10 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Chrysanthemums to Candy Science. Creative-Free Play to Service-Based Learning.

Glassblowing to Mooncakes. Quakers to Ecosystems. Creative-Free Play to Nature-Based Learning. 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:

Veterans Day, a U.S. national holiday originally known as Armistice Day, provides communities with the opportunity to honor and learn about the service provided by former military members. Chances for community service to support and honor veterans are available right here in our own community, and families can also learn about military history on Veterans Day by engaging in living history demonstrations and activities. Read more in our post, Volunteer & Cultural Opportunities to Honor Veterans on Veterans Day in Western MA.


November 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 10am-4pm
Glassblowing is an ancient art form, dating back at least 2,000 years with origins in Jerusalem, spreading to the Roman Empire in the 1st century BC.  Originally, the craft of blowing glass was used for utilitarian purposes, like containers, table wear, and window glass. It wasn’t until the late 60′s when glassblowing was raised to the level of art, lead by German artist, Hans Godo Frabel. This month families can try glassblowing hands-on at Snow Farm. Make your own glass ornament with the help of a master glass blower in their glass studio. Learn about the art of glass blowing and walk away with your very own holiday keepsake… a great tradition to do with your family year after year! This is part of Snow Farm’s Seconds Sale weekend where 200 craftspeople from across the country sell their seconds. Takes place Friday-Sunday, beginning November 9 ending November 25. For ages 8+. 413-268-3101. 5 Clary Road. Williamsburg, MA ($)

Interested in chemistry? Let it be a catalyst to learn about glassblowing! Interested in the art of glassblowing? Let it be a catalyst to learn about science! Not only can glassblowing be an entry point to learn about history and fine art as mentioned above, but it can also spark an interest in STEM! In this video, explore the periodical table through the art of blowing glass before heading to Snow Farm to make your very own glass ornament during their Seconds Sale.

(Supported interests: Archaeology, Fine Art, Chemistry)

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Last month as we headed towards Halloween, images of cemeteries appear everywhere! Maybe you participated in a guided walk or went with family to visit relatives for Day of the Dead. “Spindly trees, rusted gates, crumbling stone, a solitary mourner: these things come to mind when we think of cemeteries. But not long ago, many burial grounds were lively places, with gardens and crowds of people — and for much of human history, we didn’t bury our dead at all. How did cemeteries become what they are today? Keith Eggener delves into our ever-evolving rituals for honoring the dead.”- TED-Ed

View full TED-Ed lesson: The fascinating history of cemeteries – Keith Eggener

Graveyards are filled with stone markers that chronicle a community’s history. Everything from the names of buried people to the style of the stone can tell visitors something about the time period to which a headstone dates back. Photographing and sketching gravestones is a creative way to explore local cemeteries, alongside a self-guided or facilitated tour. Folks wishing to engage in self-guided tours of a historic cemetery in Western MA can visit Longmeadow’s Olde Burying Yard section of the Longmeadow Cemetery, where a collection of headstones serve as a museum chronicling the town’s history. Some gravestones can be explored via virtual tour, while others must be located in person. Historic Northampton also offers virtual tours of the city’s Bridge Street Cemetery, a 300-year-old graveyard that is the final resting place of many notable Northampton residents. For a day-trip idea, Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA (mentioned in the TED-Ed lesson above), is the first rural cemetery in the United States. At 174 acres, this fantastic cemetery can be enjoyed for both it’s historical aspect as well as its role as an arboretum with nearly 700 species and varieties. — Find out more about cemeteries as community-based educational resources in our post, Cemeteries Support Learning about Local History & New England Culture.

(Supported interests: History, Heritage, Botany)

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Mooncakes, or yuebing, are a delicious Chinese pastry made with red bean or lotus seed paste, formed in wooden molds with carved symbols holding various meanings. Typically eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival (sometimes referred to as Mooncake Festival), each region of China has their own version of mooncakes, including recipes that contain whole salted egg yolk in the center to represent the full moon. Discover more about this annual Chinese (and Vietnamese) tradition in this quick overview of the Mid-Autumn Festival:

