11 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Fall Festivals to Community Meals. Textile Arts to Classical Music.

Inspired by the town’s 1915 celebration, “Pageant of Patriotism in honor of Independence Day,” Conway Festival of the Hills took form in 1967 as an annual event, celebrating local talent and culture. Every year, families come to witness a Conway tradition: the skillet toss! Along with the skillet toss there are many activities to behold: a log splitting contest, live music, handmade crafts, parade, pancake breakfast, community dinner, and their most popular event, a book signing with local authors. This year the festival happens on Saturday, Sept 29 & Sunday, Sept 30.

Locavore Dinner to Vegan Picnic. Textile Arts to Classical Music. Garlic to Tofu. 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 seasonal highlight this week:

During the autumnal months, communities celebrate the change of season with festivals that bridge agricultural and cultural traditions. These festivities celebrate not only the harvest season but also the cultural traditions that define Western Massachusetts’ unique identity. Fall festivals are a community space that acts as an intergenerational gathering place for folks to come together in the spirit of the season and share in the harvest and local traditions. Engage your community and attend a fall festival this season!  It’s a great way to meet your neighbors, new friends and contribute to the preservation of this region’s unique character, culture, and history. Check out these featured annual fall festivals that happen in Western MA.

Value: Skillshare

“What was it like for hunter-gathers? What were their favorite foods that they would go the extra mile to get their hands on? How are decisions like that different from the decisions we make today?” Get a glimpse of the answers to these questions in this video below and check out the Foraging unit at KhanAcademy.org.

Saturday, September 29. 10:30am-12pm
There is a shocking number of edible wild plants in Western MA. Purslane, autumn olive, white pine needles, wild cucumber, red clover, stinging nettle, and even the invasive species, Japanese knotweed, are (when gathered and prepared correctly) delicious and extremely nutritious additions to your diet.  If you are interested in foraging and learning to identify edible plants, don’t miss local expert John Root’s edible plant walk! Root will be sharing his skills as an expert forager for all interested in learning about botany, health, survival skills, and the local food movement. Takes place at Simple Gifts Farm. 1089 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA (FREE)

(Supported interests: Botany, Sustainability, Culinary Arts, Evolution, Human Physiology)

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Resource: LIBRARY

In a recent article appearing in the New York Times, “To Restore Civil Society, Start With the Library,” sociologist Eric Klinenberg starts with the question, “Is the public library obsolete?” then outlines the value and necessity libraries offer. He writes that “according to a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about half of all Americans ages 16 and over used a public library in the past year, and two-thirds say that closing their local branch would have a ‘major impact on their community.'” Like the film screening mentioned below, libraries are more than aresource that supports literacy and offers books to borrow for free, they are communithy-based resources that support collaborative consumption of knowledge through weekly events and supporting interests like financial literacy, cartography, seed saving, diversity, STEM, and numerous interests. Every week Hilltown Families features community-building events and learning opportunities that happen at our beloved libraries. Be sure to subscribe to our weekly eNewsletter for updates and to check our list of libraries in Western MA and find your local branch.

Tuesday, October 2, 5:30-7:30pm
Teens are invited to a free screening of “Spirited Away” for a school night social at the Greenfield Public Library. 402 Main Street, Greenfield, MA (FREE)

The 2001 animated film “Spirited Away” by Hayao Miyazaki is one of the highest grossing Japanese films of all time and is generally considered to be one of the greatest ever animated films, winning an Academy Award in that category. The film tells the story of a young girl named Chihiro, who accidentally enters a magical netherworld with her parents, who are promptly transformed into pigs. Chihiro gets a job at a bathhouse for spirits, where she learns all about the lives of the mysterious creatures of that realm. The film centers of the theme of liminality, or being at the threshold of two worlds or states of being. Like many similar tales such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Chihiro’s journey to the spirit world can be seen to represent her transition from childhood into adulthood. The events of the film’s plot symbolically represent the destruction of Chihiro’s identity as a child and the rites of passage, which accompany her entrance into adulthood. This endlessly charming and visually stunning film beautifully weaves together Japanese folklore, profound concern for the degradation of the environment, and a subtle but searing critique of capitalism. Use this film to support cross-curricular activities with this study-guide put out by filmeducation.org. Check out the film from your local library, or attend the event mentioned below.

