11 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Service Dogs to Community Meals. Art Studies to Food History.

Summer is camping season! Campgrounds are open, tents are aired out, and the makings for s’mores are ready for starry nights surrounding the campfire telling stories and enjoying each other’s company. The smell of the campfire defines the spirit of summer outdoors in New England. Read more about the season of summer camping and discover local resource in our Summer Season issue of Learning Ahead.

Impressionist Art to Irish Dance. Johnnycakes to Scones. Shelter Animals to Service Dogs. 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 learning highlight this week:

Agricultural fair season is starting next week, beginning on Thursday, August 23 with the Cummington Fair, a local tradition since 1883 when it began as the Hillside Agricultural Society. At the time, the stated goal of the society was “the attainment and diffusion of scientific and practical knowledge in the cultivation of the soil and the raising of it’s various and useful production as comprehended in The Department Of Agriculture, Horticulture, and Pomology.” Over the last 150 years, the Fair has stayed true to its roots, while adding a wide variety of vendors, music acts, and fun activities for children! The horse and ox pull is a real favorite, and don’t forget to check out the prize-winning livestock. Learn more about how agricultural fairs can support an interest in the humanities by downloading our Seasons issue of Learning Ahead for Sept/Oct for our late summer/early fall learning itinerary. Then head to the Cummington Fair starting on Thursday, August 23 and running through Sunday, August 26.Cummington Fair. 97 Fairgrounds Road, Cummington, MA ($)


Paris in the second half of the 19th century was undeniably the center of the art world. Artists from around the world traveled to Paris to experience the dynamic and creative energy in the academies, museums, and salons. Among other reasons, the Impressionists were notable for a large number of women artists who joined the movement. The three so-called ‘grande dames’ of Impressionism were Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, and Marie Bracquemond. After Morisot married Edouard Manet’s brother, she and the artist became very close friends. Manet was a great influence on Morisot’s work and she often posed for him, perhaps most famously in his striking 1872 piece “Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets.” Despite the enormous impact of Morisot and the other women of Impressionism, however, their work continues to be overlooked.

Saturday, August 18, 11am-12:30pm
Don’t miss the Clark Art Institute’s acclaimed exhibition, Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900, as it enters its final weeks on view closing on September 3, 2018. Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 celebrates an international group of artists who overcame gender-based restrictions to make extraordinary creative strides, taking important steps in the fight for a more egalitarian art world. Featuring nearly seventy paintings drawn from prominent collections across the United States and abroad, the exhibition includes works by renowned artists including the above mentioned artists, Berthe Morisot, along with Mary Cassatt, Rosa Bonheur, Anna Ancher, Lilla Cabot Perry, Louise Breslau, Eva Gonzalez, and Marie Bashkirtseff. This Saturday there will be a public talk by Nicole Myers, Curator of European Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, focusing on the challenges that Morisot and other women artists faced at the time. Pair this talk with a screening of the video above and a viewing of the exhibit before it closes. The Clark Art Institute. 225 South Street, Williamstown, MA (FREE W/MUSEUM ADMISSION)

Sundays, 11am-5pm; Mondays–Saturdays: 10am–5pm
Interested in seeing more examples of impressionists artwork? Now through September 9, 2018, as part of the Springfield Museums’ Rediscovering American Artists series is the exhibit, Two Lives, One Passion: American Impressionist Paintings and Sketches by William Jurian Kaula and Lee Lufkin Kaula, A comprehensive exploration of the work of a married couple who devoted their lives to perfecting their skills. The Kaulas met each other in the late 1800s while painting in the countryside of Crecy, France, and they married in 1902. They were among the first occupants at the Fenway Studio Building on Ipswich Street in Boston. They shared a studio working side-by-side until William’s death in 1953. The couple painted and summered in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, and both painters were influenced by Edmund C. Tarbell, leader of the Boston School of painting, an American brand of Impressionism marked by the importance of academic drawing. Although the artists did not achieve a dominant place in the historiography of Boston’s art and culture, they demonstrate through their remarkable art and their story the enduring quality of an undaunted spirit, the pursuit of excellence, and the sustaining value of love.  Exhibit visitors will see the Kaulas’ paintings and sketches, photographs of the artists, furniture, and accessories from their homes and studios. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA ($; Check out a free museum pass from your local library)

(Supported Interests: Art Studies, Women’s History, Local History)

