33 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Mesic Forest to Anadromous Fish. The Odyssey to Thomas Paine.

When looking to attract wildlife for children to observe, we often choose birds. Bird feeders and houses can be fairly simple to create and, especially in terms of food and birds are a very “if you build it, they will come” type of creature. But what if there was another creature in need of support who could just as easily be housed and fed in your yard via DIY projects? It’s no secret these days that bee populations are quickly declining, and as it turns out, families can take some very simple steps in order to offer bees with lots of appropriate habitats. Read more in our post, Bee Condos: Steps Away from Sweet Educational Opportunities.

Emily Dickinson to The Odyssey. Soil to Etiquette. Bald Eagles to Hummingbirds. 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: Fans of the performing arts do not want to miss the Ashfield Town Spectacle and Culture Fair! Double Edge Theater, along with tons of Ashfield community members, will perform an array of music, dance, and other performing arts on Saturday, June 3 and Sunday, June 4, from 1pm-9pm. There will be art exhibits to peruse as well. The event will feature the Spirit of the Hills Community Choir, Tim Eriksen and the Trio de Pumpkintown, a film by Galen Knowles, Ashfield Tae Kwon Do, Ashfield Community Band, artwork by Robert Markey and Sue McFarland, and more, on June 3 and 4. Visit the Double Edge Theater website or call 413-628-0277 for more information. Various locations. Ashfield, MA. (FREE)

PhilosophyBooks ClubsLiteracyAgricultureService-Based LearningNature-StudiesHabitat9StargazingIchthyologyLimnologyEntomologyTheatreOutdoor AdventuresCanoeingLocal HistoryComputer ProgrammingPlacemakingMusic StudiesOrnithologyArt StudiesDance Studies

Join our stellar team supporters!
Become a sponsor of Learn Local. Play Local. and see your banner here:


[CrashCourse’s] “unit on the philosophy of religion and the existence of god continues with Thomas Aquinas. Today, we consider his first four arguments: the cosmological arguments.” – CrashCourse

• Return to Top


There are book clubs for people of every age and readers of every genre. Participation in a book club is almost always free, and library-hosted book clubs are sometimes able to provide copies of the book for members to check out. But what if you can’t find a local book club which appeals to you? There is always the option of starting your own club! Get started by gathering together like-minded friends with similar reading interests, or meet avid readers at a literary event. Read more in our post, Book Clubs for Early Literacy and Lifelong Learning.

Tuesday, June 6, 6:30pm
For children and teens, book clubs are community-based opportunities that connect them with their peers while supporting their interests and nurturing a love for reading. For adults and elders, joining or starting a book club is a highly effective way to keep the mind active while socializing and discussing literature. If you run a book club or would like to stop, go to the Odyssey Bookshop for Book Club night! Publishing house sales representatives and Odyssey staff members will be on hand to talk about their favorite new releases in paperback, as well as to make recommendations for book club discussions. 413-534-7307. 9 College Street. South Hadley, MA. (FREE)

• Return to Top


Saturday, June 3, 9am; Sunday, June 4, 9:30am-4pm
The world-famous Strolling of the Heifers parade kicks off at 9am on June 3. Although the annual event was inspired by Spain’s Running of the Bulls, the stroll is very different. This parade of friendly, ambling heifer calves is a relaxed, family-friendly event, led by future farmers from area schools and 4H clubs. The goal of this weekend-long event is to sustain family farms by connecting people with local food. Visitors will celebrate local food by participating and learning about the importance of local food systems. The educational, placemaking event continues on June 4 with farm tours. On Sunday, June 4, five special farms in and around Brattleboro will open up their grounds for tours. Families will learn about many different aspects of farming, from the raising of meat and poultry to annual and perennial flowers to maple syrup, to vegetables. Visit the Strolling of the Heifers Facebook page for a full schedule. Brattleboro and Dummerston, VT. (FREE)

Saturday, June 3, 10am-6pm
Celebrate all things local and agricultural at the WGBY Asparagus Festival on the Hadley Town Common. This outdoor, family-friendly event offers character meet-and-greets with PBS Kids’ Curious George, outdoor learning games and displays, live children’s music in the am (pop/folk music in the p.m.), and many local food and beverage vendors. Parents can enjoy the farmers/makers market, the local craft beer tent, or the gourmet Chef Spearit Lunch (tickets sold separately for the this). Proceeds benefit local public television and PBS station WGBY. Contact Marie Waechter at mwaechter@wgby.org with questions. Visit the wgby.org website for full event details. Hadley, MA. (<$)