Considered the Chinese Thanksgiving, Mid-Autumn Festival happens in September as a celebration of the harvest, but mooncakes can be enjoyed year round. Tran’s World Food Market in Hadley, MA sells premade Mooncakes in the autumn, but you can also find there all of the ingredients you need to make your own at home. Here’s a recipe to get you started, or you can ask the helpful staff at Tran’s World Food Market for ideas and location of ingredients in the store:

The meaning of mooncakes runs deep. From the molds to the patterns, how mooncakes are made holds just as much meaning as does the sharing of this delicious treat. This traditional cake is best made with a hand-carved wooden mold. Many of the carved patterns have a special meaning too, like the image of a yellow apricot blossom for longevity. New technology has changed how mooncakes are made, but in this video, you can learn about the traditional methods or carving wooden molds and their use to make exquisite mooncakes:

Saturday, November 10, 2-3pm
Grace Lin’s new picture book A Big Mooncake for Little Star tells the story of a little girl, struggling to wait for her mother’s delicious mooncakes! While she waits, she learns all about the phases of the moon. Local author, Grace Lin, will be reading A Big Mooncake for Little Star and signing books this Saturday. Stop by Tran’s World Food Market in Hadley, MA to pick up ingredients to make your very own when you get home! The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, MA (FREE W/MUSEUM ADMISSION)

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

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The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers as they are more commonly known, is a Christian sect that developed out of the English Dissenters movement in the mid-17th century. The Quakers followed the radical doctrine that every human being alive has equal access to the light of God within. Derived from the First Epistle of the Apostle Peter, the Quakers believed that every man and woman is a priest, merely by the act of belief, and thus is equally entitled to speak the word of God. Over the years, the Quakers have been known for their refusal to fight in wars, their plain clothes, their refusal to swear oaths, opposition to slavery, rejection of hierarchy, and abstention from alcohol. The Quakers in the United States and Great Britain played a considerable role in the abolition of slavery and other social justice movements past and present. One of the most unique aspects of Quaker worship is the custom of “unprogrammed meetings,” in which members of the congregation come together and sit in silence unless anyone is moved by the spirit to speak or share. Quaker Speak, a YouTube channel that features Quakers from a variety of diverse backgrounds, has included “What’s the Difference Between “Programmed” and “Unprogrammed” Quaker Worship?” in their video series. View here to learn more:

Sunday, November 11, 10-11am
Experience a Quaker unprogrammed meeting this Sunday. This will be the first Quaker meeting at the Cummington Village Church. All are welcome, whether you have experience with Quakerism or not. The Village Church. 32 Main Street, Cummington, MA (FREE)

If you are interested in learning more about Quakerism, there are several meeting houses in Western MA, including the towns of Becket, Leverett, Northampton, and Great Barrington.

(Supported interests: Religion Studies, History)

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Did you know that during the Pleistocene period around 11,000 years ago, there was a seven foot long, three hundred pound giant beaver living in North America? Castoroides was the most massive beaver ever to exist, though because of the shape of its six-inch long teeth, scientists suspect it may not have built dams like modern beavers. With a much smaller brain, Castoroides also may not have had as sophisticated social interactions as its smaller descendants. Indeed, today’s beavers are unique regarding their ingenuity and complex behaviors. In this video, get a glimpse into their behavior and contributions to ecosystems of North America as a keystone species:

Sunday, November 11, 2-4pm
Learn all about these fascinating animals and the critical role they play in wetlands ecosystems on a Beaver Ecology Walk at the Bullitt Reservation. Ashfield, MA (FREE)

Supporting early literacy with your children or lifelong learning for yourself, there is a book for you at your local library! Here is a list of 10 titles to get you started:

  1. Beavers by Deborah Hodge
  2. Dam Builders: The Natural History of Beavers and their Ponds by Michael Runtz
  3. The Beaver Nature’s Master Builder by Frank Westcott
  4. Beavers by Gail Gibbons
  5. The Beaver Manifesto by Glynnis Hood
  6. Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb
  7. Yamozha and His Beaver Wife by Thomas, Vital
  8. Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story by Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
  9. Jack The Story Of A Beaver by Shirley E. Woods
  10. The Little Beaver by Christopher Jordan

(Supporting interests: Ecology, Zoology, Natural History, Native American Culture, American History)