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Interest: Food History

Following the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolutionary War, the cuisine of North America changed forever. Without access to imported foodstuff from Britain and the West Indies, the early Americans were forced to develop their unique culinary traditions. Of course, much of early American cuisine was still linked to its British and European roots, but variations on traditional dishes were common and indigenous cuisine was also a heavy influence. For the Puritans, who had come to the New World particularly from the region of Anglia in Eastern England, traditional dishes were favored, even though substitutions had to be made. Apple pie, for example, perhaps the most quintessentially American dish, is derived from a typical Anglian preparation. Baked beans and porridge were among the most common early staples among the New England settlers, and the abundant seafood offerings also became integrated. Perhaps the most unique adaptation in early American cuisine was the absence of wheat and the substitution of cornmeal and rye in most baked goods. This development is responsible for the innovation of the “johnnycake,” a flatbread made from cornmeal, which is common throughout North America and the Caribbean to this day. Here in this video, interpretive historians share the history and recipe for a traditional johnnycake, something families can do together as a pathway to learn about American History and Culinary Arts:

Hasty Pudding, Johnnycakes, and Other Good Stuff: Cooking in Colonial America [Ages 5-12]

Saturday, August 18, 1-4pm
In the heart of the Hilltowns, families can learn all about 19th-century cuisine, with this special presentation by historicalul.” Apparently the origina food expert Ryan Beckman with The Trustees of Reservations at the Bryant Homestead. Come curious with questions and enjoy a light meal following the presentation. Best for older students and children with audience skills. William Cullen Bryant Homestead. 207 Bryant Road, Cummington, MA ($$)

(Supported interests: American History, Nutritional Anthropology, Culinary Arts)

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Value: Community-Meal & Nature-Based Learning

There is no better accompaniment to a good stiff, rust-colored cup of tea than a scone. There is, however, considerable variation in what is meant by a scone throughout the English-speaking world. In the first case, the population of Great Britain is evenly divided between those who pronounce it “scone” rhyming with “gone” and “scone” rhyming with “tone.” The word seems to have first appeared in 1513 and may be derived either from the Dutch schoonbrood, meaning “spoonbread,” or from the Gaelic sgonn, a “shapeless mass” or “large mouthful.” Apparently, the original scone was the size of a medium dinner plate and sliced into triangles, a shape more commonly found in the American iteration, while most scones in Great Britain and elsewhere are almost without exception round. But the difference in shape between the American and British scone is only the tip of the iceberg. While the American scone has a crumbly texture, the British version is much more like what we would call a biscuit, less sweet and with a fluffier texture. British scones are sliced in half and slathered with clotted cream and jam.

Sunday, August 19, 9am-1pm
Ultimately, there is probably no wrong way to enjoy a scone. But what do scones have to do with ecology or entomology? Pairing tea and scones with butterfly appreciation is truly a winning combination! At Wing and a Prayer Nursery, hostess Amy Pully will be offering scones in a community-meal fashion while inviting families to walk around and learn the nursery is supporting local pollinators with her gardening techniques and native plant selection. Learn about bees and butterflies while enjoying delicious tea and scones with your neighbors. Wing and a Prayer Nursery. 48 Trouble Street, Cummington, MA ($)

(Supported interests: Ecology, Entomology, Conservation, Nutritional Anthropology, Culinary Arts)

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Interest: Dance Studies

While it is certain that Irish dance traditions date back thousands of years, there is very little recorded information about those traditions until the 17th-century, because most ancient cultural practices around the world were not written down. What we do know is that when the Normans invaded Ireland, they brought with them the courtly ’round dances’ common in Europe during the Medieval period. In the 1600s, we begin to see references to Irish folk dances, known as ‘rinkafadda,’ which were often performed in fields and involved lines or rows of men and women facing each other. By the 1760s, hornpipes and fiddles were added to Irish dancing traditions and the custom of traveling dance masters began and would last until well into the 19th century.- Want to see examples of not only Irish dance but also other traditional folk dances from around the world? Check this out:

Sunday, August 19, 11am-3pm
The long and rich traditions of Irish dance are alive and well here in Western Massachusetts. Come and learn all about Irish dance at the Duffy Academy of Irish Dance Open House, this Sunday! Visitors can watch demonstrations by some of the Academy’s advanced students and even attend a free class. Duffy Academy of Irish Dance. 1 Mill Valley Road, Hadley, MA (FREE)

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Irish cultural festival takes place next Saturday, August 25 at the Irish Cultural Center. This family-friendly event will have Irish dance exhibitions, instruction, vendors, soda bread competition, music, workshops and more. West Springfield, MA.