“An astonishing amount of research has gone into the question of whether asparagus really makes your urine smell funny. Sci Show explains it all inside!” – SciShow

• Return to Top

Service-Based Learning

Saturday, June 3, 9am-11am
Do you love your local library? You can give back to the Westhampton Public Library, while spending time outdoors, at their volunteer gardening session. Meet other community members who love reading and gardening, and help prepare the garden for spring. Learn about the important work of libraries, their contributions to literacy and how they support a sense of place in our communities! All are welcome. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road. Westhampton, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

Saturday, June 3, 9am-2:30pm
Emily Dickinson drew inspiration from the natural world, including the gardens on the grounds of her family’s property, when writing her poetry. You can help maintain the gardens which are a community resource for education and enjoyment, by participating in a volunteer Garden Day at the Emily Dickinson Museum. On June 3, you can help prepare the gardens for the summer season. Learn about the life and literary contributions of Emily Dickinson while discovering this community resource and the benefits it lends to our community. Sign up by emailing EDMPrograms@EmilyDickinsonMuseum.org. Visit the museum website for full details. 413-542-2947. 280 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

• Return to Top


Saturday, June 3, 9am-12pm
In ecological terms a rich, mesic forest is one in which the soils are not highly acidic, are rich in certain minerals, and are moist but not wet. You can explore a rich forest which is home to a great variety of trees, wildflowers, and ferns, at a Hitchcock Center guided walk. Arrive curious and learn from plant ecologist Glenn Motzkin. Find out why the soil becomes acidic, why one plant species can not grow in acidic soil while another plant species thrives, and how different types of soils are important to a diverse ecosystem. Be prepared for insects and possibly ticks. Directions to the meeting location will be provided upon registration. 413-256-6006. Amherst, MA. (Members $; Non-members <$)

Did you know: “Pedology (from Greek: πέδον, pedon, “soil“; and λόγος, logos, “study“) is the study of soils in their natural environment. It is one of two main branches of soil science, the other being edaphology.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Saturday, June 3, 10am-4pm
Nature lovers, animal lovers, scientists, and curious people of all ages are invited to Family Fun Day at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary for a full day of educational activities! Visit one of the exploration stations for bird watching, an insect safari, fish surveys and other interesting zoological learning. There will be live music, food, nature crafts for kids, information on beekeeping and much more. All are welcome. 413-637-0320. 472 West Mountain Road. Lenox, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, June 6, 10:30am-11:30am
Besides humans…what kinds of species occupy our local habitat? Look no further than Holyoke Heritage State Park to find creatures such as birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Families with children ages four and older are invited to an animal exploration program combined with talks on natural history, puppets, storytelling, games and more at the park! Meet in the Visitor’s Center lobby. 413-534-1723. 221 Appleton Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Friday, June 9, 7pm-9pm
Bill Watterson, the author of the popular Calvin and  Hobbes Series, once wrote: “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.” You can combine stargazing with hiking on a full moon, evening hike. Naturalist and Tamarack Hollow Nature and Cultural Center Director will guide participants on a walk around Notchview, ending at Sawmill Field for the rising of the full moon to the east. For more information call 413-532-1631 ext3110 or email acaluori@thetrustees.org. 83 Old Route 9. Windsor, MA. (<$)

• Return to Top


Saturday, June 3, 9am-5pm; Sunday, June 4, 9am-5pm
During the spring, anadromous fish (those who live in rivers but spawn in the ocean) make their way to their Atlantic breeding grounds – watch them make their way down the Connecticut River at the Turners Falls Fishway! The fishway offers kids a chance to see directly into the river through a special viewing window, an experience that can serve as the foundation for building an understanding of the life cycle of fish and/or river ecosystems. The fishway will be open Wednesday through Sundays, through June 18, 2017. For more information, contact the Northfield Mountain Recreation Center. 413-659-3714. 1 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Did you know: “…before the English colonists seized the land and river that is now called Turner’s Falls, the place was “sacred.” Local Native Americans, the Pocumtucks, convened with people from the western Mohawks and eastern Narragansett clans to gather and smoke and dry the protein surplus there every spring. No single story remains of these gatherings which must have been held for many centuries, but it is known that weapons were not permitted to be carried in the area, and violence was absolutely forbidden. Imagine, if you will, that degree of civilization.” (Source: The Ripple: Stories About Western MA Rivers)