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“By loading kids with high expectations and micromanaging their lives at every turn, parents aren’t actually helping. At least, that’s how Julie Lythcott-Haims sees it. With passion and wry humor, the former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford makes the case for parents to stop defining their children’s success via grades and test scores. Instead, she says, they should focus on providing the oldest idea of all: unconditional love.” –TED

Wednesday, November 14, 10-11:30am
Parents with young children know how important it is to get out of the house and connect with other parents. Often the challenges of parenting are made easier just by having others you can share your experiences with, who are going through the same challenges. Of course, getting together with peers is equally important for young kids themselves. Check out the video above and join other parents in the Hilltowns at a Parent Cafe to share your thoughts over tea and coffee while your wee ones engage in creative-free play with other children. Held on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month. Childcare provided. The Village Closet. 2 Main Street, Cummington, MA (FREE)

(Supported interests: Child Development, Psychology, Culture Studies)

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Interest: BOTANY

Daily through Sunday, November 18, 10am-4pm (until 8pm on Fridays)
It might be chilly outside, but Smith College’s greenhouses in Northampton are bursting with color this time of year! Annually, with November, comes The Botanic Garden of Smith College’s Fall Chrysanthemum Show,  living exhibition filled with colorful mums of all shapes and sizes (some as large as eight inches across!). Budding botanists will love exploring the greenhouse and inspecting blossoms to learn about chrysanthemums. Visitors to the show can use a stroll through the flowers as a way to support the learning of all kinds, particularly within the realm of science. Exploring the many different blossoms can help learners to understand diversity amongst plant life – especially when they keep in mind that technically, though some blossoms may look drastically different from each other, they are all variations of the same kind of flower. Add some math to your visit by counting how many flowers you see of each color, shape, or size, and perhaps create some basic statistics to accompany your data analysis. 413-585-2740. The Botanic Garden of Smith College. 16 College Lane. Northampton, MA. (Donation >$)

In his book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini wrote, “The Chinese say it’s better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one.” After visiting the chrysanthemum show this month at Smith College, turn your newly sparked interest in this gorgeous flower towards your teaINITATEDcup and try chrysanthemum tea! Just down the street from Smith College is Dobra Tea where you can enjoy a cup of White Chrysanthemum Tea (Gong Ju Hua Cha) in their bohemian-style tearoom in downtown Northampton. 413-727-3471. 186 Main Street. Northampton, MA. (>$)

(Supported interests: Botany, STEM, Nutritional Anthropology)

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Hands in the air … who have Halloween candy laying around from events last week or from passing out on Halloween night? Did you know you can use candy to conduct science experiments in the kitchen with your kids? Experiments include Acid Test using Pixy Stixs, Chromatography using M&M’s, Density experiment with Skittles, and many others!  Check out our post “Science Experiments with Candy” for ideas and this video for inspiration. Then snap a photo or video and send our way to be featured on our Facebook page!

 (Supported interest: Chemistry)

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Wednesday, November 14, 10am-1pm
Bogs are essential and unique ecosystems. Perhaps most significantly, bogs function as carbon sinks, reservoirs that accumulate and store carbon. Carbon sinks can remove carbon from the atmosphere through the process of carbon sequestration. As the amount of carbon in our atmosphere rises to levels never before seen during human history, the concept of carbon sinks is being explored and applied in a variety of natural and artificial circumstances. If you’d like to learn more about bogs and enjoy an intergenerational hike, don’t miss Bob’s Way Hike, a moderate hike through bogs and wetlands. 41499-0596. Monterey, MA (FREE)

“SciShow explains the chemistry, archaeology and history of bog bodies — naturally mummified corpses (and other fun things!) that have been discovered in Europe’s peat bogs.” – SciShow

(Supported interests: Climate Change, Ecosystems, Archeology)

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Post-Halloween and pre-Veterans Day, candy collected during Halloween can be donated to Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages to deployed troops, veterans and first responders. Perhaps kids could choose a few of their favorite candies to keep and could send their donated treats along with other useful care package items, a letter of appreciation, or pictures they’ve drawn to Operation Gratitude. (Donations are sent to the Operation Gratitude headquarters, rather than directly to military members.)

(Supported interests: Community Service, Kindness, Emotional Intelligence)

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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.

[Photo credit: (cc) jacinta lluch valero]

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