(Supported interests: Civics, Placemaking, Film Studies, People & Places)

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Many are familiar with the tragic circumstances of Mozart’s short life, but the story of Franz Schubert is perhaps even more heartbreaking. Schubert, who has been ranked as the fourth greatest composer of all time by some music critics, died impoverished and in obscurity at the age of 31, four years younger even than Mozart. In his short life, Schubert produced a staggering amount of work, including 600 vocal pieces, seven symphonies, operas, and an enormous amount of chamber music. According to legend, on his deathbed, Beethoven was said to have looked at pages of Schubert’s music and proclaimed: “Truly, the spark of divine genius resides in this Schubert!” Schubert’s music was only performed in public once during his lifetime, on the anniversary of Beethoven’s death. Here in this video, the Schubert Project has put together music by Franz Schubert with poetry by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

Sunday, September 30, 4-7pm
See Schubert’s music performed live by the UMass Amherst Department of Music and Dance faculty concert. Two of his masterworks will be featured: Schubert Cycles Part I, and Schubert’s Die Schone Mullerin. Bezanson Recital Hall. 151 Presidents Drive, Amherst, MA (FREE)

(Supported interests: Music History, Poetry)

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Humanities: TEXTILE ARTS

Saturday, September 29, 10am-5pm
As part of their ethos of simple living, the Shakers developed a unique aesthetic style, which came to influence modern American art and architecture heavily. Promoting hard work as a form of spiritual experience, Mother Ann, the founder of the Shaker communities, wrote: “Labor to make the way of God your own; let it be your inheritance, your treasure, your occupation, your daily calling.” Thus, treating craftsmanship as a form of prayer, the Shakers created artifacts of austere beauty. Shaker crafts were unadorned and without embellishment or decoration and reflected the principle that “form follows function,” which was later championed by many modernist artists. In addition to furniture, quilts are among the most exemplary Shaker artifacts. During the 21st annual Country Fair at the Hancock Shaker Museum, come to see a collection of 75 historical quilts at the Harvest of Quilts and check out quilting demonstrations and other quilting activities! Hancock Shaker Museum. 1843 West Housatonic Street, Pittsfield, MA (FREE W/MUSEUM ADMISSION)

Discover how quilts are integrated into American history with this virtual tour of the Smithsonian National Quilt Collection:

(Supported interests: Textile Arts, American History, Religion Studies)

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Saturday, September 29, 10am-5pm; Sunday, September 30, 10am-5pm
The most famous garlic festival in the world is likely the Gilroy Garlic Festival, which began in 1979, in Gilroy, California. The idea for the festival came from Rudy Melone, who became determined to host a garlic festival after learning of a village in France that claimed to be the garlic capital of the world. Convinced that the community of Gilroy better deserved that title, Melone organized a celebration of “the stinking rose,” as garlic is occasionally known. At the time, garlic was not commonly used in American cuisine and was generally considered to have an offensive flavor and odor. By persuading a local chef to prepare a number of garlicky dishes for an event at the Rotary Club, Melone was able to build enough support to realize his dream. The first year of the festival was so unexpectedly popular that Melone and his volunteers had to rush back and forth from their homes all day long with fresh batches of pasta, to keep up with the demand! There is no question that the Gilroy Garlic Festival contributed to the status it currently enjoys in the American culinary landscape. The early days of the Gilroy Garlic Festival have been immortalized in Les Blank’s endearing documentary “Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers.” Luckily, we have our own garlic festival to enjoy right here in Western MA. For the past 20 years, the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival has been celebrating local agriculture, art, and of course, garlic! Forsters Farm. 60 Chestnut Hill Road, Orange, MA ($)

Do you know what else a little garlic might taste good? Homemade cheesy kale chips! Kale is abundant in the autumn, either in home gardens or CSA shares, or reasonably priced at the co-op. If you’re looking for a healthy snack idea for your child (or yourself), or maybe your kiddo is a little picky about green leafy vegetables, give this recipe a whirl from our archived column, Oak & Acorn: Forage, Farm, and Feast with the Family by Hilltown Families contributing writer, Leslie Lynn Lucio. Of course, letting kids be part of the process in making this recipe with you will encourage them to try a bite or two of delicious kale. Many children get excited to try foods they help to create side by side with their favorite grown-up.

(Supported interests: Farming, Culinary Arts)


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Saturday, September 29, 4-6pm
The ancient Vedic concept of ‘ahimsa’ is one of the principal values of Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. Ahimsa means “not to harm” and it refers to a total commitment to nonviolence, including nonviolence towards non-human beings. Vedic texts from over 3000 years ago refer to abstaining from eating meat as a part of ahimsa and many of the classic Indian works of philosophy and spirituality discuss the question of whether or not a human being can live without causing suffering to other forms of life. These texts are nuanced enough to recognize that wanton destruction of plants in service of a vegetarian diet certainly violates the principle of ahimsa. Ultimately, the Vedas acknowledge that ahimsa can be applied to diet in a variety of ways. For many hermits and saints, for instance, a fruitarian diet was recommended so as to avoid destroying the plants when they ate from them. In some passages, it is said that the noblest life is the one that eats only flowers and fruits. Elsewhere it is said that a warrior may eat meat if he has hunted for it. In any case, debates over what constitutes an ethical and compassionate diet continue to this day. The Valley Vegan Society is holding an All-Valley Vegan Group Picnic this Saturday! Bring a vegan dish and share an intergenerational meal with other families and individuals committed to or just discovering vegan food. Mill River Recreation Park. Montague Road, Amherst, MA (FREE)

Tofu is a staple for many committed to a vegetarian diet. In this video, learn a technique for cooking tofu, then pick up a locally made batch from the co-op to try at home.