Saturday, June 3, 10am-11:30am
Have you heard of limnology? This is the study of inland waters such as lakes and ponds, rivers, springs, streams and wetlands. Limnologists seek to understand how these ecosystems impact larger aspects of Earth science, as well as aquatic wildlife. Educator Laura Tate-Beltran will be teaching children and their caregivers about the animals that live in the rivers and streams of Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. Find out what kind of biological adaptations these animals have and their behaviors in their watery homes. Suitable for ages three and up. 413-584-3009. 127 Combs Road. Easthampton, MA. (<$)

• Return to Top


Saturday, June 3, 9:30am-12:30am
Thanks to environmental activists and concerned citizens, people are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that bee populations have been declining at a dangerous rate for more than a decade. There is a seemingly infinite number of ways to become positively involved in this issue. Individuals can apply their abilities and interests towards awareness projects which inspire them. Bee Week, a series of events which educate citizens about bees, is an example of this type of creative effort. All across Greenfield, there will be opportunities to learn about bee health, bee history, beekeeping, and more through games, crafts, performances and other activities. Second Congregational Church. 16 Court Square. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Though the relationships between the two are generally predator-prey, studying the ways in which birds and insects depend on each other can offer insight into the inner workings of the local landscape. By learning to identify insects and birds, families can explore the who-eats-who of their surroundings! Read more in our post, Interconnections Between the Birds & the Bees.

• Return to Top


Saturday, June 3, 6pm; Sunday, June 4, 3pm
As one of the oldest extant works of Western literature, The Odyssey provides a foundation for our modern tales; many narrative techniques can be traced back to this Greek epic poem. You and your children can learn the basics of this story by attending a family-friendly adaptation of the work. Performers will be mostly made up of children, some of whom attend homeschooling groups in Worthington and Cummington, and some who attend R.H. Conwell Public School. They will be accompanied by The Celebration Singers. You can also catch a matinee performance on Sunday, June 4. Worthington Town Hall. 160 Huntington Road. Worthington, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, June 3, 4pm and 7:30pm; Sunday, June 4, 3pm
The Drama Studio offers a conservatory-style acting training program for local youth. In operation since 1987, the studio has expanded their vision and now also offers outreach in the form of field trips, touring productions, literacy workshops, and residency programs. Come see the fruits of their labor at COWFest, a theater festival for Drama Studio students. On June 3, you can see young actors perform in shows including Ophelia, The Friendship Test, The Aesop’s Report, and Super Villain or My Life in Middle School. On June 4, you can see young actors perform in shows including Ophelia, The Friendship Test, The Aesop’s Report, and Super Villain or My Life in Middle School. To reserve tickets call 413-739-1983 or email lisa@dramastudio.org. 41 Oakland Street. Springfield, MA. ($$; Students <$; Drama Studio students FREE)

• Return to Top

Outdoor Adventures

Saturday, June 3, 10am-2pm
Want to teach your children how to fish? Bring them to the 12th Annual Family Fishing Day for fly tying and fly casting demonstrations and the opportunity for free fishing. Equipment is provided (bring your own fishing equipment if possible). No fishing license is needed. Then, at 2:30, back at the Great Falls Discovery Center there will be Fishing Story Hour in the Great Hall with DCR and Montague Public Library staff. Adults and children of all ages are welcome to join for this event which will take place rain or shine. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Participants can meet at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls to take a free shuttle bus to and from Barton Cove. Barton Cove Road. Gill, MA. (FREE)

A video series that reenacts Colonial and primitive fishing skills:

Sunday, June 4, 9am-11am
Paddling down a river gives you a new perspective and the chance to study wildlife while getting fresh air and exercise. Bartholomew’s Cobble is offering guided trips on the Housatonic River. You’ll have the chance to see blue herons, otters, beavers, diving spiders and much more on a trip down and upstream. Make sure you are prepared to paddle an hour upstream against a current. Registration is required. For more information call 413-229-8600. 117 Cooper Hill Road. Sheffield, MA. ($$)

• Return to Top

Local History

Saturday, June 3, 2pm
Water power is an integral part of our local industries’ history. At the Springfield Armory, water was used to power the heavy machinery, in order to accomplish the heavy work of shaping gunstocks, barrels, bayonets, and various other components. Ranger Susan Ashman and volunteer Carl Steele will be explaining this process in their presentation, “The Watershops: The Heartbeat of the Armory.” Learn more about local history and water power in this talk at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site. 413-734-8551. One Armory Square. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, June 3, 4pm-5pm
Stockbridge was home to many active mills from the 1740s to the 1900s. What did these water-powered industries produce? Why don’t they run anymore? Find out on a cemetery walk guided by volunteers from the Stockbridge Library’s Proctor Museum & Archives. 413-298-5501. The walk gathers at the cemetery gate on Main Street. Stockbridge, MA. (FREE)

