrates Irish heritage and culture through dance and music. 413-584-9032. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. ($; children under five <$)

Friday, March 17, 6pm
Eating celebratory dishes is one of the most enjoyable ways to celebrate a holiday and honor a culture. This St. Patrick’s Day, gather with other families for a dinner of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and dessert. There will also be a vegetarian stew for folks who do not eat meat. This community meal will benefit the Friends of the Shutesbury Library, and will take place at the Shutesbury Athletic Club. 282 Wendell Road. Shutesbury, MA. (DONATION <$)

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Language Arts

Monday, March 13, 7pm
The term “poetry” comes from the Greek term, “poiesis,” which translates to “making.” How do you make poetry? Typically by applying your choice of poetic techniques such as rhythm, rhyme, line breaks, repetition, puns, alliteration, or others, to your writing. Whether you make poetry yourself, or simply enjoy reading it, you can enrich your study of poetry by meeting other community members who enjoy this literary art form. The Forbes Library is hosting an ongoing poetry discussion group, through May 15. On March 13, participants will be screening Il Postino, (rated PG) a fictional 1994 film about the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. This film is in Italian with English subtitles. 413-587-1011. 20 West Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

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Music Studies

Wednesday, March 15, 7pm
Amadeus is a 1979 play by Peter Shaffer which tells a fictionalized account of the lives of composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. The play utilizes music by Mozart, Salieri, and other composers. Lovers of theater and classical music can view an HD film screening of this play performed by the National Theatre in London, at Amherst Cinema. This screening is part of Amherst Cinema’s “International Performances in HD” series. 413- 253-2547. 28 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (<$)

“Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s ‘Die Zauberflöte’ (‘The Magic Flute’) is widely regarded as one of the most influential operas in history. And while it may seem like a childish fairytale at first glance, it’s actually full of subversive symbolism. Joshua Borths explains how many elements of ‘The Magic Flute’ were inspired by Mozart’s somewhat controversial involvement with Freemasonry.” – TED-Ed

View full lesson:
The secrets of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” – Joshua Borths

Thursday, March 16, 7:30pm
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a South African musical group which has gained worldwide attention with their vocal skills, dance choreography, and onstage banter, for the past fifty years. Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s performances speak to the cultural as well as personal histories of the performers. The group has welcome a younger generation of members, passing along their tradition of music and storytelling. You can see them perform at the Academy of Music Theatre to expand your knowledge of South African music and culture.413-584-9032. 274 Main Street. Northampton, MA. ($$)

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“From the microbes in our stomachs to the ones on our teeth, we are homes to millions of unique and diverse communities which help our bodies function. Jessica Green and Karen Guillemin emphasize the importance of understanding the many organisms that make up each and every organism.” – TED-Ed

View full lesson:
You are your microbes – Jessica Green and Karen Guillemin

Wednesday, March 15, 7pm-9pm
Have you heard the term “microbiota?” What does it have to do with your digestive health? A microbiome is a community of microorganisms living within a larger organism. The human body is home to bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi and viruses which comprise microbiomes. You are home to trillions of microorganisms. It’s kind of freaky! It’s also important to our understanding of human health. Gut bacteria can not only be healthy, but entirely necessary for healthy digestion. Dietician and nutritionist Alicia Walter will teach participants all about this topic in a presentation at Shutesbury Town Hall. She will discuss how the human diet affects gut bacteria, and what sort of foods you should be eating for healthy gut bacteria. Gut-friendly snacks will be served. 1 Cooleyville Road. Shutesbury, MA. (FREE)

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Thursday, March 16, 7pm
Did you know that songbird species populations are in decline? Species extinction is always tragic, but humans may be particularly saddened at the loss of birds whose birdsongs have influenced human music for centuries. The 2015 documentary Messenger (not rated) outlines the problem of mass depletion as well as efforts to improve birdsong populations, all the while providing a visually stunning viewing experience. Learn the potential impact this loss would have on the planet, and what you can do to help, at this screening. Hitchcock Center. Registration is appreciated. 413-256-6006. 845 West Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)


Friday, March 17, 7pm
The classic 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of a Jewish Russian peasant village during the 20th century. This play can serve as a great supplement to studies of Jewish history and culture. Young actors from Hampshire Regional High School will be performing their rendition of the musical for an audience of all ages. Ticket reservations are available by calling 413-437-5597 or emailing hrhstickets@gmail.com. Tickets will also be available at the door. 19 Stage Road. Westhampton, MA. (Adults; 18 and under <$)

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Political Science

“In the United States today, juries decide less than 4% of criminal cases and less than 1% of civil cases filed in court. At the same time, jury systems in other countries are growing. So what happened in the US? And could the disappearance of juries be a good thing? Suja A. Thomas explores both sides of this dilemma” – TED-Ed

View full lesson:
What happened to trial by jury? – Suja A. Thomas

Thursday, March 16, 7pm
What exactly is “democracy?” What does the word mean to you, and do you feel that our current government represents your definition of a democracy? Associate Dean of the Faculty of Political Science at Amherst College, Austin Sarat , will be leading a community discussion of these issues at the Jones Library. Come with questions and learn about the meaning of democratic governance as well as other legal issues. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

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

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