(Supported interests: World Cultures, Dance Studies)

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Interests: LITERACY

Monday, August 20, 10:30am
Research has found that reading aloud to an attentive listener can dramatically benefit children’s literacy. More and more programs are popping up that use specially trained listening dogs to provide patient support to young readers. There is a special kind of quiet support that we receive from dogs and for early readers, support and confidence is the most important thing! To learn more, please visit Reading Buddies with Bright Spot Therapy Dogs. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, MA (FREE)

Trained therapy animals are a delight, but what about shelter animals? This organization on the West Coast provides volunteer opportunities for kids that allows them to practice their reading skills while benefiting shelter animals. Know of any similar opportunity here in Western MA? Share in the comments below for our readers to discover. Or share the idea with your local animal shelter! We’ll even help them get the word out to our readers.

 (Supported interests: Literacy, Volunteering, Kindness, Veterinarian Science)

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Jane Austen once wrote in a letter: “I cannot anyhow continue to find people agreeable; I respect Mrs. Chamberlayne for doing her hair well, but cannot feel a more tender sentiment. Miss Langley is like any other short girl, with a broad nose and wide mouth, fashionable dress, and exposed bosom. Adm. Stanhope is a gentleman-like man, but then his legs are too short and his tail too long.” Austen’s biting wit and relaxed, well-tempered prose have made her one of the most beloved novelists in the English language. Her six novels paint a vivid portrait of middle-class life in 19th century Britain and examine the role of women in society. Wanting her writing to support the development of her readers, her novels were often rooted in the philosophy of personal development.

Wednesday, August 22, 6-8pm
One of Jane Austen’s most popular novels, Pride and Prejudice, contains a powerful critique of expectations surrounding marriage in pre-Victorian England. Discuss the novel at this month’s meeting of the Jane Austen book discussion group. Greenfield Public Library. 402 Main Street, Greenfield, MA (FREE)

(Supported interests: Literature, World History, Women’s History)

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Wednesday, August 22, 7-8:45pm
Ryuichi Sakamoto is one of the most distinguished contemporary Japanese musicians. An early pioneer in the genres of techno, house, and synth-pop, Sakamoto has endlessly redefined himself over the course of his 40-year career. From his beginnings in experimental music in the late 1970s, Sakamoto has more recently been working in film and wrote the score to 2015’s The Revenant, among others. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Sakamoto became an outspoken voice for denuclearization in Japan. The documentary film Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda follows the musician through his political activism and return to music, after being diagnosed with cancer. This film is a great opportunity to learn about one of the most influential figures in contemporary music. Amherst Cinema. Amherst, MA ($)

(Supported interests: Music Studies, Sound Theory)

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Interest: SEWING

Sewing has been a vital part of human life for more than ten thousand years. The earliest forms of sewing involved using animal sinews and bones. The world’s first sewing machine was invented in 1790 by Englishman Thomas Saint and the technology quickly shifted the production of textiles from the home to massive mills throughout England. Working conditions in these mills were exceedingly harsh and artisans whose skills had been passed down for generations suddenly found themselves being replaced by unskilled laborers. The general sentiment among textile workers was that automation and industrialism were bound to make them increasingly irrelevant. This situation came to a head in the early 19th century, while Great Britain was embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. Groups of weavers and other textile workers began burning down mills and destroying machines. Drawing inspiration from the legendary Ned Ludd, who allegedly destroyed two stocking frames in 1779, the workers began calling themselves ‘Luddites.’ The response by the British government was severe. At one time during the Luddite Uprising, which lasted until 1817, there were more British troops fighting the Luddites than fighting Napoleon. All over the country, the Luddites attacked industrialism by all possible means. Mill owners were assassinated, merchants who traded in industrially produced textiles were attacked, and countless machines were destroyed. After the British government declared the destruction of a machine to be a capital crime and increasing numbers of Luddites and their sympathizers were hanged or killed by the army, the movement lost momentum. The legacy of Luddites, however, has had an enormous impact on the history of the labor rights movement. Renowned historian Eric Hobsbawm, for example, identified machine breaking as an early form of “collective bargaining by riot.”

When learning about sewing, not only can you look at its impact on social movements as highlighted above, but you can also examine the history of sewing tools, like the sewing machine featured here in this documentary:

Thursday, August 23, 1-4pm
If you love to sew or have a new found interest, bring along any of your sewing projects and join this open sewing circle. The Spare Room Quilt Shop. 47 Southwick Road, Westfield, MA ($)

(Supported interests: Social Movements, British History, Machinery, Fiber Arts)

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[Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield, Sense of Place Photography]

Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Ashfield, Bernardston, Chester, Chesterfield, Conway, Erving, Heath, Holyoke, Montgomery, Pelham, Rowe, Russell, Shutesbury, South Hadley, and Springfield Cultural Councils, local agencies that are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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