Tuesday, June 6, 6pm
One of the founding fathers, English-American political thinker, and activist Thomas Paine helped to shape our vision of democracy. He helped popularize one simple yet powerful idea: justice for all. His book Common Sense helped spark the American Revolution and continues to be read today, over 200 years later. Learn more about his life and work by screening the film To Begin the World Over Again at the Storrs Library. There will be a post-film discussion led by Martha and Irwin Spiegelman of the Thomas Paine Friends. 413-565-4181. 693 Longmeadow Street. Longmeadow, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, June 7, 6:30pm
Wednesday Folk Traditions at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum have been bringing together with fans of music and local history for thirty-six seasons. The Porter-Phelps-Huntington House was built in 1752 and was central to the 600-acre farmstead known as “Forty Acres.” Today, the property is surrounded by over 350 acres of protected farmland, forest and river frontage. You can visit the property and enjoy some of New England’s finest ethnic folk music ensembles at a Wednesday Folk Traditions event. The series kicks off on June 7 with “The Art of Steele,” a blues tribute in honor of the much-loved local musician Art Steele who passed away in January of this year. 413-584-4699 . 130 River Drive, Hadley MA. ($)

Wednesday, June 7, 6pm
French colonists arrived in the Americas in the 16th century. There is still a strong population of French people in New England. How do they influence our local culture today? The First Wednesday Speaker Series at the Greenfield Public Library will explore this topic on June 7. Jeanne Douillard will give a presentation, “Silent Presence: The French in New England” providing a unique look at the history of “un petit people,” The French in the Americas. 413-772-1544. 402 Main Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, June 8, 10:30am-11:30am
Teaching your children local history from a young age can help them develop pride and interest in their hometown area. Knowledge of local history can be further situated within national history for a local perspective on nationwide events. Families with children ages six and older are invited to Holyoke History Mysteries, a program which will teach participants about one or more historical artifacts from Holyoke’s heyday as a mill town. Holyoke was once a major manufacturer of paper, textiles, and machinery. Children will learn what each artifact is, what it was used for, and its relevance to our modern daily lives. This program will repeat on June 22, focusing on different artifacts. Meet in the Visitor’s Center lobby. Holyoke Heritage State Park. 413-534-1723. 221 Appleton Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

• Return to Top


Saturday, June 3, 1pm-3pm
Kids love pranks! Young people are invited to learn how to execute some harmless practical jokes while learning programming skills! Holyoke Codes “Internet Pranks” workshop will teach participants ages ten and up how to put a picture on a web page, change headlines, and more. They will learn how web pages are made with HTML and CSS. 413-552-4900. 100 Bigelow Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

• Return to Top


Saturday, June 3, 1pm-9pm; Sunday, June 4, 1pm-9pm
Fans of the performing arts do not want to miss the Ashfield Town Spectacle and Culture Fair! Double Edge Theater, along with tons of Ashfield community members, will perform an array of music, dance, and other performing arts. There will be art exhibits to peruse as well. The event will feature the Spirit of the Hills Community Choir, Tim Eriksen and the Trio de Pumpkintown, a film by Galen Knowles, Ashfield Tae Kwon Do, Ashfield Community Band, artwork by Robert Markey and Sue McFarland, and more, on June 3 and 4. Visit the Double Edge Theater website or call 413-628-0277 for more information. Various locations. Ashfield, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, June 3, 4:30pm-7pm
How can music strengthen communities? Free or inexpensive concerts get community members, including families, talking and connecting together. The Super PAC (Passionate About Community) Band strives to do just that by performing waltzes and foot-tappin’ tunes from Appalachia, Scandinavia, Ireland and New England (including the Connecticut River Valley). Bring a picnic and friends and hear them perform on the grounds of Historic Northampton. In the case of rain, the concert will be rescheduled for the same time the next day, Sunday, June 4. 413-584-6011. 46 Bridge Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