(Supported interests: Nutritional Anthropology, Nutrition, Culinary Arts, Ethics)

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As it turns out the word “pumpkin” does not actually refer to any particular species. In the United States, the term refers to the large, round, orange variety of winter squash but in other parts of the Anglophone world, it may be used to mean any type of winter squash. Native to North America, pumpkins have been an important part of the culinary landscape of the continent for thousands of years. This was especially true for the early colonial settlers of New England, who depended on access to food that could be stored easily during the long winter months. Part of the enduring culinary success of the pumpkin is that it lends itself well to both sweet and savory applications. As autumn descends upon us, that can only mean that it’s time for pumpkin dishes. Wondering which dish to prepare first? Pumpkin pie? Pumpkin bread? Pumpkin pancakes? How about the original way to prepare a sweet pumpkin dish that integrates lessons in Colonial history with culinary arts! Begin here:

Saturday, September 29, 9:30am-4pm
Learn all about how pumpkin was incorporated into the Colonial diet at an Open Hearth Cooking Demonstration at Historic Deerfield. Traditional recipes and heirloom varieties will bring a rich understanding to lessons in culinary arts, American history, botany, and farming. Historic Deerfield. Old Main Street, Deerfield, MA (FREE W/MUSEUM ADMISSION)

(Supported interests: Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts, Colonial History, Botany, Farming)

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Thursday, October 4, 7pm
Culture is the product of different communities interacting with and influencing each other. Nowhere is this truth more visible than in food. To even trace the source of various elements in a single dish requires the work of a historian. From ingredients, to spices, to cooking techniques, to flavor profiles, all food is the end product of hundreds and thousands of years worth of cultural movement and change. And of course, there is no cuisine that has finished growing and shifting and changing over time. Cuban food is no exception. As the Caribbean has been a melting pot of indigenous, European, African, Asian, and Central and South American cultures for hundreds of years, the food scene in Cuba is extremely dynamic and reflects a vast array of influences. Cuba has gone through an enormous amount of change in the last century and all of those changes are reflected in its culinary culture. The new film “Cuban Food Stories” explores the rich food traditions of this island, by the producer of the popular film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” This film is a great opportunity to learn about how food can teach us about society and history. The Academy of Music. 274 Main Street, Northampton, MA ($)

(Supported interests: Cultural Studies, Culinary Arts, Nutritional Anthropology, Farming)

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Saturday, September 29, 11am-5pm
From the Latin, meaning “iron horse,” ferroequinology refers to the love of trains. And if you’ve got a ferroequinologist at home, this is truly the event for you! The Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum is holding their annual Trolleyfest, celebrating the restoration of Trolley No. 10, originally built in 1896, which ran between Shelburne Falls and the ironically named ‘Colrain City’. This day-long event features a wide variety of train and fall-related activities, including caboose rides, historical reenactments and demonstrations, cider pressing, and lots more. This is a great opportunity to learn about the transportation history of the Hilltowns with this community-based educational resource. Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum. 14 Depot Street, Shelburne Falls, MA ($)

(Supported interests: Local History, Transportation History)

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The Local Food or ‘Locavore’ movement is built on the premise that food is powerful and important. It is not merely fuel and it is not merely entertainment. Everything we eat becomes a part of ourselves and everything we eat comes from somewhere. In today’s global, industrial food system, we are separated from the source of our food. An enormous amount of money and energy goes to moving food products around the globe. We don’t know how it was produced, under what conditions, or by whom. As agrarian philosopher Wendell Berry puts it: “The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who is therefore necessarily passive and uncritical.” The locavore movement seeks to restore that ancient tradition binding humans and human communities to the earth, through food. From an insistence on only consuming food that was produced within a one hundred mile radius to shopping at farmers markets, to joining a local Community Supported Agriculture farm, there are many ways to put this belief into practice.

Saturday, September 29, 5pm
If you are a devout locavore or would like to learn more about the connection between food, agriculture, and community don’t miss the Shelburne Grown Biennial Locavore Dinner! Proceeds go to benefit 4-H and other programs designed to teach the next generation about the importance of agriculture. Shelburne-Buckland Community Center. 53 Main Street, Shelburne Falls, MA ($)

(Supported interests: Sustainability, Food Systems, Culinary Arts)

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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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