Thursday, June 8, 6pm-8pm
When is the last time you sat out on a town common or enjoyed a picnic in the park? Lawn concerts are a relaxing way to enjoy warm nights. Typically taking place in the early evenings, these concerts are a great opportunity to enjoy a picnic with your family. There will be concerts most Thursday evenings in Energy Park through August. On June 8, Sheryl Stanton, Roland LaPierre, and Pat & Tex LaMountain will perform. Concert-goers will enjoy a range of bluegrass, old-time fiddle, rockabilly, honky-tonk, Cajun music, American standards, swing tunes, folk, rock, and country music. 413-772-1553. 50 Miles Street. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)

Friday, June 9, 7:30pm
Come to the Town of Conway’s 250th Anniversary Celebration over two weekends! On June 9, the festivities kick off with six superb short plays. Short plays are an interesting theatrical experience as they pack all the action into a short time frame (great for short attention spans). You can also catch these performances on June 10. The celebration continues on June 15 – 18 with tons of family-friendly activities. Call 413-369-4301 to reserve your play tickets. Conway Sportsman’s Club. 193 Elmer Road. Conway, MA. ($)

• Return to Top


Sunday, June 4, 8:30am-9:30am
You don’t have to go deep into the woods to spot and identify birds. Adults and families with children ages six and older are invited to a beginner urban birding walk! Take a guided stroll through Holyoke Heritage State Park to identify and learn about the birds who make their home there. Bring binoculars if you have them. Meet in the visitor’s center lobby. Rain cancels. 413-534-1723. 221 Appleton Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, June 4, 10am-6pm
The bald eagle is a national symbol in this country, but most Eagles live in Eurasia and Africa. You can learn about these predatory birds by attending Eagle Day at the Great Falls Discovery Center. Kids of all ages will learn about eagles through scavenger hunts, music, and stories. From 2:30pm-4pm there will be a Connecticut River natural history presentation by the and participatory mural project. Audience members of all ages will be invited to create a statement or drawing for the public art installation, for “The Power of Water/The Power of Words” Project. 413-863-3221. 2 Avenue A. Turners Falls, MA. (FREE)

Wednesday, June 7, 10:30am-11:30am
Hummingbirds are so small and adorable…it’s easy to forget that they’re the birds at all! Beating their wings about 50 times per second, they seem to float rather than fly. Adults and families with children ages six and older are invited to Holyoke Heritage State Park to learn more about the smallest extant bird species and discover the best ways to attract hummingbirds to your home for further learning. Learn about the best feeders, hanging plants, and permanent plantings to attract hummingbirds. Meet in the visitor’s center lobby. 413-534-1723. 221 Appleton Street. Holyoke, MA. (FREE)

• Return to Top

Art Studies

Sunday, June 4, 3pm
Curators of museums pull together pieces of artwork, design their layout across multiple rooms, all so that museum-goers can have the most informative experience. Similarly, interior designers pick artwork and furniture to create a cohesive space. Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s (British, born Netherlands 1836-1912) designed a music room for the New York mansion of financier, art collector, and philanthropist Henry Gurdon Marquand (1819-1902). An upcoming exhibition, Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design at the Clark Art Institute, will feature twelve of nineteen pieces from the original furniture suite. Co-curators Kathleen Morris and Alexis Goodin will provide an opening lecture for the exhibition. 413-458-2303. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Friday, June 9, 5pm-8pm
The new art exhibition Contained & Constrained was designed specifically for Historic Northampton, responding to and reinterpreting images and artifacts in its collection. This exhibition of hanging and sculptural works by artists Leslie Lyman and Karen Battles is also inspired by the late 19th century book Social Etiquette or Manners and Customs of Polite Society. Exploring this exhibition gives onlookers a chance to reflect on past conventions and how these conventions continue to influence modern life. All are welcome to an opening reception on June 9, which will correspond with Arts Night Out. 413-584-6011. 46 Bridge Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

• Return to Top

Dance Studies

Sunday, June 4, 5pm
A dance performance for the whole family! The Center Dance Studio proudly presents “The Enchanted Bookshelf,” a captivating tale of friendship, courage, and the healing power of a good book. At The Center, children spin stories from movement using classical and modern dance techniques. Sister duo Ashley and Caddy Carlisle combine their years of dance training in the Pioneer Valley, New York City, and Montreal with a special approach to teaching that gets kids reading, writing and dancing; connecting, collaborating and creating. It’s a holistic approach to dance. Amherst Regional High School. 21 Matoon Street. Purchase tickets online or at the door. Amherst, MA. ($; Kids 12 and under FREE)

• Return to Top

[Photo credit: (cc) Michele Dorsey Walfred]

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.

Donate Now

Support Hilltown Families, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, with your tax-deductible donation.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: